Oh, Hello Again…

So here we are. Months and months (and even more months) have gone by. Have I written my novel? Lost that last ten pounds? Found eternal happiness by sitting on a bench and contemplating bliss while the kids were in school? Sadly, no. None of these things. In fact, a strong argument can be made that I have ventured FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR from what I had set out to do (see above for original list of things I have set out to do).

A quick check in on the cast of characters who are of course the stars of my show (and universe). Husband – Mr. Take a year? He is still humming along, doing amazing things and inspiring everyone in his orbit, his humor and wit and can do attitude rarely cease to amaze me (and if those things ever do cease to amaze me, I can fall back on all the times they regularly have). Big Sister – fourth grade is tough, man. Judy Blume delved into it. But she is a champion over hard things and hasn’t met a challenge that has caused her to slump down for too long. Little Sister? I fear that even whispering the recent success of not crying every day until she almost vomits or until I almost vomit or until a butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil and almost vomits seems to be asking for it…but I can say with some degree of certainty to the mommas and the daddies and the caregivers out there struggling with separation anxiety that it does, in fact get better.

Which leads me again to, well, me, because in some twist of fate, me being myself, all things somehow land on soul-searching and then planning on what to do about what I find afterward. So here I sit, at a computer alone with my thoughts and plans and hopes and dreams almost crushed flat by the accompanying insecurity that always seems to be part of the package too. Which reminds me of a sad little poem I wrote when I was an ill-tempered teenager filled with angst:
Oh my dear God, who could I be –
If it didn’t have to be me?
(I would like to think there is some redeeming solace for me in the fact that I called on God to answer that mournful ditty).
It seems presumptuous or maybe even just annoying that I am at this stage of my life with the luxury of wondering just who in the world I think I am. I know there are people all over the world who wake up and answer that question by saying “Uh, who am I? You am late for your double shift at work today, honey, gettoutta the mirror and get out the door”. I don’t think I can call myself a work-in-progress if I am not working or progressing all too much.
How can blogging help that, you might wonder…Saying things outloud (ish, I mean typing them as loudly as these low profile keys will let me???) did have the cosmic power to keep me beholden to the craft of writing and the art of searching for the better word, the more fluid prose, the best analogy and the more encompassing way to explain something. For a year, the practice of turning in work that my ruthless editors (everyone who pointed out misspellings, or the need for oxford commas or my general inability to cut a run-on sentence into the three sentences it should have been) kept me in the fluid practice of writing, which, misguided as it might seem is something I do believe I should be doing. (Personally, I think everyone should be doing this and the sharing of ideas would be a pretty swell thing). In a nutshell, yes, I think blogging can help. So I am back. And it feels good


Trust fall

My kids are doing this thing called a trust fall. Which would be adorable and motivating and hopeful to see if they were putting their trust in each other. Sadly, they haven’t processed exactly how the exercise works and have taken to randomly declaring “TRUST FALL”, then dropping to the ground with no safety net in place. (Which can be slightly unnerving as I leap over the dog and attempt to catch them without breaking my neck).

But life can be like that. Sometimes, for no particular reason, you have the idea to test the universe. Sometimes someone leaps out from an unforeseen place and catches you. Other times gravity does its thing, honey.

Wherever it is you find yourself, I am rooting for you, and if I’m within earshot when you holler – I’m headed to break the fall.

Why I will never ask how school is going for your kids

Chances are great that if I know you I like you and I like your kids too (the apple tree of it all…). No matter, I will not be asking how school is going for your kids. Preschool, kindergarten, sixth grade, high school – doesn’t matter what the milestone may be, I have learned through life that somethings are far too wrought to tangles with and school (specifically, preparing your own children to go there) is one of them.
I hesitate to say that this year (a whopping nine days of it so far) has been the easiest go I have had at sending off Little Sister. Tears have been minimal, meltdowns tempered to a low grade sniffle. But while I was in the gut churning of it all the last two years I never REALLY believed I would land at this soft place. This non-belief was steadfast in the same way you might have told my twelve year old self I would one day “grow out of” wearing mostly Tommy Hilfiger Men’s polo shirts and abandon listening to Tupac’s “Makaveli” on repeat – I couldn’t fathom it.

