Archive for the ‘transitions’ Category

Cleaning Up   Leave a comment

We’ve gone through quite a few transitions at our house lately.  Some have been good, others more difficult.

My daughter graduated last June, and in the fall she took several college courses while living at home.  She wasn’t interested in going away to college and had not settled on a career path, so that seemed like a decent idea.  It didn’t turn out that way, because she discovered in the process that she really wasn’t all that interested in taking several random college classes.  This led to an existential meltdown for both of us.

Life transitions can do that sometimes.  They can push you to the edge.

It’s pretty terrifying when you’re at that type of juncture, and there is no obvious path into the future.  For that matter, there may not even seem to be an obvious next step into the future.

However, the sun rises, the sun sets, and you have to take steps forward, but only, apparently, when you are good and ready.

After Christmas break, my daughter decided with our agreement that she would take a break from classes until she knew more about what she wanted to do with life.  So, if she wasn’t at school, the plan was for her to get a job.

However, January started to pass away without any serious movement on her part (that I could see) toward applying for jobs.  I was a bit perturbed.  More than once I have mentally called her Bartleby, because when asked when she was going to make a step toward the future, the overall response appeared to be “I would prefer not to.”

However, she was very helpful at home, she was talking with and getting together with friends again, and she was doing a lot of extra cleaning chores that I really appreciated because I never get to them.

Then she started cleaning out her bedroom.

The closet floor had been a pile for years.  One step at a time, she tossed, recycled, re-gifted and reorganized that space.

Then, the Fisher Price toy castle that had been in her room for years went downstairs to the school room, where we keep age-appropriate toys for the children of friends who visit our house regularly.

A variety of other toys she had long since outgrown went to Goodwill or to the children of friends.

The large Plan Toys dollhouse and doll family that were the center of funny movies the kids used to make got moved to the empty kids’ bedroom.  She dusted off all the furniture and miniatures in it and shook out all the tiny rugs.  It didn’t get given away because we are not ready yet as a family to say a final farewell to the Fraw family, but, it’s not in her room any more.

Then, and only then, when her bedroom was updated to her adult sensibilities, did she start researching jobs.

Within a week, she had her first interview.  It went really well and she wasn’t even nervous.

Three more interviews followed and from start to finish the job hunting process was only three weeks. She has a job at Hobby Lobby, which is exactly where she wanted to be, and she loves it.  She’s driving herself to work and making all kinds of plans and taking on responsibilities that can only be described as adult.

But she was only ready, when she was ready.  She cleaned out her room and her life, reinventing herself in the process.

We’ve homeschooled since 2000, and I’m now in what you might call the home stretch.  I have only one student left and he will finish up his freshman year of high school at the end of May.  There are only a few more years to go; a mere 14% of the total time I will have spent homeschooling lies before me.  It’s been difficult to imagine what I will do after he graduates, although of course I do have some appealing ideas.  But mainly, graduating my daughter and seeing this future change coming has been mysterious and a bit scary.

However, I am finally ready to move on.  It took a trip downward into depression and the wrestling with my purpose to do it, but I too am cleaning out my room and my life.

I’ve wanted to really get the creeping Charlie and overflowing iris out of the flower garden for years, but just didn’t have the time.  It’s now done and I’m working on shade loving flowers to plant to replace the bare spots.

Getting back into embroidery sometime in the past twenty years would have been nice, but I never had the time.  Yesterday I emptied out my sewing bag and found a beautiful kit I never finished.  I washed the entire bag, which was covered with dust.  I gave away kits I didn’t want.  I threw away random pins and scraps of fabric that I knew I would never use.  And last night, while my son read to us, I was cross-stitching.

I cleaned out a magazine rack that was stuffed full of a wonderful magazine, long since ceased publishing, called Welcome Home.  I first subscribed twenty years ago.  It was just what I needed for encouragement to love and parent well.  The articles were so good, I saved every issue, thinking I would re-read them someday.

