Tuesday, March 25

Move Toward Dreams

Hike in Acadia National Park = done.
Dear Jacob,

It's Spring Break and the three of you are wandering about with not much to do. I'm waiting to hear what my work schedule is supposed to be and so there's this listlessness hanging about.  I've decided that listlessness needs a list.

I think when I was a kid that I thought my mom was content to be doing whatever it was she was doing at that moment.  I remember that she made a lot of phone calls, she wrote a lot of things on the calendar, she kept lists and she shopped a lot. When I was in fifth and sixth grade she watched soap operas with me in the summer and we baked cinnamon monkey bread. Sometimes she would wander to the piano and play it, but that was really my territory. Mom worked at my school in another classroom when I was young, and at a different school when I was a teenager.  She didn't like to cook -- we were all pretty clear on that -- but she did it anyway. That was the one thing I remember her doing that I knew she didn't like.  But other than that I thought she was just fulfilling her dreams day by day

The thing I remember her doing most that appeared to be at least something akin to a leisure activity was sewing. To the same degree that you see me writing on a laptop, I saw her with draping fabric and pins, dropping the foot, trimming the threads. She created curtains and blouses and skirts I could twirl in. And pillows -- all the throw pillows you can imagine.  In my eyes sewing was actually my mom's vocation. Yes, she worked in a school, but at her core I called her a seamstress.

One year my mom and dad surprised us by announcing to my brother and I that they were going to go to Hawaii. You thought moving to Denver came out of nowhere. No. This news was like a flying saucer landing in our backyard pool. Why in the world would she go to Hawaii?  That place was a a bit of a chimera.  I mean, it was the backdrop for Fantasy Island (a t.v. show I can't believe they let us watch on Saturdays) and so it was a place for dreams to live in, not a suitable place for moms to go to.

But they went to Hawaii. And for a whole week she didn't sit at the window and sew, or make dinner, or drive me to school or talk on the phone. To me it felt like something wasn't right; that she had dragged herself away to a place that she didn't belong and I imagined that where she really wanted to be was home with me and all her stuff, doing the things that really made her happy.

I couldn't envision that my parents had dreams of their own, that they fancied a different kind of a day, or that they imagined a life post-children ever. I thought that what they did was what they loved.  While I do think my mom liked her life back then, I never thought for a second that maybe there was something more she wanted.

You should know that there are layers to moms, that we can love and achieve several things at once. That while, yes, I adore being a mother and all eleven years of homeschooling was exactly what I felt I should have been doing, I also think that there's more for me in life, that there are walls I can break down and new ways of living to explore. I don't think that women have to stay at home and I don't think that women who do are wrong. At this point, I can't quite put my finger on it, but I know there are other chapters to write on top of the ones that are already underway.

So, to ensure that you don't have any ill-defined assumptions about what your mom wants out of life, here's what I'm going to share with you: Your Mom's Bucket List.

Play in an orchestra -- When I was in middle and high school I played in the band.  I was First Chair clarinet until I tried out for the good band and then I dropped back to the second row. But I was really content in that second row. I loved the experience of making music with others.  I loved that everyone mattered. Years before I had chosen the clarinet only because it was the easiest instrument to carry in my backpack and the flute made me dizzy (I tried it). But I really craved to play those brass instruments and the one that always captured my attention was the french horn.

When I was in fifth and sixth grade I spent summers in Nebraska with Aunt Cyn and she took me to her Salvation Army music camp. The Salvation Army bands don't have woodwind instruments so I had to learn a brass instrument that week. I chose the Eb Alto Horn which is like a french horn, sort of, which I also loved.  And that's when I thought, "Someday, I'll do this again.  But I don't want to carry this monster on the bus, so not right now."

Someday will come. I'd like to pick up a french horn and learn it and join a local orchestra that I can practice with every week and perform with at the holidays, making musical jokes as we set up our stands. I'd like to know what it's like to have strings surrounding me and to give way to them at various interludes.  I'd like to quietly creep in after a soloist and make the mood rise with multi-layered brassy harmonies. I'd like to anticipate the tap of that tubular bell ... and then the next one. The whole thing says love and community and wholeness to me.

