Friday, November 16, 2012

The Breaking of Spirit

I recently heard a story relaying the negative effects of too much screen-time (phones, laptops, tablets, etc.) on family dynamics. The author interviewed talked about walking past playgrounds seeing parent after parent benching-out on their iPhones and Blackberries while their kids played. It struck a huge chord...I do this this all the time. With the new little one, even sans phone, spending QT in the sandbox has been difficult and I have been beating myself up about it. Yet, today, I realized that the bench can, at times, be the best seat in the gravel/wood chips.

As I sat at our picnic table cleaning up the half-eaten chicken nuggets that were left in the wake of looming slides and swings, I caught my little man playing in the sandbox. He sat down with a shovel, a rake, and 2 buckets readying himself for the "kycraper" (skyscraper) in his near future. A little girl approached...

"Can I play?" she asked.
"Oh...sure!!"he replied immediately handing her a shovel and bucket- half of his trusty tools without a second thought. He then began to fill her in as to the construction project he was currently undertaking. You see, he said, "This is going to take teamwork." And off they went, playing, shoveling, laughing, and sharing their shovels, rakes, and prompts to share or to include. Just two little people exercising their innocence.

It was one of those serendipitous mom moments that make all maternal hearts go pitter-patter. My kid rocks, I thought. But then I thought further. Yes, yes he does...rock...but there was something more. Some bigger reality, an inclination towards the a simple shovel share. Something lives inside his little heart that is bigger than anything I could teach or bigger than just he could be.

Which got me thinking...

At some point something changes, a switch is flipped. Suddenly, sharing equates to an inability to acquire, self comes before all else, and a mentality that puts others first often results in ostracism or a perception of weakness. My two and half year old showed today, when no one was directing his behavior or guiding his choices, that written in the depths of his heart was to share- who he was and what was his. Innately, he welcomed others with open arms, knowing that the trials of this life require "teamwork."

At what point does our natural inclination to share a shovel, no questions asked, turn? In the wise words of Blessed John Paul II, "When freedom does not have a purpose, when it does not wish to know anything about the rule of law engraved in the hearts of men and women, when it does not listen to the voice of conscience, it turns against humanity and society."How do we defend natural capacity to serve others so that our children can do better, be better? I am open to suggestions...because this mother of two would give away her blessed shovel to anyone who can preserve my children from the unavoidable truth of individualism.

Yet, here is where my story I could choose to dwell in the hard reality that some day the odds shout that my child, your child, all children in our beloved country of excess will look at the little girl asking to play and respond with a resounding "No." And I could sit a bemoan the fact that, at some point, all good things come to an end-- eventually that shovel will be prized and objectified rather than shared. But instead, I am going to revel in the smile I saw beam across the face of a little girl when my little man opened his heart and his sandbox. A smile that could inspire a nation to discover purpose, voice conscience, and desire the greater good. A smile that could change hearts and maybe even allow my little man's to remain in that unadulterated place. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Great Expectations

Boy, did I create that 30 before 30 list!?! And haven't looked at it since.

Well, wait...that's a lie. If it had to do with expanding my waistline rather than expanding my mind, then I probably did it. Breakfast King, ate there. Checkety check!
So here I am, coming to you on the other side of 30, not feeling any more accomplished, as my list became completely irrelevant. But I have realized how much I miss the cathartic exercise of self-indulgence. Oh, blogging. It has been quite awhile and I could go over all the things that have happened in the past 8 months...blah blah blah. But instead, let's dwell in the present.

I turned 30 yesterday. year, it was pointed out to me, it will be 31 on 11-12-13. Whaaa? Blows your mind, eh?? Eh?? Anywayyyy...

Picture this: Torn up linoleum under the $25 plastic park bench they had on end-of-season clearance at the local BIG Lots in the waiting area of my fav "quick-service" Mexican restaurant. Monday Night Football cheerleaders cheering on my two-year old from the 63 and a 1/2 inch PLasMa set atop the Pepsi case, as he desperately shakes the quarter junk dispensers hoping to score a FREE plastic monkey (wearing some killer Blue Blockers). Me, awaiting our cheesy enchiladas, just hoping that they arrive in their yummy styrofoam before the other patrons accuse my son of having "the croup" on account of his sporadic hacking.

"Celebration!?!" you say. Oh yes indeedy. This was the scene of my 30th birthday celebration...and it was PER-FECT.

Now, had you asked me five years ago how I saw the night of my 30th birthday, recounting this scene is probably not where I would have gone. My expectations may have been a little bit higher. In fact, they were probably sky high. Unattainable. Yet, a very wise friend of mine once said that the downfall of men is their ability to objectify, and the downfall of women is our ability to set unattainable expectations. It is so true...

I have been accused, by no shortage of my loved ones, of having impossible expectations. I used to believe that these expectations were not "unrealistic" and that all those who accused them of being so were just, uh, lame. Yet, I have come to see that the problem lies with the Aaaand not so much with those around me who continually ask, "What do you mean you want Indian-raised Kobe beef sliders to feed the snow leopards at your Geisha-themed luau?" The Lord has confirmed this assertion, continually placing circumstances in my life to prune me of my so-called needs, shedding light on their true form: wants.

Enter my screaming and sickly three-month-old on the night of our family birthday celebration who barely allowed me to eat my cake OR my begging to be the go-getter of the makeshift Mexicana feast just to get out of the house on my actual birthday as my sick kiddos were driving Miss Kristen Krazy. Did I envision cakes and Kristen effigies, ponies and live Jazz? Sure. But whining with a side of snot was what I got...and turns out, was just what I needed. 

As I sat in my bed, staring blankly at the wall on my first night of my third decade, I was happy. There was no parade, no elephants or mai-tais. Just my incredible husband and ever-teammate, right there next to me with every huge sneeze- tending to even the slightest of whimpers. The man who when the going got really tough, broke out the lilies and the singing card (courtesy of the two-year-old). And my two amazingly beautiful and perfect children who lay snoring (as they could only breath through their mouths) in their respective beds letting out the occasional cough letting us know they were still there--needing us. It was quiet, peaceful, and perfect. Yeah, I have it pretty good. And God knows that.

Birthdays, yesterdays, and every days are not about how much we can expect from them, but how much we can give of ourselves in them. It is about forming our hearts and our hearts were made to love...and to sacrifice. And sacrifice is not born out of want, but need.