Twenty years later, that day hasn’t come.  I now have not just one but two adult children.

I donated the magazines to the library–when I was good and ready.

 

Posted April 29, 2019 by swanatbagend in transitions

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Fearless   Leave a comment

After approximately 30 hours driving a minivan fully loaded with the belongs of six adult sized people, pulling an also fully loaded pop-up camper on our trip across the country to California, I felt pretty confident.

In a lovely series of clichés, it had been a marathon whirlwind insane time.   We had loaded up for the trip, immediately following birthday season at our house, plus starting school, plus daughter starting some college classes, plus younger son spraining ankle, and then we had successfully driven all the way to the Pacific ocean and almost back.  We had left behind older son to go to grad school, which was the motivating factor for this odyssey.

And it had all happened.

Despite all the stress and insanity, there had been joy, and no one had been killed or even injured.  I had even become accustomed to the logistics of driving with the pop-up, although it wasn’t something I had enjoyed in the past.

I had been hoping I’d find one of my current favorite songs on the radio.  I hadn’t been able to download it to my MP3 player before we left.  As we were sailing through Kansas I finally found it.

Am I good enough? Do I measure up?  Seems like a war I can’t win.  But I wasn’t given the spirit of fear, I was given the power of love.  Everything I’ve been fighting against I’m gonna lift it up.  I wanna be Fearless.  No holding back no backing down.  Fearless, because I believe you’re with me now.

Bring on the unknown.

Lead me and I’ll go.

Come set me free, God, I want to be–fearless.

 

I am tired of being a fearful person, and this particular song came to my attention around the same time my youngest successfully completed participation in an outside activity, which for many years was something that wasn’t possible.  I want to choose confidence and trust, even though it is not my natural tendency to be fearless.  It never has been.  I am easily distressed and worried about a hundred different things.

So.

We’re flying home down I-70 and I am rejoicing over our survival so far.

Flying across Kansas was Friday.  Monday at 8:30 I’m home, frying bacon and pancakes, sorting through mounds of bedding and laundry and sorting through the pile of things in my mind, when my husband calls and says, “I just got laid off.”

From a good job.  One he’s had for years and loved.  One we thought would not stop until he wanted it to.  And the money and the medical coverage will last just eleven more days.

My heart is beating a million miles an hour as I sit there on my bed and listen.

When he hangs up, I go back to the kitchen and fry more pancakes.  I sort the laundry.  I do the next thing.

And I remember.  I remember what I had just sung, what I had just said, what I had just decided to do.  How could it be I would be called upon so soon to apply what I had just chosen to do and asked to be?

The only logical thing to do was to just do it.  So, every time I felt afraid, when I wondered how to make things work, when I feared we would have to move and leave our connections and move all six members of our family to a different place, I just said, “God, you’ve got to take care of this.  I know you will.  We’ll go with what you provide.”

This process of turning back to God every time I worry has been amazing.  He’s made me different this time.

 

 

And thanks to Jasmine Murray for her song.

 

Posted November 27, 2017 by swanatbagend in prayer, transitions

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A Case-Load of Emotions   1 comment

That is, a wide variety of emotions crammed into one short suitcase–and one short weekend.

My oldest child graduated from college on Sunday and became a man–no wait, of course, he was already a man and has been a legal adult for some years now.  Graduating from a Big 10 school in an immense stadium with tens of thousands of other people on hand seemed to put the wax seal on it, though.

I was surprised and delighted by the symmetry of the family who attended the ceremony.  Of my husband’s three living brothers all three attended, at no small distance either, one set of aunt and uncle from Indiana, one from Michigan and one from Montana.  I never dreamed they would all come all that way, and my son’s 86-year old grandmother as well.  So we had a full house (actually apartment) from his dad’s side of the family and it made me very happy.

