Mothering from the Heart and Other Dangerous Pastimes

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On Tender Hearts May 27, 2015

Filed under: The Inner Me — kimberryjones @ 11:39 pm

I told her I was sick of me. Tired of my tender heart that is wrung out – broken for the big things of this life and the small things, too. And she said, “Your tender heart is the most beautiful thing about you.” It’s the warm oil that she pours over my soul from time to time. The mirror she holds up to remind me of who I am. She props up part of my sky, this one.

But I am a bit sick. Tired of how my heart bends and bruises to the push against me. And yet, it is also what I long for. What I have asked for. That I can live my life fully poured out. That I can leave it all on the table at the end of the day. But the price I pay. Some days it is weight pushing against me – pushing me under. And I long for the blue sky to poke through. Maybe even long for a heart that is not so soft. Maybe.

IMG_3361There are the big things that drive my heart. The atrocities that I have allowed in to this space inside me. The things that deeply matter to me. The sale and abuse of people. People who pick the strawberries I eat and the t-shirt I wear and stand in the shadowed Internet corners.

And the smaller things. The teenage love that shifts and falters as I watch. The tiny bird that hobbles on the tender shoot of a broken leg. The son who is finding his way and I want in so badly, but I know I must pull back, not push in. All big to this heart of mine.

It’s my faith that pulls me forward. The hope I have that there is a bigger story at play. I do believe this deep within. It propels me on some days and it tethers me others. The promise that in Eucharisteo there is newness: grace and joy woven together in the practice of thankfulness.

Sometimes the practice of this hope feels forced out of me. Intentional and purposed. Longing for an effect. Longing for it to affect me. And sometimes it spills out, unfiltered and flowing.

I grapple in this season with how I am wired. “Don’t get attached,” they tell me. Not possible. “You can’t handle that,” they caution. But I do. “Hold back,” they say. But I’ve already leapt. And so it is. And I know that I would not trade it for the alternative, and yet, I tuck this tired heart under the soft blankets and ask it – ask myself – “Can I take this?”

I know depression. It’s been part of my reality for all of my adult life. First peeking it’s black cloud-shaped head around the corner of my teen years. Hovering on the edges at times and sometimes moving in for an extended stay. I’m still a bit afraid of it, this familiar companion. But I’m also undaunted by it. Because it hasn’t defined me, but it has surely shaped me. And even in that there is grace and joy and thankfulness.

And so in this day I hold this tender heart of mine up to the sky. As an offering. A bit weary, but still I offer it up.


When the ground shifts May 5, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — kimberryjones @ 11:54 pm

UPDATE: We are pretty overwhelmed by the response to this. Zach and I want to say together – this is not Zach’s story. I hope people get that this is not about noticing how awesome Zach is (although as his mom I think he is amazing). Your words are so kind, but this is about something bigger….. Love you all!

There are moments when you know something has shifted under your feet. As a mom I have always been aware that the time I get with my kids is fleeting. The years have gone so quickly, and as they emerged into teens I felt the clock hands move even faster toward their launch from the nest.

And although I know somewhere inside that each day with them is a gift and that I cannot control how many of those days I will get, it’s something I don’t want to think about: not having them. But then the ground shifts.

On Thursday after the bell rang, Zach was moving toward his car to leave campus. With the crash of metal, two cars collided in front of West Hills High School. Hearing the crash, his first instinct was to run to the accident. When he arrived he found a mangled car with the passenger door open. Inside were Ryan and Cory Willweber, two teammates from Zach’s Cross Country team – brothers and students at West Hills.

First to the scene, Zach climbed over the two boys to turn off the ignition, as gas poured out of the engine and onto his shoes. He knelt down on the pavement next to Cory’s seat, took his hand and put his head on Cory’s shoulder and began to talk to Cory and pray out loud. Zach tells me that he sensed Ryan was already gone – that he felt he was there at that moment for Cory. Agitated, Cory’s eyes were closed and he was moaning but unable to talk. As Zach prayed, Cory settled down and soon the first responders arrived and Zach moved away from the car.

