You Look Like You Have People With You

Most Sunday mornings, our family of four attends the 9:30 service at a neighborhood church. We very much appreciate the warm community we’ve found there, and the chance to take a seat, take a breath, reflect. And…the girls don’t sleep in, so by 9:30, we’ve already been awake for hours. (“What are we going to do now, Mom?”)

A fellowship follows the service. As the talented pianist plays the postlude, Grace and Anna make a beeline for the hall where tables of cookies, fruit and juice await.

One Sunday recently, they dashed off as usual, Stanton close behind. I gathered up our coats, hats and water bottles. I shrugged my own coat on, and noticed that one of the buttons was loose. Something to take care of…some other time.

I reached the fellowship hall, and bumped into a fellow congregant. He smiled. “You look like you have people with you,” he said, gesturing to my arms full of stuff.

I smiled back. “I do, somewhere in here.” Then I added, “I love that quote; it would be a great title for a blog post.”

He joked that he’d have to be careful what he said around me. “I don’t disparage people in my writing,” I promised. But I can’t help when inspiration strikes.

This is that post, friends.

I’ve been wanting to write this post since that Sunday. It’s been at least three weeks now, maybe four. Other things seemed to keep popping up, most of them related to the people I have with me.

At times, our people’s stuff can weigh us down (all those coats!). The weight can be physical, or emotional. Then a moment might happen that makes it all feel worth it.

This happened to me, just yesterday evening. Snow began falling around 6 p.m. The girls thrust their hands toward the front bay window. “Look, Mom, look! Maybe school will be closed tomorrow. We can build a snow girl together!”

I very nearly cried. Because Stanton has been traveling for work since Monday morning. All of us are traveling to visit family for Thanksgiving this weekend. There was already no school on Monday because of Veterans Day, and all I wanted was a few hours today to finish cleaning, packing and maybe even writing…alone.

I did not want…to build a snow girl.

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Later that night, I tucked Grace into bed, and then Anna. Anna wrapped her little arms around my neck. “I love every part of you, even your eyeballs,” she said.

“Awww, thank you, honey.” I kissed her good night, and then lay beside her until she was asleep, our heads sharing a pillow.

When I looked at Anna, her breathing gentle in the moonlight-burnished room, her hand on mine, I felt a deep sense of gratitude, for both my daughters. For their good health, their safety, who they are.

When I think of my family, I think of a lyric from an old song I used to like (and one you may remember) called “Butterfly Kisses.” Bob Carlisle sings, “With all that I’ve done wrong, I must have done something right”—to deserve the love in his life, specifically his daughter.

I feel this way, completely. For as good as I may look on the outside (my frequent 9:30 church attendance and all), I could do and could have done better, kinder. I am lucky to have my people, and all their stuff.

“I love every part of you, even your eyeballs.”

When Stanton isn’t home, I usually sleep upstairs with the girls, in Anna’s bed. I’m right there if they need me. One night this week, Grace woke up with a bad dream, so I switched beds to talk with her and sleep beside her. A few hours later, Anna awoke and noticed I was missing. “MOM!!!”

We were all pretty tired by the end of that day, so I turned on “The Boss Baby” for the girls. I watched some of it with them.

I really like this movie (any other grown-ups want to join me in that admission? 😉 ).  I love the brothers’ shared quote, at the end: “Every morning you wake up, I’ll be there. Every night at dinner, I’ll be there. Every Christmas, I’ll be there. Year after year after year. We will grow old together.”

The sentiment in these words speaks to having “people.” Friends, family, those we love. Relationships oblige give and take—from lots-of-coats holding and snow girl-building, to end-of-day movie watching and good-night kissing.

We all appreciate solo moments when we can recharge. Sometimes, we may not get as many of these moments as we like. It’s a beautiful consolation prize, though, to have folks who are there for us…year after year after year.

Now excuse me, friends, while I go help build a snow girl.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short story, “Backtrack.” An engaging read that’s can’t-put-it-down good.

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The Best Job I Ever Had

This past month, I edited résumés for a few folks. As I was working on the documents, I marveled at their array of jobs and experiences, the different, sometimes divergent steps along the way that led to now…and the next steps that were to come.

I thought, too, about my own professional biography—the various positions, the circuitous career path, the pauses that have come with parenthood. I’ve done a bunch of things, as you probably have too. My favorite thing? Working as a tour guide at my college, in Richmond, Va.

