Wednesday, July 17, 2019

40 Acts of Service

Me and my face, preparing for The (slightly less) Big 39.
I'll be 39 tomorrow.

Birthdays always make me a little contemplative and navel gazey, but this one even more so. Of course I've been thinking about getting older, noticing more little lines on my face that I know will only get deeper, and knowing that I'm well on my way from being a young person to a middle aged person, regardless of how old I actually feel.

My uncle (who is in his 70s) says I'm still young, so there.

Having accumulated a degree, a husband, four children, a house (and a mortgage!) and am impressive array of household goods, I feel like I've managed to check the majority of the boxes you're "supposed to" have done by this point in life, and I have to admit I feel quite good about that.

Mine is a good life, and I am so very grateful for it. It hasn't always been an easy life, as just having celebrated the third birthday of our little boy who is no longer here reminds us, but oh!: it's a good, rich and beautiful life I have been given.

Which brings me to the biggest thing I have been thinking about in regards to my birthday: when I have been given so much, what am I giving back? I believe in service. I believe in taking part in your community and giving back where you can. I believe in "if not me, then who? If not now, then when?" As a Christian, I believe in " Inasmuch as ye have done it into one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me*". I believe that that world is not going to get any better unless we stand up and do something.

So I have decided that my 39th year is going to be my year of standing up and doing something.

I want to celebrate my 40th birthday next July, knowing that I have made a contribution to this world, and that I have made service and philanthropy part of who I am. I want my children to see that part of being a human is stepping up and taking responsibility, maybe especially when it's not glamorous or fun.

I'm throwing it back old school with a good old-fashioned Project Project project (remember when I used to do those?) where I will undertake something and then write about it as I go.

Here is the plan:

  • I will make this coming year, leading up to my 40th birthday a personal year of service. 
  • Over the space of that year, I will perform at least 40 acts of service of varying size and intensity, at a rate of roughly one per week (that leaves 12 opportunities for life to get busy, or for an act of service to stretch over several weeks if necessary). 
  • When a cash donation is the best way to support a cause or organization, I'll give money. However, I am making it a rule for myself that I can't just give money every week. Giving money is easy, and I want to engage more deeply with the various people and organizations I come across this year. I'd like to learn, to get involved and get my hands a little dirty. Also our finances might not be able to handle me giving our money away every week. 
  • Each act of service has to be a new one. If I fall in love with an organization or a way to serve along the way and want to keep working with them, that's wonderful. I'll keep doing that. However, I will not be counting an ongoing relationship as a new act of service. I want to find 40 new ways to serve.  
  • Every time I serve, I will write a blogpost about it. I'll do this so I can have a record of what should be a pretty memorable year, so you can follow along if you're interested, and also so I can highlight a number of organizations and individuals trying to make a difference in the world. Maybe this  could even help some of you will find an organization that you'd like to work with too?
And that's it!

Before I end, I really want to highlight that I'm not doing this so you'll think I'm wonderful. I'm doing this to fulfill a strong desire that I have to contribute. Serving others makes me happy, and has been a lifeline to me at several difficult stages of my life. I'm happy when I'm busy, and happy when I feel useful. So while you could say that this whole thing is almost a little selfishly motivated, say that because I'm doing something that I love, not because I'm trying to attract your attention to how great I think I am. And hopefully, once your attention has been attracted, we can quickly deflect it to all of the great ways that you serve too. 

Thanks for reading! I'm excited for you to help keep me accountable in the year to come. And if you happen to know of any great organizations that I might want to look into, locally or globally, please let me know. 
 


*Matt 25:40

Monday, April 1, 2019

Elijah

Elijah at eight months old. 

Before I can write about much of anything else around here, I have to tell you about our newest family member: Elijah.

He's somehow already eight months old, and planted solidly at the heart of our family. We absolutely adore this happy, wild little kid with his easy smile and goodnatured little ways. Espen half-jokingly calls him "The King", which, considering the way we schedule our days around his needs, sneak around quietly while he's napping and let him eat from our plates, is really not too far from the truth. Fortunately, Elijah adores us right back, and is never happier than when his siblings include him in their games and make him one of the gang. He loves singing, tickling, roughhousing, walks in the stroller, taking a bath and going to bed. Above all, Elijah loves food and eating and all activities that include those two things.