While Zach was with the boys the horn was stuck and blaring, Zach’s ears were ringing and several people were running around the outside of the car yelling. But inside the car there was peace. And God’s presence was there. Zach felt it so strongly in those few moments. He came home and relayed his story to me, and very soon we heard that Ryan was, indeed, gone.

The last few days since the accident have been filled with lots of tears in our house and an outpouring of love for the Willweber family from the community. And I’ve watched Zach and know that something has shifted for him, too.

I’ve been thinking about God’s presence this week. Last Sunday, our worship pastor, Jason Denison spoke about Presence being the point. That we were made to relate to something beyond this place. That we are meant to be conduits for heaven to hit earth. That we are made to be a people shaped and molded by His presence.

I had a lightbulb go on. I’ve thought of God’s presence as something I ask for when I need it. I knew on some level that He is always with me, but I don’t live in that. That He is Emmanuel. God With Us. All. The. Time.

And then I watched my man-child begin to navigate what I expect is a life-changing moment. An experience where he was a part of heaven hitting earth. A conduit.

Zach, age 18

Zach, age 18

Today Zach attended an interview as a finalist for a local scholarship. The parents who founded the scholarship had a beautiful daughter who was abducted and killed in her senior year while running in a local park. Her parents have turned their pain and loss into hope and good – funding scholarships for kids going to college – kids who have purpose and promise. Both her mom and dad were at Zach’s interview.

Zach walked into the meeting to a panel of interviewers. As soon as he entered the room the mother who founded the Fund began to cry. The interview was meaningful, and the panelists asked Zach a series of questions about his application, as well as some other pretty deep questions. They asked him if he had a reset button when would he have pushed it and why. He told them that until a few days ago he would have pushed it at the beginning of high school and gone somewhere else. But that today he wouldn’t push it. That he is starting to figure out that he is where he needs to be.

They also told him to come prepared with his “Top Ten List”. No explanation of what they wanted, just this.

The “Top Ten List” did not come up until the end of the interview. As he began to explain his list he told them about the accident. About his experience with Ryan and Cory and how his list had changed on Thursday and was now “The Top Ten Things I Want People to Say About Me When I Die”.

Here is his list:

  1. He Loved well.
  2. He followed his heart above all else.
  3. He sought after wisdom.
  4. He knew how to be silly.
  5. He fought for Beauty.
  6. He protected others.
  7. He was Wild.
  8. He had an uncompromising focus.
  9. His music moved people.
  10. He was a Badass.

By the end the whole room was crying. The mom told Zach that after her daughter died people told her that she had an aura around her. And that when Zach walked in the room he had an aura around him, too. Angels surrounding him. I don’t understand this. But I believe it. She also told him she thought he was already a Badass!

When we are conduits it is not about us. It’s about being available.

The horrible loss of Ryan Willweber isn’t about Zach. There is no way I can fathom the loss the Willweber family is feeling. And my son’s small role in the event is not the primary narrative.

But I do know that Presence really is the point. Our presence (little p) in what’s going on around us. Our willingness to lean in and not miss the divine appointments that come our way. And Presence – the Big P – God With Us. All. The. Time. Whether we feel it, or not. Whether we pay attention to it, or not. Whether we believe in it, or not.

And so I lean in. Into the pain and the loss. Into the hope that I was made for something more. Into the knowledge, running deep in my soul, that every once in awhile I get to see a glimpse of heaven. That the veil is thin enough. That a young man, who is also my son, is showing me the way today.


Slipping Through My Fingers September 2, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — kimberryjones @ 5:02 am

I’ve witnessed the turning of a corner this summer. With Zach almost 16 and Brooke rushing up on 13, I am so aware of how fast time is slipping through my fingers, and I see the reality of how firmly we sit in the “teenage years.” And maybe “sit” is not the best verb either — I think I’m actually stumbling. It’s still a sweet time. I guess it’s my optimistic personality that is able to forget the rough times for the most part (when I’m reflecting) but I truly have enjoyed each stage we’ve traveled. This one smarts more, though, with the truth of how fully unprepared I feel. And I think that is because of all the stages, this one feels the most precarious.

