Where should we be today?

Lately I've been slurping up wordswordswords (funny, how that turned so easily into swords there) from books, gobbling them with a verve I thought I'd lost back in the summer I turned 15. I'm parched, I guess, parched enough that I haven't had many words to spare or share--here or elsewhere. I've pulled up the screen, stretched my fingers and then hovered, waiting for the words to come and....nope. Nada. Not yet. Soon. But here, in the meantime, I liked these words:

Where should we be today? 
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres? 
What childishness is it that while there's a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around? 

-Elizabeth Bishop, "Questions of Travel"

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The Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, as seen from one of those cheesy, double decker, hop on hop off bus. (“Oh, you’re going on a HOHO?” G said this morning. Haha.) We moved here last week! More to say soon…

Branching off

When we arrived at the cabin early last summer, Sam and I, I noticed a nest in the tree out back. In it were two little birds--mostly bopping mouths--peep-peep-peeping for maternal attention. They weren't baby birds, really; they looked awkward and crowded in the not-spacious twig nest. They didn't look like they'd be there much longer; their need for the nest was clearly waning.  I was charmed, sure, but my heart dropped a little with the irony. I was in the last few weeks of nest tending myself.

A few months earlier Sam had put in his papers to apply to serve a two-year mission for our church;  his call letter arrived a few weeks later with his given assignment: Luanda Angola! Luanda Angola?! I was thrilled for and proud of him, of course, but my heart dropped a little with the unknowns. Later, when Sam went in to be immunized in preparation for his departure, our public health doctor in DC gave us both a scare with her sober, urgent warnings about disease and safety and other dangers. She warned Sam to do everything in his power to avoid Angolan hospitals. "That's definitely one of my goals," he deadpanned. Did you ask to go there? she asked, incredulous. (Is this okay with you? her eyes silently asked me.)  

So we're there at the cabin and suddenly I'm wholly invested in these fledgling birds. I check on them several times a day, watch them out the window, talk about their progress, and reassure the nervous mama bird who's not too thrilled with my interest. Sam generously pretends he doesn't see through this transparent case of transference--I have now equated this little aging nest with my own future. A little too on the nose, definitely, but undeniably relevant. 

Within the week the first fledgling is teetering on the edge of the nest, exercising his wings and practicing his adulthood. Then he's gone. The other one follows a day or two later: first standing, then inching along the branch and flapping, and then she vanishes, too. 

It's an old trope, that nest story and the final fledgling flights. It's a metaphor that concentrates on the loss imbedded in change: the vanished but still vulnerable babies, the hollow and empty nest. The emptiness was literal, in this case--they never came back to that nest, not the mama or her babies.

 WATANABE SEITEI - BIRDS ON A BRANCH.

WATANABE SEITEI - BIRDS ON A BRANCH.

But here's what I noticed next: across the river, there they were, the mama and her newly independent and competent offspring. They were swooping through the air, delighting in their new abilities, calling to each other, gathering on a branch together for a time, taking off and soaring and returning again. Watching this bird saga I realized that for them the nest is like a cocoon, just an instrument for transformation toward something even more wonderful. 

A few weeks later Sam left for Africa, the last of my three fledglings. Now he's exploring and stretching and finding out new things about himself and the world, as did my daughters when they launched.

When my mom was nearing the empty nest stage, her wise and wise-cracking friend told her "oh, honey. Cry for 15 minutes and then be happy for the rest of your life." Ultimately, that's our choice, really--how long we cry, how soon we decide to be happy.  Sure enough, I was sad for a time--sad mostly for me and the end of that stage of my own development. My bird saga/obsession last summer gave me a new metaphor to embrace, or at least consider:  join my kids in the joyful swooping. Why mourn at the shrine of the discarded remnants of their early stages--those paper-thin shedded cocoon skins and nest twigs--when we've got our very own tribe of vital, developing, interesting people to join us in the wide world?

Kids, I'll meet you at the branch across the river.


[This post also appeared on Nest & Launch]

To Fresh Starts, Again!

I'll admit 2017 was a quiet year for me--was it for you, too? I think part of it was a lingering funk over current events and the bleak political/public/social landscape. I was also trying to find my feet beneath me and adjust to alllll the changes life brought this past year: a move, a new job, launching Sam on his mission, and an emptying nest (cue Fleetwood Mac's The Landslide). 

So it was a fallow season of turning inward, thinking more than talking, reading more than writing, homebody-ing more than adventuring.  And it's been good--a cocoon was exactly what I needed to process and adjust and gear up for this next chapter we're in. 

