Astounding Things

I've been accused on more than one occasion of using the word astounding too often. That my reaction to things is over the top. That I don't need to react as strongly as I do to seemingly everyday things and occurrences. But I beg to differ. I hope I am always this blown away by life. By goodness. By inventions. By scientific, creative brains. By people and their actions and words. I'm taking a break from being fucking furious all day every day to appreciate some of the things I am continually astounded by.

Automatic ice makers. We've lived in our house for four years and I still cannot believe I don't have to keep filling up the ice trays. IT MAKES ICE ALL BY ITSELF.

De-humidifiers. I am never not completely astounded when the bucket is filled up with water FROM THE AIR.

Blinds inside the the freaking windows. No cords, no dust, no kids breaking them immediately.

Screens that slide up and down inside doors so you don't need to switch out entire doors during different seasons. Genius, I tell you!

When babies become little human beings. When they can walk and talk and understand and empathize and make us laugh and listen and learn from mistakes. Every day I am astounded at what these little children are capable of understanding.

Our body's ability to heal itself. Over and over and over. Watching my kids discover this truth when their booboos develop their own body bandaids. Maybe one day we won't need to invest in bandaids by the truckload, but today is not that day. Today we have Star Wars and Sophia and stripes and anchors and rainbows all over the place when they fall.

Our spirit's ability to heal itself. Over and over and over. Similar to the above point, we get hurt continually throughout our lives and yet somehow we just. keep. going. Our spirits are so incredibly resilient. The human heart is astounding. We love hard and we hurt hard, and yet we keep asking for more. Because as much as we like to pretend we don't need love, need our people, need support, we do. Oh how we need it.

American Ninja Warrior. It is impossible to focus on anything else while watching this show. The whole family cheers and gets invested and hears stories from all different kinds of people and it is just pure magic and athleticism and hopes and dreams on display right in front of our eyes. It makes me believe that anything is possible.

Recovery. The fact that any of us who used to be addicts and alcoholics are walking around without using is a gd astounding miracle. It never ever seemed possible, and yet it is. We do recover. Alcohol is a liar and thief and we are done with that. And if you're not done yet, we are holding space for you too.

Hope. People who practice hope are no dummies. We choose it every single day. Through the shit, through the horrors, through the darkest hours, we choose hope. It is not easy, it is not simple, it is not naive. It is possibly the strongest choice we can make each day. Hope. It is astounding. And it is what keeps us going no matter what.

WORLD CUP SOCCER. Hope personified. Astounding stories and plays and struggles and histories and futures and the pageantry of it all. If you are an American like my husband who thinks soccer isn't exciting to watch, well I do not know how to explain to you why you should care about World Cup soccer. It is devastating and hopeful all at once.

Flowers and plants and fruits and vegetables. You walk by one day and there is nothing there. You walk by the next day and they ARE FULLY IN BLOOM I mean how are people not screaming about this all damn day? We can GROW OUR OWN FOOD. We can eat food that we grow in the ground outside our homes. I know we are in the age of fast and convenient food, but when you see your kids planting and eating and really appreciating the food that they have planted (along with our Nikki's generous guidance), it makes my heart explode. When they ask for basil and mint repeatedly from my little pot garden on the deck, I have to keep saying, "give them a chance to grow!" but I am beaming inside. Sure they want goldfish and cereal and every meal has some combination of bread and cheese other food that is boxed and processed, but they also get to eat things that are green and fragranced and full of goodness for their little bodies and it just makes me want to shoot up into the sky.

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Art and music and books. And the people who just keep creating despite how treacherous the conditions. We've got our own artist in residence in Nikki for a couple more months and what a joy it is to come home to such a collaboration on our sidewalk. Books and friends who keep sending them to you faster than you can read them. Samantha sends me so many that my stacks are always plentiful and I know I always have something good to read. That is a good friend. I don't geek out over many people, but writers? I GEEK OUT OVER GOOD WRITING AND WRITERS. If it weren't for good music, I would die. It's that simple. We all have our playlists and our feel good jams and our angry scream it out anthems that help get us through and isn't that all just astounding?

Libraries. Libraries astound me every time I set foot in the door. I am absolutely gobsmacked that we get to go to this place with so much knowledge, so many programs, so much right at our fingertips, just for living nearby. My kids have grown up at our library and it is one of their favorite places. There is always joy when I say "let's go to the library!" May it always be so. All the best shit happens at the library. Let alone the people we meet. Astounding.

Shows that can still make me laugh and think. The world is on fire, but for a few minutes 30 Rock and/or Parks & Rec provide a brief respite. Also it feels like a million years ago when we watched these shows blissfully unaware of what our future held. Sigh. I just finished watching the entire Grey's Anatomy series for the first time. It took me one year, but I cried BUCKETS, fell in love & lust, mourned, and cheered so hard for all these women. As a recovering alcoholic & a woman, I appreciate this honest story telling so much. They cover EVERY SINGLE ISSUE without hitting us over the head with it, and I'm so thankful I got to spend a year with the whole crew at Grey's. I miss them already.

