Monday, January 25, 2016

Parenting Adult Kids: Navigating Life Alongside Them

He said it straight up, this truth I had been feeling deep down too.

Sitting in chairs pulled up close enough for our legs and knees to touch, we sat across from each other for maximum eye contact. And the prolonged eye contact had been stacking up, my neck tingling deliciously, our eyes flashing at each other, and his voice husky and flirting. We had been alternating between laughter and serious conversations that assessed and reviewed our relationship.
Photo: Flickr user Seif Alaya, Creative Commons cc license
Suddenly my husband's eyes turned reflective and his voice signaled a new paragraph, away from the marriage retreat material.

"You know, you need to be careful with the way you...," and he described an interaction between me and our seventeen year old daughter.

"You're right. I was thinking that late last night too," I agreed, and we sat silent in a conference room filled with twelve to thirteen murmuring couples.

"I'll talk with her and apologize for coming off so intense," I mused. Mark and I grinned, flashing eyes at each other again, and he made a joke, raising his eyebrows at me. I shifted my legs closer to him and we read the next marriage discussion question aloud. Peace and determination settled deep into heart crevices inside me.

Traversing life's many choices with our adult and near-adult children is something I'm learning as I go. Standing up on tip-toes to hug my almost-twenty-one year old son and my willowy high school daughter, I can sense this deepening gap between us. Not that we aren't close! We're very close, but parenting looks different here. 

"I get to be a groomsman," my twenty-year old son tells me, grinning. "There'll be two weddings that day!" he laughs, holding up a wedding invitation that just came in the mail.

Meanwhile, Morgan researches colleges, gobbling up class descriptions online like me in a chocolate store, and we debate the pros and cons of transfer credits and build-your-own-majors.

"Hey, Morgan." I strung words together distractedly as we pulled onto Highway 35W south this morning. "I'm sorry I came across so intense the other day. I am on your side and we'll research this together. Sound good?"

Windshield wipers scraped grey frost to the sides of the car and I could see it from the corner of my eye. Her smile was soft, warm. "Thanks, Mom."

Parenting tall young men and women is a joy and privilege. It's a constant chance for me to learn and grow as well. Side by side, my husband and I are laughing, learning, and praying as we go.

What are you thinking about this week? 

If you are not receiving my posts by email, welcome! Simply enter your email address in the box at the top right of the page. Don't miss an article.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Wanting to Live Wide-hearted in a World of Headlines

Under the shade of a rippling tarp, Dominican Republic partners and Office of Environment officials talked about mangrove reforestation, explaining the work we would do. I wiped sweat off my cheeks and glanced over at Mary.
Photo Courtesy Anh Brown
Twelve days earlier she had called me, conspiratorial laughter in her voice. "How would you like to fly with me to the Dominican Republic for a few days?" she asked. "And is your passport current?"

As a travel agent, Mary had been invited to see and give feedback on the land portion of a brand new kind of travel by Fathom Impact Travel, a subsidiary of Carnival Cruise lines. Paying for her (and a qualifying friend) to fly to the DR, Fathom wanted her to experience four impact projects: reforestation, water purification, conversational English, and cement-floor-laying, all working alongside Dominican partner organizations. Because I lead frequent humanitarian/missions trips, Mary knew I would qualify for the experience too.

Asking a few questions, I heard my excitement bubbling and spilling over. "Yes! When?"
Photo Courtesy of Fathom Travel and Mary Krueger
Photo Courtesy of Anh Brown
Twelve days later, we were standing in muddy sneakers in a mangrove national forest, learning how deep to plant new mangrove trees and guzzling water under a gorgeous blue sky. After reforestation, we met friends in conversational English. The next day we worked hard making ceramic and liquid silver clay water filters, and by Friday, we were here, walking alongside Laoris as a slight breeze blew.
Photo Courtesy of Lorena Vargas-Bella
"I'm proud to show you my community," she said. Laoris smiled at us and guided us down winding dirt roads beside vivid green, pink, and blue painted homes. Crimson flowers blazed from behind metal gates and along narrow landscaped borders.

I stumbled on a stone in the path and on her name, somehow adding a "t." Laoris was gracious, patient, correcting my Spanish with a trilling rolled "r."

Arriving at a green cement block home with corrogated metal zinc roofs, we were introduced to Francesca, a petite great-grandmother and her daughter Marianne. Partnering with Dominican NGO Entraina, our team of Americans, Brits, Peruvians, Canadians, and Dominicans worked alongside local cement layers to pour out Francesca's first-ever cement floor.

