Still learning to let go

I just read an article on the Washington Post -“Trying to raise a teen in a terrorized world.

Heartfelt words from a mum about  saying goodbye to her 18 year old as he goes off on a three week trip to Europe. In other generations mothers have had to say goodbye to their 18 year old for more traumatic reasons, but that doesn’t make her concerns less real. She says “I have spent these past few weeks wrestling with the question of how I am supposed to parent him toward independence at a time fraught with so much violence and fear.”

Having Christian spending three months by himself in San Francisco as a 19 year old I completely emphathise with her. I waste a lot of time worrying about things that might happen to him – and this week something did. Mind you it was something that could have happened to him anywhere.

He came off his bike cycling to his internship and banged his head and broke his finger (I did say to him a while back that maybe learning to ride on the 13898171_1389214644429271_1206160372_o.jpgother side  of the road might not be a good idea…)  Fortunately it was early in the morning so no cars were involved. Might not sound like much but when your youngest is overseas by himself and having to negotiate hospitals and health insurance (and now specialists as it is needs to be looked at further), it’s very hard to sit tight. And it’s not even as if he will come back home to get things sorted out – he will have to then negotiate the NHS once he is back in the UK.

My husband reminds me that our boy turns 20 later this month, and that in the scheme of things it’s not so bad. But this is the first time he has hurt himself without me there to help him. And he is without his girlfriend, who stayed on the phone to him from the UK the whole time he limped to the hospital (too scared to call an ambulance as he wasn’t sure of the cost).

I can’t do my normal mother hen routine. I can’t offer anything more practical than FB Messenger phone calls (thank-you Facebook for making that so easy.)  And I can pray – which I am. Fortunately we will be with him in 8 days – bringing NZ chocolate and TLC and probably some mother hen behaviour. And I finally get to see that famous bridge!

I guess now is one of those times where our attempts to parent him towards independence are put to the test. As he moves from teenager to young adult I am so proud of him and his resourcefulness.

Yet I still worry and wish he was here, not there. I need to remind myself that God is there with him and looking after him. I have to keep learning to let go. There are well-quoted words from Elizabeth Stone that I also came across today, that to parent is “to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

So true.

Three weeks to go!

It is now just under three weeks to the biggest overseas adventure Wayne and I have ever done.

It is customary in NZ as I’m sure it is in many other countries to embark on an OE between finishing university and starting life as a working adult. We  instead married and had our first child in this period so this was not our reality. Ending up with five children meant that overseas travel has been  a scarce opportunity and if we have managed to get on a plane it has usually involved child-friendly island resorts and theme parks.

Our nest now empty with Christian moving to the UK last year to study has changed all that. We travelled with him last year to settle him in, got the travel bug (finally) and this year have committed to 8 weeks away in several countries. Planning to catch up with him on his internship in San Francisco, visiting New York, a small tour of Italy and then a bed and breakfast journey through England, Wales and Ireland before hanging with the boy as he starts his second year at Cambridge. We finish with a week in London before coming home.

Sounds crazy to me that we get to do this! We have never done anything like this before. Months of planning and dreaming – finding interesting places to stay, things to do and see. Our trip itinerary is nearly complete. And one advantage of doing this when you are older is that I haven’t had to book a single hostel or dodgy backpackers’!

I am not without trepidation – the world outside of New Zealand seems uncertain and in some places unsafe. But I look at our son stepping out to new terrain with optimism and faith and I want to be there too. Just the process of planning our trip has broadened my understanding of how interconnected we all are.

According to my long-suffering husband we can’t start packing for at least another week – not long before I can get my suitcase down from the attic and start filling it!

 

Winter Goodness

Having spent a cold wintery week stuck inside feeling a little sorry for myself with a very enthusiastic cold, I decided on Friday that rather than heating up yet again more  store-bought chicken soup (or giving in to getting Friday night take-aways) I would make some for us  – this is what I came up with. I was lucky enough to have everything in the pantry or fridge so it was an efficient meal as well.

The general consensus was that a delicious, fragrant  and steaming hot chowder is an instant antidote to coughs and colds, and most definitely needs be made next time one of us starts sneezing.

