big moments

Yesterday, was my dad’s birthday. He’s now one year shy of 7-0 but you’d never guess he was rounding the corner into his seventies with how much full life he is still living.

Growing up, he worked a whole bunch. Sixty, seventy, even upwards of ninety and hundred hours weeks (the latter was a scary season that, thankfully, led to a job change!), were the norm. There aren’t tons of small, every day moments I remember having him around. My mom was superwoman, handling all day to day tasks with us kids. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve explored how this affected me growing up. There has been a little soul work to do and with Dad’s retirement a few summers back, it gave opportunity for reflection and discussion. He and I have talked about it and I’m good. Being loved by him was NEVER a doubt. I don’t hold it against him. But there’s always been a part of me that wishes he had been around for more of those every day moments.

Yet, two weeks ago, something clicked in my head. I was flying over the Gulf of Mexico, in a sea plane, above giant sea turtles, after traveling 60 miles off the shore of Key West to a remote National Park called the Dry Tortugas. No cell service. No electricity. And some of the most stunning views I’ve ever seen in my life.

After having had a full day away from the kids, spending it in nature, my soul was alive, set on fire, and typically when that happens, every fiber of my being wants to write. Since I get air sick, and flying in a plane used commonly in the Alaska bush not designed for passenger comfort, I couldn’t write much but I penned this on a note app in my phone to attempt to capture what I was feeling.

“Adventures are worth it. The investment is worth it. Don’t get so caught up in the day to day life stuff that you forget to invest in BIG MOMENTS. Life is full of small moments and big moments. The small ones matter, the big ones do, too.”

This big moment wasn’t supposed to be mine. I wasn’t supposed to be on plane in the first place. It was my brother’s ticket but in the final hour, he heard I wanted to go and offered, not just his spot on the plane, but also to BABYSIT (Yes, best brother in the world!!)

So here I find myself, on a sea plane, with two of my favorite men in the world (my dad and husband) and I’m thinking about my father. Who he is. What makes him tick. The relationship we’ve had. His presence while I was growing up.

It dawned on me that most of my memories with my dad are BIG moment memories. Like when we rode a trolley in San Francisco, took a ferry to Prince Edward Island, saw the Pope speak at the Vatican, hiked rim to rim of the Grand Canyon, watched the Allman Brothers at the Beacon Theater in NYC, visited Alcatraz in San Diego, traveled on a house boat down the Florida coast, climbed a lighthouse to watch a sunset, at my wedding, just to name a few.

I almost talked myself out of getting on the Sea Plane to the Dry Tortugas. Anxiety was kicking in and my professional “worst case scenario” tapes in my head started to play. Would there be enough water? What if I got a migraine? Air sick? Sun burnt? As I opened up and shared this with a few fam members at dinner the night before, my brother asked “what’s the BEST scenario?” (That deserves it’s own blog post — how GREAT is that question?!)) and my response was something to the affect — I’d have the best time with two of my best men making life changing memories.

That’s exactly what it was. A true life changing, soul filling, experience. Only a week removed from wearing my breastfeeding hat, I had begun the journey to find out who is VIRGINIA, apart from the kids. Being gone a full day with no cell service, shoved me into a sacred space of being present on the grand adventure and, like I said, it set my soul on fire.

And my dad? He made it happen. He dreamed of the experience. He planned the trip. He paid the bill. And he sat next to me on the plane.

I spend a lot of my time and energy fighting to stay present. To soak in the little moments with my kids. To make the daily grind a little less grind-y by fighting for joy in any old hour out of the day. That’s a worthy cause, a cross I would die on to prove it’s importance. AND I see how important it is to also fight for the big moments. I’ll quote myself, again…

“Adventures are worth it. The investment is worth it. Don’t get so caught up in the day to day life stuff that you forget to invest in BIG MOMENTS. Life is full of small moments and big moments. The small ones matter, the big ones do, too.”

My dad has been a champion for those big moments, my entire life. He worked long, tireless days to put money in the bank to pay for them. He’s created countless spreadsheets and done a bajillion hours of research to prepare for them. He’s instilled in me an adventurer spirit, a wanderlust heart and through these adventures, a confidence to take risks and be brave.

