This girl. The one with her back turned to the camera, hands on her hips, standing at a bedside. Today is her 24th birthday. And I want you to know more about her.
She is the second of our four children; the only girl. Our girl.
She is a wife, a friend, and a college graduate still trying to figure out the purpose of that particular achievement and what it may lead her to. I keep telling her that's okay seeing as how I'm still figuring that out for myself.
She is the sister to three brothers whose activities and antics often put them in places where they are seen and heard. Her abilities don't always put her in a spotlight. She's more the show-up-to-watch-your-older-brother's-choir-concerts, set-up-chairs-for-your-brother's-EP-release-party, beta-test-your-brother's-new-game kind of person.
While she's genuinely content to cheer others' on, she is also unafraid to be seen. Given the chance, she'll own the spotlight and, most of the time, make you laugh until you cry. She'll even let you see the messy parts of her. The broken pieces. The scars. She lets you see all that because then she can tell you how she's been made whole. Not perfect, but whole.
She extends grace better than most people I know, probably because she has humbly received it. She loves unconditionally, and even when that love isn't reciprocated, she patiently pursues, believing things will get better.
Six weeks ago she put her life on hold to care for her dying grandmother. She served up raisin toast and grapefruit and two toddies a day, just the way Grandma Jan liked them. She juggled morphine doses and oxygen tanks and hospice visits and messes. She truly has been the unsung hero of this journey.
Yesterday morning, her role as caregiver ended as she helped prepare her grandmother's body to be taken away. I told her this may have been Grandma Jan's gift to her, leaving this world the day before her birthday so she wouldn't have to forevermore share this date with a shadow of the memory of saying goodbye. Instead, today is the beginning of a new season for her. It may be an unknown season at this point, but I have no doubt it will be filled with good things.
I chose this picture to share with you on this day because it represents how I have seen her these past six weeks; brave, willing and so much stronger than she even realizes; doing hard things, holy things, even when she thought no one was watching. But I was watching; and seeing her left me in awe.
Hannah, today is your day and I am singing your praises. I celebrate who you are, what you've done, and how you love. Happy birthday, my sweet girl.
I love you...
I'm not sure I can recall a December that has felt so dark and heavy. It seems at every turn, I see heartache, difficulty, loss, and struggle for so many people who are dear to me. And even beyond my own circle, I've heard story after story of many who are just done with 2019.
I had a conversation with God about this the other day. An out-loud conversation in my car. You know the kind. Where you explode a little and wish God was sitting there in human form in the passenger seat so you could look Him in the eye and give Him a piece of your mind. Except He isn't sitting there so you have the conversation anyway and pray no one in the car next to you sees what's happening. But even if they do you just don't care. Because this confrontation with the Big Guy just can't wait.
This conversation came on the heels of one of my kids sharing some of the tough stuff he was currently facing. In one of my more honest mom moments I said, "Well, you kinda need to just get in line, because I'm not sure I have the capacity to deal with one more thing right now." Thankfully, my true confession was met with understanding and even brought a little laughter to the moment as well.
My little chat with God included me yelling, "And it's Christmas! Why the heck do things have to be this way at Christmas!" And then I said the words, "You're just gonna have to DO SOMETHING." I get a little bossy with God sometimes.
Not 30 seconds later, more out of frustration than actually looking for God to respond to my whiny rant, I turned on a podcast. What happened next was cool, funny, humbling, and shouldn't be surprising, but it was. For the next 40 minutes or so, I listened to some pastor from some church talk about why the Advent season should feel so dark. Then, right there in my car, God did something. Not only did He do something in that moment, but He reminded me that He DID SOMETHING long ago. After years of waiting, darkness, sadness, and hardship, He did something. He wrapped Himself in flesh and came to earth. He did it to fulfill His promise. He did it to bring an end to the darkness. And while I still feel the weight of that darkness from time to time, I now live with the promise of light.
That promise makes all the difference for me this December and I hope it does for you too. If you're walking through a difficult Advent season, remember, a weary world will rejoice. Sin and error pining will turn to joy. The night is holy because morning is coming.
