Mom, Mom, Mom, I Love You

“I stood up and got into my truck and drove away from a part of my mother. The part of her that had been my lover, my wife, my first love, my true love, the love of my life.” – Cheryl Strayed, “The Love Of My Life”

There are days when I feel this way about my mom: that she’s the love of my life. I talk to her daily, on average. Sure, there are stretches when we don’t speak. Last week it was two in a row, book-ended by two scandalously short check-ins. But there are also days when I call her on my way somewhere, again on my way home, and just before bed so I can tell her that I love her one more time.

She knows when I’m upset without me saying it. “I can tell you’re feeling homesick,” she says after I ask what’s going on in Indiana. “I’ll send you pictures of the trees… of the dog… of your dad… I’ll skip the cat.”

She listens to me tell her what I think was the funniest part of the day, and she laughs with me. Someone counting calories from a tea bag? She thinks that is as ridiculous as I do.

We speak the same language.

“Who’s the guy in that alien movie?”

“Tom Cruise or Will Smith?”

“Neither. He has those eyes.”

“Chris Pine.”

“Yes.”

And then there are other times when I’m wholly certain that this woman is not the love of my life. She doesn’t get me, and if my own mother doesn’t get me who ever will?! (These moments usually occur once a month.) (Hmm.) There are times when she seems completely unconcerned with the “problems” in my life. There are times when I want to tell her that she’s no longer allowed to make fun of herself. There are times when I’m staring at the gaps in my preparation for the world, and I take to blaming her fiercely.

I love her, but the love of my life? Hmm.

Then I take a breath and realize she’s unconcerned with my “problems” because she doesn’t see them as an issue. She’s certain I’ll succeed, certain that there’s a way through them and I’ll find it.

She makes fun of herself because she can, and that’s so much better than the alternative. We’re two Bridget Joneses, she and I, and if we don’t laugh at accidentally calling “adenoids” “gonads,” we’re in for a dull life.

As for the gaps, I’d be worried if she covered everything. There are times when I wish that she had pushed me into books more or hadn’t let me quit track after one day. But she let me discover books. She made me get outside. She prayed and hugged and taught and poured out love and truth. Those are the things that get me through the gaps. Those are the things that matter.

(And if I really wished she’d take one thing back, it would be making me go pick up my sports bra I dropped in the school parking lot on the way to the car.) (Everyone saw, or so it felt.) (I’m not bitter.)

Thad started a tradition in our family that we often use on our parents. It goes like this:

“Mom. Mom. Mom! Mom! MOM!”

“What?!”

“I love you.”

And that’s it. That’s all we say because we don’t know how to put into words what we feel about our mom. We don’t know what to say to this woman who gave us all the important stuff. I don’t know how to write her smell and how warm her skin is and how she’s the face I know best in the world. I don’t know how to describe her crooked thumb nail and golden cross necklace and fidgeting hands and beautiful hair and loving voice. I think “love of my life” is close, but maybe it’s better said with the hugs and the laughing and the hair rubbing and the crying and the talking and the living. Maybe it’s just “Mom, Mom, Mom, I love you” one more time before bed.

Veteran’s Day

flags at pepperdine

My family has always been passionate about the USA, passionate about what it stands for, passionate that it should continue standing for it. Freedom. The USA is about freedom.

That was the summary of the essay that one me a $100 savings bond in the third grade. Since then, I’ve learned more about the country’s history and more about my family’s, and although I might have a bit more understanding and more stuff in my head, I still believe that nine year old was right.

I never thought of my family as a military one. My dad was retired from the Army by the time I could walk. We never moved around the country or around the world. I never lost a loved one to war.

But as I’ve grown up, I’ve added together all the pieces that make up this military story. Grandpa Miller served on one of the only Navy units to fight in the Atlantic and Pacific during WWII. Papa Free came back from Europe with a Nazi gun. (Not sure he was supposed to.) There are little hints of service all over our house: a camouflage hat here, little Tabasco bottles there, and the mail to Dad, addressed to MAJOR MILLER.

Recently, my brother joined the National Guard. He left for basic training yesterday. The more I think about him being a part of this, the more I realize how equipped he was for his decision. My siblings and I have been taught all our lives about what military service is. It wasn’t glorified. It wasn’t demonized. Military service was something that was specifically about the core belief of the country. It’s about preserving what my family, what families all over the nation, hold dear. It’s about freedom.

I’m very proud of my family’s history of service, particularly my dad, who doesn’t parade it. I’m very proud of my brother and his willingness and devotion to freedom.

But more than proud, I’m thankful. I’m thankful for the military service of all of our veterans and their families. I think my 3rd-grade self probably said it better, but I’m thankful for each individual who preserves and cultivates and fights for freedom.  May it reign.

