Sunday, July 24, 2016

Being Present: Part 2

This is a two part post (Part 1 here) about how we are enjoying the summer, and more than any other time in my life, I'm finding myself fully reveling in the joy of the present. 
In the midst of the shadows, we find joy and love are constant. I am sure our life and summers always are great, but this summer seems especially poignant as I'm forced to live and appreciate the moment.  Maybe this is the new state of consciousness, and we have a lot to learn from our children who live so fully in the moment.  This summer I'm spending a lot of time outside.  

We enjoy our few vegetable plants. We thought a squirrel or bunny was eating our cucumbers so we made a scare crow from a blue wig from the dress up box and a pie tin, but the cucumbers were still munched.  A few days ago, Molly caught the culprit -- it was our dog, Rosie! Vignettes like these fill me with cheer. 

I love drinking coffee outside in the mornings, and noticing the dew on these plants. 
 In so many ways, scenes of summer epitomize what I want to remember and appreciate about life. 

“Life is to be experienced, not fought against, run from, or engaged halfheartedly. Though we may wish to make changes in the future, to be conscious is to be with an experience as it’s unfolding, rather than thinking about how we would like to change it. Taking charge of our life so that we alter the quality of our experiences in the future comes after an experience.” ― Shefali TsabaryThe Conscious Parent  

Last Monday, we met BJ's surgeon and learned more about the brain surgery procedures he will have this Fall. I really felt like we are just pretending to be an adult, sort of like Molly does when she wears high heels. 
The doctor was kind, competent and connected with BJ on fly fishing. 
 Both the doctor and his Nurse Practitioner will be performing the surgery, and were both great! 
Dr. Kalhorn brought this procedure to Georgetown and I have confidence in the process (Here is a video describing details).  When we came home, BJ was sort of in a funk and he said, "I'm going to lay in the hammock and just center myself." Honestly, I don't think he would have taken note of his emotions or how to deal with them before Parkinson's Disease; again, it is the darkness or the fear of progression of the disease, as doctors say,  that force us to focus on the light, savoring this precious season. 

Swim team makes up a big part of the summer, offering great lessons about community, and keeping us on schedule in the lazy days of summer.   I'm amazed at all the parent volunteers who do so much to make it all so fun (including BJ, who is on "the board"). Below is Molly putting the paint on her hand to make a team banner.

Molly is 6, but practices with the 7-8 age group and she is seeing success.
This week she won the event by beating the other kids by over 5 seconds.

This is Anna Cate's sixth season and I love knowing it is such a big part of her childhood.

Anna Cate took this last school year off from year-round swim but she has approached the practices and meets with enthusiasm and will be doing year round swim this Fall.

I love watching them make and cheer on their friends.

And their friends coming to watch them.

Brenda, Anna Cate and Molly's Baba, came to watch them this week like she has every year. I dug up on old blog I wrote about Anna Cate's first year swimming where she hung on the lane line to find and wave to Baba.

Five years ago, I wrote, "I think her smiling face and eyes darting at Brenda personified the joy for the journey. For Anna Cate, looking at Baba and me was a bigger deal than the finish line and I think that stopping along the way to notice who your fans and friends are is an important part of the race. . . .of life." 

And now, just like that 5 year old Anna Cate who hung on the lane line in the middle of the race to enjoy the scenery,  our family has been reminded to enjoy the journey in the presence of fearing a disease's progression. Ultimately, I can't bear to focus on the finish line, yet I believe we are much happier in general as we focus on the present. We are about to embark on a time in our life when we need our friends and family to help us through the ordeal of surgery and recovery. We believe the quality of BJ's life will be better for the struggle we will endure this Fall. Yet in the mean time, I'm finding the experiences of joy deeper,  the journey more meaningful, and the good times with our family more appreciated.

Acceptance looks like a passive state, but in reality it brings something entirely new into this world. That peace, a subtle energy vibration, is consciousness. -Eckhart Tolle

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Summer Fun, Being Present: Part 1

My thoughts and images of my new reality of finding such joy in the midst of such fear are so plentiful, I have to create two posts with the same theme. Although, upon further reflection, this may be the theme of the rest of my writing -- finding joy in the present!

You can always cope with the present moment, but you cannot cope with something that is only a mind projection - you cannot cope with the future. -Eckhart Tolle

 This summer, I'm constantly reminded of all the joy, and quite honestly the good seems brighter. We refuse to let the joy be cast to the shadows. 

I often feel that being a teacher allows me to appreciate time with my children in moments of leisure that I might not enjoy if I stayed home full time.  In the summer, I really try to slow down and just be, inviting Anna Cate and Molly to do the same.

They seem to already be focused on the present, enjoying the moment.  
 Children don't see limitations, just possibilities.
 Their camel pose is as different as their personalities. Both Anna Cate and Molly have such gifts.
Anna Cate continues to be the kindest person I know; her desire to please others is non-stop. She attended her first overnight camp with youth from our church and from the stories, she had a wonderful time.  
 I've never known anyone with such compassion, and it scares the hell out of me that someone will take advantage of her. Well, actually someone already does. Both Molly and I benefit from her kindness. 