In other words, Elijah is a pretty standard baby. But what feels completely non-standard (although, of course, most of us feel this way about our own kids) is how much sheer joy and happiness this little person has brought into our lives. I rejoice in being his mama each and every day.

And that is something that has felt different this time around: now that we're not completely overwhelmed by the terrifying newness of parenthood, or utterly exhausted by having two tiny people under three to chase after, having a baby is actually a genuinely delightful thing. Okay, at this juncture I feel like I need to clarify that all of our babies have been delightful little sources of enormous joy, and being their mom has been my absolute favorite thing in life. But this feels like the first time in my journey in motherhood where I a) am not utterly overwhelmed by other little people that need constant care and supervision, and b) I just feel comfortable and confident in my own abilities as a mom. I know what I'm doing! I've got this! And I think that a happy and comfortable mom makes for a happy and comfortable baby, so we have just fallen into a routine that is, well... happy and comfortable.

Of course it's not all sunshine and rainbows: Elijah' nap schedule is constantly getting messed with because I have to wake him to pick Gwen up from school or to take kids to their after school activities. Sometimes he wakes up at 4 in the morning for no discernible reason and decides to squawk in his bed for the next 90 minutes. Sometimes I don't get a shower because I have to hold my teething, and therefor, screaming baby all day long. But, I know how to do those things. Even when it's hard, it's never actually impossible. Sometimes I do have to call in the cavalry (which usually means Nick) because I just can't be multiple people in multiple places at once, but nine out of ten times, I find a way.

It has to be said that Elijah gets a lot of the credit for all this happiness and contentment around these parts. He is just an unusually happy, chill and easy baby. He gets fussy when he's hungry or tired, but other than that, he's really just a remarkably "good" baby: he's friendly and loves people, he loves to eat, he's happy to play on his own, he's been sleeping through the night since he was about 4 months old, he actually gets excited when we put him in his carseat, and the list goes on. 90% of the time, Elijah is just a joyful little soul, and the other 10% is generally when we've kept him awake for too long, or he's hungry*. You know, user errors.

So, that is our Elijah. At a stage in our life when so many of our peers are raising teenagers and squaring up to the possibility of becoming grandparents in a few short years, we feel so happy and lucky to back in the world of nap time and diapers. Being a parent has been such a huge blessing in my life, and I absolutely love that we get a few more years in that priceless "little kid" phase before they all grow up on us. Elijah is our grand finale, and we couldn't be happier he's here.



*Also, when I don't let him play with my earrings. 

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Pottery Analogies and The Enemy of Good.

Okay, gang: I am just going to sit down and write something, just so that I have written something. I've thought about writing a new post pretty much daily since my last post six-ish weeks ago. I have this problem, you see, that I want the things I write to be good and beautiful and engaging and funny and wise, and when I am a mere mortal who is woefully out of practice with this whole writing/blogging thing, that can be a tall order.

Honestly, this is a common theme in my life: I don't like to do things if I can't do them well, so I don't do them at all, and guess what that means? I don't actually do any of the things I want to. Which is kind of a rubbish way to live.

Someone once said that "perfection is the enemy of good", and someone else said that "perfection is the enemy of done", and I have been thinking a lot about the truth of both of those statements. Because what good is always striving for perfection, if it means that your lofty goals are so paralyzing that you don't actually accomplish them, or even anything like them? What good does it do me to aspire to be a person who writes, if I don't actually write anything longer than my own signature?

There are ways to deal with this, I think. I've been taking a pottery class for the past 18 months or so, and I can promise you that exactly nothing I produce is like the flawless ideal I have in my head. I'm getting better as I go, but there is a definite wonk to just about all of my pieces. Sometimes that's difficult for someone like me who struggles with being bad at things, but I enjoy pottery so much that I'm willing to not be good at it, just so I can keep learning. There is so much value in being good at being bad at something, and it's a skill I really want to learn.

Here's the kicker, though: I'm actually not a bad writer. If I may be ever so humble, I would even go as fas as to say that writing might be one of my few natural gifts. I started writing for my own enjoyment more or less as soon as I could write, and I really haven't stopped until just a few years ago, when life knocked my feet out from under me to the point that it has taken me years to find them again. But I am so out of practice now, that it feels like writing is something I'm no longer good at. I suspect that those same principles I'm learning at my pottery class apply to writing as well: just like the wonky pots I produce at the pottery wheel, there are going to be some wonky posts while I relearn how to do this thing.

