This Being Alive Thing

Just start to write.

Write something.

Yes, another cup of caffeine might help, but can you just sit down and write?

I want to say a perfect thing, a brilliant thing, a funny and/or insightful thing.

Write.  Just write.

Okay, I am writing.  I am doing it.  The words are appearing as my fingers hit the keys, nothing short of magic, really.  Nothing I understand, except loosely—something way down in the deep unknown of myself sparks a thought & language, then moves to a keyboard & electrical signals, and of course, the Internet, whatever that really is.  I don’t understand it, but I use it.  Like many things in my life: car, cellphone, refrigerator.  Loosely understood but often used.

I’d like to tell you about my day.  The walk down the hill to the coffee shop with my girls, passing the farm-stand along the way, the one overflowing with delicious summer garden abundance: cherry tomatoes, eggplant, spinach, & sunflowers.  I’d like to tell you about my day.  The song we were singing–or was it humming?–as we picked a few blackberry jewels off a neighbor’s rambling bush and crushed them in our mouths in jammy tart bursts.

We said hello to landscapers pulling weeds out of a half-hidden yard.  We said hello to two high school boys slouching in the bus shelter along the curb, or rather they said hello to us, loudly, which made me think it was a joke I am now too old to understand.  We picked pale purple flowers from the broken branch of a hydrangea, ate salty potatoes (which we sprinkled with extra salt) and drank a latte (me) and sparkling apple juice (them) under the almost sunny sky of the little waterfront village we call home.

I can try, but I can’t fully explain, the shape of my girl’s face as she sits across the table from me and tells me she wants to get her hair cut to her shoulders.  Her face, almost like a pear, sliced in half, so fresh and available and full of every ripe sweetness.  Her eyes could be the seeds, brown and shining, glinting with the thought of herself seated in a real salon chair, being pampered and shaped into another realm of beauty and grown-up-ness, a 6 and three-quarter year old queen.

And my little one, the light-bulb two-year old, flitting about the outdoor patio where we sit.  Skinning her knee here, on the gravely ground, then again there, on the stone pathway.  She melts into a whimper and a cry but after a quick scoop into my arms, and three tender kisses on each of her ouchies, she is off again– “my tay (I’m okay)”, she says–running, moving, an unstoppable force fueling her from an invisible source, like ocean waves or the orbit of the earth, just going, spinning, being.  Without explanation or self-awareness.  Existing as herself, fully and completely, she is mesmerizing.

We go to the bank, then the library, then make our way back up the hill.

We don’t pass anyone this time.  We just march up, the sun now streaming down, heading for home, pink lemonade popsicles, and nap time.

We live in luxury.  We are queens.  We have sun and blackberries, skinned knees and imagined haircuts.

We have ourselves, each other.  We have the invisible source/force holding us to this planet, fueling us down and up the hill of our town.

I can’t pretend to understand it fully, but I use it.  Often.  All the time.  This being alive thing.  This fuel, this source/force.  It creeps into everything we are and everything we do.  It uses us and we use it, inseparable.  The world shines of it, in broken flowering branches, in trips and falls, in the hot hike up the hill home, to more salty potatoes and cold, ripe figs for lunch.

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A path to Domestic Bliss

I have something to tell you: I am not a domestic perfectionist.

If you know me, if you’ve dropped my house unexpectedly, you know.  There are books and toys and DVDs strewn about, as well as dress-up clothes and yoga mats, the remnants of the fort we built yesterday and some paint splattered on the floor from an impromptu finger-painting session last night.  There are definitely dirty dishes in the sink.

Some might call it lived in.  Others might call it lazy.  I like to think of it as creative swirl.  And its a good thing.  It means that we are busy living our lives, busy making them feel right, instead of making them look right.

Don’t get me wrong, I think neat and tidy has its place.  I enjoy relaxing in a clean, crisp environment as much as the next person.  But as a mother, that is not my top priority.

