Author Archives: ginny

The terror and treats of parenthood

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It’s that time of year when it’s possible to be anything you want to be. A pirate, a ninja, a clown, a queen: Halloween lets you try on any role for a night. Buy a costume, apply some makeup, and your new identity is complete.

As a mom, it’s fun to see the kids get so excited about the possibilities of Halloween. I think back over my own life and recall the parade of identities I assumed over the years, including a cowgirl, a princess, Mickey Mouse, and – in college and my 20s– a gypsy (always the easiest costume to cobble together at the last minute).

It’s intoxicatingly fun, the chance to be someone else for a night. And it’s so easy to assume a new role, knowing it’s temporary and just for a lark.

It’s the opposite of real life, where our roles involve a serious investment of time and energy. This is certainly true of my roles as teacher and wife. It’s even more true of my identity as a parent.

When my oldest son was born eight years ago, life as I knew it changed forever. It didn’t take long before l knew that my new role – a mother who cared for a tiny newborn, who got up multiple times a night to feed him, who wandered around smelling of spit-up – was the most all consuming one I’d ever known.

Parenthood is a commitment like nothing else. It’s not a role you can wear once and discard, like a costume. You’re in it for the long haul, forever (as my mom says, you never stop worrying about your kids). It’s an identity that may feel a little bit uncomfortable in the early days. It may feel like you didn’t get a chance to try it on first, or that maybe parenthood is not as good a fit as you thought it would be.

But the amazing thing about parenthood is that, as the old maxim goes, God doesn’t call the ready; God readies the called. What I didn’t know about babies would have filled a library, but with the grace of God and the help of experienced parents, I got to the point where I could spend a day alone with my baby without fearing I’d make a parenting error that would scar him for life.

And when I look back over my life, parenting my kids is something I’m proudest of: Not because I’m doing a brilliant job (goodness knows I mess up often), but because I began with such a knowledge deficit and somehow managed to reach a baseline level of competence. That role as a mom, which felt alien and downright scary at times, is one that I wear like an increasingly comfortable sweater.

And the best news – the most important bit, really– is that there is such unique joy that comes from living this role.   Seeing your baby smile, feeling a little hand slip into yours, walking two excited superheroes around the neighborhood on a night dedicated to terror and treats: these little moments can overwhelm you with feelings of happiness and gratitude.

Yes, parenthood can seem downright terrifying, especially at first. But with grace and God, we grow more at home in the role. And it doesn’t take long to learn that there is no treat half as sweet as the love of a child.

This article first appeared in Catholic San Francisco.

Why I love books you can hold

 

Sign in used bookstore window.

Sign in used bookstore window.

Some books arrived in the mail today and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on them. When I say that, I mean it quite literally: I ran my fingers over the covers, turned them over and studied the back, and flipped the pages briskly, enjoying the brief rush of paper-scented air in my face.

You just don’t get that from an ebook.

A few years back, I wrote an article about why I don’t have a Kindle.   It remains one of my favorite things I’ve ever written, mostly because I feel so passionately about this subject.  I don’t want to make any value judgments here; if you like e-reading and it works for you, that’s great.  But the years since have not altered my own very deeply-rooted preference for books that you can hold, pages you can turn, covers you can feel.   Reading is a full-soul experience for me; I want it to be a full-body one as well.

And as I get older, I respect the journey of a reading life all the more.  The emotional associations with books have grown stronger for me over the years, not weaker.  The volumes on my shelves are pieces of me, my history; in a great many cases, I can pick up a book and remember exactly where I was when I read it.  I can tell you where I read those final chapters of Goodbye to Berlin (Berlin, as it happens), or where I fell in love with A Room of One’s Own (the backyard of my parents’ house), or where I made the acquaintance of  Emily of New Moon (in the family car, in sixth grade, coming home from the mall).  And in many cases, I can still remember why I loved the book enough to keep it,  how it satisfied an inner restlessness or lit a fire of possibility or put words to something I was only vaguely aware I was feeling.

These books are made sacred through the reading, almost, as if they become more than texts but little tabernacles housing parts of our deepest selves.   And the mere fact of picking them up and opening them again puts us in touch with the stops we’ve made along the way, all the various stages on the pilgrimage of our emotional lives.  Books are the souvenirs of a thoughtful life, and I know this much:  I will always want them around me.

 

Goal for the week: One beautiful thing each day, shared aloud

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I have a goal for the week.  It’s one I think I might actually be able to pull off, even as busy as this week will be.

It’s to point out one beautiful thing to my boys each day.

What kind of beautiful thing?  The sunset.  The light shining through the leaves.  The fog over the hills.  A song on the radio.  Maybe even something like an elderly couple walking along holding hands; I’m open to whatever crosses my path.

I notice these sorts of things often, and sometimes I point them out to my kids.  But I don’t share them often enough, and I have a feeling that I’m missing a pretty great chance to slowly help build a sense of wonder in my kiddos.

So that’s my goal: One beautiful thing each day, shared with my boys.

Want to join me?  You don’t have to be a parent to do this; you could share your beautiful things with a spouse, friend, coworker, neighbor, or random person on the bus… however the Spirit moves you.

Happy noticing — and sharing!

Finding God with the senses

It’s been a real pile-up of end-of-quarter work lately, with stacks of papers to grade and all the stress that goes into wrapping up the term.  But in the middle of all the craziness, God keeps on speaking through the language of the senses.  And every now and then, I’ve been able to tone down the stress and listen.

Here are three examples from the last week.

TOUCH

Last week we had crazy warm weather, in the eighties.  While I don’t love that in October — give me more seasonal cold and rain, especially in the face of this horrid drought – it was awfully nice to sit at the pool during the boys’ swim lesson and bask in the sun.

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I had a book to read, but finally even that felt like too much effort.  All I wanted to do was luxuriate in the sun like a cat and feel the warmth … and, for a blessed half-hour, I did.   It was wonderful.

SIGHT

There was a full moon last week, or almost-full (sorry; I never can tell the difference).  I happened to be at my evening exercise class, which is held outdoors, and as I did the running portion of the circuit, I suddenly looked up and saw the moon there, just on the rise, astonishingly beautiful in its saffron splendor.  It was so perfect and round that it looked almost fake, like a moon in a  1950s MGM musical.

And then I thought: Why do I see beautiful things in nature and immediately think that they look fake?  (I do this all the time with sunsets.)  Have I forgotten that the natural world, the real world of fire and water and air and stone and light, is created by the best artist of all?

It was good to be reminded of that.

HEARING

My local classical radio station has put so many great artists on my radar, and one of them is the Canadian violinist Angèle Dubeau.   I’ve been listening to this beautifully evocative piece lately, and doing so feels like prayer.   Great music always makes you feel like life is full of promise, doesn’t it?

Where have you been finding God lately?

 

This screams out for a caption, doesn’t it?

The statue of Madonna and child on my mantel has some company these days.  (They’re the cake toppers from the boys’ birthday party, and they even light up!).

Somehow, this is the perfect snapshot of my life as a mom: the spiritual and the Star Wars, side by side.

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