Monday, July 25, 2011

The Cowboy in Me

I am indeed aware that I haven't posted in nearly a week. It's hot, my laptop is on the fritz, I'm busy, blah, blah, blah. Mostly, I'm feeling quiet. Actually, I think I'm making myself feel quiet so I don't spout a whole bunch of negativity. It's cyclical for me, these times of introspection. I can't lie, and so I don't write. But I'm fine, really. I'm functioning. My motherhood is prime, my citizenship a bit subpar. But I'm in it to win it, and this, too, shall pass.

I have found myself reflecting on my days and days in the hot tomato and pepper patches of my youth. It is absolutely amazing to think of those endless hours in the heat, working like a dog for a sliver of what I make per hour now. Those days took discipline not easily found in young people. There were days of solidarity with my fellow workers and days of solitude, where I could only know myself.

Those days were precious. Because I can still see my grandpa, the man of my life, leaning on the tractor and wheezing, plagued with so many breathing complications, but still right there joking with us in the heat. I can still remember the joy of lying in the TV room with the window air conditioner unit blasting, Matlock soapboxing on the TV in the background, on our fleeting lunch hour. I can still remember the feeling of the muscles in my arms, shoulders and back burning as I quickly and repetitively lifted two ten-pound baskets of tomatoes at a time from the rollers of the truck bed floor to the waiting hands of my male counterparts packing the night truck just as high and as tight as possible for those incredible height-of-the-harvest loads to Pittsburgh. I can both see and smell the oil of the basket wires and the green tomato plant residue on my fingers and palms.

Those were hot, sweaty, difficult, amazing days. And Lord, am I ever thankful to have been brought up that way. It was an active, respectful, passionate way to make a living, and I yearn for that in my work now. I long to find the purposefulness that I knew then, to work hard and to see the fruits of my labor, to believe I've earned what I sow.

A young cousin who remembers the atmosphere of those days but didn't have the privilege to live them as a teenager has been harping on me to share a story I wrote more than ten years ago. It's a 4,000-word magazine feature on our grandpa, and it's got legs. It's going to be published somewhere, someday.

As I'm preparing to finally do something about my dreams, to root out those elusive boot straps I talked about last week, to pull them as hard as I possibly can, I thought it might be fitting to share a couple grafs of that story, the "grandpa story." Here's a quick sketch of a man who was anything but, a tribute to one of the last great American cowboys.

A common man in appearance, Bernard's typical outift on a summer day would include a blue chambray work shirt, dark blue cotton workpants, dirt-caked boots and an ever-present package of Red Man peaking out of his breast pocket. His muddy brownish gray hair was usually tucked under a hat, and his skin remained brown year-round and had the appearance and feel of worn leather. Bernard was most often seen with an ornery look on his face, as if he were still processing the last joke spoken. He teased people mercilessly, especially those who he cared about most.

Bernard lived in only two different houses, which sat adjacent to each other, his entire life. His regular trips away from the farm included church, high school basketball games and the local feed store. Bernard was not a verbal messenger of any sort. His greatest gifts to others were simple and subtle. He was not a leader, a lecturer or an officeholder, yet throughout his life he somehow managed to impact hundreds in his community...

And so, tomorrow is a new, hot day. I'm going to channel Bernard, work hard and positively impact those around me.

I guess that's just the cowboy in me.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

All Together Again

I'm happy to report that all the Roberts are together again. As fun as Jamboree is, it's always nice to get back to paradise where, honestly, the laundry never gets done and the squabbles make up the background song of my life. This is where I belong; here, in these precious days, with my family of children and my sweet mate.

I feel the shifting of summer almost as keenly as I was feeling the shifting of motherhood last week. It's hotter than blue blazes. Now that Jamboree, a true summer hallmark, has passed, I'm thinking of fair days and school shopping. I'm not ready for them yet, but they are on my periphery.

My biggest desire right now is to make the money match up. The influx and--my stars!--the outward stream. Every parent dreams of a better life for their kids. It's hoped that we'll all be just a little bit further ahead than the previous generation. But it's getting harder to see that through.

At this point, I'm wondering how to tell the kids to pursue their careers. Luckily, I do have some time to figure that out.

Do you do what you love or what pays the bills? What do you do when you aren't doing either? Do you cross your fingers and hope that you are one of those rare people who do both? Oh, and while I'm asking questions, how do I become, at my slightly advanced age, one of those people?

I think I do what I'm doing. I keep my head on straight, my heart in the game. I don't dismiss my tired brain from the work of it all, but instead, think deeply and often about how I will bridge the gaps. How will I take this situation and make it better? Just where are my bootstraps, and how hard can I pull them?

I'm in something of a pensive state on this subject, but I'm grateful, blessed, chosen to have this life. This one, right here.

The one where I got puked on four times by a baby Sunday night and shared a shallow midnight bath with him before finally getting to sleep; the one where I had to scratch a back longer than I planned after a tired Lily discovered her favorite--and, of course, irreplaceable--pillow missing after her county-wide, three-night tour; the life where I get to see my two-year-old's pride in riding his tiny bike in endless circles around the dining room table; and finally, the one where I get to repeatedly answer the five-year-old's question of the week: "Yes, God knows everyone's names."