See the Taj Mahal  Done

Spend the night in a lighthouse -- I used to live by the ocean.  Back in the days of my young adulthood when I was in college, when I met your dad and when you were born, the Pacific was just a little jaunt away.  My friends and I spent countless hours there making bonfires on the beach and slathering on suncreen and stopping for Irish Fries on the way home.  The ocean came to me at a formative time and she will always be part of who I am.

Lighthouses were not a part of our landscape, however. Lighthouses are culturally East Coast and that's an ocean that is altogether different with her cold, fiery temper and her destructive ways. I don't see lighthouses as bastions of warmth and safety; they're the last fortress standing in the most heinous conditions. They're the brazen ones that break the darkness lest the darkness break them.  I'd love to find one that's been renovated for guests and sleep all night surrounded by the stories in the walls.

Have children  Done

White sand beach + hammock -- This is my dream vacation.  Maybe there's little grass huts connected by catwalks over the water.  Maybe there's a mossy-sided volcano nearby.  Maybe there's a stack of books and a big floppy hat.  I don't know where it is, but it might be Bora Bora.  Or the Cayman Islands.  Or Fiji. I'm not really picky.

Bungee jump off a bridge  Done

Attend an Olympic opening ceremony -- I can't think of a more frightening and yet more satisfying encounter. These days there is physical danger involved in going to places where crowds gather, but there is also that ever present danger of insulting someone of a different culture and tongue. When we go to things like this we push ourselves into that in-your-face, personal confrontation: "Here is the world, and it's not just like you."  Additionally, when I'm in crowds all my energy is sucked away and I don't hear very well so the ambient noise wears me down.

But I can only imagine the energy and power of a people who've come together from everywhere to celebrate life. What more unifying experience can there be?  I want to have a colored jacket or a colored card to flip at just the right time. I want to take photos from my seat and be there in the midst of the fireworks and the cauldron and the confetti and to think words like 'boundless' and 'immense'and have it all press down deep into my heart.

Get a Master's Degree  Done

Hike to Machu Pichu -- Before you guys were born your dad and I hiked. Zion National Park was probably our favorite place for hiking on account of Angel's Landing and The Narrows. When I was on my mom vacation this summer I went on a long hike in Acadia National Park and it felt good to move hand-over-hand in the rough spots. When I was a kid I hiked Mt. Lassen three times and wrote my name on the log in the little canister at the top.  I envision that sooner than later we'll hike a Fourteener here in our home state as well.  But someday, before I'm too old and my bones too decrepit, I'd like to venture to South America and find this city in the clouds for myself.

Get published in a magazine Done

Take you guys to D.C. and Philadelphia -- I went to D.C. when I was in fourth grade when my Dad had a business trip. My mom and brother and I walked all over that city for several days in February -- which means it was cold. Jimmy Carter was the POTUS at the time and the U.S. Hockey Team had just gold medaled at the Olympics, beating Russia for the first time in ages which the world called the 'Miracle on Ice.' And while we were at the top of the Washington Monument, we paid a nickel to use the viewfinder and saw the President greeting the hockey team on the steps of the White House. True story.

I'd love to take you to experience the magic of the Air and Space museum and the bigness of the Lincoln Memorial and to sit in the eerie silence of Arlington Cemetery. You need to sit in the chamber of the legislature and you need to count all the steps as you walk up.  And then we need to go to Philadelphia and sit in Independence Hall and know the beginnings of his place that blesses us in ways you don't even realize.

Marry well  Done

Write a book -- I wrote one when I was sixteen and gave it away to all my friends on my birthday. It was a poetic work, not prose.  When I was a creative writing major I had to write 100 pages of a novel.  It was about a young girl who fell through the ice and survived but had to have her foot amputated. I never knew how to end it so I never did and it's out in the garage somewhere.  Last fall, I began a book about living in community, but I lost steam and community cracked.  One of these days I'll do it. One of these days I'll sit down every day and bleed out onto paper what is coursing through my veins.  Maybe these letters to you are my practice grounds for doing just that.