O DARK DECEMBER
by Gina Boe
O Dark December, how heavy the weight
Of bitter winds and fleeting days
We brace our souls for such dismay
O Dark December, how heavy the weight
O Dark December, how long is the night
The silent wait for promised light
We cling to hope of worlds aright
O Dark December, how long is the night
And yet within a heart distressed
Remains a sacred confidence
In strong, unwavered faithfulness
Which steadies us to peace and rest
O Dark December, how blessed and kind
Your brutal mercy still reminds
We weep assured of joy we’ll find
O Dark December, how blessed and kind
When my oldest child was around 13 years old I was introduced to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Life would never be the same. Since the day Hunter brought home the first book in the series, our family has enjoyed many years of reading, watching, and thoroughly enjoying all things Harry. Yes, we are those people; the ones who actually shed tears walking into a certain theme park in Orlando. I gladly embrace this family obsession.
Think what you want about JK Rowling, but I happen to think she's a genius. She took this midwestern, middle-aged mom on an unexpected adventure with my kids and in the process, taught me a whole lot about life, people, and believe it or not, how to survive a war I wage nearly every day of my life.
One of the more disturbing parts of the HP storyline is the presence of the Dementors. These dark creatures are the guards of the prison, Azkaban. They feed on human happiness and their "kiss" can drain the soul of positive emotion, generating feelings of depression or despair. According to Pottermore, they are the embodiment of what it means to feel utterly hopeless. I know these creatures. Chances are you do too.
For me, I have identified some of the Dementors as those voices of discouragement, both audible and not, that make me feel like I am not qualified, equipped, or deserving enough to see my ideas developed and unleashed. They remind me of my failures and my disappointments. They tell me I don't really have anything worthwhile to say. The most painful thing they tell me is that nothing good or beautiful can grow in a place where thorns and thistles still exist. And of course, the believing me knows life will never be free of thorns and thistles this side of heaven.
In the wizarding world, the secret to fighting a Dementor is the Patronus charm, a spell which casts a Patronus, a silvery-white animal shape, necessary to ward off a Dementor. In my world, I have found my own Patronus charm to wage war against the voices that seek to steal, kill, and destroy. (Before I go any further, let me say to those of you reading this who are concerned about my spiritual well-being and think I've traded the cross for a wand, you're just wrong so don't worry and read on.) Anyway, back to my Patronus. When the Dementors show up, and they really do show up for me on an almost-daily basis, I use my own Patronus charm and cast the one weapon I've found able to defeat the Dementors every, single time - hope.
Seem simple? It isn't. Oh the truth of it might be simple, but the act of choosing it every single day, is not easy. It isn't easy because the Dementors make life dark. Really dark. And reaching for something in the dark seems silly and futile and maddening. So I pray and I beg, sometimes in a whisper and sometimes a scream. Thankfully, hope comes to the dark places when you ask for it. Anne Lamott wrote, "Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work. You don't give up." Lamott is specifically addressing writers and their need to persistently pursue their work, but her words ring true for anyone finding themselves in a dark place. They remind me hope is determined and faithful. I need to know that.
I have been summoning hope a lot lately. I think it's because I feel like I'm on the verge of some wonderful things happening, which would be an amazing place to be if not for the Dementors. Thankfully, hope can be loud when it has to be. Loud enough to silence the voices that tell me it would be better for me not to dream, not to be brave, and not to be faithful with what I've been given. The thing about hope though, is that it doesn't answer problems, fix brokenness, or heal wounds before it leads you further on. Sometimes, it only gives you enough light to take a step or two in the right direction. I am trying to be okay with that.
I wrote a song with my friend Joel last year about hope needing an anthem. I don't know whether or not this song will ever have a chance to shine anywhere else, but it does cast just enough light to keep me going back into my writing room. Most days, the Dementors stand just outside my writing room door and tell me I shouldn't be in there. I'm embarrassed to say it, but some days I listen to them and walk away. But there are more days when I cast my Patronus and get to work. I do that because I believe other people are battling their own Dementors and maybe, just maybe, I can write the anthem they'll sing when they choose to keep fighting.
