More Than a List

Every morning 9am comes. It rounds the globe with the sun perched just above the roof on your eastern neighbors’ house. You can count on this daily event. But sometimes 9am comes as a surprise as you suddenly remember that you are supposed to be at a classroom thirty minutes away with three dressed humans in your company. This discovery will be a frantic experience if you are currently sitting on the couch eating an apple in your pajamas with your three humans still in bed.

If you value emotional balance the sudden discovery that you are late is about as stabilizing as an earthquake.

Sit down with your journal in the morning. Learn to love the list. Don’t be tempted to believe that list making is something that Type A people do to maintain control.

See my list below which lists theList things a list is:

    • a meditation on your day.
    • a creative expression of your expected future.
    • a prayer for gratitude for everything that happens which you are able to acknowledge with a simple check mark.
    • a prayer of supplication for the energy to do the things you haven’t yet check-marked.

There is no guilt in an unfinished list. Life happened to you today and your plan said, “I’m right here on this list. You’ll get back to me as soon as you have a moment’s peace.”

Bond with your list. Give it a doodle, a sketch or a poem to keep it company. Let it know that you don’t find it mundane. It is the sacred documentation of your most valued tasks– this work of yours. The glorious minutes of the names of your friends, your valuable meetings, your unique vocation and place on this Earth. Sit with it. Meditate on it. Let it live on paper and outside of your brain so that your brain can be free to engage with this singular moment. To give every happening its due time.

Coffee with an Oak

Each morning I share a cup of coffee in silence with an ancient oak tree which I can see from my great front window. After we moved into this home I didn’t have a designated place to sit with my cup of coffee so I would linger in my bed much longer than is healthy for I am slow to start before 8am. But once I found my cozy corner of the couch to sit on and establish that the day had indeed begun, I now wipe the sleep from my eyes in my proper place.

Meeting my friend the tree took a bit longer to discover. A couch is an obvious observation because you put a couch where it is. A tree is just part of the background scene until it notices you and chooses to make contact. I can’t remember the first morning that my friend saluted me, a large mass of bare tangled branches without even one leaf. I never noticed him before the autumn leaf drop, which happens in late November in Pleasant Hill, California. In Ohio we would be shoveling ourselves out of a blizzard, in California we rake up leaf-jumping piles.

But from this morning in late January, I know that my coffee date the enormous oak and I have been growing quite fond of each other. As the pillowcase creases fade from my cheeks, the tree sways just slightly on top of its grassy hill. It matters not that my neighbor’s roof divides us like a too-large cafe table. There is no bustling Starbucks ambiance to interrupt our conversation. “Good morning, tree. How was your evening?”

“Oh, much the same. Not much changes for me here. It is nice to see the sun rising over Mount Diablo again.”

“I’m sure it is! What a lovely vantage point you must have from your clearing on the hill.”

“Oh, yes. I can see things the way they are from up here. Today will be a gift. I can see it.”

“You’re right, today is a gift. Well, I have to go unload the dishwasher. See you tomorrow.”

It’s comforting to have a friend who has been here much longer than our family. Perhaps even longer than this house. Especially to have a friend with such a calm demeanor, slowly growing into whatever tangled shape he deems most lovely with no consideration for current trends or norms. This friend isn’t here to achieve something, isn’t here to prove something, isn’t even here to notice if anyone else is achieving or proving. This friend has merely come to be, and being is as much a means as it is an end for this wise coffee date of mine. And although I still have achievements hoped for on this day, and I still suffer from feeling I have something to prove, tomorrow morning my friend the oak is just expecting me to to be here on my couch with my cup of coffee, ready to be for another day.

Shifting Priorities

First, a nod to our new ten-year-old who inspired us to blog. Happy birthday to our sweet O (I’ve made the choice to start using initials in our blog posts and public social accounts because the kids are getting old enough to require that level of privacy). I feel honored to be her mother, and am overjoyed at the young woman she is becoming. You can see some one of her awesome ideas here.

Next, some news about our family and me. Moving to California was a really great choice. We’re all very happy here and thriving. Rob is enjoying his new job (if not so much the commute). Homeschooling has been a great choice as well, and the girls are learning just as quickly as they were in traditional school, but they are getting more sleep and living with less stress and hurriedness. I’m hopeful that as they get older and become more skilled at balancing their own priorities they’ll start learning even more deeply the things which they are most interested in. It’s already happening to some degree, like with From Scratch News, but I can see so much more potential for growth with all the free time homeschooling can provide.

And now for the sad news. Honestly, I’m not sure how public I’ve been with this because of how difficult it was to come to the decision. I’ve decided to take a longer hiatus from doula work. I waited about 6 months after our move to start working, and I was getting some opportunities to work which excited me. Without giving away any private info about my clients, the births were so much harder on my kids and on Rob here in CA than they were in Ohio. Having family to pull together to help out was such a difference in support for us, and without it the kids were really suffering. When O is old enough to be the babysitter for an hour or two, I’ll head back to doula work but in the meantime I need to put my kids and homeschooling first. I spilled a few tears, but it’s time to move on.

So what am I doing instead? Everyone knows I’m too high energy to not have something going on the side. It’s not easy finding work I can do which I can keep in the margins of my first priority which is schooling and raising these girls. But I have a few solutions which are working out well. I’m teaching sewing classes on Friday afternoons while the girls are away at their enrichment classes. I’m building websites for friends here and there which is fun. But I’m most excited about a manuscript I’ve finished for a children’s picture book. I’m in the company of a couple of children’s authors in my kids’ park day (here and here) and it has inspired me to take my own shot at it. I’m in the editing phase but plan to be submitting it to publishers in the coming months. Leads and personal experience is definitely welcome.

When people told me that it would take a year to settle in after a move, I believed them. But what I didn’t expect was that a cross country move wouldn’t just change my location, but it would also change my priorities. A lot of the plans and work I was doing were very location-centric. I haven’t really changed the person I am through moving, but my position in the community has changed by necessity, and so my contribution has changed as well. It’s definitely taken a whole year, and I’m not even sure the transition is complete, but I’m finally more certain of where my spent efforts will have the biggest payoff. When you only have a few hours a week to spend your efforts, a good ROI is a high priority.