Hopefully this means that at some point I'll write an actual post, instead of just a series of posts about how I'm going to write a real post "sometime real soon, guys!" I feel as self-conscious about putting this out into the world as I do about showing anyone my pottery (which probably explains why I have given away exactly one bowl to a friend who is as loving and supportive as they come), but I think it has to be done. So consider this post my somewhat wonky offering to you, my loving and supportive friend.



Friday, January 18, 2019

Writing Again

Still here, still posting makeup-less selfies. 

I have a quiet house to myself on a January afternoon, which seems like as good a time as any to shyly and slyly mark my return to writing and blogging after an absence so long that we have had time to add a whole other human to our family (the run on sentences are still here, though, don't you worry). More about him soon - he is pretty great.

I haven't been writing because I haven't known quite what to say. I've been in doubt as to whether or not I actually have anything worthwhile or constructive to contribute to the never-ending conversation that is the internet. I have certainly left behind any aspirations I ever had to be a lifestyle blogger (you know, like an influencer, only five years ago) and guide you all with my sage opinions about succulents and how to style a bookshelf.

But here I am, after everything that has happened and all the time that has passed since this blog was a pretty substantial part of my everyday, tentatively brushing away the metaphorical cobwebs and wondering if now might possibly be the time?

I never stopped writing in my head. I thought about sitting down and typing words into this computer  for weeks and months and probably even a couple of years. The words kept on forming and chaining themselves together in my mind, even when I just allowed them to leave as simply as they came.

I want to start keeping some of them now. I want to catch hold of some of those words before they drift away and see if I can turn them into something worthwhile. I don't know what that's going to look like. I feel out of practice, like the words are all stiff and not quite my own yet. But I want to try. I might write three blog posts and let this whole thing drift into hibernation again. I might start an internet revolution with my prolific and inspirational wordsmithery. I might write a book. I might fail a lot, but I'm going to try even more.

Whatever this becomes, this is where it begins.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Here we are! Now where?

Hey, it was either going to be a picture of me or a mood-setting photo of a keyboard.


Writing this second post after breaking a long silence feels a bit like recording that all-important second album: some performance anxiety, a little bit of an identity crisis, and a strong sense that just about anything is better than nothing. If I can just put something out there, I can start cranking out blog posts like Frank Zappa released albums in no time.

One of the trickiest things is deciding exactly what it is I want to write about. On the one hand, I am still thinking about and processing a lot of things in connection with losing our son, but I'm  apprehensive to write too much about that here. I'm afraid that people will read my writing and think I am in a much, much darker place than I really am, and consequently worry about me (or be afraid of me!), when really, most of the time I am fine.

On the other hand, I don't want to write fun and frothy stuff and then have people think that I got over the loss of our baby like it was no big deal. It's not something I'm ever going to "get through", "get over" or "put behind me". It's something that will always be with me, but I have learned a lot about how to carry it during these past 14 months. But that doesn't mean that I don't want to be able to write fun and frothy things if that's what I feel like doing. I have learned that I am a fundamentally happy person, and I can't be afraid to let that show.

Summary so far: I don't want to be too dark, but I also don't want to be too light, but I also-also want to be able to be light or dark as the mood strikes.

"But Tamsin", I hear you saying, "your blog is for you, and you shouldn't care what people think! Write what you want to write!" I agree completely. And yet blogging is a fickle beast. As much as I tell myself that I am just writing for me, the reality is that I know that everything I post here will be read by an audience of a few hundred people. And I have chosen that! I have a blog because I want people to read what I write. If I wanted to write strictly for me, I would keep a journal or a really big, angst-ridden document folder on my laptop.

(The irony of writing a post this incoherent about how I write to be read is not lost on me, PS.)

Bottom line (or at least bottom paragraph): I've been through a life-changing event, so my blog is going to have to change with me. I promise it's not going to be all doom and gloom from here on out, but I also promise to talk a little more about the experiences I've had and the things I have gained from them. There will be knitting posts and food posts and maybe some travel posts. There probably won't be a lot of Pinterest worthy tutorials or posts about how you too can be as amazing and put-together as I am, because heaven knows the last thing you need is one more woman on the internet telling you how to live your life.

I will try to be fair and truthful and kind in my writing, because heaven also knows we could all use a little more of that.

