Primary Care

Two weeks. For two weeks this month I worked in the local primary care clinic, seeing the daily parade of patients and problems: the good, the bad, the ugly.

The clinic was short-handed with some staff out for spring break, and I was able to help out at the front desk. I went through training last year to be a super-user for the clinic’s electronic record, and it helps me to stay current to go in and work in the live setting when I have opportunity. And it’s good to catch up with staff I used to see on a daily basis when I worked full-time in the admin department. Plus, the clinic is in Ketchikan, so I got to be in my own home while I fulfilled this commitment. So all good.

I’ve blogged about this before. Most of my work in the world of healthcare has been on the administrative side. I came into healthcare through the back door of grant writing and office work. I’ve expanded to policy writing, recruiting, project coordination…all tasks that are familiar and comfortable. But patients…now that’s different.

Patients are the reality check to all the work I do.

I usually work in quiet offices, with much of my day consumed with writing, or researching, or interacting with other staff: problem solving, planning, coordinating efforts, meetings, interviews. All valuable, and part of the mechanism that keeps staff in house and programs operating.

But in that world I’m shielded from the nitty, and the gritty. Two weeks of primary care changes that focus.

The other staff I worked with are great: patient, helpful, appreciative of the support I offer, even when it’s imperfectly delivered. In a busy clinic, you need all hands to juggle clinic hours (the clinic offers extended hours; some days the schedule begins at 7:00 AM, and others it ends at 7:00 PM), patient demands, and keep up with the minute-to-minute of busy days. Navigating the electronic system for patient registration,  scheduling appointments, fielding a million questions a day…ok, maybe a thousand, but it seems like more…well, I’m reminded again: I’m grateful to be healthy; humbled to recognize that my complaints of life are “first world” in nature; and I alternate between admiration of people who are cheerful and upbeat in the face of difficulty, and amazement at patients who abuse the very staff who are trying to help them.

Patients are thoughtful, kind, appreciative, attentive. Some are dainty little old ladies, or stately elderly men, in for blood pressure checks and routine appointments that make them regulars. The staff know them by heart. They’re the ones that give you a sense of purpose and satisfaction.

Others are also known, but not for their good traits. They’re rude, demanding, careless, dysfunctional. They’re the ones with an attitude and a knack for saying the wrong thing. They no-show for appointments, then complain when they can’t be worked in; they “lose” prescriptions; they’re quick to criticize and expect more. You see one of those names on the schedule for the day and you hope you don’t have to encounter them. They make you glad with their absence. And yet, even as you put on the smile and ignore the attitude that’s so inappropriate, you wonder: what happened to this person to turn them into a (take your pick) bitter/manipulative/ungrateful/difficult human being?

Work in a clinic setting, and it’s inevitable: you begin to have better understanding of the issues. The headlines about healthcare and insurance and regulations have a real-life meaning that you see through forms, and requirements, and layers of bureaucracy created to manage patients, and the business of paying for care.

The patients make it real too. Some of them can barely walk. Some of them smell. Some of them are dying, slowly but surely. Some of them are living, but miserably. I see the way the staff work with the needs, the challenges, the drama. I’m impressed that these people make a life of touching, healing, processing, listening, advocating, arranging, soothing. The list could go on, and does: the work is never-ending, and the reward is more of the same.

Sometimes it’s funny. When people become patients, you can expect the unexpected, and just when you think you’ve seen it all, it’s another day, and you’ve haven’t seen anything yet.

Sometimes it’s heartbreaking. Patients die, and every week there are two or three sympathy cards laid out on a back shelf, ready to mail “to the family of…”

I say it often: working in healthcare is not a job for the faint of heart.

The job of professionals is to make hard work look easy, and the team I just worked with does that on a regular basis. They find the grace to rise to the challenge every day.

I never had any aspiration to become a nurse, or a physician, or a hands-on healer of any sort. And I’ll admit I’m more than a little relieved that now I’ll go back to my role as a sometimes-recruiter, sometimes-project coordinator, juggling many balls and enjoying the variety of my world. But I have to acknowledge, a little time in the hot seat, interacting with patients is a good thing. It reminds me that there are people at the heart of the work I do from my safe and sanitized desk.