This is the Roberts house. There is no doubt in my mind that God knows we're here. And we're all together again.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

To the Moon and Back

Dear Reasons,

Mommy's going away for a couple of days, but I want you to know how much I love you. Please be nice to one another and your caretakers. Please eat your food, and try not to kick one another. If possible, please remain healthy for at least the next 64 hours. If you must get sick, let me be the one to soothe you and wipe your brow.

If you forget your lovey somewhere, try not to throw a fit. A couple of tears are okay, though, because I know the comfort in home, and your lovey is part of the world we've built. If you see your brothers or sister crying, give them a hug. Let them know you'll always be on their side; that family comes first and family runs deep.

I've almost ditched my trip a million times in thinking of all the things you will need and all the ways in which I won't be able to help when I'm gone. But I'm going, just for a couple days.

I'll think of you almost constantly, because that's what Moms do. I'll wish on the stars for you and hold you in my heart always.

Be happy. Be free. Have fun! May God bless you and keep you safe.

I'll see you on Sunday morning, loves.

Love you to the moon and back!

*Thanks to the amazing Kristin Pottmeyer for this beautiful photo. Find her at

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mother Up

I've been thinking about this a ton lately. I've been a mom for almost eight years. I've had four children in that time. I have been busy, tired, challenged, blessed. I once heard of a woman at Ohio University who choreographed a ballet based on the movements of motherhood. I often have that mental image of myself: gracefully nursing a newborn on one foot while swooping in with an arm and a tissue to wipe another child's nose and then pirouetting just in time to stick out my pointed toe to stop a third child from getting hit by a closing door.

My life has been one of rapid chocolate-milk stirring, endless details, mountainous laundry. But now, oh now, I believe the work will begin in earnest.

And, by this I mean, the work of motherhood is shifting. While I've been physically growing kids, keeping them out of danger, offering my own body as sustenance, I hope I have also laid the groundwork for good morals, awesome work ethics and general humanitarianism. Because now, I have a seven-and-a-half-year-old girl, which, for those of you that haven't heard, is the new eleven. That is to say, this girl is picking up the sass, being marketed to as a "tween" and wishing for, but thank God, not yet asking for, her own cell phone and laptop. She's seven!

She's at a very formative age. It's a pivotal time to be her mother.

And it's a whole new ballgame. If I play this inning right, I'll have the kind of relationship I really want to have with her as she ages and runs into the icky stuff: the mean girls, the steep learning curves, the dark corners and who knows what else! And, let's face it, her worst enemy might be herself.

How do I grow a girl who isn't full of herself, yet believes in and values herself?

I have the memory, the hindsight and the wisdom to know that finding myself was not easy. My daughter will have to do it for herself. It's one of those things: you can't get around it, you just have to go through it.

I have faith that we'll do this together. We'll keep talking about what is and isn't right, fair, respectable. We'll mess up, both of us. I already know I've made some mistakes. But I am going to keep pouring on the love. I'm going to remind myself that while the baby needs to nurse, the two-year-old is playing in the toilet and the five-year-old is "baking" in the kitchen, that there is a seven-year-old still keening to spend time with me, still needing those "snugglefests" and back scratches. She not only tolerates me at this point, but she wants me around.

So, you see, this is the work of which I speak. While my motherhood hasn't exactly been easy, I have a feeling it will become harder, in some ways. I'm up to the challenge. I'm going to "mother up" and do this with my eyes, arms and heart wide open.

These are the best days of my life. Never again will I have the opportunity to shape my children the way I can and will in the next decade.

Ain't nobody gonna hoe this row for me. It's time to "mother up."

Thursday, July 7, 2011


The other day I promised on July 1 I would do a mid-year review of my New Year's resolution, to "Do What {I} Love." Well, I then went AWOL and returned, forgetting my plan to give myself a mid-year grade.

I remember now. And I give myself a B. I am doing what I love, plenty of it. But there are still some things that I need to work on. I am a busy, busy lady. Some things fall by the wayside. These things include working out, working on my writing career, keeping up with photo albums, scrapbooks and baby books. Finding clothes that fit, ridding the house of clutter.

My reasons why I should do all of these things and my reasons why I just don't have time are the same: these four gorgeous kids are keeping me on my toes all the time. I'm doing a lot of laundry and dishes, I promise you. And I'm kissing a lot of boo-boos, wiping a lot of tears, doling out hugs like crazy. I'm mothering.

Mothering takes a lot of time, passion, love and patience. In spite of all of the things I'm not getting done, I am doing this--day in, day out, I am mothering these reasons.

So, I guess I am doing okay on that resolution. While life isn't perfect, I am "doing what I love" most of the time. And that means I'm winning.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Well, I have a ton of things I'd like to write about, and I promised myself I'd blog tonight. First, I went AWOL for a bit. Now that I'm ready to write, sadly, my laptop is AWOL. (I'm posting from Shrek's unfamiliar machine.)

I've also just finished a really wonderful novel, so I'm kind of still saying goodbye to the characters....

So here are a couple of sweet photos from my amazing, freedom-celebrating weekend. I live my life in a state of gratitude. The beauty and the blessings that surround me have me in awe.

I am tired. I am sore. I am happy.


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