We overpowered the living space in my son’s apartment, while his very tolerant roommate continued to game online at the table and there was a huge family catch up, which included the exchange of various family heirlooms an uncle had found in his basement and brought to distribute.  I went out to pick up groceries and the sushi order, and Dad and an uncle went out to get pizza for everyone.

Then we had to shoo them out so our son could go to bed! I wrapped up the lunches for the morrow’s long ceremony and got them ready to load up in the morning.

We had breakfast at the hotel as various sleepy family members arrived including the man of the hour–catching up–checking in–and attempting to come up with a plan for where to sit at the stadium.  Turns out we didn’t really come up with a plan, which led to quite a journey for the rest of the party attempting to enter the other side of the stadium from where I had managed, with the help of a family sitting the next row up, to save almost enough seats for our party of twelve.  But we did A) successfully get the graduate to his assembly location for his college in time for him to make it to his own commencement and B) get the family in the stadium before he actually filed back down across the field after the speeches, amidst thousands of others, to receive his diploma, and there was rejoicing despite the discomfort of the bleachers, so I would call it a success.

Earlier that day, in preparation, I drove my son back from the hotel to his apartment so he could don his regalia.  While he was getting himself assorted I actually had time to un-snap and roll out the tablecloth and spread out the wonderful insect-themed plates and napkins I had picked for the after-graduation party, and put out the glass platters and dishes I had brought along for the goodies.  We made it maybe half way to his meet-up location on campus before getting hopelessly bogged down in westward moving traffic and being told by gesturing official looking people that we must veer south.  I dropped my son off in the parking lot near the pedestrian bridge over the river, told him I would see him later, and watched him proceed up the curve of the bridge with the sunlight glancing down into my eyes, turning things golden.

That memory of his college graduation stands out like a snapshot.

After we wrapped up the party that evening, cleared the food and plates out, and packed up the last of his belongings, he turned in his keys, and took his immediate family, grandmother, and remaining uncle and aunt to the lab where he’s been doing research with termites for the last two years.

We saw the termites in the clear cases crawling around, and some lovely bees at the hives in back of the lab.

I see him sitting on the couch with the children of some good friends, talking animatedly with a fellow student about music, waiting for all of us at our appointed post-ceremony meeting spot near the shuttle pick up, hugging his aunts and uncles as they poured in to his apartment.

I remember reading a book in the bathroom at 2 a.m. the night before to pass the time because I couldn’t sleep.

I remember the warm hugs of family, the singing of the national anthem while watching an immense flag be raised at the ceremony, the joy and grief that welled up in my heart as I remembered all the other days that came before.

I don’t know what memories my husband and mother-in-law and son will carry away from this weekend. But I do know for me–they are unforgettable.

 

Posted May 31, 2017 by swanatbagend in transitions

Download   Leave a comment

I am working on re-organizing the school supplies in my front room. It always been the room where books, toys, games, teacher’s manuals, textbooks, math workbooks and all have been kept.  Plus, there’s a worn blue loveseat we always sit on to read or go through problems together, a chair with a footstool and a table with a desk lamp where we pile up the day’s/week’s materials or crafts, puzzles or projects.  OK, not that many crafts really if I’m honest.

Life has been so full for the past ten years I can’t remember the last time I really purged materials.  I haven’t had the time or the energy to do so.

But, this winter, I have felt the desire to download and re-arrange gradually coming over me.  My youngest is 12 years old.  I know that I won’t be using the kindergarten books again.  I don’t need all the fun science books we used when the kids were little.  Yes, I do plan to keep many of the best toys.  The bins of cars and trucks, the Playmobil animals, the marble run–these are permanent fixtures because we have younger company often enough that they get lots of use.

For that matter, I will probably keep the marble run until they take me to the nursing home.  I love that thing.  The wooden marble dropper too; it’s a stress reliever in the guise of a children’s toy.  You drop a marble in the top bowl and it rolls around, dropping into a lower colored bowl, and so on down six times with the most peaceful noise of marble on wood.

