We woke up on that Sunday morning and it became clear early on that “No” wasn’t going to work for either of us that day.
It started simply. I said, “Yes”, to her request to wear her My Little Pony pajamas that day.
I said, “Yes”, to the second TV show.
I said, “Yes”, to wearing her princess dress and ALL the accessories to run our errands (over the My Little Pony Pajamas, of course).
I never set an intention to say yes all day but we were on a roll. I didn’t realize just how much joy this yes day would bring to both of us and perfect strangers as well.
Maybe I’m now blinded to the magic of seeing children living out their heart’s desires through their clothing choices. I’m regularly treated to princesses and super heroes in my own home. I didn’t expect that most people we passed would at minimum smile or even stop to tell “Her Majesty” how much they adored her crown or dress. But smile they did and stop they did and I could see the pride in Elodie’s confident posture as she strolled through the farmer’s market in full royal attire with matching princess bear in her arms. The musician playing for the shoppers welcomed the “Farmer’s Market Princess” to the dance. Our farmer friend who supplies our family with meat each month told me that she absolutely made his day. And the smiles on the faces of those we passed showed that we were bringing a little joy to their hearts.
There are one-thousand reasons to say no each day, many of them necessary for safety, but given the freedom to say yes, I found myself experiencing a different kind of joy: less anxiety, less fighting, less stress and a lot more fun.
I remember back to school time while I was growing up. It was magical. All the new things for the new year. Crayons, backpacks, shoes and clothes. For kids with not much “new” in their lives throughout the year, my siblings and I loved the free reign to shop. There was some heartache in this time too. We couldn’t get the coolest clothes or the best sneakers. Five Star notebooks were out of the question and we only got character branded backpacks the one year that our dad took us school shopping.
At some point in high school I realized the heartache that my mom felt at back to school time. She worked so hard but back to school time was definitely the wrong time for a single, hourly wage earning, mother of three children. All summer long she had found childcare for us, fed us meals that were free when we were in school and paid for activities so we weren’t too bored. And right on the cusp of relief from that financial burden, she had to come up with the money to get all that new for us. She was aware enough to know that we wanted something special. We wanted the cool things that our friends had. We were aware enough to not ask too hard for things that we couldn’t have.
Becoming a parent really opened my eyes to what my mom did to make ends meet. Kids are expensive, you guys. There isn’t enough help out there for all the things. So I vowed that I would help. I have enough to help and I should. This year school supply shopping time rolled around and I was busy and Jack and I were balancing a new budget so I decided to skip it. Not this year but definitely next year.
Then the tragedy in Charlottesville happened. On top of what I was already feeling about the bombing of the mosque in Bloomington, MN. So many feelings. I looked at the pictures of the white men outwardly showing their hate in Charlottesville streets and thought about what could make that hate grow in their hearts. How did I come to truly want to love and help everyone (I’m by no means perfect but that is my intent) and they just have hate?
This is speculation. I am not a psychologist or sociologist but in all the tragedies over the years that have made my heart ache I come back to one principle. I keep returning to the fact that somewhere along the line these people didn’t feel loved. They didn’t feel part of a community. They were lost and they turned in on themselves and projected hate.
There are a lot of different ways to help when you feel helpless. So many organization are fighting hate and they could use support. If one child doesn’t feel alone or inadequate or not part of the community. If they have what it takes to learn in school. If they see people loving and helping. Then maybe they won’t turn to hate. School supplies are not going to save the world themselves. But they will mean everything to some child who is truly born to learn and born to love.
So we found the time and the money and we went school supply shopping. Elodie is only three and she can’t and, really shouldn’t, understand the bigger picture but she understands giving. She understands that not everyone has what she has. She picked out every item on the school supply list. Complete with at Disney Princess backpack. And when I said that some little girl will love all of this, she reminded me that maybe it could be a little boy. My heart swelled right there because even when I am not perfect and I am not right (why couldn’t a little boy love the Disney Princess backpack?) she is teaching me. We are raising the change and teaching love.
Ten years ago yesterday the 35W bridge in Minnesota collapsed. Ten years ago I frantically tried to get through busy cell phone lines to reach my fiancé and his brother who would have crossed the bridge to go to their MBA classes at the Carlson School of Management. Ten days later I would marry my fiancé in a beautiful ceremony with a really fun party afterward. Three years later we would be divorced.
Yesterday as the media covered the ten year anniversary of the bridge collapse I felt a lot of emotions as I remembered that it is coming up on the ten year anniversary of my first marriage. With all that on my heart I heard exactly the right thing from a 1 minute segment of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast titled “My Daughter’s Ex-boyfriend’s Mother Found the Right Words to Say”. The message was, “Sometimes, it’s hard to put into words the exact nature of a loving relationship. ‘You’ll always have a place in my heart’ says it all.”
Despite where we ended there was love and there was happiness. There were so many memories made. Mistakes were made big and small. The divorce was inevitable for many reasons. And right for so many more. I have grown and I have learned. I am happy and in the right place and I hope that he is too. I’ve struggled for a long time to put into words how I want to convey that time in my life and those people I shared it with. My ex, his family, our friends. People that I think of from time to time but don’t have contact with anymore.
“You’ll always have a place in my heart” does say it all.
So I’m throwing this out to the universe of the interwebs. I don’t know who it will reach or where it will go. If it reaches the right people, just know that you do have a place in my heart and you always will. I wish you happiness, health and peace.