When people would ask, with the best of intentions, how school was going, or how the kids liked school, it felt like a knife to the heart – though truth be told I am only imagining here as I have fortunately never experienced that in the flesh. I mentally rehearsed what I could say that was positive (The girls have fantastic teachers!) and admitted to my true soul tribe the reality (I worry this will ruin us all!). It has been a long climb with crumbling footholds.
But here we are.
Tomorrow will officially be the last day of the first two weeks of school and coincidentally or otherwise, my thirty-third birthday. I have learned a lot in those two spans of time but they amount to much of the same advice and it is this; it will get better and you won’t believe it until it has. Though this lesson has shown up again and again in my life – it has never been as glaring as it is presently with the school situation.
So I don’t ask. I say a little prayer to you so that you know I am praying another one on your behalf. If you offer up your joys or your worries I will be here for you of course, but I won’t be the one to drawn them out; life has a funny way of metamorphosing people and can only do so when the time is right. It will get better and you won’t believe it until it’s happened.


Oh hEy!

There is a person in my life that routinely slips in and out of it – popping up when they can with little more than an overly enthusiastic greeting. There is never really any solid backstory as to why days or weeks or months have passed without any sign of life – just the hope that we can once again quickly pick up where we left off without making it too uncomfortable for anyone (mostly them). That is what I was trying to do in my greeting, let me know if it worked…
I know everyone says time flies – but this summer? It wasn’t even funny how quickly it slipped through my fingers – I know that the kids were home for seventy days but I can only account for roughly ten of them somehow. We managed to go see our local lighthouse – something that has been irritatingly taking up space on my bucket list for years and although the view was pretty sweet – I discovered that Ihadn’t been missing much all these years of not having gone. Proof still that the pursuit is sometimes the fudgy brownie of life – both the thickest and most delicious…
And now school is back in session which means any number of things but has most people who are following along wondering one in particular…how Little Sister is doing. Well, better? Ish. There have been three days of tears but not threats of barfing so I feel like that is a solid V for victory.
Both girls have been graced with teachers who appear to be exceptionally matched to their talents and needs which above all else is very fortunate. Mr. Take a year had to take a class that just so happens to be out of state and occurring this week and last. As hard as double shifts of him being away seemed to be – double weeks have been worse. But we are very proud of him and excited for his return this weekend.
After a summer spent trying desperately to avoid the swampy Florida heat, it is safe to say I have put on a few pounds and likely developed a vitamin D deficiency, but I am on the warpath in my crusade to be the best version of myself and have started exercising again this week. Receo the wonder dog was ecstatic when I shook his leash at him for the first walk in what seemed like an eternity although he was far less engaged fifteen minutes later when he silently implored we call it quits. I’m thinking of limiting his excursions to predawn walks again until the two weeks in December that we call winter here.
I have missed this connection and want to hear from you! Was your summer as short as mine? What projects have you started? And how do I finally go about addressing that absorption – separation situation with that person I talked about in the beginning? I am all ears…

Vacation from it all

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Treasures from the sea

Exactly one week ago, my family joined another for a vacation across the state. We packed our kayaks fishing gear and roughly twelve outfit changes too many per person and then proceeded to spend four days walking white sand beaches, holding sand dollars and sea stars and drinking ice cold drinks. We remembered our sunscreen, which helped tremendously in assuring we had a good time upon waking and launched ourselves off a boat, careening into the Gulf of Mexico where we swam to sand bars and checked out tiny islands. The days flew by.

Those days, in turn, made me think of how quickly not just that week went by but how fast the last five weeks have gone by. Almost overnight it seems school supplies have been cropping up like intruding mushrooms or other blooms I didn’t purposefully plant alongside the paddleball paddles and sunscreen and goggles that proudly trumpeted SUMMER from the end caps of the grocery store. Low and slow at first, this drumming along of calendar pages expiring is upon us.