HOPE DESERVES AN ANTHEM
Gina Boe / Joel Lindsey
How can words and melodies
Offer any remedy
To weary souls and breaking hearts
How do verses and refrains
Calm a fear or soothe an ache
Or shine a light into the dark
Well I cannot explain this mystery
But I’ve seen it and I’ve felt it and seems to me (that)
Hope deserves an anthem
‘Cause sometimes it's a song
That keeps someone believing
There’s a reason to go on
And people need reminding
Something good is gonna happen
So we sing, we sing
‘Cause hope deserves an anthem
Seems like everywhere I turn
Shouts of anger, doubt and hurt
Are ringing out for all to hear
(So) How much louder should the sound
Of love and grace and truth resound
’Til echoes of despair soon disappear
It might as well be me who holds the pen
To tell someone that they can breathe again
But if this is music you’re meant to compose
Then I will sing it loud enough so everybody knows
He sat at the piano tonight and it hit me; the quiet is going to be unbearably loud.
Tonight, he will sleep in a bed about 25 feet from where I sit now. Tomorrow, he won't.
And here we go again, launching another kid into his college adventure. We've done it twice before and while the details and logistics seem to get easier, I can't say the same about the emotions. They're different this time, but still raw and overwhelming.
There is more to be said about all this, but I'm tired. We spent our last hours here tonight making grilled cheese and tomato soup at 11:00 p.m., followed by stories, laughter, and music. Those three things give a pretty good description of what life has been like with Harrison the past 18 years.
There will still be plenty of moments filled with those things in the years to come and they will be moments to savor. And oh how I will. Because there will be so, so many quiet moments in between.
So, here we are again. The beginning of summer, and a whole lot of songs, waiting to be written. This is the 3rd year I've embarked on a "Summer of Songs", hoping that what I purpose to do will actually get done. This summer, there is much more to be written than just songs, so the few weeks I have to make it all happen already feel like they won't be enough time.
I guess we'll see.
I officially began last Thursday when I headed 90 minutes west to my friend Lisa's house. Lisa was my college roommate-best friend-maid of honor-and all that stuff, turned sound person-booking agent-new mom buddy. For more than 30 years, she's been just about everything a friend can be, and more. Somewhere along the way we realized we could write songs together. There have been some very fruitful seasons in our writing relationship and some pretty barren ones. It feels like this is going to be a good season.
Our mutual friend and occasional writing partner, Sue, joined us. We only had about a day and a half to spend together so between the need for catch-up conversation and other things necessary for any successful girls' time together, I wasn't sure how the writing would go, especially since the three of us hadn't written together in over a year. Thankfully, we left our time together with two songs completed and one good start on another. A great way to begin SOS2019.
In the past, I've had some "rules" for myself regarding how to approach my days. Things will be different this year. When I looked at the calendar and saw how varied my schedule would be from week to week, I knew it would be almost impossible to maintain a certain amount of structure. And I also knew if I set rules and kept finding myself facing understandable reasons to break them, I would quickly become discouraged and be tempted to scrap the whole thing. So this year, no rules. Just a commitment to myself to keep at it. I will give myself some structure when I can, but also write in the margins when necessary.
I'll give regular updates and hopefully you'll also get to read a lyric or hear a song or two along the way. As always, my hope for sharing this journey with you is that you would be encouraged in your own creative adventure. Our days are numbered, friends, and stewarding the gifts we've been given is important. Don't dismiss that voice in your head telling you to get to work. The world needs you to add to the beauty.
Some days I care. Some days I don't. Some days I try my hardest to work within the confines of the system. Some days I think the system is the enemy and I pick up my rebel pen and write what will likely never be heard. Some days I embrace my place in the world and some days I am so green with envy I could play Elphaba without an ounce of makeup. Some days I thank God He made me a writer. Other days I curse the journey.
I've made a very bad living (okay, a decent part time job) out of writing things people want to hear. Songs I truly believe people need to hear. And I am genuinely grateful for that. I just don't think people want to hear that stuff all the time. I think there are days people want someone to enter into their sadness or frustration or pain and express it in ways they don't know how to on their own. I don't want to live, or write, every second in that world, but I can't deny the therapeutic value of getting those thoughts out of my system in the hope I am not alone.