My official job title was “student admissions representative.” I served as an SAR from my sophomore through senior years, and I earned minimum wage, if memory serves. Something like $5.75 per tour, and each tour was about an hour, usually a little longer.

A few times a week, I walked prospective students and their families around the college campus. Showed them around, gave them local restaurant recommendations for lunch or dinner at the end. The SAR position allowed me to be with people, tell stories and spend time outside—my ideal trifecta.

Beforehand, the students and their families would have heard a presentation from the school’s admissions officers—facts such as application deadlines, number of majors and study-abroad programs, “where are they now” regarding notable alumni. Data. My job was to add the flavor, the feeling, the inside scoop…and I loved it.

I don’t know how many tours I gave in all, and I don’t know, either, if anything I ever said, on any of those tours, made a difference to anybody. I can say that parents seemed to trust me on my restaurant recommendations; I probably did drum up some business for Palani Drive, Mary Angela’s and Strawberry Street Café. Beyond that, though, I just don’t know.

It was fun while it lasted.

My job was to add the flavor, the feeling, the inside scoop…and I loved it.

During my senior year, I started thinking about what to do next, post-graduation. I was majoring in English, and had wrapped up an internship with a novelist, Erica Orloff, herself a graduate of the University of Richmond. Erica was gracious, instructive, inspiring—an amazing role model. How cool it would be to be like that, I thought.

I thought, too, about how much I enjoyed people. Being around them, hearing their stories and sharing mine, and—when I could, and when it was needed—offering a word of encouragement, some positive energy. I began researching graduate programs in counseling, and marriage and family therapy.

Every program I looked at required undergraduate courses in psychology and statistics, and I never took those classes. As much as I loved college, I didn’t want to prolong it with an extra semester (or two). So I stuck with writing.

My underlying goal with writing, though, is to encourage, as I would have done in a counseling setting. Whether through a mini essay like this, or a work of fiction, or someone’s résumé or business proposal—my hope is that the finished product is something that brings positive energy to the world.

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I happened to read an excellent Atlantic article, “What I Learned About Life at My 30th College Reunion.” Maybe you read it too. Writer Deborah Copaken notes, first and foremost, “No one’s life turned out exactly as anticipated,” and I had to smile because…#truth.

I also smiled at her second observation (teachers and doctors seemed happy with their choice of career) and chuckled at her third (somewhat the opposite for lawyers). Then I had a chuckle at my own expense regarding No. 5, “Speaking of art, those who went into it as a career were mostly happy and often successful, but they had all, in some way, struggled financially.” (I recently joked with a friend that my e-book royalties alone won’t cover the cost of the girls’ college tuition.)

Copaken’s No. 13 struck a chord too: “Nearly all the alumni said they were embarrassed by their younger selves, particularly by how judgmental they used to be.” Life is eye-opening, and humbling, and I’m a better person now (stretch marks, cellulite and all) than I was then.

Education, medicine, law, the arts and so many other fields—so much to choose from, so much we can do. After dinner one evening, Anna (age 3) toyed with some career choices, astronaut and firefighter among them. “I want to be the boss,” 7-year-old Grace announced. Stanton and I exchanged a glance: mm-hmm, sounded about right.

Life is eye-opening, and humbling, and I’m a better person now (stretch marks, cellulite and all) than I was then.

I write every day, almost. Sometimes I get paid for the work I do. Other times I don’t. Now, for example, I’m writing my first novel; my goal is to sign a publishing contract with a small press by the time Anna starts kindergarten. Along with what I take care of for our family life these days, I still try to honor my writing life. Because if you tell people you’re a writer (and I do), you should write. You should aim to get published too ( 😉 ), but you definitely should write.

Once Anna joins Grace in elementary school, I’ll be sending out my own résumé. I’m hopeful I’ll be able to find a job that’s a good fit. I’m excited to have colleagues and co-workers again. I’m uncertain (scared?) of what hiring managers will think of my current “title” of freelance writer/editor, which (not coincidentally) began shortly after my first child’s birth. I have no clue how everything will work out.

But one thing I know for sure.

College tour guide? It’s going to be hard to top that.

P.S. If you’ve never been to Richmond and happen to find yourself there…go to Palani Drive, and get the Shenandoah wrap. Grilled chicken, sweet potatoes, apples, Gouda and sherry walnut dressing—one of the best flavor combinations ever. You’ll love it.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short story, “Backtrack.” An engaging read that’s can’t-put-it-down good.