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Chooser

I often write about the challenges of life at my stage: empty-nester, part-time worker, full-time budding entrepreneur, wife, mom to young adults, grandparent, daughter, friend. The intent is to share the struggles and epiphanies I’m having with the hope of helping someone else who’s struggling too. I haven’t got it sorted out! Life is a work in progress, but I’ve learned a few things along the way. I’m a slow learner, and a late bloomer. But here’s what I know today…

It’s good to be home! I know, it’s a common theme with me. Two weeks out of town for vacation and a family visit, and then two weeks working at the Metlakatla clinic, and I’m done. At least for the next three weeks. These are mine to enjoy at home.

Home is complicated right now. We have a house in Ketchikan, which I love, but we’re spending limited time here these days. Between time working in Metlakatla, and time out and about for personal reasons, days to putter around in my own little nest are hard to come by. It hasn’t always been that way. In fact, most of my life has fit the norm…parenting, working, raising children, and though the location changed a few times throughout the years, the basic pattern was set.

A couple of years ago, Rob backed out of full-time practice with the promise to himself that he was done with that lifestyle. Too stressed, burned out, and exhausted to do full-time medicine any more. So now he works part-time, and for the moment, that’s in three different clinics in SE Alaska.

We tried the arrangement of me working in a full-time position and staying with the house, and him out and about, working, coming home, leaving again to work, coming home, leaving again…it was wearing, and lonely, and not what either of us signed up for. But for Rob, the variety is good. He enjoys moving about a bit. The change-up of the routine is good. And I’ll be honest, he’s not wedded to home and stuff as I am.

I like my stuff. I’ve spent a lot of time and a fair amount of money accumulating what I have. I love to putter about in the kitchen, using the gadgets and tools I have to try new dishes. I love pretty linens on the bed, comfy furnishing that have a look of warmth and tradition. I love the books on my shelves and the art on the walls. It all speaks to me, of people I love or a mood I want to evoke.

But that isn’t what comforts Rob. He’s a wanderer, and a nomad. Through much of our marriage he lived life in the traditional way, because that was the model we knew, and we were raising kids. But that’s changed, and with the empty nest has come new freedom. Freedom for both of us, in different ways. It has freed us financially, to some extent, and it has removed the need to keep a stable home base for growing children.

So now what? I’ve written about making the choice to leave my full-time work. It was two years ago in January. I’ve already lived a semi-nomadic life two years. Some of it has been amazing. Some of it has been fun. And there have been moments of weariness, times when I said, over and over in my mind, like a litany, “I just want my life back. I just want to go home.” Those moments have been few. But they have been part of the tapestry.

This week I said, as we sat over a late breakfast, looking out on the Tongass Narrows from our front windows, that it was good to be home. That I miss my things, that right now, I live a crazy life that keeps me on the run, and often somewhat adrift. Rob looked at me and asked, “Why is that?” I was in the process of answering when I got interrupted, and we never really finished the conversation. But I can finish it. I can give the answer.

I’m living a crazy life right now because I made a choice. I made a choice to match my lifestyle to what was working for my husband. He didn’t demand that I do it. He didn’t make it a requirement of the relationship in any way. I made the choice, and I’m committed to the choice because I realized, after trying to do it differently, it was all or nothing. I couldn’t keep a foot in both camps…happily married and living alone for weeks at a time. It wasn’t good for the relationship, and to be honest, I got almost no pleasure out of my things when I had them all to myself. Things do not replace people. And though I knew it in my head, it wasn’t until I found myself living that reality, that I knew it by heart.

If I learned anything about myself during the time that we lived mostly apart, it was that a lot of my pleasure in homekeeping and cooking comes from the relationships around me. If I’m cooking dinner for the two of us, or for a crowd, I enjoy every piece of it: planning, shopping, prepping, cooking, eating. Even the cleanup is a validation of time well spent, and spent with loved ones. If I’m by myself, I have little-to-no interest in any of it. My enthusiasm dries up. I lost weight when we were living apart. I hated to go to the grocery store, because it wasn’t for anything fun…it was just for food. And what’s the fun in that? And pretty rooms? They just don’t mean much when you wander through them by yourself, trying to enjoy the never-disturbed perfection because there’s no one around to move anything out of its place.