I haven't found a place in the world for those songs. Maybe there isn't one. Maybe it's just here. I really don't know. I only know that when I hit "post" on this blog a small weight will be off my shoulders. I have wrestled with whether or not that's okay and I guess the fact you're now reading this means I decided it is. So, here you go.
I wish I was always an overflowing fount of positivity and grace and joy. I pray for the day I will be. Today, however, you get to see this - the ongoing struggle with my humanity. For better or worse, this is how I feel today. Just a mess of a work in progress who is longing for better days.
The Ghost of Us
I walked out and closed the door
Don’t go back there anymore
But now and then I hear a sound
And I can’t help but turn around
Take a breath and drop your guard
Start to think you’ve come so far
Step by step into the light
But shadows don’t give up the fight
Most of us are living with the ghost of us
And hope no one will notice us
Dancing in the dark
Could it be the war with this humanity
Is just the way it has to be
As long as we have scars
Yesterday is gravity
The pull that leaves us questioning
If we can trust the promises
That it won’t always feel like this
Tell me it won’t always feel like this
The break, the bleed
The want, the need
The proof that we
Are not where we are meant to be
I get it. They can seem pretty self-indulgent. Annoying. Boastful. All those posts from writers, artists, and creatives of all kinds, letting you know about their latest project or accomplishment. You've seen them. And some of them have likely rubbed you the wrong way. Sometimes they rub me the wrong way and I even post them myself now and then! But here's what you need to know about the people who write those posts. We have to. And here are the reasons why.
First, creatives are compelled to complete their work and our work isn't complete until it is shared with the world. A song isn't finished until it is heard. A painting isn't finished until it is put on display for others to see. A house isn't finished until it is lived in. For the creator of those works, it is as if they haven't gotten "paid" for their time and effort until someone else experiences what they have made. And sometimes, the recipient's experience with their work is the only currency the creative will ever receive.
Second, for those creatives whose work is a part of their livelihood, it is a necessity for them to do their part in marketing themselves. Just as a small business owner places social media or radio ads to let the world know they exist, a creative must let the world know they are "open for business" as well. Realtors plaster their faces on billboards. Restaurants put coupons in mailboxes. The general public seems to be okay with all that. We might complain about the sheer volume of ads placed by a software company or plumber or bank, but we don't necessarily see it as arrogance. People are just trying to make a living, right? They can tell us about how their business was rated #1 in the region or post quotes from satisfied customers and we're okay with it. But when an artist tells you about their latest success, we often think they are tooting their own horn. I would argue that most of the time, that is not the case.
Most artists I know are uncomfortable with the whole self-promotion thing. It's awkward. It just feels wrong. Also, our work is so personal and vulnerable, we can be terrified at the mere possibility someone won't appreciate what we've created. And most of the artists I know are incredibly humble people who are also scared to death someone might think them otherwise. So they drum up the courage to tell you what they've done, knowing full well they will be misunderstood. And they risk it anyway.
Lastly, (I hesitate to write this because even I have a tough time always understanding it, let alone trying to explain it) there is such a thing as calling. Creatives believe, deep in their core, they have been called to create for the betterment of the world around them. They have an answer to someone's problem. A salve for someone's wound. A resource for someone in need. If you aren't the person with the problem, wound or need, you might not understand it either. But you will, someday. Because at some point, you will find yourself longing for something you haven't yet been able to find. You might look for it in all the places you usually look for answers, salves, and resources, but you won't find it. And then, you'll see a painting. Or hear a song. You'll sit down to an exquisite meal. Watch a play. Maybe even read a blog. And suddenly, you will feel different. Enthralled. Encouraged. Satisfied. Entertained. Moved. And when you feel those things, we creatives will feel the same. Because that is when we feel like we've truly done our part.
So go easy on those people who tell you about their latest "thing." They are simply trying to make their way in the world, one creative work at a time. And in doing so, they just might have something you've been searching for. So give them a look, a listen, a taste. Experience what they have created. I think you'll be glad you did.
The Music Business. Otherwise Known as the Land of the Unfair and the Unexpected. Otherwise Known as God's Playground.
You've probably heard the phrase, "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans." I've modified that a bit to create a songwriter's version: "If you want to make God laugh, write a song, tell Him exactly who should record it, when and where that should happen, how successful it should be, and then tell Him you'd like to receive a nice financial reward for your efforts.." Oh yes, I've made God laugh plenty of times.