But realistically I see that I am not going to need all the art supplies, the puzzles and the books we have used over the years of homeschooling.

And facing that is harder than I thought it would be.  I actually found myself thinking that perhaps I should save all the historical fiction and read-alouds from our curriculum because I could end up homeschooling someone else’s children.

No offense, self, but barring a miracle that is utter nonsense!

So–realistically I must accept that the time has come to change the look of the school room.  I want to move my computer desk there, where I can enjoy the beautiful curtains and the great morning sunlight through the bay window.  My office can be there when the kids are all grown.  It’s a good thing to contemplate having time and space to do some more writing, research, advocacy and–who knows what else?

It’s still incredibly difficult to box up books.  It’s a life, it’s a season, but it’s a season I’ve been living for many years.

And I don’t want to let it go.

Posted March 13, 2017 by swanatbagend in homeschooling, transitions

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Twenty-One   Leave a comment

Today was very much like the day before my son was born.  It was a fortuitous pleasant day in August–cool enough that you could go for a walk in the afternoon to try to get labor moving along without seriously regretting it.

Today, like that labor day in the past, was beautiful, with a stirring cerulean sky brushed with cirrus clouds.

Tomorrow, like his birth-day, will be hot and humid again.

I’m thinking tonight about that damp-looking, cone-headed infant boy, who got so excited when he saw my chest for the first time.  No, I did not expect that reaction from a two-hour old baby, but that just shows how little I knew about how alert babies are and how inside that 8-pound-something body was a very distinct personality.

Before that moment when we met, he had just been kicks, and squirms, and my imagination–that’s all.

But now, for 21 years, I have had the joy of learning him–learning to care for him, learning to know him well, learning to love him, and learning from him.

He was not a red-headed girl with lots of hair.  Thank heaven for that.  He was a boy with lots of dark hair, and very long fingers, which his maternal grandmother observed when she arrived three days later with his grand-dad to meet him for the first time.  “Look at his fingers!” she exclaimed.  “He’s going to be a piano player!”  She was right about that–and other things as well.

I think he was three or four when she gave me a copy of the book Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Kurcinka.  That book, and the example and guidance of his co-op preschool teacher, opened the doors for me to learn how to walk alongside him as his mother.  He demanded my attention and respect the whole journey through.  Right from the beginning, he lifted his head and looked around intently, before we even left the hospital.  He has never stopped looking around him intently, although thankfully his neck is strong enough that he does that on his own now.

He does a lot of things on his own now.

When your child heads out the door to the dorm at 18, there are many unknowns ahead.  At that point, I’d say while your child is legally an adult (and FERPA is there to assist you in remembering that fact), there’s more of a sense that he can and will hop back into the nest on a regular basis.  You know the future is there, but it’s protected somehow, as if there’s a golden fence around it.

21 is completely different.

We moved him into an apartment this summer for a job.  We moved him back home end of July–but just for nineteen days.  Last week, I moved him into an apartment again, this time for his senior year.  It was nothing like the first time he left home for college nor was it like the second and third times.  Now he had the plan, he set the agenda, and waved me off when we were done.  No hand-holding necessary, nor should it be.

I don’t know how to describe how different 21 feels.

I know he is not coming back.

 

Posted August 24, 2016 by swanatbagend in motherhood, transitions

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Moment of Truth   Leave a comment

Yes, that moment happened to me this summer.  We were on a road trip to a wedding, and stopping briefly at a truck stop to use the restroom, I was coming out of the stall to wash my hands.  I looked up into the mirror, under the flattering light of fluorescent bulbs, and it happened.

That’s really what I look like?”

Oh man.  Not a good feeling.  Old, wrinkled, and somewhat bloated.

Well.  There’s good in every moment, right?

So… if I’ve joined the rest of the human race in the dilemma of weight that appears in unwanted places, and does not leave just because we want it to–that’s not such a bad thing.

