Now I know why old women sweep porches

I used to wonder why

old women in house shoes swept their porches

day after day.

The dirt just comes back, I thought.

Isn’t that sort of Sisyphean? A task, rather,

that can’t ever be completed.

But slowly, as life swept me up like a dustball in the corner of a hot summer porch,

I found myself at dusk one spring

sweeping, sweeping, sweeping

the dirt balls of a 6-year-old thinking that

this here was nothing short of paradise.

Now that seems an exaggeration, I am sure, but truly

— isn’t it that the task is not always about the result —

but more about the task itself?

This tidying of a driveway at dusk,

the breathing in of the evening air,

the meditative hush of the

swish, swish, swish

against the concrete —

the chore became nothing less than an act of love.

And in that moment it was the best I could do to say

thank you 

for the simple fact

that I have been given a porch to sweep

in front of a house that holds

my greatest joy.

The dirt comes back

And so do the dirty diapers

Another lullaby to sing

Another dishwasher to unload

Another dryer to fill

Another goodnight prayer to say

And just when I think

why bother?

— there’s always more to do —

I find myself wondering

Well, what else would I do anyway?

Nothing, I’m sure, that would be all that fulfilling.

And maybe it seems a bit overdone: really, a poem about sweeping?

But, of course, it’s not about the sweeping at all.

And that’s what those old ladies in house shoes

know better than anyone.

Hallelujah is our song

They sat in front of us at the Easter service today. I’ve seen them before.

Three adult children and two middle-aged parents who smile easily. He sat in the middle between his dark-haired brother and sister — I’m guessing all three are in their 20’s. He’s a bit shorter than the siblings he’s sandwiched between, with a thicker waist and rounder stature than they have. But he has his brother’s hairline and his sister’s smile.

He chuckled when his brother gave him a hard time and affectionately squeezed his shoulders. He peeked back when his mom subtly pointed out Kate to him with a warm grin (though I saw them all peeking).

There was nothing out of the ordinary while watching their family — except, perhaps, their radiant joy. It was noticeable. You could tell they enjoyed being together. You could tell that having a brother and a son with Down syndrome was both a big thing and yet, nothing at all. And while the choir sang Hallelujah, I felt tears welling in my eyes.

I was hoping to chat with the mother of that family after church today — but we were lost in the crowd as the congregation piled through doors to hug and take pictures and hurry home to honey ham and Cadbury creme eggs. But I am also sort of relieved that we’ll have to meet another day — today I probably would’ve been a bit weepy.

Not because I’m discouraged that we share a bond of two mothers who have children of all abilities at our side — but rather, because I am so very grateful. I rejoice with a resounding Hallelujah that I know with a whole heart the truth that Archbishop Chaput spoke when he said:

“These children with disabilities are not a burden; they’re a priceless gift to all of us. They’re a doorway to the real meaning of our humanity. Whatever suffering we endure to welcome, protect, and ennoble these special children is worth it because they’re a pathway to real hope and real joy.”

And on this day where we sing and where we celebrate real hope and real joy in the realest sense of all, my heart is so very full.

“What hope we have, even in the longest night, for the light will overcome. We will not fear, for we know the sun will rise. Hallelujah is our song.” — Sarah Hart

The real things

I pushed the big black wheelbarrow wearing big black mud boots through the cleared path of the forest nestled up to our yard.

After scanning the scenery, I found just what I was looking for: a pile of pine needles and decomposing leaves settled into the wet, black earth. My struggling azaleas needed more acidic soil and more shade, so I moved them for respite next to the shadier side of the house and now needed to tuck them into their new bed with some mulch.

With a full wheelbarrow and two blonde, panting dogs at my feet, I tromped back through the new wildflower field in its first bloom, across the chalk-scribbled driveway and past three children in search of a moth. The sun felt hot on my burning arm muscles as I dumped the cool forest soil into the fresh bed (and almost upon the dog who had settled in for a nap.)

It’s official: Spring is here.

I’ve seen it coming for weeks as the wildflowers started peeking their little colorful faces. But now, it’s in full blast. Rabbits are hopping across our country road, squirrels are in abundance chasing up and down the Pine trees, tree frogs are perched on our water hoses, flowers and weeds and grass are all growing — and a weekly mow of the lawn is almost not enough.

Seasons really are a great gift from a God who knows we humans like to keep things fresh and new. Just when we get weary of the wintery cold, the flowers bloom. Just when we wish for more water play and watermelon, summer arrives. Just when the heat becomes a bit too much, the leaves start to fall — and then, we’re craving cozier weather once again.

A new dog with white paws adopted us this winter and decided that we were hers. We found her cold and wet and afraid and after a couple weeks of warming up to a neighbor and us, she told us she wasn’t leaving and we obliged. So now she has a collar and a name and a new best friend in our golden lab and belly-scratching children.

And now this isn’t much of a blog post is it, really? But these normal, everyday things always make me want to write. They are full of beauty and wonder and the comfort that as much as things change, in so many ways they are always the same.