My early writing career was all about writing songs to sing myself. But for much of the past 20 years, I've been writing songs for the purpose of pitching them to other artists for their records, musicals, sheet music, etc. I love the challenge of coming alongside someone else to help them communicate what they want to say. But challenging isn't the only word I'd use to describe the world of being a professional songwriter. I would also say it's frustrating, exhilarating, miserable, magical, and so much more. If you're in it for the long haul, let me tell you, it is not for the faint of heart.
A few years ago, 2014 to be exact, I wrote a song with one of my regular co-writing friends, Lee Black. We were targeting a certain country group who was about to start looking for songs for their next record. We finished the song, Lee made a demo and we were certain it was perfect for the group we had in mind. Probably a hit. Probably their next number one song. Remember that whole God-laughing thing? Yeah.
If memory serves, we sent it off to a few of the powers that be. No response. That isn't unusual. If I had a dollar for every time I heard crickets after pitching a song, I could buy my own island. Those crickets can wreak havoc on your confidence as a writer. And it isn't just the crickets that make you feel less than. It's everything from no communication, to the politics that come into play, to the injustices regarding royalties, and more. It's brutal, in a first-world-problem sort of way. I'm aware that this is just the music business we're talking. I'm not walking ten miles a day to get water for my family. So yes, I do have perspective. Still, it makes me grumpy sometimes.
So the song we'd written sat for about a year and a half. I had another writing appointment scheduled with Lee and my friend, Riley Friesen. We threw around some ideas, which included going through old songs to see if we could recycle one that hadn't found a home yet. We came across the song we'd written in that earlier session and discussed our options. The style really didn't fit what Riley is into, so at some point one of us said, "What if we go a completely different direction musically?" In the next hour, what was an uptempo, country song, became an inspirational pop ballad. And we loved it. Again, we discussed pitching options, but I honestly can't remember the who/what/when of all that. I just know the song remained uncut. That was 2016.
Fast forward to last summer. The high school music teacher I work with was looking for songs to fit the theme of a show choir show he had in mind. He called and asked if I had any ideas. I started scrolling through my iTunes library, hoping something might hit me. The theme was to be about a journey of some kind so I was looking for uplifting songs about travel, destination, adventure, etc. Let me just say here, that when perusing my library, I intentionally didn't look through songs I've written myself. As hard as I try to get my songs placed with artists or publishers, I work equally hard at not forcing my songs to be used because of my role at school or my church. If I ever suggest a song for those purposes, it's because I honestly think it's the best fit, and even then, I feel a little reluctant to do so.
So, while looking for songs, my mind kept coming back to the song I'd written with Lee and Riley. I finally sent it off to the director with a plea for him to feel absolutely no obligation to use it. Long story short, it made the show. I smiled inside, thinking about our list of original pitch ideas for the song and how a high school show choir was nowhere on that list. God was giggling. Over the past few months as I've heard the kids I work with learn the song and make it their own, I have been moved to tears more than once. Partly because they sound amazing, but mostly because the message of the song is one I believe in and it feels incredibly appropriate for so many of the students who are singing it and the audiences they sing it to.
Just last week, I heard the show choir sing it for an auditorium full of kids. Again, so many emotions. I went home that day with a full heart. When I got home, I found I'd received an email that afternoon from Riley. He is not only a songwriter, but also an incredible producer who works with a variety of artists. A few weeks earlier he'd let me know that the same song was being recorded by a trio he was working with. I thought, "Well, that's cool timing," and didn't think much more about it. This time, he was emailing me to let me know the song was about to get major airplay in South Africa. What?! Wait a minute. So this song, which could find no life in the places we thought it would thrive, was now being sung by high school students in the middle of a cornfield in Nebraska, and by a trio of grown men, one a Super Bowl winner, one a multi-platinum selling artist from South Africa, and one a Grammy-nominated artist from Canada. Excuse me? God was full-on belly laughing now.