If you have young kids you know what I mean: the process of cleaning up can seem never-ending.  It can become a battle ground, especially if you have a domestic perfectionist living inside of you.

But around here, we find perfection within the imperfection.

Around here, it is messy.  It is a creative swirl.

It is also fun and active.  We have important things to do.  Like wrestling and dance parties.  Bubble baths and homemade spa days.  Things like watching movies in a cuddle pile on the couch.  Or drinking tea, discussing the day’s unravelings— not letting “dealing with the mess” get top priority.

It was not always like this.  I’ve had to work, really work, at letting the house be messy and still being able to relax in it.

I’ve had to work at not letting my happiness depend on whether or not the laundry is folded and put away.

Before that, I was letting the state of the house determine my mood: if it was messy, I was unhappy.  I’d carry a dark grey cloud above my head, huffing around the house putting things away, blaming someone else for the mess, feeling resentful that I HAD to deal with it in order for my day to feel good again.  Sometimes I got really ugly and looked something like this:

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Then I realized something:  I didn’t HAVE to.  The mess didn’t have to come before my happiness.  My happiness could come first.  I could choose it.  I could look at that bad mood brewing in me because the house was untidy and I could not let it take over.  I could sit down in the middle of the house and not do anything at all to change it.  I could accept things as they were, crumbs and all.

Maybe I’d even shrug at the mess and laugh a little, wiggle my shoulders and jostle my head.  I’d decide to hug my kids and read to them in a cluttered house.  I’d decide to joyfully make pancakes for breakfast even if last night’s dishes were still in the sink.  I’d let the mess be, especially if letting it be meant I was a happier and more present person, a more loving mom, a more relaxed wife.

Now when I clean, I do it because I want to, because I enjoy it.  I don’t clean in order to maintain cleanliness, I clean because I want to create a fresh page, an empty canvas–so the creative swirl can be begin again in whatever way it needs to.

I won’t sacrifice a happy environment for a clean one anymore.  It’s just not worth it.  It took a lot of practice, but I no longer have a domestic perfectionist in me trying to control things and resist mess.  Instead, I have something else.  I like to think of it as a domestic goddess.  Yes, that’s right.

A domestic goddess has a home that feels full and fun and loving.  She has kids that know they can be messy without being scolded.  Kids that play without feeling stifled by a mom who needs everything to be cleaned up on the spot.  Kids who don’t stop being creative because they fear how tense mom gets when things get out-of-order.  She tidies up without anger or blame.  She spends time with her partner at the end of the day, making catching up more important than cleaning up.

A domestic goddess has a wide and long view, one that extends beyond this mess, this day, this week.    She sees down the road—way, way down when the kids are grown and everything is different—and seeing that place way down there, she turns and looks back.

With that perspective, she sees this moment, this splatter or spill or stain.  She laughs at it and wipes it up.  Or she steps right over it, that bit of creative swirl, and kisses or tickles or hugs whoever it was that made it.  And in that moment, she finds a snippet of domestic bliss.  It’s a wonderful place to be.

Hello out there

It seems that I am starting a blog and the name of it is Sparkle and Zest.

I am here to share the things in my life that bring me joy, the things that are naturally beautiful and eye-catching.

I am also here to dig, to look carefully and with curiosity: if I pick up the nitty-gritty pieces of my life, the pieces that are dull or difficult at first glance, can I work with them, let them teach me?  Can I rub them just right so they begin to sparkle?  Can I welcome all the pieces of my life, finding the glimmer and light in just about every darn thing?  That is what I am here to do.

There is motherhood.  There is marriage.  There is housework and friendships and food (oh, I love food!).  There is art and spirituality.  There is life, with its strange and wonderful gifts offered along the way, the ones I can not yet guess at or imagine.

I come here to write and share.  To be myself unabashedly.  To feel my own sparkle and zest–in all it’s thousands of bits and pieces.  I hope you find something of interest here, too, and that we can dig and polish together.