I'll write again soon! xox

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A beginning

Feeling happy in a garden in England.


I have a little quiet time to myself today, and I am using it to write. I've wanted to write again for such a long time, but haven't felt quite ready. I think I'm ready now. 

When our little son Piran died, I took a big step back from my life. In order to survive those first days and weeks and months, I had to keep everything very small and very simple. Just the basics of being a mom to my children and, once I gained a little strength, a wife to my husband. Occasionally a friend. That was all I could manage. 

Now some time has passed and I am feeling ready to take that step forwards into my life again. To be interested in things, to take on projects and to say yes to so many things. I have put up a lot of walls and barriers in the past 14 months and kept a lot of good people at an arm's length, but now I believe it's time for those walls to come down and for me to start reaching out a little bit again. 

It's scary. 

It makes me feel a little vulnerable, and I hate feeling vulnerable. But I have spent so much time over the past year feeling fragile and broken and lonely, and I don't want to feel that way anymore. I don't want to be a living ghost, and I don't want to be a passenger in my own life. 

We spent five weeks as a family in England (with my mum!) this summer, which is a separate and genuinely happy story. We had a wonderful time. But I mention it now because there were a few moments on that trip that became little turning points for me. One was when we were walking along the street in London together, and I just suddenly felt completely present in myself. For the first time in months and months, I was part of that moment and able to do and enjoy everything that we were doing. Even though we weren't doing anything actually physically incredible, in that moment I just felt strong and capable and whole again. And it showed me that I didn't have to stay fragile and broken for ever. 

There were other, similar experiences like that: Playing on the beach with my kids and feeling completely happy. Discovering a new garden (like in the picture above). Hiking along a windy clifftop path and watching the moon rise with my husband. All little moments of joy, contentment, discovery and wonder that made me feel whole and like I was exactly where I wanted to be.

I think these moments would have happened at home too. But an extended trip away with the people I love most was an excellent catalyst to help me return home with the sure knowledge that my life is here for me to claim and live and love. 

So, that's what I'm going to try to do. Our little boy isn't here with us, so there will always be some hard days. We miss him so much. But there are so many other days to fill with family, friends, love, learning, passion, interest, goodness and life. That's where I'm going next. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Piran



I have been writing and rewriting this for months now. Trying to find the words that have failed me for so long while simultaneously sifting through all the words that need so much to be said. I have so much to say, and so few words to say it with.

Our son died.

Our sweet baby Piran came into and left this world so quickly and quietly, he slipped through our fingers like a little ray of sunlight. He was born one day and gone the very next.

My life and everything I loved was torn into a million pieces that day. That is how it felt. Grief filled every inch of our existence. The pain of losing our little boy was so intense it was physical. Seeing my two older children experience grief and pain that I couldn't take away or protect them from was beyond unbearable. I couldn't see how I, my family or our life could ever be whole again.

But as the minutes grew into days and the days into weeks, I saw that the best things in my life were unbreakable. Our little family pulled together and carried each other through those darkest days. Sometimes we cried and ached together, but mostly we learned to live and laugh and be joyful again. If possible, I love my children (all three of them) more deeply than ever before. My husband and I realized quickly that losing Piran would either bring us together or tear us apart, and we chose to turn to each other. And we continue to choose each other as we make our way together through this world that will never be quite the same again. I am quite private about my faith, but it belongs here, among the best things in my life. It has carried me, held my head above the unrelenting waves of grief, shown me that there is light in the darkness. When I have needed it, heaven has been so, so close.

It has been eight months now. Most of our days are good days: normal, happy and busy days filled with normal, happy and busy family life. We make Piran part of our conversations and include him in our every day.. He is ours and we love him. But not a day goes by where I don't ache for him. I often cry and cry for the little boy that I hold in my heart instead of my arms. If that is troubling to you, please remember that he is my son. What else could I possibly do? But just as I am learning to make room for myself to feel and to grieve, I'm also learning to set that aside when I need to. It doesn't help or honor Piran to lose myself in sadness. And sometimes I just need to dry my tears, wash my face and pick Gwen up from preschool. Life keeps on happening, and I want and choose to be part of it.

The worst thing that could ever happen has happened to our family. It hurts so much, and I was afraid it was going to destroy us. But it didn't. It hasn't. It won't. We are still standing, and we stand together. All of us.