Chicken and Corn Chowder

1 small onion
2 cloves garlic (or 2 tspn minced garlic)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 celery stalks halved and then diced
1 carrot diced
1 large potato diced
1 kumera (sweet potato) diced
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2-3 fresh thyme sprigs
2 tbsp plain flour
2 cups milk
1/2 cup cream
2-3 cups cooked chicken (I used  left-overs from a  rotisserie chicken)
1 420 gm can corn kernels
salt and pepper
Fresh parsley to serve.

 

Gently fry the onion and garlic in the oil until soft. add celery and carrot and continue to gently fry for another few minutes. Add the chicken, potatoes, kumera, stock and thyme. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for around 20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.

Take some of the hot liquid from the soup. Cool a bit and then mix in the flour. Return to the saucepan and stir until mixture thickens slightly. Add chicken, corn, milk and cream and simmer for 5 – 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with crusty bread.

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Transmission has tentatively resumed

According to my stats I haven’t blogged for over two months – to be honest it feels longer!

Have been processing this new ‘non-working’ life and actually haven’t been able to put the journey in words. I haven’t been able to even look at all the blogs I love to read cos they just made me feel bad about not writing anything!

I have been in a bit of a limbo-like state –  I’m not sure what this new phase looks like, or how to describe it to people. I’m not retired, but I’m not working either. Choosing not to be in paid employment is such a luxury these days that I feel bad about admitting it. I have picked up a couple of volunteer days, partly so I have something to say when I’m asked what I do. Having said that – I’m really enjoying my volunteer work, especially at the SPCA.

Somewhere in the process of feeling like everything is shifting and not quite knowing where I fit at the moment, I lost sight of why I started this blog (and several other projects that are also not progressing anywhere fast.) A paradigm shift as to how I spend my time is very necessary. It’s going to take a lot more discipline on my part than I envisaged. Being one of the world’s great procrastinators is not helping (I’m looking at you Monster Busters).

I have spent an huge amount of time thinking about what happens now. I have pretty much said to myself and God that everything is open for change  if necessary. I do feel a it like the clichéd chrysalis at the moment. Have no idea if I will come out as a butterfly or a moth though, or how long it will take.

At the same time life  is still rocketing along – our latest grandchild is now three months old and it’s been great to get to hang out with him a lot. Our youngest has finished his first year at Cambridge and has been rewarded with a ‘First’ for the year (proud mum moment). We are just over 6 weeks from embarking on our big 8-week overseas adventure where we will start by catching up with him as he interns for the summer in San Francisco. Bit of a travel flavour to blogging coming up I think!

To all of you who have been kind enough to follow my fledging blog, my apologies for dropping the ball. I do have a lot of ideas jotted down in a file so hopefully I will start to be able to get some of them out finally.

It’s good to finally write something again – and now I need to catch up on all of the blog entries I have missed!

 

How do we do it?

So yesterday we said goodbye to our teenage son and his gorgeous girlfriend as they  headed back to the UK  after spending Easter with us. Way harder than leaving him at Cambridge University in October last year.

They arrived earlier this month on the morning his sister had her baby boy  in the evening. And  we have had just over a month of our family basically spending  every possible moment together. So much eating and laughing and connecting! We are a close unit so to be together has been amazing but to say goodbye yesterday has was very very hard.

I have spent the last 24 hours tracking their plane back to the UK all the way from NZ and have just had the FB messenger post that they are safely ‘wheels down’. I know for them that they are back in their other home and that the rest of the year holds excitement, challenge and adventure.

We have our house back to ourselves – and it is already quieter (and tidier!). And I  miss them so much already. A lot of tears last night after we farewelled them. I realised  this is different to sending him off on a holiday or an OE. He is studying and making a life on the other side of the world. He isn’t going on a holiday – he’s going back to his other home. As is his girlfriend (not the right  word for such an important person in his life). They are carving a significant path together at a very young age – watch this space for these two!!

And so to the title – how do we do this as parents? Letting our baby adults leave the nest, fly away – to other cities and countries. Wondering if they will be OK, remember all the things we told them and taught them. Airport hugs and goodbyes. Spoiling them while they are home. Grabbing any moment to chat with them about important things. Still being a slightly nagging parent…

I know that our experience is probably a minor one on the scale of letting them go. We have already  been inundated with messenger alerts and they only landed 30 minutes ago. (Let’s hear it for flight tracking apps). And we will see our boy in San Francisco when we visit him on his internship in August and he will be home for Christmas.