The vastness of water.  Does it ever stop being astounding to stand at the edge of a seemingly endless view of water? There is a washing clean aspect as well as a powerful current notion that blows me right away whenever we are near. The water makes me feel incredibly small and in those moments that is exactly what I need to be feeling. I think of everything living in that water, underneath the surface and realize that me up here on this beach? I am not that important. Also, it's entirely thrilling and mesmerizing to watch. Calming and exhilarating all at once.

Kindness and Tenderness. I see it every day. I see it as I walk and overhear conversations.

I hear it when a mom offers to help another mom and shouts, I GOT YOU!

I see it on the street when two dudes who know each other break out in an enormous grin, stop to hug, and just keep walking.

I see it when I pass a woman on the street, our earbuds are in, we are in our zones, and yet our eyes meet and we smile. Maybe we point out shoes or hair or lips or glasses and we just acknowledge each other. Right here, in this moment, we acknowledge each other. It is magical. I see her and she sees me and as women, we know we all we carry. I cherish those moments throughout my day.  Women, with all we carry, are astounding.

I see it when the same homeless people I see day and day, year after year, say hello to me and ask how my kids are. I do the same to them. We know their names, we know their ages. We know exactly how alike we really are. These are longterm relationships and they take me to bad places in my head if they ever aren't where they're supposed to be on any given day. We meet each other exactly where we are on our journeys each day. No more, no less. No expectations.

I see it when train conductors take so much extra time helping folks on and off the train. They use people's names and speak so patiently and kindly that I hang around just to listen.

I hear it when my kids follow me around all day and say, "you're the best mommy and I love you mommy" when they think I need to hear it. They will come down two floors of the house just to give me a kiss. The way they look out for each other and care for each other so tenderly feels voyeuristic to watch sometimes, but oh how it fills my heart.

I receive this kindness when I get a text from my friend (she's still our nanny too but oh how much she knows and loves us so that she's become more than our nanny, more than my friend, she is my sister, my confidant) at night saying basically "you are perfect exactly as you are and if you changed something you wouldn't be you" after a barrage of neurotic texts that morning.

I hear it when my husband takes responsibility for something he's done or said that was hurtful and tries to do better. I am doing my best to do better too. Marriage with kids is HARD. But I believe in us.

I'll end with a story from our travels a few weeks ago - 

When it finally let up after roughly 20 blind driving rain minutes that felt like 25 lifetimes, my kids quietly asked if I was ok. I said, "I am ok, that was kind of scary, right?" They never stop talking. But they stopped talking during all that.

I got the hell off the highway at the closest exit because my body was stiff as a board and I had to unglue my hands from that steering wheel after the torrential downpours for a few minutes before they stayed permanently in that position at 10 and 2. We all got out of the car and had a big group hug and tried our best to shake it off and head into McDonalds, our happy place.

We headed for the ladies room, which is where we met her. She was in the ladies room with tears in her eyes and her hair a little disheveled. She looked about my mom's age - maybe 70 or so - and she was distraught. She said, "Oh I'm so happy you're ok" as if we knew each other. She went on to say, "wasn't that terrifying? I am just so happy we are all ok."

I hugged her.

I don't normally hug perfect strangers in the McDonald's ladies room, but in this moment it seemed exactly the right thing to do. I am telling you that magic happens at McDonald's.  My kids looked at us like we were a little loopy and my boy kept asking, "who is that who is that who is that?" But I just wanted to be sure she was ok. We just kept hugging.

We took care of our business and got out into the restaurant and ordered some hotcakes and they sat down next to us. Her husband was wearing a University of Michigan hat - same as my dad wears - and they brought up their radar on their phone. The very same radar I use to track storms quite obsessively so we seamlessly slipped into conversation about missing the pockets and how long we have until the next wave and where it would hit. They were driving from Michigan up past Chicago to a family reunion. They told me all about their kids and their grandkids and asked all the questions about twins and thanked my two for being such good kids and helping mama get home safely.

We exchanged phone numbers so we could text each other when we got to our destinations. We did text when we were safe. And we've texted a few times since then just to say hello and chat about the weather.

 

Part of being witness to kindness and tenderness is to not only extend it but to receive it with grace and gratitude and accept that you are worthy of it. That part is oftentimes more difficult for me. Human beings extending grace and kindness and tenderness to each other shouldn't be astounding, yet it is. And while it can feel like it's not the norm anymore, I'll be if you look around your world, you will find it. And it is astounding.

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