I’m watching them now  knowing that I can’t fix everything. I can’t protect them from hurt or from being misunderstood or left out. I never really could, but when they were small I at least felt that I could. Now I know I can’t. So my Momma Bear heart feels kind of raw, both in protection of them and in protection of myself, I guess. It’s something I’ve struggled with from the start – this belief that who they are is a reflection of how well (or poorly) I’ve done as a Mom. I happen to have two pretty amazing kids. But they are this in their own right. Sure, our parenting is a big part of what shapes them, but I realize I can’t take the credit for who they are, or the blame for who they aren’t, but I still do it — all the time. In little moments and small ways. And I don’t want to do this. And there’s really a big reason why I don’t want to do this.

I saw the movie today The Odd Life of Timothy Green. Brooke warned me it was a tear-jerker and actually made me promise not to do my “ugly cry” in the theater. It’s part of the new dynamic between us — this risk that I am capable of embarrassing her. I hate this. It gets triggered so easily, and it’s new, so it surprises me. The girl who wouldn’t let me put her down for the first nine months and has worshiped the ground around my feet can now find me too loud or too opinionated or just TOO. I know she still adores me, and that this is just a new layer. It does not erase all that was and is about us, but still…it’s hard. So, I watched the movie and managed to keep my tears subtle. It is a profound story, with so many messages. The one I took away was the story of two people trying to figure out how to parent, really not having a clue how to do it “right” and feeling the weight of their ignorance. But still, in the midst of the angst of messing it up they saw the beauty of what they had: the privilege to parent.

They lost Timothy and the grief was deep, but there was also HOPE because they found something new in themselves. The mom said, in reflecting on how she would parent if she got another chance:

“You’ll do your best.

You’ll make mistakes.

You only have them for a short time.

And you’ll love them with all your heart.”

That’s the down low of how I want to mother. To teach them that what I am trying to do is my best, but I’ll blow it and love them with all my heart at the same time. And it’s how I want Zach and Brooke to live, too. All out. Ready to be tripped up. With a whole heart.

And so I stumble around this new corner. Watching a young man and a young woman emerge from the little children I have loved. And I’m really thinking a lot about what else I want to “say” to them. Time is very short. And I know that the only way I can really “say” it is to BE it. To live it and trust they are noticing.

So it means continuing to face my own demons. Pushing through my own insecurity. Looking in the mirror when I just want to blame someone else for how cruddy I feel. Reminding myself that just because someone else compares my child, I don’t have to.  That it’s ok to mess up — that it’s actually the best way to learn. That I don’t want perfection. I hope for authenticity. And I know that is messy. And messy is good. To take a deep breath and refocus. To take my eyes and ears off stuff that distracts me from the truth.

To remind them of who they are when they forget. To remind myself.


On Kindness….or maybe it’s just pre-menopause March 26, 2012

Filed under: The Inner Me — kimberryjones @ 10:15 pm

So this one is about kindness. Or my experience with the lack of kindness when it’s needed most.

As the fabulous girls’ weekend was winding to a close, my friend Hayden and I sat in the hotel grabbing at our last few moments together before I parted for the airport. Over the cell phone came text message after text message from Southwest, each one adding more delays to my already delayed flight. Settling in for more conversation a final message came through: my flight was now ON TIME. With a solid 45 minutes of travel time to just get to the airport I now had 60 minutes until my flight took OFF. Running for the door, I hugged her goodbye and headed down the street for the subway. I can do this, I thought. Ever the optimist, I jumped on BART and made my way to takeoff.

Blowing through the door of SFO I met my first obstacle: a very long line at baggage check and a very unhelpful Southwest agent. Get to the back of the line, she said. But I was told my flight was delayed over an hour and now it’s on time, I replied. I NEED help, PLEASE! ……. Go to the back of the line.

I am not a frequent air traveler. It’s still a treat to me to get on a plane, and I expected, because the error had been theirs, that someone at the desk would want to help me catch my flight. Not so. At the back of the line I saw my chances of catching the flight grow dim, so I opted for my first bold move. Walking up to the woman at the front of the line, I asked her if I could cut, that I was trying to catch my flight, that I needed her help. Begrudgingly she let me pass. With bag now checked, I was off to the next impasse – an impossibly long line at security. Now emboldened from my recent success, I headed right for the front of the line and asked the TSA agent for help. She motioned me again to the front of the line. The sky began to clear — I was going to get home to my family. Not so fast, Miss Sunshine.