Teach my kids to read   Done

Sit on a jury  -- My mom would never have this on her list because she bemoans every jury duty notice that she gets.  But I'm not like that. I think it could be a fascinating experience and I think it's also my civic duty.  I don't feel at all the same about you signing up for the draft, and I'm not a big flag slauter but I think that we all have a true privilege to participate in justice.  I, however, have only been called a couple of times in my life and each time I had young kids I was caring for and so I didn't have to serve.  Luck of all luck -- I received notice last week that I'm to report in April.  And I really hope I get picked.

Live in Colorado  Done

Grow a Vegetable Garden -- Your Grandpa always, always had a garden and I'd love to say that I was out there with him in the sunshine learning from his able tutelage, but I couldn't have cared less at the time.  Kids miss wonderful things sometimes. I have friends who plant these beautiful gardens and they post pictures of their bounty on social media and I look wistfully at them.  I hope that one day I, too, can just go out to the garden and make dinner from everything I grow.  But Colorado is a tough place to begin and I love perennials more than I love vegetables so I ran out of sunny places after we put in the plants and the lawn. Someday.

Teach in a Seminary   Done

Achieve MOA's -- I work out because I have a crazy family medical history that haunts me and because I have bad knees.  But if I could make one thing happen in a visual sense, I would sculpt my arms to look like Michelle Obama's.  MOA's.  I think I'm genetically predisposed to never see this happen, but while I'm at the gym I'll give it a shot.

Take a train trip through Great Britain  Done

Take you guys to a drive-in movie -- There are so many things that have come and gone that you'll never experience: 8-Track Tapes, the Sears Christmas catalog, loading up a computer game from a cassette tape, and gas that was less than $1 per gallon.  Drive-in movie theaters are nearly extinct as well.  The last one I went to was the Hi-Way 39 on Beach Boulevard in Orange County.  When we were in college we'd go see double features together with all the gang bangers.  It wasn't the cleanest place in the world.  You pretty much kept your windows rolled up and held it if you had to pee.  It's a WalMart now.  Sad.

I remember going to one as a kid though, which must have been in Redding.  When I was very young I'd wear my feety pajamas to Peter Pan and since drive-ins are only open in the summer and you had to wait until it was dark to see the movie it meant you all stayed out really late, which is, as you know, my love language. I remember seeing Xanadu and Flash Gordon, but not at the same time. You usually get two movies when you go to the drive-in and the kid-friendly one is first.  I think the hope was that the kids could fall asleep in the back seat while the parents watched the second one.  I wonder how well that worked out for people.

I'd love to take you guys just for the experience, but I know that with it would come too much dialogue.  I don't mean that we'd sit and confabulate about the movie with wit and wisdom, I mean this kind of dialogue: "I want to sit there!" and "I can't see!" and "He's touching me!" and "I just want to lay down!" and oh-my-goodness-should-we-just-go-home? kind of dialogue.  So, hopefully drive-ins will still be around when everyone can be civil and precious to one another.  It might take a while.

Visit every state in the U.S.  -- 42 down, 8 to go

See the Northern Lights -- This one includes a trip to Alaska, so it's a two-fer. I've heard stories about the Northern Lights, about friends lying in the beds of pick-up trucks waiting for them at the wee hours of the morning and hushing when they finally wave across the sky. It sounds very romantic and wonderful.  If I could imagine what it would look like for the mantle of time to tear open and for heaven to break through to earth, this is what it would look like to me. I want to lie out there in the open in the midst of something sensational and sacred.  I want to be in the presence of what must be most like the Spirit of God visible and evident and clear. I want to watch them until the very last shred of color flees from the sky and I'm left with the millions of stars to sing to me the glory that they just shared.  And when it was over I'd know that I had been in the presence of God and it would dawn on me that I always, ever am.

I know that the current version of you, isn't the you that you'll always be.  Have some dreams.  Move toward them.