For Opa

For Ryan’s Grandpa, Fokko Nienhuis, remembered and loved in the vibrant memories of his family. 

Half a grapefruit livened with sugar for him,
freshly squeezed orange juice for her.
Oranje through and through,
and starting in nineteen hundred and 47,
he also bled red, white and blue.

A welcoming host at home and at heart –
Is everyone “goodso”?
He threw the party and she was the life of it. 

His meticulous mind kept orderly by his daily planner.
Strong in his history knowledge,
yet delicate while hand-rolling a cigarette. 

The Nienhuis patriarch, not by definition,
but by his welcoming, comforting character.
Everyone around him well-taken care of and well-loved. 

Except at the dinner table; a ruthless omnivore emerged.
A rack of ribs whittled down to ancient fossils,
no sea creature escaped with its life,
no crumbs left behind.

He wore a polo shirt tucked into his trousers; 
classy, yet inconsiderate of his satisfied mid-section.
Saw almost all 50 states, showed up without a fuss,
always chose family, community and honor.

Lenie, “Cognac?” as he held up his thumb and pointer an inch apart.
“I don’t care what you guys are doing, but I’m going to bed.”

 

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Hard Days: A Road Map

Overall I’m having more “good” days than “bad” days right now. After a string of good days, the bad ones still catch me off guard. Is it grief? Is it motherhood? Is it an aggro-crag of PMS? Is it just a hard day?

My dedicated brain is always trying to understand and find an explanation for the spontaneous feelings and happenings in my days.

During the hard ones, I (sometimes frantically) pull out my road map of tactics and try to remind myself that I’m not back at the beginning, but just having a hard day.

With grief, new losses amidst the bigger loss are emerging. The loss of Father’s Day, our family unit as we knew it and the simplicity of nachos with jalapeños at baseball games. The loss of me, as I knew her. 

When I have conversations with my future self, the one who has that “my kids are now wiping their own ass” glow, she always comes with one clear message. 

You will never regret showing yourself compassion. 

She goes on to say…

What you are going through is hard.
Asking for more help is necessary.
Not feeling like you can do your job of motherhood everyday is okay.
Wondering if it will always be this hard is normal.

She doesn’t say to try harder or do more or get a new job, she just says:

Be kind and take care of yourself.

 

Hard Day Road Map

  • EFT – tapping
  • Constant prayer and putting up a force field around me of love and support from my guardian angels and God (sounds a little “woo woo” like Oprah would say, but it helps immediately)
  • Meditation – I love the Calm App
  • Stream of consciousness writing 
  • Getting outside for walk or a swim
  • Yoga
  • Walking barefoot around our front yard
  • Calling someone or meeting up with a friend
  • Crying and allowing the feelings

Out Of Office

There’s always something specific I daydream about over and over before vacation. Last summer it was sitting under a moon-lit sky eating pizza. This time, it was boogie boarding in the warm water and getting lei’d. (No offense Ryan, but I mean that literally, like the smell and feeling of the cool fragrant flowers around my neck in the fanned hotel lobby). 

Choosing to go on a parents only vacation to Hawaii when you’re in the thick of parenthood is a little dicey. It’s a wonder we made it back and didn’t ship our kids out to Kauai to start our new life on a plantation. We appreciated this trip like two people who have never seen the ocean before or felt sunshine on their skin. My heart was on my knees in bewilderment and gratitude every second of the day. 

We had free minds, free time, connection, sleeping-in, extra long showers and so much shredding and snorkeling. My pre-trip daydreams were fulfilled in abundance and by night, I actually dreamt about a happy sea turtle doing flips in the ocean (in contrast to either not dreaming because I’m not sleeping at home or that recurring high school nightmare where I can’t find my bloody class schedule). 

While it was a great escape, grief still weaseled it’s way into my luggage. This trip wasn’t about my dad, or for my dad, but I couldn’t stop thinking about my dad. 

It’s hard to find the flow between seemingly opposing emotions; to gracefully move between happy and sad without getting stuck. 

One morning I sat mindlessly in awe of the beautiful view from our hotel room and then suddenly was hit with the strong, familiar scent of an unfolded newspaper on the bed. My dad came flooding in. When our speedboat tour took off into the ocean, the sound of the engine and the wind on my face made it feel as if my dad was the captain in the bucket hat. As I flew through the clear waters on my boogie board with nothing but a gigantic grin on my face, I could feel him by my side. 

