"A Noisy Crowd of Love"

It's quiet now at 7:50 a.m. Twenty minutes ago, not so much. Some unwitting brother had apparently messed with the bed-making style of the four-year-old diva in pink that dwells here and was receiving the full brunt of her wrath. At this hour in the morning, I know better than to interfere with the noise outside my bedroom door when I'm at home. It probably means mom is out on her morning walk and can't hear it, or exercising in  her room and is choosing to ignore it. I'm beginning to learn that if mom is ignoring it, I probably should too. It saves me the headache of sorting out sibling problems, and I've gotten pretty good at just rolling over in bed and pulling the quilts up to cover my ears.

Right now, no one knows I'm up. Well, technically, I'm not "up" until I've shown my face downstairs, but I am awake, out of bed, and cognitive; in college terms, that is "up". I have been known to sleep till 9:30 when I'm home on break (which does constitute Sleeping In Late in the Peden family), and so I have about an hour and a half until they might start wondering about me.

As is usually the case before I start writing for my blog, I was mulling over a quote last night before bed--one of those quotes that practically defines your life; the kind that you have written in half a dozen journals and scribbled on the palm of your hand occasionally. From a historical-fiction novel I read last summer about a pioneer woman who survived incredible things, this quote expresses what I think about my family every time I am with them. 

"It seems as if I can only think if I write in my journal, it just connects the part of my head that is busy doing things with the part that is busy thinking about everything else. I know all these people are so busy because they love each other and me. We are a noisy crowd of love." --Nancy E. Turner, These Is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine

"We are a noisy crowd of love."

I just love that. 

I love that when I come home, there's always someone thundering down the stairs to greet me; half a dozen stories of what-we-did-with-tucker-yesterday are told all at once, along with the show and tell of the new arsenal of weapons the boys have acquired since I was last home. And of course, latched onto my waist is my little blondie, Fiona, who just repeats "hi Sarah!" over and over again until when helping me unpack she finds my heels and a decides to wear them around the house, clonking all over the hardwoods till mom has had enough of the noise. We're anything but quiet. But as a long standing member of this family, I'm quite used to it. Like Sarah Agnes Prine, the fictional pioneer woman of the novel, I've adapted to the noise and found my ways to survive, to keep my sanity. I read. I write. But mostly, I just try to keep perspective. 

Books I could write but probably won't.

Like many students who may or may not admit it, I often survive those classes that drag by slowly by daydreaming. My preferred method is scribbling in my journal. I make checklists, write letters, and record events all while looking like I'm attentively taking notes. Recently the Creative Juices of Survival have given me some ideas in the form of book titles. What follows are those titles and the dust-jacket blurbs that you might see in an indie bookstore near you someday. Or not.

Past Midnight: Quotes from a Girls Dorm
When the clock struck midnight, Cinderella's coach turned back into a pumpkin and her riches back to rags.
You see us girls in class looking academic and intelligent but little do you know that, like Cinderella's pumpkin, it only lasts till midnight. Ranging from quirky to cute to just laughably dumb, here are some of the finest and funniest things said after midnight when we've swapped the stylish skinnys for comfy sweats.

Tweets from French Class (and other ludicrous communiques)
Everyone has had that one quirky professor that makes life entertaining. You're always on your toes never knowing what to expect, then out of the blue comes another one of those moments that you have to see to believe. Out comes the smart phone, then sixty seconds and 140 characters later #professorsnamequotes is trending in your twittersphere! Collected here are some of the most unbelieveable tweets from the most unbelieveable instructors!

Lessons Learned from Sense and Sensibility: Two Girls Survive College by Their Wits and Miss Austen's Wisdom
The true story of two girls who became friends their sophomore year of college and quickly found their alter-Austen-egos in Elinor and Marianne Dashwood.

(My friend and I actually started the shell of a blog, in which we were going to  flesh out this skeleton of an idea... sadly, we haven't done anything with it yet. But there's still time!)                     

And finally, a blog title not a book:
Barefoot, Pregnant and in the Kitchen-- a Mommy Blog
(No, I'm not an MRS major... but this is something I actually kind of want to do someday... I want to use this phrase that originated as a negative image from the days of hardcore feminism, and turn it around to reflect my ultimate desire to be a wife and mom. A quick Google search reveals that I am not the first to think that this is a clever idea, as i have found a couple "barefoot and pregnant" blogs from Catholic home-school moms. Maybe I'll add my own voice to the mix someday.)

Anyway, that's all y'all!

Lament for the Lightbulb

I came home from school on spring break today. At mid-afternoon, my room was brightly lit from the large double window that faces south when I headed up the stairs to deposit my two backpacks. I was greeted by the familiar sight of the matching twin beds that my sister and I have slept in for years now, the banner of pictures--one of each my best-beloveds--that swoops across the corner above my armchair, and the hand-painted quote tree that graces my walls with its wisdom. My room has been rearranged, redecorated and repurposed several times over the five years we've lived in this house. Somethings haven't changed--like the fact I don't believe the bookshelf has ever been moved... but I could be wrong there. But there is one thing that has stayed constant over these five years, one thing that hasn't changed amid the rearranging and repaintings, one thing that has always been there--till now.