Why am I saying all of this? Because it’s important for me to acknowledge…this crazy life I lead is by choice. I could be home every night, in my bed, eating at my own table. But that’s not the priority of my life. In a few weeks I’ll be in a different setting, camping in the RV again. I’ll have time to write; work on my baby business that’s slowly coming to life; I’ll do some work for the Met clinic via phone and email; and all of that will fit between the plans of the day that Rob and I make together. Because that is my priority. And how can I be ungrateful for that freedom in my life? If this time looks chaotic…if it seems like we’re always on the move…well, we are. It won’t last forever, I’m sure of that. There will be a time when we make different plans…when we move nearer family, and we settle again.

But for now, this is my choice, and claiming it, owning it, helps me avoid the victim mentality when I have one of those moments of just wanting to be home. I am not a victim or a martyr to Rob’s choices. I have made my own. It feels good to recognize: if I hadn’t jumped off the corporate ship, I wouldn’t have some of the opportunities that are on the horizon. I wouldn’t be in the process of developing a design for a logo and business card and a new web site. I wouldn’t be a budding entrepreneur at the ripe age of 53. I wouldn’t have the freedom to work from home, or from the RV. I wouldn’t have the flexibility to make my own commitments. And the reality is, I’m fortunate to have the opportunity and the financial stability to step out on this ledge.

And if I hadn’t jumped off the corporate ship, and into my crazy life, I wouldn’t have the joy of seeing and doing the things that I seen and done in the past years, with the man I chose.

Life is complicated. But it helps if you know that you’re where you are by choice. So I’m a chooser. I’ve learned to choose love over things, experience over money, and freedom over security. I’ve learned that you don’t have to be traditional to be normal; that you can walk a different path and still get where you need to go. And I’ve learned that although head knowledge is good, there’s no replacement for understanding something from the heart. Because the heart gets final say; and if my choice has passed the heart test, I’m on the right path.

Dinner for two…

I get to…

Some days I need a re-set. Most of the time I’m on the up side of life, and I feel it. I have a smile, and a spring in my step. I see the positive, I hear the music.

But sometimes…just sometimes…I can’t remember. I can’t remember why I live this crazy life, bouncing around for work, and traveling, living a few days here and a few days there. How did I come to choose this way of living? Sometimes I lose sight of the water, so blue beneath the wings of the float plane. I don’t see the sunshine, making the waves sparkle. I don’t feel the romance of going to a small island and working in a beautiful little clinic, knowing that we, Rob and I, are living an amazing adventure. Sometimes my world is about have to.

When I have to, nothing feels right. I’m lost in frustration. Whatever I have, I don’t want. And I only want what I used to have, or hope to have, or should have. You know that game, don’t you? Of course; what human doesn’t? It’s part of the human condition, to feel all the negatives piling up, even when I can take those very same circumstances on a different day, a better day, and see everything that’s perfect.

I can’t always change it at will…I wish it was that easy! But here’s a little trick I’ve learned to use. Instead of saying “I have to…” I say “I get to…” I get to travel. I get to have a job. I get to make dinner. I get to, I get to, I get to….

When I find myself in the hole of wishing, and wondering why, I start listening to my words. I re-frame, and look for ways to say, “I get to.”

Unbelievable, how changing one little word can change my mood, change my outlook. It doesn’t change the circumstances I’m in, it changes me. Get to; have to.

Which will it be tomorrow?

Imagine – how would you change?

I was catching up on blog posts this afternoon and came across this video of a TED talk given by one of the passengers from the flight that landed in the Hudson River in New York a couple of years ago. Maybe it resonated with me a little more after my bumpy flight last week! Or maybe it was just a timely reminder of what’s really important in life.

You may have different priorities that speak to you. Regardless of what you list as your life’s focus, this is a good reminder to be intentional. Evaluate how you spend your time. Adjust if necessary.

Hope you enjoy!

Word for 2014

The past couple of years I’ve been challenged to select a single word to set the tone for the year to come. So far I’ve chosen “revision” and “momentum.” This year I’m choosing “consistent.” I’m pretty good at beginning projects and making commitments, and I’m often even good at follow through. But not always. At times I get sidetracked and lose my focus. Some things (like blogs) need consistent attention and nurturing to succeed.