I, for one, have a bad habit of looking backward, holding fast to the memories that are the sweetest and trying to grope my way through the ones that I can’t seem to make peace with yet. Summertime has a way of raining down on all the hard lines I draw around what has happened, what I am doing now and what remains to be tackled in a kaleidoscopic fashion before ultimately turning into a watercolor of blocks of time in my life. The sand felt like that on vacation. A bird’s eye view told me it was one large swath of beach, stretching generously around the state, but when I pulled a handful to me, there were infinite tiny pieces of what used to be making up what was now.

In terms of a school year, we are smack dab in the middle of summer though I swear it was just yesterday that I closed the chapters of kindergarten and third grade for the girls. I usually sweat it out – both literally and figuratively in summertime, wondering if I did enough but this summer I am surprisingly at peace with the pace, mainly because I am stopping to look around at least once every day. The to-do list in my head has become more of a touchstone and less of a tether. If the books on my nightstand go back to the library unread it only means that something else came along and took priority and somehow, miraculously, all of the chocolate ice cream that plummets to the tablecloth, to pajamas and little hands and faces comes out with a wash.

I know it’s a unique perspective to look at time as an adult of my age and not counterbalance it with the demands of a job. Relaxing my outlook on what could or might get accomplished each day, as long as it’s on my personal agenda, is a luxury many people don’t have and can become an anchor for others still. I feel the need to temper any reference to being a stay at home mom with my running lists of responsibilities in an effort to justify myself and this summer I have even taken a vacation from that exhausting task. I have only one plan for the next five weeks and it is this; I want to see sunsets and sunrises and full moons and shooting stars and tap into the feeling that I have kept on a slow burn deep inside that something wonderful is about to happen and there is smoothing great working in my favor (and yours too – call it God, or mana, or as Star Wars distills it beautifully: “The Force”).

I am aligning my thoughts and potential that way. Which just so happens to be a full swing of the needle away from all the worries and anxieties that wrap their jellyfish tentacles around me while I wallow in the wonder of if I am enough. There will obstacles of course, on this road trip to happiness but they don’t have to stop me in my tracks and trick me into believing that feeling truly blissful has to be temporary or that it was never attainable in the first place. Just those pieces of sea glass and spiky conch shells and lone pink feather that made their way into my hands, I am collecting my own wonders and displaying them proudly to remind me of where I am and where I am going.