The idiot I am, I walked right past the yellow footprints on the ground that notified me I was to freeze in place until the 13 year old TSA agent was ready to scrutinize my ID and Boarding Pass. Standing too close for his comfort, the prepubescent TSA agent looked me up and down with contempt and said to his TSA helper with great disdain, “Wow. Some people really can’t read signs.” And then it split. My calm. My sense of decorum. My sanity, possibly.

“Yes,” I drawled, “that’s because I am an F-ing idiot.” Now, if you’d been following behind me for the past five minutes you would have assumed by now that I am a professional potty mouth. But, in fact, if you know me at all you recognize that I withhold my bad words for my closest of girlfriends and the occasional highway patrol officer that sneaks up on me on Interstate 8. I believe there is a time and a place for most bad words, but using them with restraint makes them all the more powerful, in my mind. But I digress because this is where I almost get arrested.

“Do you want to get on that plane, ma’am?” says the young man to the crazed woman.”Because I do not appreciate you swearing at me,” he continues, puffed up to his full import. Oh, boy, I’m in trouble now. Did I meekly lower my head and apologize? Umm, no. In retrospect I now see this should have been the point where I recognized there was some great hormonal imbalance going on. That those night sweats really might be an indication that menopause was reaching her ugly grip my way. But, no. I was a woman on a mission. A woman wronged. So instead I snapped to attention, retreated back to the yellow feet and quite sarcastically requested his next instruction so I would know how to behave. The men in blue were on alert now, and I was in trouble.

And then Kindness arrived. In the form of another uniformed young man. Leading me by the elbow I wondered how I would ever explain to Chris that I got arrested in the airport. Flashes of Alec Baldwin crossed my mind, but I was not being escorted out of security. I was being escorted to the front of the next line to stand with hands over head so someone in a back room could see my naked body underneath my clothes to verify the intentions of my travel. I was free. Free to dash the length of the terminal to the very last gate where my plane was revved and ready to fly. Embarrassment averted. I almost kissed that boy, but I didn’t have time.

About ten steps into my run to Gate 31 I remembered one of my most solemn rules. A 43 year old woman who has given birth two times and just finished a very large Diet Coke should NOT run the length of an airport terminal. Do you know what happens when this woman runs with a full bladder? Yep. You guessed it.

Just stop running, I thought. Maybe “it” will stop, too. With that I gave up, with some resignation, my hopes of catching this flight. Maybe it would be best to just go back to the hotel and spend another night. Try another day. I kept a more safe, but brisk, pace and walked the rest of the way to the gate and saw the agent still there at the door. No worries, he says. You’ve got a few minutes. It’s a good thing my nail clippers were packed in my checked luggage because I might have hurt him. With deep breaths I walked the gangway and boarded the plane. The last of the passengers and apparently the ONLY ONE WHO DID NOT GET THE MEMO THAT THE PLANE WAS DEPARTING ON TIME. Sweat is now dripping off my head. I am not glistening. Instead it looks like a cloud settled above me and decided to just let go. Drops are falling off me, splashing on people as I pass.

I sit in my seat at the back of the plane. I did it. I’d tell you about my flight, but I have to go. I need to make an appointment with the urologist, I think.


What I want you to know March 16, 2012

Filed under: Family,Mothering,The Inner Me — kimberryjones @ 10:02 pm

I want you to know that when you smile your face lights up and your dimples come out. You don’t see this, but I do. You’re my son and I can remember your first smile. Now I see a man. A young man, but still a man is standing before me now.

I want you to know that it’s critical to be passionate about at least part of your life. I hear you contemplate your future and some of your ideas scare me on a deep level, but I know that I want you to find a calling and spend your life on something of value. Too many people just spend their life. I think you will be different. You’re already trying to figure it out and that is amazing. But it still scares me. I will lean into this fear so that I can let you go someday.

I want you to know that I am so thankful you already have your own sense of faith. I want those beliefs in you to be strong and firm. But I also want you to recognize the pressure that will bend and challenge you and know that some of this is the Spirit of God in your life moving you closer to truth. It’s ok for your beliefs to evolve. In fact, I think that’s a good thing. A crucial thing. To be set in everything is to miss out on the challenges that will make some grooves deeper and some grooves a mistake.