For the record, I've never been to South Africa and I have no idea what "major airplay" means there but I really don't care. I'm still shaking my head over the fact that I, once again, have no explanation for what has happened with our little song creation. All I can say, is in a business that will likely befuddle me 'til the day I die, God chooses to do His thing exactly as He sees fit. And it rarely looks like what I expect. The truth is, I'd rather hear 54 high school students in 68th Street Singers, singing Even A Long Road to an auditorium of fellow students and their parents, over some hot shot country group at the top of the charts. And somewhere in another part of the world, three men in a group called reBORN are encouraging people to not give up, no matter how hard things might get. That's just cool. And I imagine Someone laughing. And it makes me laugh too.
Even a Long Road
Lee Black / Gina Boe / Riley Friesen
Recorded by reBORN
Video of 68th St. Singers coming soon.
Feels like a hurricane
Like the wind that won’t stop blowin’
Oh and it’s pourin’ rain
While you’re gettin’ where you’re goin’
It’s hard to put one foot in front of the other
Each day feels a little tougher
But you keep on, yeah you keep on
It’s a long road baby, it’s gonna twist and bend
When you think it’s over it turns and turns again
Keep goin, keep walkin’
You might even have to crawl it
Can’t tell you where or when
But even a long road, even a long road
You might not see it now
But that’s a mountain there you’re climbin’
And someday lookin’ down
When you see all that’s behind you
I bet you say it was worth the trouble
The blood, the sweat, the tears, the struggle
So you keep on, yeah you keep on
Even the strongest heart
Even the bravest soul
Can feel like giving up
Can feel like letting go
Even the strongest heart
Even the bravest soul
Can feel like giving up
All I can say is....don’t
.I finished something last night. Yes, I know, we all finished 2018. But last night around 8:00 p.m. I also put the last period on a project I've been working on for over a year. Actually the idea has been stirring for much longer. I recently found a journal entry from January 10, 2017 which listed this particular project as a goal for that year. Okay, so it took a little longer than I hoped, but it's done. I enlisted the help of two friends and it turned into something I am fiercely proud of. There will undoubtedly be revisions to make, and I'm hoping this work will find an audience that will embrace and enjoy it. Celebrating that will come another day. Today, I celebrate finishing this part of the journey.
I am not a great finisher. It's something I know well about myself and really don't like. When I turned 50 a couple years ago, that became one of my life goals. To become a better finisher. I think my fellow creatives will agree that when you are a person whose brain is often a stampede of new ideas, it can be tough to wrangle one to the ground, tame it, then train it to be something worthy of sharing. When you do, it's a feeling like none other. I just know I don't get to that point near as often as I'd like.
Over the years, the importance of finishing well has been one of the things I've consistently preached to my kids. What they probably don't realize though, is how with every time I've hammered home that message to them, I've really just been trying to convince myself of the very same thing. Because I know how hard it is. The battle to fight excuses, resistance, disappointment, negativity, physical and emotional exhaustion, and discouragement from others, is one that really doesn't seem worth fighting some days. Isn't it easier to cave and move on to something that seems more exciting and invigorating? The answer to that question is yes. It is easier. For a while. Then one day you're confronted with all the hard things you faced the last time. And again you must decide: press on and finish well or quit.
I've seen this play out in various ways with each one of my kids. One of the best things to ever happen to three of the four has been the experience of playing on a losing sports team when they were younger. Losing, as in they did not win a game the ENTIRE SEASON. After every game, we'd have the obligatory conversation about how sports is about more than winning. It's about the relationships. It's about learning how to be coachable. It's about growing as an athlete over the long haul. And it's about the absolute most important thing regarding youth sports - the post-game snack. As parents, we kept a brave face. We desperately tried to keep our kids engaged and enthusiastic, even while having conversations in our own heads that went something like, "This just sucks. How long is this season? Good grief, we're terrible." I can admit it. I hated those experiences. We all laugh about those seasons now, but it was not fun. I'd like to be able to tell you all the positives that came out of it, but really, the main thing they learned, we all learned, was to just push through it as best you can and finish. And finishing well doesn't always mean finishing in a manner others recognize as successful.