Could motivate me to consider a new hair style or maybe different color of clothes.  Definitely aware that I need to work on taking care of myself.

Practice seeing things from someone else’s perspective.

Hmm….If I was too good-looking, it would scare people off.

Reality check: God uses it all.

 

Posted September 20, 2015 by swanatbagend in identity, transitions

The Benefits of Moving   2 comments

While I have no desire to repeat a move at this time in my life, because we did that eight years ago and I still remember how much work it was and what an upheaval it was, there is something to be said for moving on a regular basis when you’re a child.

My parents were obviously the ones who carried the load of all the logistics and planning.  But they were very good at framing the move as an adventure for our family. So that’s the way I saw it as a child.

And here, in no particular order, are my favorite things about moving often.

1. I got to live in many interesting and beautiful, sometimes wild, places.

2. Because we lived in different places, we got to go to a wide variety of vacation spots that were in driving distance of where we lived.  When we lived in Montana, we went camping in Montana and Wyoming.  I got to see Yellowstone and Hebgen Lake.  I went to Girl Scout camp near Red Lodge, up in the mountains.  We could take the train to Minnesota to spend Christmas with my father’s family.  Then when we moved to Oklahoma, we took in lots of Texas, Arkansas, and beautiful New Mexico (and did I mention more of Texas?  There’s a lot of it to take in.  And a side trip in 1983 to Ciudad Juarez.)  And when we lived in Alaska?  Well–I got to see Alaska.  What more can you say about that?

3. I learned how to make friends in new places.

4. Once you’ve lived all over the country, you know people all over the country. So when I travel, or if I need help when I’m away from home, I just might be near someone who can help me out.

5. Lots of Christmas cards.

6. I got to know a wide variety of people whom I would not have come to know had I stayed in one place and gotten insular there.  It’s easy to just stick with what you know in your day-to-day life, and in who you spend time with.  Moving thus gives you exposure to all kinds of interesting folks.

7. There is a bond amongst family members since you are with each other and for each other through all the changes.  You become, in essence, each other’s closest friends.  And these are friends who are not left behind when you move again.

8. When you are the new person, you learn what it is like, and this gives you motivation to welcome new people in.  When you have an awareness of what it means to be made welcome, you draw others in and you become a force for good.

Posted November 17, 2014 by swanatbagend in transitions

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Little Things   Leave a comment

I thought I would get off scott-free this time, when the entire first week of school went by and I felt perfectly normal.

After all, we’ve already done this.  We’ve said goodbye to our son in the dorm lobby, prayed with him, and hauled the huge tubs back to the van for the trip back home so he doesn’t have to try to store them in his dorm.

It is different this time.  It just didn’t register as fast.

But about ten days in, I started feeling a bit raw.

Small things.  Or maybe big things.  How big is an empty bedroom?  It has clean sheets piled on the bed, that hasn’t been re-made yet.

Well, mistakenly setting the table for five. That’s relatively small.

So is thinking the van would be completely packed for the trip to the concert last Sunday with Grandma and Grandpa.  Then eventually the realization that there are not seven people in this party.

What however is the littlest painful thing?

It’s what’s missing.

There’s a little cheerful bright blue light on our router that remains on whenever wireless is working.  Zach finally asked me to stop turning it off each morning and just leave it so he could do his online class this summer. He promised me the radiation wouldn’t damage me significantly. So it was on from mid-June until he left.

Now it isn’t.

Each time I see that, right next to the fridge and the trash in the kitchen, where I am working all the time, it scrapes the wound again.

It’s tender and doesn’t like being picked back off. It flares in a burst of remembrance, concern, grief, loss, panic, all in about two seconds and then settles down again to just plain remembering.  But that’s kind of how it goes.

 

Posted September 19, 2014 by swanatbagend in transitions

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Increasing Maturity?   Leave a comment

Since I moved here 8 years ago I have noticed that people I meet seem to think I know what I’m doing and that I am not merely a functioning adult, but someone they can assume has parenting experience and will be around to rely on if they need some support.