It’s a legacy I’m grateful for…for me and for my kids. We are sure blessed to have him as a father and Papa!!!! Happy Birthday, Dad, I love you SO much! Thanks for these memories and all the many ones we will make in the future ❤️

xoxo, va

learning to lament

I’m cooking dinner/washing clothes/playing on my phone/staring out the window (any number of normal every day life things) and Tabby starts crying. Tears that communicate pain, not frustration or anger or annoyance. As her mom, I know the difference.

My first thought, and the first words out of my mouth instinctually are “what happened?” It’s done very empathetically (most of the time), there’s a hug involved, a brushing tears off her face, a sadness in my own heart as I watch my child suffer.

And yet verbally, when I am asking her (sometimes over and over) “what happened?” I am requiring something from her in that moment. I’m requiring her to explain to me what happened, explain to me why she’s hurting.

When she’s crying, I am uncomfortable, I hurt, there’s an ache in my own heart. And I’ve been trained (by God who designed me this way, by myself, by my caregivers, by the world) to run away from pain and discomfort. One method of running from it, in an effort to get away from it, to stop hurting, to make the pain go away for both of us — is to fix it.

And I can’t fix it if I don’t know what happened.

So, logically, my first question is — “what happened?”

In that moment I’m communicating something with the purest intention — mommy is trying to understand so mommy can fix it.

With the tears flowing, when she can’t catch her breath, when her heart is heavy with pain, I am asking her to articulate what has happened to her and I recognize, that’s a really big ask.

So…I started experimenting.

I practiced focusing on her pain, first, and THEN tried to figure out what happened, second.

Insert same scenarios, sometimes multiple times a day…I’m cooking dinner/washing clothes/playing on my phone/staring out the window (any number of normal every day life things) and Tabby starts crying. Tears that communicate pain, not frustration or anger or annoyance. As her mom, I know the difference.

“Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry, Tabby! Come here!” I get on her level, I hug, I wipe the tears away, I feel the sadness in my own heart as she feels the pain in hers.

At first, it was so hard. Everything in me is screaming — FIX IT FIX IT FIX IT!!! WHAT HAPPENED??!! FIGURE OUT WHAT HAPPENED SO YOU CAN FIX IT.

And I even snuck in some “what happened?” questions to start.

But then, over time, I got better at it.

I’d be cooking dinner/washing clothes/playing on my phone/staring out the window (any number of normal every day life things) and Tabby starts crying. Tears that communicate pain, not frustration…you get the picture.

And I’ve learned some stuff.

1. When I wasn’t using emotional energy trying to understand what happened, trying to fix, getting frustrated I couldn’t fix, I was able to fully show up for her in her pain while causing my own self minimal pain in the process.

2. In turn, she wasn’t using emotional energy trying to communicate the situation. She focused her emotional energy on healing instead of explaining to me what happened.

3. With less emotional energy spent from either of us, the moments passed quickly, sometimes almost instantaneously, with minimal interruption to the flow of the day.

4. When I stopped focusing on fixing it and instead focused on showing up for her in her pain, I realized, 9 times out of 10 there was NOTHING for me to even fix. The getting on her level, the hug, the wiping the tears, that was often all she needed.

I have so much I want to say. So much about lamentation and compassion. So much God is teaching me about both. He’s connecting dots, He’s revealing stuff about who He is, letting me learn things, showing me better ways of doing things. I’ll get more clarity on that one day and I’ll share, because as a writer, I can’t, not.

In motherhood, I get the opportunity to “fix” stuff in their lives, with band aids and snacks and iPad and skin-to-skin and kisses. And it feels REALLY good to fix stuff. But with every day that passes. I recognize there are and will continue to be, more and more things that I can’t. More stuff in their lives I can’t fix. I can only cry when they cry. Hurt when they hurt. And just sit in all of it with them.

I want to be a more compassionate human — for the world, outside my home, for people standing on the streets and the ones who live next door. People are feeling SO MUCH PAIN right now and I want to engage with it, well. In a way that’s healthy for me and healthy for those I want to lament with.

I tell my self all the time I will never be able to do “it” (whatever it is) out there, if I don’t first do it in here (with my own “four people”).

God has gifted me a safe place to practice lamenting in the four walls of my home. When I’m tired and grouchy and fussy and my oldest bursts into tears, I still grab for the comfortable “what happened?” but I’m learning to not use it as often. I’m learning to let her cry, hold her tight, and tell her she’s okay. Sometimes we get to a point where the question “what happened?” makes sense, and other times she just runs back to her toys and I go back to stirring the soup on the stove.

xoxo, va