“The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder

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Mama in Wonderland

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

She sat before me in the boat, which was really a raised garden bed not yet planted in. All of two years old with natural Shirley Temple curls that fall from the ends of her golden hair, she looked at me very matter-of-factly:

“Mama, I’m making soup.”

“Mmm,” I responded.

Kate came bounding down from the patio where she had been organizing sidewalk chalk and plopped down beside me with a heavy sigh, accompanied by a beaming smile. “Hello,” she said.

“Hi Kate,” I said, “Your little sister is making us soup.”

The chef was finished. One bird-shaped bathtub-toy-turned-backyard toy full of dirt, ahem, I mean soup for Kate. One for me. One for the mini chef.

“Here you go,” she said sweetly.

“What kind of soup do we have here?” I asked.

She wiped the dirt from her forehead with more dirt from her hands, leaving a perfectly paint-brushed streak and answered: “Kate has carrot soup. You have tomatoes and dressing. I have carrots and hummus.”

“Oh, yum!” I responded taking a big pretend bite.

“Ask me what I have in my bowl, Mommy,” she pleaded gently in the high-pitched voice of a precocious, new-talker.

“What do you have?” I obliged.

“NO!” She responded with a furrowed brow. Her face softened to my playful, puzzled expression.

“Ask me what I have, Mommy,” she pleaded again.

More cautiously I advanced,  asking slowly, “What… do you have…?”

“NO!” She responded again. This time she couldn’t help to let a little snicker out from her “mad-face.” It made me snicker, too. Her face softened again.

“I have carrots and hummus,” she replied as though she had never told me.

I barely had time to take another “bite,” when up the hill she went.

I turned to talk to Kate, who was dipping her finger in her carrot soup, when I heard a little voice singing:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MOMMY!!!! (We obviously like playing “birthday” around here.)

I looked up and there she was, walking slowly, concentrating deeply, carrying a piece of wood from the in-progress garden fence.

“Here Mommy,” she plopped it into my hands, “Open your present!”

I went to open it.

“But close your eyes!”

Ah, well, that makes it a bit more tricky to unwrap.

“What is it?!” I said excitedly once the wrapping was off.

“It’s… a ROCK,” she said proudly.

Ah, a rock in a piece of wood. What a lovely gift.

She handed me another small “present” to open.

I started to unwrap —

“Close your eyes!”

Again, I closed my eyes.

Then I opened them and gasped, “What is it?!”

“It’s… JUICE!” she said proudly.

She proceeded to pour the juice for Kate, her and I into our soup bowls now turned juice cups.

We all took sips of our orange juice — I was informed it was orange — in unison and giggled at each other. How delicious —

“Juice is done!” she said abruptly, hurried to move on.

“Can I have a bit more?” I asked.

“No,” she responded calmly.

“But it’s my birthday?”

“It’s not your birthday,” she said knowingly.

“It’s not?”

“No, Mommy, it’s not.”

She gathered the presents and piled them into her Tonka dump truck to push out of the garden. Before leaving, she turned to me kindly and said,

“Bye, Mommy… Good luck.”

“Thanks..?” I said blowing her a kiss.

And off she went — full of imagination and joy and soup, singing to herself:

“It’s not your birthdayyy… it’s not your birthdayyy…”

And Kate turned to me and giggled, still enjoying the last sip of her juice.

“The world is but a canvas to the imagination.” — Thoreau

 

Gifts of love

I still remember the first Valentine’s Day with my husband — my then boyfriend. Or not even “official” boyfriend yet (we had only been dating a couple of months). I knew I was going to marry him, but we had not defined labels yet.

We were on our way to a movie the week before when he asked me casually: “So, what are you doing for Valentine’s Day?”

I was so excited I could barely wait to duck into the bathroom at the movie theater and call my friend Stephanie, “He asked me to go out with him on Valentine’s Day!” After all, that meant something. I was going to be his Valentine.

Fast forward almost a decade later to today — an unseasonably warm 70 degrees, blue-skied February day in Texas. I asked my husband, “Isn’t it like this every day of the year in San Diego? Why doesn’t everyone in the world live there?”

We spent all day outside, working on the garden fence and the plant beds. With dirt under my nails and children at my feet, I dug up and moved some azaleas and spider plants from here to there. I pulled weeds that held firm to thick clay soil and dug my hands into the cold earth below to make room for transferred plants with dangling roots. Our wildflowers have been blooming early (they are as eager for Spring as I am!) and I pulled a handful yesterday and piled them into a water-filled mason jar turned farmhouse vase. It sat in the middle of our diningroom table last night as friends poured wine and piled pasta and listened to music over the speakers.

There’s a part of the mass where the priest says the words “…Through Christ our Lord, from whom all good things come.” Those words always stand out to me. For these simplest of joys — the dirt, the earth, the plants, the pasta — these are daily gifts from God reminding me: you are loved.

Every time I dig my hands into the earth or wrap my arms around my babies. Every time I cut into a juicy pear or pick a wildflower. Every time I kiss my forever Valentine or share a meal with loved ones — I am reminded, once again, that these are gifts of love from Him who is Love Himself. Him from whom all good things come.

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above.” – James 1:17

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