I want you to know that you and your sister are my legacy, but that does not mean that you owe me anything. You are a gift I want to squeeze tight to, but I am trying to hold lightly. I’ve poured my life into you, but that does not mean I expect you to give me back something specific. If you pour yourself into others some day that will be enough for me.

I want you to know that your words matter. There are certain people in your life where your words matter even more. Your sister. Your parents. People listen to you. You have a platform. It’s small right now, but I believe it will grow. Because of this I hope you measure those words. They have the power to hurt and discourage, but they also have the power to inspire and challenge.

I want you to know that I don’t always know what I am doing. I screw up. I turn the wrong way. I am messy. I want you to embrace that in me and in yourself. I’m doing the best I know to do. And what I hope you come to realize is that the power is often in naked authenticity. It’s not neat and tidy, but it’s real and it’s who I am trying to be. I don’t always succeed. I care what people think of me and sometimes I am afraid my real self will be too much. So I hide. You will, too, but I want you to know that it really is better to risk and get hurt than to hide behind a mask that is not true to who you really are inside.

I want you to know that I’m right here. You’re doing so well, but you’re going to mess up. Even though I don’t want you to feel that pain, I know you have to because it is how you will grow. But I’m here. Even if you don’t want to talk about it. I’ll try to keep my mouth shut. I love when you tell me things. I see that you already recognize the power you have over me with that. You have information and I want it. I’ll keep trying to let you tell me if and when you want to, but I want you to know I really do care about your thoughts and feelings and questions and struggles.

I want you to know that you are exactly who I want you to be. You are unique and strong and I don’t understand all that drives you or how you think, but that is the beautiful mystery in it. So keep dreaming big. Keep believing in something greater than yourself. You are incomplete and that is ok. Now you will see but a dim reflection, but that’s how it’s designed to be.

Do you know this?


Turning Tables January 31, 2012

Filed under: The Inner Me — kimberryjones @ 5:36 am

It was a sinking feeling on Friday, that moment when the overwhelm  begins to feel like it just might flow over the edge. I pushed it down, but not far enough, and it hung around all weekend. Woke up to Monday with a client that fell over his own edge, apparently, and a huge pool of inaccuracy that leaves me and the guy I work with unpaid for our time and effort and good will. Mixed that in with my Mom and Dad losing their beloved dog, Summer, today to kidney failure. Stirred it up with some stresses that I can’t share here and topped it off with a long day and nothing to cook for dinner. As the sun set tonight, the overwhelm flowed over the edge.

I found myself on Facebook. It was better than eating another cookie, and I soon felt the pull toward what was really going on inside. To stop for a moment and feel — sometimes looking at what other people are “feeling” or griping about or commenting on is just the reminder I need to stop and be quiet. And look around me.

Brooke’s been holed up in my office for days. On the performing team at her dance company, she’s preparing for a showcase where the dancers have the opportunity to choreograph and perform their own dances, as well as teach others these dances. Of course, I’ve been so anxious to see her dance, but she’s kept the office door closed, a blanket pulled over the glass panes that allow you to see in. Tonight she emerged with CD in hand, ready to show me. Here before me is this girl I love. The girl I always wanted and have known all my life — first as a dream inside me and now as a beautiful, young woman dancing before me on the living room rug. The song began and she came alive in a way I have never seen her before. This was HER dance — her passion put to movement. It flowed from her heart and it was a lovely thing.

I’m an optimist. I see the good in people, sometimes to my own fault, some would say. I also see the hurt around me and within me and I grieve. The dog we love that ages and dies or dies too young. The people we love that age and die, or die too soon. The man grappling with his own humanity, his purpose and his sexuality in a world that is quick to throw judgement and answers when he’s asking for neither. The friend who doesn’t know how much more she can take. The steps we took that led to consequences we have to live with. The broken family relationships. And so much more.

It’s heavy. It’s always there when I look around, but I don’t always feel it like I do today. I know that when we choose to connect, when we give freely and work hard and try our best we will still come up short on being understood, or appreciated or loved back. And we will come up short on appreciating, or understanding or loving back like we should, too.