Now that I’m 47 and have one homeschool graduate to my credit, have done the high school and college admissions thing before, I can understand that view.

What I want to trumpet to the world, about every other day or so, is, “No! I really don’t know what I’m doing!  I have fears and questions, regrets and concerns.  I have challenges each day about which I could use the advice and support of someone older, smarter, and more experienced.”

But it seems like once you reach a certain point, you get so good at what you do, that your wish to be supported fades into the background.

I like talking with other mothers, being a listening ear, and providing support in hard times.  It’s good to have experience and to have made it through difficult situations. That’s a gift which I’ve been given, and I’m glad I can give back.

Still, I have had a difficult time adjusting to the reality that I am now that older, wiser person.

Despite having lived a few years above the age of 40 now, I don’t grasp it. Maybe I don’t want to.  I guess as with any change there is both good and bad, and I do miss feeling like there is someone older and wiser watching out for me.

But I had found myself thinking that I had been forced into this new role without any transitional help. Then I realized the other night after processing for a while that this idea was incorrect.

1. First I had about 20 years being a young woman and being loved on and mentored by a lot of fantastic people, peers and adults. (I’m thinking of Marilyn Howe, Carylion Kennedy, Gina Humphrey, Sandy Bumpus, Anne Dunton, Anni Miller, Kathleen Woolsey,  Beckie Johnson, Lynn Ericson and many more)

2. Then I had about 20 more years of some mentoring and a lot of mutual support in relationships with peers. (Here mentors are Judy Calkin, Doris Musser, Kim Gardner, Chris Jolly)

3. Bringing us to the future, where I have made the transition to being more mentor than mentoree. (Here’s Susan Jackson)

So I realized that this trajectory is not all that unusual.  In fact, I suspect this is how it’s supposed to work.

For whatever reason, this made it easier to comprehend why I am where I am now.

The only thing I’m wondering is, what will the years from 60 to 80 look like?

Should be fun.

 

Posted July 31, 2014 by swanatbagend in identity, transitions

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My Filing Cabinet   1 comment

I’ve always had a great memory.  I am known among friends and acquaintances, who turn to me for obscure song lyrics from the 70s and 80s, other people’s telephone numbers and addresses, specifics about things we did together in the past…that kind of thing.

Not to mention the important stuff.  I never forget birthdays, anniversaries, what’s important to someone, where he’s from, what she does for a living, either.

That is…I never used to.

But something started happening when I turned 40.

I know, I know, huge stereotype, right?

But for me, literally, when I turned 40, that very year is when things started getting erased from the hard drive.

Now I can still remember songs from the 80s and some phone numbers from about ten years ago, you know incredibly useful stuff like that, but meeting new people and successfully storing their names in the gray matter has gotten way harder.  And it’s continuing to get more difficult, despite working hard to pull that stuff into the “keeper” file.

It’s the strangest feeling having your children tell you about something that happened last month or a few years ago and it’s blank.

They are at least tolerant of this weakness, and they like the metaphor I used to describe my situation.

You see, life is full and has been ever since I started giving birth to them.  So life is like a pick-up truck roaring down the interstate at 70 miles an hour.

In the back of the pick-up is an old, grey, extremely battered metal filing cabinet.

And as I drive wildly down the road of my life, the drawers rattle open from all the movement and action.  Guess what happens next?

Bits of white notebook paper come shooting violently out of the loose drawers of my mind.  So as I go I leave a trail of confetti.

Yep, that’s what it feels like.  There just isn’t room for any more  information, for one thing, and the speed of life demands that the time I have be spent in the present and planning for the future, so I don’t have time to turn around and try to collect all that lost information.

So, if I forget something about you, or the last time we got together, and what we did — don’t take it personally.  It’s just the state of my filing cabinet .

 

 

 

Posted July 2, 2014 by swanatbagend in mental health, transitions

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