Happily, the arrival of 2018 has me feeling like I've finally emerged and found my equilibrium--maybe even my long-lost verve. I'm keen to get back to all the things I put on hold during my lovely hibernation.  Here's to us all looking ahead to a verve-filled year!

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. . .
Making me happy lately:

  • do you follow The Home Edit on Instagram? Sure, they post glorious, inspiring posts of their work color-coding and organizing beautiful homes to their feed and that's great but the best part is their HILARIOUS Instastories documenting their adventures, phobias, and friendship in an Ab-Fab, Laverne and Shirley kind of way. Find Clea and Joanna on Instagram @thehomeedit. p.s. While you're at it, follow us @nestandlaunch for some additional windows into our days and hijinks.
     

  • G. You know how last year we worked in different cities during the week? I definitely do not take for granted how key he is to my happy life. I'm grateful for his sacrifices over the last year to help me move ahead with my dreams; we're tinkering with our arrangements to maximize our time together this year even as his travel schedule picks up. More about all that in an upcoming post but G is definitely someone who lights my world, still and always.
     

  • Trader Joe's Everything but the Bagel seasoning. I've gone through FOUR bottles of this stuff since I started using it in July. Try it on cottage cheese, avocado toast, veggies. I (obviously, embarrassingly, truly, madly, deeply) can't get enough.
     

  • Just started listening to the Audible book format of Kelly Corrigan's Tell Me More, just released today. We have been outspoken Kelly Corrigan fans since day one and nothing beats listening to her read her own writing. Such a treat. I nominate her as the patron saint of Nesters & Launchers. (And, I just saw when I added that link, I already said that patron saint comment in another earlier post about her almost five years ago. Must be true, then!)

[This post also appeared on Nest and Launch.]

You are Here! Meanwhile...

Hello, friends. It's been a minute (or a million), hasn't it?!  What a ride January-July 2017 was! Humbling and wonderful and exhausting and faith-blooming and stretchy and rewarding and can-I-do-this and yes.

I finished my inaugural profess-ing semester in May and, between that and our international move and the changes in our family I just now feel like I'm emerging from a cave into the bright sunlight. (I was going to say cocoon but I'm not sure I can claim the majesty of a butterfly at this point.) 

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A quick catch up on the cast of characters in my family life: 

As I mentioned earlier, in our new setup G works in DC during the week (with, thankfully, every other Friday off).  Although we thought we would alternate spending weekends in DC and Lexington, G looks forward to getting out of the city so much that we pretty much have made Lexington our consistent home base even when (during the summer) we have both been in DC all week together. He's been traveling internationally every six weeks or so for work which has brought a new dimension to his career. We love our time together--it's definitely helped us to not take the other for granted. Life is good, y'all. Mostly, truly incandescently good. 

Lauren and Patrick live in Atlanta where they've just bought their first home, a condo in a neighborhood they love. Lauren's been doing online coursework toward her sociology degree; recently she's decided to just bite the bullet and go back to BYU for a semester to wrap it all up and graduate in December. It'll be tough to be apart for a few months but I'm proud of them both for making it a priority. She's been teaching early morning seminary and doing some good nanny gigs for several families in the area, too. 

Maddy just returned from Ghana, where she did a 3-month summer internship in microfinance. She and three other studetns lived in a village and traveled around the area, supporting and training small business owners. She had some cool and unique experiences--lively music and dancing at a series of Ghanaian funerals and listening to the fisherman sing as they pull in their nets and gleeful children dancing in rainstorms and navigating chicken soup with every part of the chicken floating in the bowl. She's back at USU this week and has a full semester ahead.

Speaking of Africa, this spring Sam received his mission call to Angola (on the west coast of Africa) and left in July for six weeks at the training center, arriving this last Friday in Luanda. The six months leading up to his mission were unforgettably dear ones. Six weeks in, we still miss him d e e p l y and yet feel simultaneously blessed by and proud of his service. I love our letters back and forth and the window they are to his mind and heart. Still, I'm in denial about how long two years will be. I just don't let myself go there yet. 

I will say this: I miss resident mothering. I have lots of thoughts on this post-parenting transition that I'll share in coming posts. Here's the deal: It's part wonderful and part heart wrenching and part lonely and part exhilarating and all completely part of the process, as much of the motherhood story as baby showers and childbirth classes are--except we don't get parties or classes or what-to-expect-when-you're guidebooks about this side of things. We need more preparation and candor about this part of the path and if I can find the words to articulate some, I'll be happy to plant a few guideposts on the map to help anyone else navigate this liminal space.

Also, I just really miss this. How are you? How's your heart at the end of this summer?