But I’m going to keep trying. I’m going to keep attempting to put my self out there. My real and messy self that wants to be brave enough to take off my mask and dance around the living room. I’m going to remind myself that it’s GRACE and LOVE that I want to be about. That’s it’s freedom I’m seeking. That’s it’s forgiveness I am learning to extend. That I can fall and I can get back up. That there are many around me who treasure me and that everyone doesn’t like me, or “get” me — and that’s ok. That underneath each pain is beauty. Hidden there in the ruins is love for someone, or a refusal to let fear stop you, or a painful lesson learned that you would not return, or a reminder that you hurt, but it’s because you got to love that it hurts in the first place.

So, she dances. In her innocence. The self doubt peeks through the cracks. The self consciousness is hiding around the corner. But she chooses to dance. She chooses to believe there is something beautiful there to show someone else. How precious that not enough has piled up on her to keep her from dancing. And as I watch her, she is turning the tables on my day.


The Boy on the Corner June 7, 2011

Filed under: Mothering,The Inner Me — kimberryjones @ 9:03 pm

Coming home from the mall today Brooke and I saw a young man standing on the corner with a cardboard “homeless” sign. This particular corner is a common place to see someone standing asking for help. But not usually someone this young. He looked about Zach’s age; tall and thin, like Zach; serious, blank face. I’m always conflicted about what to do when I see someone standing here, but today, because of his age, it struck a deeper nerve.  I said to Brooke, “Do you think we should do something for him?” “Sure, Mom”, she said. We were headed to the grocery store so we decided to get him a snack and stop to talk to him.

I have many thoughts running through my head. I wonder what his story is. I wonder if he ran away from home. I wonder what to say to him. I pulled into the parking lot near where he stood and got out to talk to him. He is 19 years old and he told me his dad was in jail. He’s from around here but he doesn’t have a home right now. I asked him if he had anywhere to stay and he told me he stayed with friends when he could; that he was waiting to hear from his dad to find out if he was going to get out of jail. My simple snack felt like a drop in the ocean of pain surrounding him, but I told him I was a mom and that I hoped he could reach out to people for help. I left with a lump in my throat.

I know that depending on your own life experience, your faith, or your politics that most everyone has an opinion about this kind of kid and his “situation”. Of course I don’t know if anything he told me was accurate…he sure did not look 19. But what I was left with today were questions and a full heart. He’s old enough that his own choices could very well be a part of what has him standing on the corner. But more than likely, a lot of the reasons he ended up there today were because of the choices of others: his mom and dad.Their choices shaped his choices, and their situation has a lot to do with his current one.

And it makes me think about Zach. I don’t know what this other boy’s past holds. Was it one wrong turn or a lifetime of bad decisions? For the past fifteen years our lives have been largely about pouring life into Zach. He’s been given opportunity beyond what most people in the world could even imagine. And he’s done well by it. He’s responsible, smart, funny and motivated to do something good with his life. But I realize that the older he gets the less control I have over where he ends up. All of my love, support, clean socks and good intentions for Zach won’t make him into a man. Sure, they shape him, but he is on the cusp of adulthood and as he moves forward through each day he will have more and more opportunity to make his own choices….choices that are outside of my control.

And while I can sit here and say he would never end up on a street corner, I know somewhere in my heart that he actually could. Do I think he will? No. Do I pray he won’t? Yes.

I was talking to a friend about this just yesterday. That when they are little we control every bite of food that goes in their mouths, every TV show they watch. Who they play with and what they wear. And then you blink and they are heading out the door to high school and you don’t even know who they talk to during the day, or for the most part what they are thinking. You’re becoming a spectator. Of course, I know I still have influence and heavy responsibility, but really, this is a significant time of release for me with Zach.

There’s a big part of me that wants to go back to that corner and bring that boy home. But there’s an equally big part that wants to forget I saw him because by seeing him I also see his pain. I don’t have answers to what my responsibility is to the boy on the corner. And honestly, I am not very interested in any rhetoric around why he’s there or what can be done about it. I’m sad, and a little awed by how close I know path is between choices that bring life and choices that bring death. And really I’m wishing that boy was not on my corner.