A year ago, I paced around my driveway, perhaps half-mad with the question of what exactly I should or could be doing with my life. Where was I going, I wondered, and if I wasn’t going anywhere at all, then why was that? I needed to try something new – something I always thought that I might but convinced myself that I couldn’t. At a glacial pace – both slow and equally terrifying in its actuality, I vowed to take an honest look inside and struggle though I might, write it all down. Sometimes that was one thousand word dispatches, other times I wept out two sentences before I published it.
I made mistakes, mostly in the form of punctuation and misspellings, but also by way of speaking my truth and inadvertently shining a light on things that others felt most comfortable stowing away in their own mental closets. I vowed to write every day for one year and the not-so-secret secret is this; I never thought I actually could do it. Truths and realities are hard won it seems, and like sobriety or any other wanted endeavor, it was easier to wake up and commit only to the “now” of achieving it.
I sat at a desk looking at a blank screen and mentally unpacked my baggage, toggling between the sweet escape of my most blissful memories and the unsettling discomfort of the weightier times that have stalked me in my sleep. The truth may set you free and all but somewhere in the dredging, before the dust settles and you sweep it up and pitch the garbage, it lingers for a moment in the air – all floating particles and cloudlike over everything around you. It would make sense to run through this part as quickly as possible, patch up the holes and repaint it – get back to the humor because the rest is a bummer. I found though, that in my haste, I would simply collect what irked me and soon I saw it settling in around me, sometimes in the form of gaining weight or a nagging sense of separateness or other damage.
I spent a lot of time – far too much, focused on how far off the mark I managed to get, accidently building an altar for my shortcomings, then anointing it and lighting candles around it and keeping it in tact on my quest for being less me. I got exactly what I asked for and then wandered around somewhat puzzled while ensconced in my pettiness or my dissatisfaction with my number one ally – myself. I had started out thinking I would keep a metal list of my shortcomings so that I could identify what I needed to change to be happy, but the list grew longer shifting my focus away from solutions and toward excavating everything that made me flawed. And they stacked up mercilessly, unyielding to my mental cries that this was not what I wanted… The universe is a seeker too, of course, and answered me by echoing back with more of what I didn’t want.
Somewhere in all that dark, I started doing what came naturally; seeking out the light. My mission changed to finding the funny, cataloging the sweet and miraculous minutiae that made a day which folded into a week, which happened in a month that was part of a year. I received both praise and admonishment and though I am a life-long collector (boarding on hoarder) of both, this time around my head was in the clouds of possibility and hope and neither had the same effect on me as it had it years past.
Professionally, I thought it might take a year to write the blog and amass a following and find at least one freelance project. Personally, I thought it would take a year to figure out if as a family we would need to move in order to feel at home and settled. One happened and the other didn’t. It would appear, for the time being, that we don’t need to be in a different house to be our best. But for the first time ever, in changing and dismantling and building on to ours, I worried less about when that time would come and recognized that every day we spent here was the opportunity to make it beautiful and memorable.

As for writing, I am still at it, running down my dream and looking for the opportunity to continue to working. I can assure you that I still take stock of what I am doing, where I am going and how I will get there – sometimes hourly and on the most confident of times every few weeks. I highly doubt that there will ever be a time that I am not doing that outside at night, under a billion (probably more) stars where anything is possible.
My name is Marilyn though I have at least one magazine subscription that believes it’s Manlyn. I have loads of people who believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself and have yet to give up on me thought I am abhorrent at returning their phone calls. I was lucky enough to have had parents that read to me and let me read whatever I wanted though it was hardly age appropriate and I have siblings who think I am amazing but keep it under wraps lest I get too full of myself. There are people who wander in and out of my life and I am thrilled to have them stop by for whatever time they can but one person, in particular changed my life eighteen years ago. I met a boy who showed up every single day and hasn’t stopped since and though he is my husband and father to my children he is something far more extraordinary – he is my friend who changed everything not because he mended my brokenness but because he saw me as whole to begin with. I say it begins and ends with him not because I cling to him or our life is perfect but because I have learned to be my own advocate by listening to him and being totally myself with another person. I have struggled with chasing down perfection and much like trying to catch your shadow it has disappointed me approximately EVERY SINGLE TIME. I am the kind of person who cried as I wrote this because the equator between ending and beginnings is where I am at and I have so much love in my heart it feels too big for my chest. I have come to the conclusion that sometimes it all takes longer than a year and I am at peace with that. Thank you. Happy. More please.