I also fall into the trap of taking care of commitments to others, while commitments to myself languish, unloved and un-nourished, sometimes for weeks at a stretch. That’s just the nature of life, to some degree. After all, work projects and tasks have finite timelines that impact others…I can’t set those obligations aside when I’m tired, or not in the mood, or distracted. Unfortunately, that happens all too often with my personal projects.

Mind you, success can be defined in many ways, and success can be as variable as reaching a definite goal, or just staying on task toward a goal; or keeping a regular time to pray or meditate or read; or finally marking a big to-do off your life list. Everyone can define success for themselves.

Closely connected to this year’s choice of “consistent” is recognizing: just because a project is personal, that doesn’t mean I should give myself a pass on meeting the goal, self-imposed though it be. In a very real way, when I make my personal goals take a backseat to other priorities, I’m giving myself less than what I give to others. Somehow I’ve created the false idea that work for others is more important than work I accomplish for myself. Well, sometimes that other work is more urgent. But personal goals shouldn’t be devalued because they’re personal. Particularly if goals are strategic, as in: moving your life in a new direction.

That sounds selfish, but I think it is another way of saying that I need to mind the important more than the urgent.

If you would like to join me in this approach, it’s simple! To choose your word and receive support and reminders to follow through with your goals, go to http://www.myoneword.org and sign up…free and easy! This is a different approach to the traditional new year’s resolution route. Instead of creating a list of goals, narrow your focus to one word.

What is most critical to your journey this year? Just the process of choosing a word can be revealing. I don’t always choose the first word that comes to mind, but I do consider what rises to the surface…what does my first impulse lead me to? It’s a good way to take stock, and to choose one direction rather than getting tangled up in an itemized list.

Surveys say that new year’s resolutions don’t last very long. Most people abandon their list by mid-January. Having one word to keep in mind is a minimal approach, but your word can encompass as many tasks as you choose throughout the year. It’s really just a different way to approach the same desire: to make the coming year better, to reach your potential, to find your best.

On this last week of 2013, I’m thoughtful. And I’m hopeful. And I’m challenged.

How about you?

Children are nestled

Ah, Christmas Eve, and all is done. Children (grandchildren) are in their beds, Riley dreaming of Christmas, and Jack just dreaming. A one year old is truly satisfied with the boxes and wrappings! But in spite of that, he has a few gifts under the tree.

Riley, at three, (alright, closer to four, in just a few short months) is absorbed by the build-up, the grown-ups’ expectations transmitted to her, and her own sense of something Big To Come. Now and then, in the midst of the craziness of the week before Christmas, she’s said, with all the seriousness of an ancient, “This is the best Christmas ever!” Well, who wouldn’t melt at that?

We’ve been here since Friday, coming down to Seattle a few days early to celebrate Jack’s first birthday on the 20th. Watching his big six-tooth smile, his early attempts at walking…he’s taking a step or two at a time and learning to stand and balance without support…and seeing his move from bottle to cup, from “baby” food to simple table food, I’m glad we have this time with him. By our next visit he’ll be more toddler than baby.

Love those presents!

Love those presents!

Riley is the grown-up big sister, learning to build with Duplo blocks, playing with her stable full of My Little Ponies, watching Disney movies. There’s only a couple of years between them, but she seems so big. Literally, she’s as tall as some five year olds. Jack is almost 30 pounds. Stephanie and Matt grow sturdy little people.

Well, you can’t go back in time, but you can go forward. My turn to have children staring up at the lights on the tree has ended. But through the magic of generations, I get to join in the fun again, watching Stephanie’s two. Life is sweet, balanced between the funny and the poignant.

And so we watch. We watch for Rudolph, and Santa, and wonder about the morning. We’ve got cinnamon rolls and sausage balls and Christmas coffee for the adults, and sugar plums for the little ones, snug upstairs. Come on, Santa. We’re ready!

Happy Jack!

Happy Jack!

Merry Christmas!

The Great Unsubscribe

I read a lot, and I often save items that catch my eye for “later.” Sometimes the stack by my desk has to be thinned out, and typically, I find a few things that I replace, still waiting for that magical future moment when I have time on my hands; and a lot more that’s outlasted its usefulness, or my interest. So satisfying to see a noticeably smaller stack after a clearing!

The digital world is no different, except that when I read something I like, I often click “subscribe.” I need more to do, right?