Lest you think I have a "you will complete this at all costs" mentality, trust me I don't. I understand the only way to finish some things is to abandon them. Several years ago, I resigned from a job I still don't feel like I finished well. I had stayed too long and nearing the end of my employment, every day felt like banging my head against a brick wall. Every. Single. Day. It was brutal and would take years to recover from. In the end, all I knew to do was abandon my position. The cost of staying had become too great. So, it was time to leave with things undone. Quit. There was no period at the end. No celebratory sense of accomplishment. My only hope in leaving was that I would go with some relationships still in tact. Some were and some weren't. Through that experience I learned there are some things you can only finish by moving on. In those moments, you can only hope a day will come when you'll be able to put a period at the end of it. Somehow.
2019 will bring some unavoidable finishes as every year does. For our family, it's another high school graduation. And for the next few months I'll be encouraging H#3 to finish well. And every time I do, I'll hear that same voice in my head telling me to do the same thing. Finish mothering another high school student. Finish another song. Finish that other project that's been on my to-do list since 2017. And when I do, I will celebrate. Just like I'm celebrating the fact this blog is now finished.
Happy New Year, all. Now go finish something.
Pardon my emotion...it's a big weekend.
The trouble with sons is they trick you. From the day they are born, they mess with your heart and you don’t see it coming. Not at three days old. Not at age four. Not at 18 or even 25. You think you’ve got a handle on mothering a boy, and then they do something else that knocks you to your knees and takes your breath away. You celebrate them and grieve them all in one small, life-changing moment. Then another. And another.
It starts in the hospital when the nurse brings them to you in the middle of the night and says, “He’s pretty fussy. I think he needs his mama.” It finally hits you that you are their person. Entrusted with their very life, you feel the joy and weight of what it means to raise a son. As much as you hate the all-nighters rocking and begging them to go to sleep, you also take great pride in the fact that it’s you they want. The trouble is, a few weeks down the road they prove to you they can do the whole sleep-8-hours just fine and they don’t need rocking anymore. You’re grateful. But you miss those dark, quiet hours just the same. It’s the first trick. Their independence is slowly and sneakily revealing itself.
A few months go by and that chubby hand grips your little finger so tightly that he fools you into thinking he’ll never let go. And then he does. And he walks. But he also falls and looks up at you with sweet, tear-filled eyes that make you believe you’re the only one capable of picking him back up and encouraging him to try again. So you do. Then a day comes when he takes off running and doesn’t look back. Even when he falls, his “I-can-do-it” spirit takes over and he leaves you in his dust. Darn it. You thought he needed you more. But you cheer him on. And you cry.
Year after year, the milestones come and go, and inevitably you feel duped. People warn you, but you still don’t recognize the sleight-of-hand at the piano recitals, little league games, high school proms, graduations, or their first apartments. It really is magic, watching them unveil their newest trick, and yet sometimes you’re left feeling like the woman sawn in two. Except you never get put back together.
Little by little, those tricksters learn to bear the weight of their own life. You pray it’s because you laid some kind of foundation for that to happen, but you can’t be sure because sons don’t always tell you that’s part of the reason. Oh, but when they do, when they say “thank you” or “love you, Mom”, suddenly every little conniving thing they’ve ever done is forgiven.
Big trouble comes when you hear the words, “I have a date.” It’s too much. You fight to stay calm, hoping this is just an illusion. There’s no way snips, snails and puppy dog tails have turned into mini-golf, movies and goodnight kisses. Then you meet her. And you genuinely like her. And you know why he loves her. Why he wants to marry her. And you love her too. She is the answer to prayers you’ve prayed since before he was born, but she is now part of the trick too. He has enlisted help in his mischievous ways and you think it might just put you over the edge. So you resign yourself to hoping that one day they’ll experience the kind of trouble you’ve faced and that lifts your spirits, because, well, “Grandma” sounds pretty good.
The truth is, mothering a son has given some you of the greatest joy you will ever know. And while some of their growing-up tricks may have stung a bit, with every trick they’ve played on you, you’ve come to love them more. No, that little, baby-blue bundle they placed in your arms didn’t stay little. And that’s the real trouble with sons. They grow up.
We cradle our boys, then we steady them, and then we cheer them on. We celebrate the adventures and grieve the losses, sometimes both in a single moment. Along the way, we might have to bear the brunt of life’s cruelest tricks, but without question I’ve never been happier to play the fool.