A butterfly of sorts

I woke up just moments ago in that deep sleep, paralysis-mimicking, fog. I must have put a pillow over my head and fallen asleep in one position, staying there for the entire last two hours of my life. On top of that non-movement, our family had spent the first half of the day at the beach, swimming in the ocean under a full bright sun, jumping over waves or standing guard against them, as best we could, while they crashed into us.  The girls took turns going out further and further with each of us, landing at the place behind the wave-break, spectators of completely see through glass barrels forming. We sifted sand in measures of less than a half of an inch with our toes and unearthed sand dollars by the dozen, live and Velcro-like with feelers from the bottom of the sea, comparing notes with each other before returning them. It was unforgettable, but I was exhausted after all that fun.
I must have had one arm over my head, resting alongside my face and pressed to my ear, and I emerged as I am guessing a butterfly might from her cocoon, tearing an opening into my pillow fortress, first with the slightest movement from the outside of my pinky, until I had picked up momentum by dragging my hand down as it collected sheets and blankets until I wriggled free. I had slept hard and thought first of what I was going to write today here and all at once it felt like the beginning again. I would silently flip through my mental rolodex of things I wanted to explore with words, trying to find the light of humor or even story alone in my life. I would worry that I took on took big of a project, that I had nothing to say of that each day was going to pan out relatively the same, with me plodding along, trying my best, just like everyone else. Somehow each day brought something new and though it always has and always will if you looked for it, I had fallen into the trap of not searching for a story for a while and it felt stifling.
Tomorrow will be the last post of the year – my “take a year, year” and I am willing to bet that I can meet that deadline. I have decided to keep blogging, though on a more relaxed schedule, while I pursue side projects in writing – submitting as much as I possibly can because I know for sure that when you stay flexible and motivated, incredible things unfold. There are those of you who have followed along from the very beginning, or soon after, or checked in once in a while or maybe on accident when you were scrolling through your phone and thought you’d hit the latest Target ad, opening up instead on a snapshot of my life. I can never say thank you enough for the love and support I have received while taking this on. But I can start to, and for that I say, Thank You, so incredibly much.


The sun also rises


Last night, just before bed, the girls asked why people vacation in Florida. They have only ever lived here and the luster of oceans, trails, and swimming pools isn’t quite as shiny for them as it might be for kids in a landlocked state. We talked about the beach and I thought about how we had yet to watch the sunrise together with the sand between our toes. Though our backyard is pretty tropical, it’s not the same thing as watching the sun seemingly emerge from the sea, ushering in a new day.


Quickly a plan was hatched to see it through their eyes instead of my retelling.


5:30 a.m. came far too quickly though and when my alarm went off everything in my body begged me to pick another day, another time, another summer to try it. Twenty-five minutes later Big Sister hopped into my bed warning me that I had overslept, that we’d be late, we would miss the sun. My muscles throbbed from my first day back to exercising in far too long. I needed coffee. I didn’t want to go. All those thoughts came at once, essentially laying the foundation for reneging on my offer. It wasn’t her protest that unsettled me – when at first I said that my body ached, it was her compassion.


In her willingness to try again another time, to forgive me though I had essentially broken a promise and her reluctance to be defeated by altered plans, I was authentically humbled. Grace is like that. So off we went, a bumbling, excited and messy haired crew, over the front step and into the truck, talking as we laced through the streets that would widen to the bridge that would send us to the ocean.


I thought we would be the only ones there save the fishermen. But as we barreled toward the slightest slice of the sun, we saw the others: pilgrims of their own reason, there were singles and doubles and small bands of revelers all there to see the same masterpiece. The girls flipped and flopped in the tiny swell and we were all offered an initiation to today.