"When it rains, the dirt floors flood and become soggy, creating health hazards," Entraina and Fathom staff explained. "We work with community partners to see who can most benefit from these floors," adding that they hire local masons and professionals who supervise and guide the Impact volunteers' efforts as cement mixers, bucket-carriers, etc. Dominican experts leveled cement, taught us the recipe proportions for mixing sand, cement powder, and water, and troweled what we brought them.

Lining up assembly-style, I took my place with my teammates. Straddling an inner doorway and wiggling my sneakers into the grey gravel, busted concrete, and sand for stability, I reached out for a slippery bucket of wet cement. We crouched with straight backs and bent knees to safely transport the heavy buckets and our talk swirled in Spanish and English as we passed pails, turned faces to the new friends on both sides, and sailed across cultural divides. 

"This is from my great-granddaughter," Francesca said, pointing to a paper drawing of a poem nailed to the wall behind us. Words about a mama's love and her full-hearted acts of family service curled up a page and shimmied around a red-marker heart. I paused to read the words, understanding some, and getting soft-spoken interpretations from Laoris at times beside me.

Francesca grinned widely, a toothy grin dimpling up both sides of her face, silver hair pulled back into a ponytail. "This is my son, Jose," she said, pointing to a man who had just walked in. He reached out for a bucket of cement, heaving it up and over to the room's floor behind him. "It's his daughter," Francesca explained, and Jose pulled out his phone, scrolling to a photograph of his daughter.

Over and over on this four day trip, this is where we found ourselves... pulling open our hearts, sharing about loved ones, and diving into deep conversations about life, family, communities, and intentional impact-full living. Over rice and beans seasoned Creole-style, or on jostling buses through coffee plantations, across language books in laps inside neatly-swept dirt yards overlooking mountain sea-scapes, and on wifi hotel lobby steps, we leaned over and opened wide our lives. 

Dominicans', Canadians', Brits', Peruvians', and Americans' faces swim in my mind now, their names and stories apart of me. I smile in thinking of them, and have left parts of me as well through the time and conversations we had. 

(If you are not receiving my posts by email, welcome! Simply enter your email address in the box at the top right of the page. Don't miss an article.)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

How to Jump into a Week that is Rumbling By

Blueberry and banana puree cling to the side of the glass. We've been blending and drinking fruit smoothies multiple times a week, it seems. Mark's trying to get healthier and knows this is one way to raise his fruit serving count. Jumping at any opportunity for vitamin C this week, I've chimed in often: "Me too, please? Can I have some?" He nods and slides a few more chunks of frozen mango and berries into his glass to thaw.
Photo: Flickr user Miriam, Creative Commons, cc license
In the aftermath of Christmas break, we have crawled sluggish and sleepy into this new week. School started Monday. Today while Morgan slipped downstairs after breakfast to resume her eleventh grade classes, I started a pot of water to boil and negotiated five additional minutes from Daniel.

"We'll start school in five minutes, okay, bud? I want to make coffee first."

He is the luckiest first grader in the world. He is more than happy to go back to building Lego creations while his mom grinds Sumatra beans, rinses out old grounds, and swipes the last grains of coffee gravel into the glass french press. The round metal teapot whistles in urgent rising crescendo.

Setting a timer for four minutes, I leave the french press plunger upraised, suspended as water and coffee grounds mingle. Pulling up a chair, I call Daniel over, push back the orchid pot, and scrawl dates across workbook margins. We scrape chairs and pencils, scooting closer, and Daniel works sums across the page.

Rising to plunge, press, and pour brown amber, I return with a full steaming cup of coffee and a small thermos. Helping Daniel with a question, I then grab my Bible and we lapse into quiet reading. He hums and swings legs under his chair beside me or bursts into home-made jokes, and I grin and guide him into the next section of his school. As he reads and circles short vowel words and spellings, I pick up my own pencil and scrawl notes in the margin of my Bible.

A nagging cough has sapped my energy and crossed lines through all my well-intentioned To-Do lists. I've been gathering strength in bursts to accomplish the necessary tasks throughout the last two weeks, but have been thankful to sneak away to quiet corners whenever I can.

Tipping up the fuchsia and grey thermos, I pour more coffee into my cup. Tiny splatters dot the dining room table and steam rises from my mug. Taking a deep sip and sliding my Bible closer, I feel the warmth sink in. "And God is able to to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work," 2 Corinthians 9:8 says.

One thing at a time. Start slowly, Jen. Coffee. Family. God's word, and the morning rumbles on.

Hello, my friend. How was your Christmas break? Are you feeling sleepy and slow-moving as you jump into this week too?

If you are not receiving my posts by email, welcome. :)  Simply enter your email address in the box at the top right of the page. Don't miss an article.