But if it’s easy to add myself to email lists, it’s almost as easy to undo the damage. So lately, every time I see an email come through that I’m not going to get to, again, I do the mental sort. Is this a site I’ve outgrown? Did I subscribe thinking that this would be a treasure trove of information and advice, only to realize I will never read another thing from this source?

Have I gotten on an email list by mistake? I could swear there are evil things at work in cyberspace. I know some of the junk mail that makes it through my filters is nothing I would ever request. Not sure how that happens…probably agreed to something in fine print. But even those emails have the little “unsubscribe” link at the bottom, usually in the finest of fine prints. Clicking “unsubscribe” is almost as exciting as dropping off at Goodwill…you just know you’re going to feel lighter for the effort!

So, I’m thinning my digital commitments. Don’t ask me how it works, but an email inbox can be almost as overwhelming as a physical stack on my desk. I just know there’s some great stuff buried in there, if only I had time to catch up!

It’s a little like throwing out a box you never opened from a move. The common advice is, if you haven’t opened a box a year after a move, you can safely throw it out, because you obviously haven’t needed or missed whatever is in the mystery box. I’m a little to obsessive for that approach.

But when it comes to digital files, I’m more willing to purge without angst.

The other solution is a little like moving and not leaving a forwarding address. I’ve created new email addresses over the years to better sort who gets what. Now my oldest address is for those annoying times when you need to give an email, but you know you’re not going to maintain the relationship. A second one is for orders, and I use a third one for personal exchanges. Except when I forget and use the wrong one…which is why some friends and family are mystified by my system and just send the same information to multiple addresses. My fault for making it complicated, I know.

But here’s the thing…I find it’s easier to unsubscribe than to abandon my email addresses. Because, you know, I’ve probably set up an account or two along the way with the information, and if I abandon ship, that’s going to be a problem. An old email address is sort of like a remnant from middle school…like a piece of your history that you aren’t really excited about any more, but can’t part with either. I wish I had been more thoughtful about what I would want to follow me around the rest of my life. I probably wouldn’t have made the same choice if I had recognized the reality: I’m likely to be stuck with my digital “names” till I die. What’s up with some sites treating your user name like it’s sacred? Because of course a lot of my user name choices were based on my email address at that time. Apple‘s iTunes, for instance…now that’s one I’d like to update, but I’m stuck with my original user name there forever, apparently.

I think the digital world should allow regular re-sets, don’t you? I’m not trying to do anything illegal…my personal preference in naming convention has just matured a bit over time.

But I digress. I started by saying that I’m cleaning digital house, and how good that feels. I guess I’ve just demonstrated that all issues have sub-issues. My real angst is about email and user names, less about my inbox clutter. At least I can do something about the clutter.

If you want to reach me, feel free to send me a comment here. I can currently be found through my blog; Facebook; Twitter; I have four emails that are trailing around for various purposes; and I have a LinkedIn account that I don’t really use. I also managed to stumble into Google Circles, but I tried to back out as fast as possible. Really, I’m not looking for more ways to be connected…I just need to keep up with what I’ve already begun. And at that, everything I just listed is only for personal use. Work is a separate story.

I’m going to rest now. Feeling overwhelmed by digital forces.

Do you bemember?

We recently spent a weekend in Seattle with Stephanie and Matt and their little ones. I’m enchanted watching Riley and Jack, listening to three-year-old Riley chatter away, and baby Jack’s belly laugh and funny growl when he’s trying out his voice. They’re absolutely delicious. I feel myself being pulled in, helpless to resist the charm of childhood.

Jack's 1st haircut

Jack’s 1st haircut

Riley is living up to her heritage, a talker who’ll be able to hold her own. She’s not afraid of words. She speaks clearly, only missing now and then with pronunciation. One of her “Riley-isms” is “bemember.” No one is correcting the mistake…it won’t be long till she figures out for herself that it’s “remember.” But meantime, it’s precious to hear her asking, “do you bemember?” And yes, yes we do.

Sunday she was reaching into the pantry for cookies. There was a spill, the cookies landed on the floor, and suddenly we heard a little voice saying, “Not good, Mommy. Not good!” She was a little bit reporter, a little dismayed. The tone was perfect. The adults couldn’t keep from laughing at the grown up response.