Molly has much to offer as well.  Her desire for accessories is just an example of how keenly she notices details in life. While I find myself trying to temper her selfish desires, I admire how she knows what she wants and is willing to take ownership of who she is.  Recently, we were playing school and I said to her, "Molly, I am perplexed as to why you want to be a teacher since you don't really like kids," and Anna Cate said, "so she can boss kids around." Molly quipped, "yep." 

It was actually my father who noticed that Molly prefers adults; in fact, this school year, I heard more about the teacher and the special education assistant in her class more than the kids. The child I heard most about was a sweet little boy with autism; Molly adored him. 

 She wants to be an adult so badly, and to be honest, when there aren't kids around, she is the epitome of charm and acquiescence. Her favorite thing to do a King's Dominion is drive, since that is what adults do. 

Recently, I have been begging Anna Cate not to give in so much because the world and friends won't do so for Molly, but I have to step back and realize this is their story. 

Fourth of July:

Thanks to the craftiness of Aunt Sarah, we tried tie-dying.
And enjoyed we a small get together for 4th of July. 
 We had crabs with a kid-decorated table cover. 

Time with Friends:
One of the many blessings of being a teacher is having the time in the summer to encourage Anna Cate and Molly to host friends over.  
 Leana is Anna Cate's friend...and when she gets to come visit, we all enjoy her. Leana is so kind to include Molly, and even enjoys having a cup of coffee with me.

 We love getting some alone time with their cousin Graham.
 They participated in a Cooking camp with Dr. Yum and it was a fabulous investment as I now have a chef in the house!

Once in the same week, it worked out to host two sets of sisters. One from swim team and one set from school. Molly has begged me throughout the school year to connect with Bianca and Julianna and AC did year round swim last year together and will be together again this school year. So Anna Cate and Molly just adore them.  These are exactly the type friendships that make swim team so special.  Plus, their mom, Johanna, helps me with details so I don't miss the girls' events! :) 
(This play date was brought to you by American Girl gifts from Nana, Baba and Patti)

 These sweet girls above, sisters, are close in age to Molly and Anna Cate, and school friends.  We enjoyed a day trip to King's Dominion and a sleep over. In fact, it was at their house that Molly had her first friend sleep over.  Since Molly prefers adults,  my heart breaks when I hear her say she wishes she did play dates and sleep overs.  One Friday this spring, she cried that she's never had a sleep over; that very night at a softball game, there was a group of kids playing and Molly was visiting with me and our friends, including Miss Diana who came to watch the game.  I said, "Molly, I love that you are this way, but I just want to point out that you are here with the adults and choosing not to play with the kids; this might be why we don't do many play dates." But the very next day, she was invited to spend the night with Eloise and Willa, and absolutely LOVED it. We were so happy we could connect again this summer.

The girls watched a movie, and it made my day when we were talking about making popcorn and Eloise said, "the popcorn is really good here." (Air popped with a lot of butter like my mom makes it) Afterwards,  they set their dolls up for a sleep over as well. 

 I was a little worried that Molly was not getting along as easily, not sharing her toys and time, but as Anna Cate went to swim practice, when she had the girls to herself, she prepared a lovely breakfast tea party for the girls.
 I really enjoy being around these two and seeing how they differ and complement each other, the differences remind me a little of Anna Cate and Molly. They are beautiful, thoughtful and bright little girls. It is fun to watch young friendships.
 I think they liked the tea party, too. I was so happy for Molly.

In witnessing the dedication in which Molly prepared a table for her friends, I was awe struck. She asked me to use some special tea cups, put out flowers, and served orange juice with her tea party set in crystal.   
One night, Molly had Bianca sleep over all to herself. Anna Cate did so much to make it special for Molly even though Molly selfishly didn't want Anna Cate to invite the older sister over even thought Anna Cate cried. Anna Cate helped feed them, put on a movie and put chalk in their hair. 

I wonder if Molly feels like her kindness and acts aren't needed in light of Anna Cate's gregarious personality.  I can sort of relate because so many things BJ does better than I do, so I sort of step back and let him do it. I hope I haven't ever made Molly feel that her spirit wasn't needed.
Molly and I are so much alike!! I keep an email I received from a very dear friend several years ago, and sometimes I read it because our friendship is beautiful to me; she told me I'm hard on myself. Maybe that is why I worry so much about Molly, because in the mystery that is Molly's personality, I find unspeakable truth about myself and I react with criticism. I wonder if it is being "too easy" on Molly because she is so strong willed, I just give in. I am just not sure. Preparing our children for the world is such a sacred but scary journey, while encouraging them to be true to themselves. This summer I'm reading, The Awakened Family.  A few years ago, I read The Conscious Parent; it is a challenging but soothing way to look at the whole experience. 

“Once you accept your children’s basic nature, you can contour your style to meet their temperament. To do so means letting go of your fantasies of yourself as a certain kind of parent and instead evolving into the parent you need to be for the particular child in front of you.” ― Shefali TsabaryThe Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children

This whole way of being, letting go and focusing on the experiences of the present is the only reaction that makes me feel courageous and calm in the midst of fear for what BJ faces. Actually it is a lot like enjoying summer because I teach in the school year. The message is let ourselves enjoy the present -- it is life!