And yet I resisted the pull to “go there” every time. Sometimes when I’m happy and at peace, I just want to stay in that place as long as I can. It feels hard to cry. 

But after too many moments of not going there, I was forced to go there. Emotions built up like a volcano and I had to release it all; I had to feel extreme sadness while spying palm trees out of the corner of my eye. 

But just for a few moments. 

This feeling of feelings business is hard work. Learning how to navigate the tides with resilience, to move like the wind. She does it so seamlessly; for me it’s like a full-time desk job. 

While I’m at it, I also wonder how to bring “vacation” home with us. It feels unacceptable to not feel that level of bliss more in “real life”. My dad always used to grow a casual goatee on our summer trips and then he would shave it off the day we got back home. Back to reality

Let’s keep the goatee on. I want to chase the sunshine and easily find peace of mind. Kauai Ry – can you come home with us too?

I cried leaving my girls and then cried to coming home, but the middle – the salty, intentional, sweet, refreshing middle – was all worth it. 

Another eye opener from vacation: we need new pillows.

 

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Maui Jen

Wakes up to the ocean,
dreams only of happy, swirling sea turtles.
Shreds on a boogie board,
eats the ocean,
floats with her face toward the sun.
Spoiled with never-ending showers;
her hair most comfortable swirled on the top of her head.
A clear mind,
full of life,
she is where her feet are.
Even her toes find freedom outside the Jeep window.
Ready for adventure and pukes on the rafting tour.
Maui Jen, she’s so zen.

Kauai Ry

Two buttons undone on his Hawaiian polo,
he saunters with red dirt beneath his feet.
He takes control of the Jeep,
brings “summer to winter”.
His favorite place to be:
lost at sea with nothing but his snorkel and fins.
He smells like salt and Sun Bum.
Hands in the air;
when not holding a Mai Tai.
Goes commando,
friendly with chickens,
unbothered.
Kauai Ry; he’s my guy.

The Missing App

A stolen moment of freedom spent on the porcelain throne.
“Hey babe, can you watch the kids? I’ll be back in a ‘minute’ ”.
I take off down the habitual rabbit hole of time well wasted; checking in on that complete stranger to see if she had her baby yet.
Gmail →  Instagram → Facebook.
Something’s missing.
Where’s that app I really need.
The one that guides and predicts my day:

For dinner tonight cook this.
Here are directions to the path of least resistance;
to the path of most enjoyment.
Reminder: don’t pick that battle.
Coura needs to be held 20% more today.
A weird rash analysis.
Toddler not listening? Say this instead of that.

An app that knows for sure: everything is going to be okay today.
So I can let go of my worries and find joy without hesitation. 
Check in to my abundant reality.

I guess I don’t need an app for that.
Time to shit or get off the pot.

Borrowed Time

In talking with a friend about her friend’s near death experience, I asked, with a misplaced chip on my shoulder, “I wonder what he plans to do with his borrowed time?”

The words left my lips and immediately made a swift u-turn, staring at me blankly in the face.  

Ah, right.

We’re all on borrowed time. We’re all on God’s schedule, lucky to even have these thoughts and breathe this breath. 

Even distant stories of death or illness have a way of slamming us into our shoes of the present moment with a clear map for how to live. This phenomenon gives way to a little dance I’m always practicing – finding the balance between carpe diem and everyday to-dos. Acknowledging death and feeling safe in the world.  Loving myself, my daughters, my husband and my family with a whole heart of love, rather than a heart motivated by fear. Holding death at the forefront, not as a stressor, but as a way to stay in alignment with priorities and timetables.

As a mom, I often forget that having fun and leading with happiness is a serious option for how to live my life. Choosing fear and anxiety can feel safer, but it’s merely a facade for my misguided mind. With every moment of practice and intention, my armor of lighthearted joy is getting stronger; a much better fit. 

So the question is: what am I doing with my borrowed time?

More of these things: boogie board, forgive, feel my daughter’s cheek on mine, pay attention, listen to what feels true to me.

And less of these things: hold resentments, judge, feed anxious thoughts, listen to what I’m “supposed to be doing”. 

 

The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?