Strollers and spending

The girls are perfectly capable of walking. Still, there is something serene and lovely about being strolled around that is comforting to them. Unfortunately, there is no such stroller for them, because at nine and six they should be totally out of wanting this. I understand that kids need activity and Mom or Dad shouldn’t have to schlepp them around much past the age of their ability to walk and run safely, but shouldn’t there be some sort of option to? In all of my searching, the closest I have found is a medical stroller that accommodates children of different abilities which runs just north of six hundred dollars.
I had forgotten about wanting a stroller (carriage? Cart? ) for the kids until I watched Little Sister try to push her own doll in the doll stroller. She was completely hunched over with her shoulders rolled forward so that she could grasp the handles. The only strollers that would have her strolling in a comfortable position were actual non-toy umbrella strollers (or better) which start at $15.00 (and go up to $200.00 – although I am sure they have even more expensive options) for the most generic (no storage, miniscule sunshade). Anyone I asked explained that doll strollers weren’t typically made to accommodate “older kids” using them. Then they would smile and say something along the lines that six and nine are both “pretty grown up” and the girls “probably wouldn’t be playing with dolls for much longer”.
There seems to be this weird thing that I have experienced in bringing up our girls. When they are little (as young as being “expected”) there is a push to BUY ALL THE THINGS because they are precious sweet baby girls and they will only be little once. Only after buying all the gear for the first baby do you realize that they are happiest with non-toys until of course they discover toys and want new ones because the old ones are for babies (who ignored them as they ate the sides of board books). We escaped a lot of that (but not all) and now that the girls really want to play with all the dolls they have (and have diapers and clothes and ironically, toys for)there is a push to hurry up and put those things away in favor of something more grown up. I’m calling BS on that.
This issue dovetailed nicely with a recent situation that occurred over spending money consciously. The whole family was in a store looking for an item when the girls became aware of two small toys they saw nearby. These two small toys, I knew, would end up on the mountain of OTHER SMALL TOYS WE HAD BOUGHT FOR THE SAME REASON but I was distracted (lazy and unwilling to take a moment and point out that the interest in that purchase would wane) so I copped out with the old – “if you use your own money you can buy them” to which they hastily agreed. But they didn’t exactly have the money on them so they’d owe me and I agreed. (All of which was one bad move in front of another). In short I bought the toys (which I haven’t seen since that day as of writing this less than a week later), they paid me back and as such, Little Sister is currently about twelve dollars short of what she needs to buy the stroller.
This is a struggle for me. On the one hand, fifteen dollars isn’t going to separate me from paying the mortgage or buying groceries this month. But the bigger picture – and more looming conundrum exists when the whole “they are only kids once” and “really how much longer are they going to want to play with dolls” argument is used against me – as in: BUY IT CAUSE ITS CUTE AND THEY ARE LITTLE AND WANT “YOUNG” TOYS. Yes, she is young, but it’s also the perfect time to start a healthy dialogue about money, saving, spending and decision making – all of which will serve her now and in the future.

Tell us about us

My kids, like most kids I know love nothing more than to hear about when they were little. Although they are only 6 and 9 and still legitimately in that time period of their lives, they long for the stories of simpler times, when the days seemed to fill in the span of weeks and there was always another craft or game right around the corner. They have been asking for a day like that, to be “surprised with it” almost every day since we had that conversation – unnerving because how could I possibly surprise them if it was planned and yet again how would I remember to do it if they didn’t ask me 84 times? Last night before bed, I made it happen though.
When the kids were really young I was way more organized than I am today somehow. I would cut up fruit and cheeses to store in the fridge for snack-time, make up juice, milk and water bottles or sippy cups and have a puzzle or worksheet or small game out on the kitchen table or highchair to occupy them while I prepared their breakfast. You would think that I would have been carefree and relaxed because of this prep work but I had fallen victim to the same BS I do now – mainly, that I could be doing more and doing it all better.
On the table I laid out crosswords and work sheets, stickers and blank paper where they could create a scene, puzzles and activities for them. There was a comfortable quiet that befell them as they read their checklists and the instructions, worked on the perimeters of those puzzles and took bites of their fruit plates while waiting for their scrambled eggs. Had it always been this lovely?
After breakfast they went to get their own baby dolls and outfitted them with diapers and light blankets, choosing to wear them wrap style for a quick walk around the neighborhood with our dog. As I helped tie their blankets to them I was hit with the strongest sense of looming finality – that one day they wouldn’t want to do this with me anymore. Of course five minutes into our walk (and one roundtrip back to the house because the dog had done his business and I wasn’t keen on carrying it for much longer) sweat had started to trickle down their backs and days’ old bug bites started to itch again and when-are-we-going-home-cause-its-soooooooo-hot started creeping into our conversation so much that in my mind and I didn’t feel much like doing it anymore either. We headed home and the clouds rolled over and the wind picked up and as they drank in the cooler air nearly giddy with the little relief it brought them I told them of all the misadventures we had taken and how the timing always seemed to work out for just this kind of a reprieve so that it would be the most recent thing I would remember and convince me against my better judgement that it was worth trying again and again and again after that. We might just go again tomorrow.