And how do they do it? They will miss out on what is going on here, just as much as we will miss out on what is going on there.They  leave behind three nieces and nephews who won’t remember this visit. Well one of them might🙂

As we left the airport yesterday we realised this is our new normal – saying goodbye to our youngest as he heads back overseas, but we know that he will always come back at least for a while and for now that’s something to hold onto.

Chistian and babies

Sophie and babies

Perfect afternoon

Sometimes you have one of those moments where the world is so beautiful it actually takes your breath away.12063505_10208887041354127_1196061294114330455_n

We spent the end of the Easter weekend at our family bach at Waihi Beach. People who have visited this spot know it’s one of the best kept secrets in NZ – stunning beach, a sense of being completely cut off from the bustle of the big city; but with fabulous food and coffee options and great broadband access. It’s our favourite place to be. Usually over the summer we head down as many weekends as possible but with so many things going on back in Auckland we hadn’t been there since mid-January. The teenagers over from the UK came with us to get a much-needed dose of the last of the hot weather before autumn truly sets in.

I decided to go and sit on the beach by myself for an hour or so yesterday afternoon as I knew we were heading back home today. It’s a scene and feeling I know so well – warm sand, the roar of the endless surf, the beach deserted apart from the odd person walking their dog.I planned to read a book but I ended up transfixed by the beauty before me. My book was forgotten and I just sat there and marvelled at the perfection of what was before me.

Eventually I went down to the water and stood in the waves for about half an hour,
mesmerised by the view of an ocean that was both constant and ever-changing.The feel of the water, sand and sun was a balm to my spirit and soul, a moment of unexpected  joy and contentment. Just me and God’s creation.

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Lent Musing #3

In praise of the ordinary.

It’s a beautiful Saturday morning here in Auckland at this pause point of the Easter weekend, and I have been thinking about the last entry in the Lent app I have been working my way through during the lead-up to Easter. The final reflection  summed up what I have been trying to articulate in these Lent thoughts. The writer states that if we spend long enough in the desert we can let go of the illusion that we are somehow more special than others. That is a powerful challenge to my own sense of self-importance and one that I haven’t mastered by a long shot!. And then I read this:

The devil sometimes puts ambitious desires into our hearts, so that, instead of setting our hand to the work which is nearest to us, and thus serving Our Lord in ways within our power, we may rest content with having desired the impossible.
 – Teresa of Avila

I had to read this several times to really start to understand the implications of this.
I mentioned last time about how our online life is cluttered with quotes inspiring and urging us to live a life of greatness, and we hear it in our churches and schools as well. There are so many powerful stories of people doing great exploits in both the Old and New Testament, and definitely people are called to do amazing things, go on epic adventures and lead lives of huge influence.

But I do often wonder about the countless unnamed men and women in the Bible. The many Israelite families who followed Moses into the desert and bought up their families as they trekked for 40 years. Those people Jesus touched,whose lives were transformed, bodies and minds healed, who went back to their villages and families and lived out ordinary lives of service and worship. The thousands of new Christians in those very first New Testament churches who walked a new way – a way that was radically sacrificial and often dangerous. We will never know who they are, and whose lives they impacted (in this life at least).

And what if that is what purpose means or most of us – to serve where we are, to set our hand to the work nearest us, to be faithful in the little things, to worship God for the simplest of blessings and ordinary miracles He bestows on us every day?

Jesus turned down the power and riches the Devil offered Him while He was in the desert. I don’t just think that it was because He had access to riches and power beyond anything Satan could give Him; but to show us(me) that success and the validation of our (my) own importance we (I) so often strive for can be a deception and an illusion that we(I) can also walk away from.

After successfully resisting temptation, Jesus then came out of the desert  and set about building relationships with ordinary people. He told stories of ordinary things that people could relate to, made disciples of ordinary people, and was executed in an ordinary (brutal) manner of the day. Paul later spoke of the fruit of the Spirit – such simple and ordinary virtues that transform the lives of people when they exhibit them.

As we celebrate a risen Christ tomorrow, I will also be thanking Him for my ordinary life and the opportunities I get to set my hand to the work nearest me; and praying that I will become much much better at seeing them and acting on them, rather than dreaming of potential greatness.

Do not forget that the value and interest of life is not so much to do conspicuous things…as to do ordinary things with the perception of their great value
– Teilhard de Chardin