Perfectly Crazy

Candy Sticks at QCandy.com

Candy Sticks at QCandy.com

I didn’t intend to write a “perfect moment” post this month. Now if it was a “perfectly crazy moment” then OF COURSE I could participate. Because I have had so many of those lately, selecting one would be like choosing your favorite flavor of old-fashioned striped candy stick, only a lot less sweet, and slightly disturbing. In fact, I think that’s as close as I want to get to describing my crazy moments other than to say: Hormones matter, folks. A LOT. And when you mess with them everything goes from ok-I-can-do-this to OH-MY-GOD-WE’RE-ALL-GONNA-DIE faster than you can say Clomid.

Ahem.

But it turns out I DO have a perfect moment post. It took my people — you — to help me find it. I posted what, at the time, seemed to be a help-I’m-failing-at-this-parenting-thing-will-you-hold-my-hand post on facebook and…well, darn it, the people who love me turned it into a CELEBRATION. A celebration of me and my mamahood. It made me four dozen candy stripe flavors of grateful.

So, thank to you, here’s my perfect moment:

“Every year the holidays are a huge struggle for me. I WANT to relax and enjoy what matters most: family and friends….but I also want a sparkly house, thoughtful gifts, and now that I’m a mom, to make the holidays magical for our amazing daughter. So my wife and I adopted a new mantra this year: Follow the Joy, which translated means, do what you love and don’t do what you don’t love. I am trying friends, really I am.

But it is hard to clean a house while chasing after a toddler tornado who is an expert at food messes and the redistribution of EVERYTHING. It is also very hard to grocery shop with someone who insists on walking, toddler speed, through a store full of busy, anxious people.

So today I finally surrendered. My house is a wreck, the laundry is in a heap on the stairs, half the groceries aren’t put away. But I just spent an hour playing with an empty to-go coffee cup with the girl. It was so much fun learning how to put the lid on. And off. And on. And off. And on. And off. Because I want our daughter to remember a Mutti who was present and loving and played WITH her, not cleaned around her and shopped in spite of her. It is so hard but I am trying.”

And here’s some of what I received in response:

“Awesome choice.”

“What a good Mutti”

“I struggle I the same way…”

“Big parenting win. Way to go!”

“You are wonderful. You will not regret the time you spend with your child.”

“Although, I have to say that when I look back, there really are some times when I wished I had cleaned the floors instead of going out and playing ball with my now-grown sons–okay: I can’t even finish that one. I’m laughing too hard…”

The kicker is that I really DO NOT do well when my living environment crosses the threshold of okay-messy into panic-messy. It isn’t about being ready for company or impressing people. It is about my own need for internal calm and that illusion of order in the midst of chaos without which I would lose all hope. Hope for living. So you understand..the stakes are high.

So I did clean my house later that day, after that perfect moment with my daughter. I HAD to. For my own sake of holding on to hope-for-living.

But you know what was awesome? When order was restored and the clawing panic in my throat abated and I laid in bed that night mentally rehearsing the food prep order for Thanksgiving, what I returned to again and again was…

that moment with my daughter.

THOSE PEOPLE WERE RIGHT.

They were right when they said: “The mess you will always have with you. The young daughter you will not.”

So, yeah, I’ll always have my own brand of crazy. But sometimes, in a rare moment of undeserved, abundant grace, I will choose wisely. And if I am especially lucky, this community of people who live down the street and across town and in the next city and thousands of miles away — you — will help me to recognize and claim it.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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This is a Perfect Moment Monday post inspired by Lori Lavender Luz. Perfect Moment Monday is about noticing a perfect moment rather than creating one. Perfect moments can be momentous or ordinary or somewhere in between. On the last Monday of each month we engage in mindfulness about something that is right with our world. Everyone is welcome to join. Read more perfect moments on the blog hop.

Here Where I Live: Poverty, Responsibility & Other People’s Kids

I meant to tell you this days ago. In fact, for the past week I have been falling asleep writing this blog post in my head. But: the girl has been unimaginably fussy (rash on her torso? teething?), my knee has been hurting, the cat has needed to go in and out a million gazillion times, laundry is piling up, light bulbs in the bathroom burned out, the changing table shelf broke, and on and on. But here I am, FINALLY.

This post started with a study by Tufts University that “it’s the quality of housing – the presence of peeling paint or cockroaches, broken appliances or damaged walls – that most strongly predicts a child’s well-being and development.” Maybe this doesn’t seem like news, because we have a strong stereotype of the “projects” from movies and television. Crime happens there. Kids struggle to succeed. Drugs deals abound. Not surprisingly, the study found that “children in more derelict housing had lower average reading and math skills. They had more emotional and behavioral problems.”

But this kind of derelict housing? It is here where we live. Walking distance away. (Side note: did you know that  23% of Oregon kids live in poverty?). On my day off, I leave the house to go do whatever it is adults do when they aren’t caring for small children or working. I don’t actually know what it is adults do (sleep deprivation having wiped such memories from my brain), so between the necessary grocery shopping, thrift store forays, and library visits, I often end up simply parked by the side of the road, savoring the freedom to sit in silence without being tugged, needed, or whined upon.

Family winter warming shelter at our church. Photo by Human Solutions.

Family winter warming shelter at our church. Photo by Human Solutions.

Sometimes the side of the road finds me in front of an apartment complex on a busy street where I experience a trifecta of confusing emotions: a) relief: thank heaven I don’t have to live here, b) guilt: wow, some other family DOES have to live here, and c) concern: what should I be doing, if anything, about the quality of housing in my neighborhood?

Before I can untangle all those thoughts, I have to talk about the comments that people posted in the article on housing. Vicious, judgmental comments that blame poverty on poor people, make assumptions about priorities and choices, and assert that poor quality housing is a form of intentional, parental neglect.

Reading the comments made me cry. Do we really think so little of one another? Haven’t you ever looked for a place to live and had the experience of realizing that ALL YOU COULD AFFORD was a place you would not willingly choose to live, IF you had the choice? Can we really be so hard-hearted toward other human beings, to other PARENTS?

I don’t mean to be naive. Of course there are indifferent parents, people caught in addiction, and abusive families (in both rich and poor neighborhoods…though we don’t judge the rich neighborhoods the same). But all people, regardless of circumstance, are still real human beings who are deeply beloved by the Holy All who made them. I believe that God made everybody. And God loves everybody the same. In fact, if the Jesus stories are to be believed, God might even love the people who are parenting in poor housing a little bit more, because they need more love.

I have more to say about this. I want to talk about how racism intersects with poverty. I want to remind us that institutionalized oppression makes and keeps people poor.  I want to share my hopes for the church where my family has settled, here in Northeast Portland, and the winter warming shelter we host for homeless families. And I want to find out how we can work together to take responsibility for our neighborhoods.

But it is late and I need to sleep.

So I will sign off this post, throw a load in the wash, comfort the girl when she wakes without her bottle (tragedy!), rub my sore knee, and let the cat out. And while I stand on my dark porch stoop and look at my neighborhood, I will wonder: what can I do? How can I bring more love? How can I let more love in?

I don’t have the answers, but I do know, with deep conviction, that families are not just numbers in a study, and their struggles to find decent housing are not someone else’s problem. They live here, where I live, and our lives are connected. So I’ll start here, where I am —  holding out my heart, offering up my prayers, and in these words, making a commitment to find answers and take action.

(Hey, is that what adults do on their days off? Do good work for their community? Hmmm…. )

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What is it like where you live?