She’s all about pretend. She mixes the characters from Disney movies, princess books, toys, and imagination without discrimination. Sometimes she’s featured as the lead of the drama, clomping about the house in her costume “glass” slippers and sporting Minnie Mouse ears, a veil, and one of her princess dresses. Or she may top off the dress with a pirate hat, or a Doc McStuffins stethoscope. Pink figures largely in her wardrobe. Never mind, it’s all good. Storytelling is just an ability to weave a thread though characters and events, which she does effortlessly. The story may not resemble anything we know. But she’s learned to preface her beginning with “Pretend…..”

Riley the Storyteller

Riley the Storyteller

Baby Jack has mastered crawling, and he’s reached the curious stage. As in, he’s checking out everything he can grasp. Objects mysteriously disappear in front of him. He works hard at it, but so far parents are faster. So far. And Riley is learning to protect her stuff from his little hands. She’s seen the future, and it has a large imprint of Jack. Jack is all boy, and he’s going to be a climber. He’s a snuggler, still curls up and hugs your shoulder when he’s sleepy. He’s almost eleven months, rounding the corner to the homestretch of his first year. He’s starting to stand, and pull up to furniture. Walking will be a quick step for him, and then the baby days will be behind, toddler months ahead.

I find myself missing them, smiling when I see their photos stream across my screen. I miss their funny expressions, the imprint of childhood that captures my attention and keeps bringing me back to a view of the world through their eyes, at their level.

The days pass as quickly this go-round as they did with my kids. I’m shocked when I look at the calendar and realize Jack will be a year old in December. Riley will be four in April. I have a lot of the same feelings, 25 years later, as I had when I was the mom.

But now, as Gram, I’m a little wiser. I know the time flies, and the kids grow. I know that it’s more important to enjoy the moment rather than mourn how quickly it’s flying by. I know you can’t have too many photos, but you can have too many toys. I know spending time with them is more important than spending money on them. I know that kids need boundaries as much as they need love, and they gain security from consistency.

I hope I gave my kids these gifts, in some measure. But I know I’m better prepared to share all this with Riley and Jack because I’ve done it before. I practiced first on my two. And now, with the benefit of repetition, and standing in line behind the parents, I’m privileged to nurture again, and to witness, and to mark their moments.

Sunsets, like childhood, are viewed with wonder not just because they are beautiful but because they are fleeting.”  ~ Richard Paul Evans

In defense of Pinterest

It seems there’s a lot of strong opinion out there about Pinterest and its impact on everything from use of time (aka waste of time) to fueling competitive birthday parties to adding new musts to the already jam-packed to-do list of the average American woman. (Notice I’m confining my opinions and observations to the narrow borders of my own country…I haven’t been authorized to speak for all women of the world just yet.)

I was going to be productive today...

I was going to be productive today…

No doubt many of the criticisms are justified. I’ll admit it’s addicting and time-consuming to scroll through my favorite Pinterest theme pages. However, I am still in control of the clocks at my house, and that super power extends to my keyboard as well. So it is within my ability to set an alarm and limit the time I spend on Pinterest.  A little Pinterest surfing is often my reward for finishing a project or task. It doesn’t have to gobble up whole evenings or weekends.

One of my favorite things about the site is the at-a-glance appeal…I only check out a recipe or project if the image is appealing. I think this is an enormous time-saver. After all, if the finished product doesn’t look enticing, why would I waste time trying to duplicate the taste or the look? And I love the links that give great step-by-step instructions with photos…no guessing about how to do the tricky parts!

Often when I’m looking for a recipe or product I begin with Pinterest. I’m rarely disappointed…much quicker than checking out links through Google.

As to feeling that I have to decorate amazing cookies or have elaborate theme parties…well, I get to make these decisions too at my house. I understand peer pressure, and I’ve had my share of mom-guilt motivation. But I’m also able to appreciate good ideas and copy what will work for my needs without feeling that I must do everything to the nth degree. I like to think of Pinterest as an engine to fuel my creativity. Actually, a site like Pinterest is perfect for me because I have almost NO inherent creativity. But I know what I like when I see it, and I can copy like a pro! Knowing when to stop is up to me.