Mimi is pretty much the best

My mimi is pretty incredible.

I often wonder how much I am like her. I have one of her (five fabulous) names. I have her “pug” nose (or so she says). I can talk a really long time on the phone.

But Mimi is the sort of graceful woman that I’m sure I’ll never exactly be. I make too many toot jokes, and my purse never matches my shoes.

Whether I’m like her or not, I find her stories fascinating (at least the first three times). Did I just slam my grandmother who doesn’t even use the internet? It’s okay. She’d think it was funny. I think.

I was able to interview Mimi for Lydia this week. Check it out HERE.

Mimi has led an amazing life, and I’m so thankful to be a little part of it (and anything like her).

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the world’s best window

I love the ocean, but let’s not start there.

When I was around eight I got my own room (for the second time).

My parents remodeled our upstairs floor to be a very cool loft split in two: one side for the brothers and one side for the sisters. I love my sister dearly, but this situation made things tense. We shared a waterbed. The bed was wonderful; it made that great sloshing sound, and you pushed up when someone else got in. The bed was also a point of contention. I liked to cuddle and Heather didn’t. The tension escalated when in the night I touched my foot to her sun-burned calf, and she immediately slapped me. I’m pretty sure that was the last night I slept there.

I moved back downstairs, and relationships were restored. When I had my own room (again), Mom gave me three framed artsy photos to put on the wall: two girls walking with their arms around each other (which I am realizing could have been a message), a girl standing in the rain, and a group of girls looking out a window. (You should know that I originally wrote “winder” for “window.” Hoosier-talk.)

In the third picture, the girls’ backs are facing us as they sit in a windowsill. Most of them are huddled together talking in a group, but there is one girl sitting on the end, staring out of the glass. Mom said I reminded her of that girl. Now, it could be that she had the same haircut and color as mine, but I think it had more to do with that feeling.

My whole life I’ve been staring out windows.

Life makes sense when I stare out a window. There’s so much going on, so much beyond whatever is happening inside.

I feel the same way about the ocean. Things make sense with the ocean. It’s on its own clock. The ocean is calm and powerful and incredible, and seeing its majesty makes whatever I’m worrying about seem pretty inconsequential. Watching the ocean is feeling a part of the miracles of every day, the ones that are all around.

The ocean is the world’s best window, and I never tire of looking because looking at life on the outside makes you see life on the inside that much more clearly.

“For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea”
-ee cummings
I love the ocean. Let’s end there.
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happy birthday, mom

It turns out that writing a post about your mom is nerve-wracking.

I’ve tried to write this five different times. A blog post. Five times.

So let’s just say that this will not be life-altering nor will it convey all of the wonderful, good things I can or want to say about my mom. Okay? Okay.

Now, then, let’s start with a movie because that’s usually a good place.

The Help. That’s right. I’m going there. I really love that movie. My mom and I dragged my dad to go see it, and it was probably one of the best movie-going experiences I’ve ever had. I think our theater was full of fans of the book; they were all cheering and laughing and crying (yes, really) through the entire thing. The Miller family enjoyed it, but I’m sorry(?) to report that we weren’t howling like the rest of the audience.

Actually, the biggest impression the movie had on us was a single line.

No, not the “eat my…” one. Although, that was pretty great.

I mean the classic. “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

Now, at first my mom and I sort of repeated these words back and forth to each other because it was just one of those funny-sounding quotes, like so many in our repertoire.

“I don’t KNOW, Margo!”

“I like you very much. Just as you are.”

“He’s had 152 moles removed, so now he has 152 pockmarks on his face.

The number of people who think he looks like Clark Gable.

The number of people who think he looks like a Clark Bar.”

“Boooon-TT cake.”

“Her shriveled little legs.”

Did I give enough quotes? Oh, good.

The Help line became another in the rotation. Mom would (will) end an email or a card with it, and it’s funny and sweet. I mean, those are lovely words to read. What I realized recently, though, is that this isn’t new.

My mom has been telling me a version of those words my entire life.

Every time she tells me I’m beautiful because of my heart, that I can be anything I want because of my brain, and that she will always love me no matter what, she gives me what Aibileen gives Mae Mobley.

How many people don’t get to hear that? How many people grow up thinking they’re stupid and ignored and unloved? Too many.

My mom is a spectacular mom. It’s not because she’s a brilliant, incredible, intelligent, beautiful woman (although, she is). She’s spectacular because she builds others up. She is the most caring person I have ever met in my life, and I’m so in awe that God made me her daughter. Not everyone gets the best mom in the world; not everyone gets a mom who lets them know how capable they are.

Every little girl, every child of every age, deserves those words, and I’m so thankful that I get to hear them from the woman I admire most.

In case you haven’t heard it today: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

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