I read a post today about the increasing tendency to turn events into spectacle: gender reveal parties, theme parties, holiday celebrations, and biggest and most intimidating of all, engagements and weddings. No one can use every great idea, and few parties are perfect. No one needs the pressure of one-upping or living beyond means to achieve. That’s no fun at all. When the details of the party become the focus more than the birthday child, or decisions about wedding arrangements create stress and tears, something is certainly wrong.

I’m all in favor of reflection, introspection, and honest confrontation here. I’ll admit, as a mom, as a wife, as a woman, I’ve sometimes been guilty of acting out of pride and perfectionism. But the scenario I picture in the planning stage doesn’t always hold up in the light of reality.

Hopefully I’m wiser as well as older now, and I’ve pretty much given up pursuit of perfection if it includes humans of any sort. And now when a dinner flops in a spectacular way, or my holiday dazzle doesn’t quite achieve the double spread gloss of a Southern Living magazine feature, I’m still content. I’ve learned to value the heart beyond the image, and to know that trying and intention count at least as much as any result I could pin on a Pinterest board.

Naughty, naughty!

Naughty, naughty!

So, to my fellow Pinners…let me encourage you to be mindful about this amazing tool. It can be a wonderful source of inspiration and delight. But remember, if you are fortunate enough to live with other humans…short ones, tall ones, young or old…they’ll likely derail your carefully laid plans, and your photos may not be perfect either. You’ll likely not finish all the crafts you plan for the holidays; your amazing new dish may look nothing like the exotic photo you tried to copy.

Never mind: all is well! It’s all about learning from others, enlarging our creative borders to try things we hadn’t thought of for ourselves. And it’s about coming to terms with messy reality: looking around at the kids you love; the person who sometimes is your soulmate and sometimes is just a fellow warrior in the battlefield; the home that isn’t perfect, but is yours, warts and all, and knowing that you love it anyway.

Not sure how to capture that image for a Pinterest pin, but that’s the one I would be most proud to share with the world.

Digging deep

The Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia

The Empress Hotel, Victoria, British Columbia

We’re spending the week with our son.

We don’t get to do that often enough these days. Right after high school he joined the army and we moved to Alaska. And for the next five years we saw him in bits and pieces, he a cog in the great wheel of the army’s posting and leave schedule, and us connecting when we could match our opportunity to his availability. It was tricky, during those years, but we managed.

We’ve kept up, and kept in contact. I saw him in March, we spent a few days with him back in May, and will see him again at Thanksgiving. We’re making up, a little bit, for lost time. Getting to know him again, and learning about this kid who turned 26 in June. Twenty-six! How did that happen?

It’s often funny, hearing his take on life, catching his humor, his jokes, learning about his likes and dislikes…weaving the fabric with first hand knowledge and time spent face to face.

It’s sometimes hard. He’s not always easy, often stubborn and opinionated. He’s a mix of the two of us, and at the same time, so different from either of us. Life and loss have left a mark. The army experience, both good and bad, and a young marriage that added to the statistics of military marriages, shaped him. He’s finding his way, and so are we.

We laugh and enjoy. It’s easy to be with him.

We tread warily. Rekindled relationships can be fragile. This one needs to strengthen a bit, solidify again.

I find my heart is fragile too, anxious that the week be good, something we’ll all remember with smiles, and a desire to repeat.

Re-connection requires effort. Life gives us people and relationships, but it’s up to us to nurture and make them thrive. So I dig deep, tell my mother’s heart that all will be well.

We’re in Victoria, British Columbia. It’s beautiful and warm, the September sunshine pretending to be a gift of summer. We’ve picked an Irish and a Scottish pub for dinner the nights they have live music, and we’re walking the town and driving the coast. Laid back, charming, and just touristy enough to keep the focus on fun.

How does it happen that you feel you have to get acquainted with the boy you birthed? I know his top layers, but the deeper stuff…well, that’s been forming in the past few years, and I’ve not been with him enough to know his depths.

So I dig deep, mostly within myself…he will have to do his own digging, his own opening, when he’s ready. It is not for me to make demands. He’s his own person now, and I respect that separateness. I just keep it light, make sure he knows he has a home in my heart, so when he wants to land there for a while, he can.

It’s delicate, being a parent to young adults. You play the game of giving them space and respect, but your heart really wants to just make everything right for them. Can’t do it, they have to. I dig deep to get it just right, to hold back, to open up. Exhausting. Fulfilling. It’s hard work. It’s heart work.