This evening my lightbulb passed away. I came up to the room after dinner to change and turned my lights on  as the sun had set. As I went to the window to draw my curtains, turning my back on the lamp on my nightstand, the light flickered and dimmed. I turned back to my lamp, peering down the shade to see the filament glow orange and flicker brightly for a moment, then slowly fade to darkness as it gave up its spirit. I gave a cry of, "no! nooo!" as I took off the shade to see if maybe it was just loose in the socket. But no, it was truly gone. This lightbulb had moved from Florida with us 5 years ago. It had burned brightly in my lamp for longer than that. It had come to symbolize to me how far I'd come since that move at age 16. I had even written my first creative non-fiction piece on the subject of that lightbulb and my life-changing move. (Click HERE to read it on my other blog) My mom, who had heard my distress from the other room came to find me cradling the lifeless, lightless bulb in my hands. She understood. "Thats the lightbulb, isn't it." I nodded as I brushed off black soot with my thumb, remnants of the fragrant, familiar incense that had accompanied my heartbroken prayers years ago, during the Great Loneliness.

I'm glad I was here when it happened. It's been beside me for so long, lighting my midnight readings and musings, that if it had gone out one day while I was at school, I would have been sad. But instead, I witnessed its last light-giving, and while I mourn its company, I realize that it marks the passing of another season of growing up. Long gone are the days of loneliness. The 16-year-old I was, though still remembered, is no longer. She's grown and changed so much. She's become me. As I head in to the final stretch of my undergraduate studies this year, Im beginning to realize that this girlhood room is not mine for much longer. Plans for apartment living are being tentatively sketched out in my mind. Graduate school looms in the future. I'm moving on. I like to think that the lightbulb knew.

I'm not throwing it away. I thought about a burial in the backyard, but then I remembered Pinterest. I've seen loads of repurposed lightbulb crafts. I think my windowsill will be seeing a new knick-knack in the future.

Goodbye, O faithful Lightbulb. You have been a faithful companion these 5+ years. I will always remember the soft glow and warm friendship of your light.

The Importance of Saying Goodbye

I may have ducked out of class on a "bathroom break" to go say goodbye to a friend who was leaving this afternoon (it only took 4 minutes), and when I had to go work in the library I left a note on another friends desk with my safe-travels wishes, knowing that I wouldn't see her before she left--though she ended up coming to find me in the library.
Its only Spring Break, I'm gonna see them in a week--or less in some cases--so why do I obsess about saying goodbye? Because life is uncertain. If something were to happen, I would want to know exactly when the last time I hugged that friend, the last time I said "I love you" was.

Its a family tradition, inherited from my mom's side, to stand in the driveway waving till we can no longer see the departing party. My mom's grandparents were deaf, so they always waved with a hand  in the ASL sign for "I love you" (middle and ring fingers pressed to the palm with pinky, index and thumb standing up straight) and thus, every grandchild and great-grand has done the same ever since.
Even here at school I do the same. I can't help it. If I'm around when one of my close circle departs, I walk to their car with them as they load up, give final goodbye hugs and travel blessings, then wave and wave... and wave until I can no longer see their car.

It just feels right.


A Sister Away From Home

From the category of things-that-break-my-heart comes this scenario that played out this afternoon.
I had just turned in my last take-home test and my children's literature project, marking the completion of my midterms. All I have to do Friday is attend classes and get my internship hours in, then I'm headed home to Nashville on the Megabus Saturday afternoon. I texted my mom, to let her know--as she was praying for me through my tests--and I received this text back.
"Yay! however... I just came across Fiona crying in her room and I asked her what was wrong... She said she missed you & Meg."
Fiona is four and the youngest of my eight siblings. At almost twenty-two, I'm the oldest. Meg--Megan--is 18 months younger than me, and the only other girl. The two of us are both away at school; I'm a sorta-Senior and she's a Sophomore. Fiona is at home with the boys. She lives for the times when we come home. I texted mom back immediately: "I'm calling", Then I dialed home. Mom picked up and I asked to be put on with Fiona.
"Hey Girl, do you know what's happening on Saturday?"
I hear heavy breathing and a slight noise--almost like a meow--on the other end, she hasn't quite got the hang of talking on the phone yet, so I continue,
"I'm coming home on Saturday, and I can't wait to see you."
I hear Mom on the other end coaching Fiona to speak. "I told Sarah you were sad, but she's coming home, so you have something to look forward to."
"When I come home Fiona, you can come hang out in my room with me, and sit in my chair..." She comes in and curls up in my armchair and pretends to be a cat... when she's not trying on all my shoes that is.
We make other plans to paint our nails with pink polish and exchange "I love you's" then I get off the phone.
I always forget how old she's getting, how she can understand my absence more and more as time passes.  I get so caught up in school life that it takes a lot of intentional thinking to get my mind back home.
I'm beginning to forget birthdays, and it takes the boys threatening to fine me for late happy birthdays to jog my memory.
It takes mom texting me these little updates to bring me back. I know I can't blame myself forgetting the little things sometimes, I like the reminders. I've gotten wake up texts with pictures of Cole's first omelette, and the newest picture of Fiona always graces my phone wallpaper. I can't wait to see them when I get home.

Words to Myself

There will be days like today, when nothing--yet everything--is wrong, when your winter coat restricts your range of movement and your backpack feels all wrong on your shoulders--when life fits like that sweater you accidentally machine dried. It won't always be this way. Spring always comes, and with it, shorts and t-shirts.
There will be days when you fall asleep over your desk work and question all of your academic decisions. You'll think that you've been making the wrong choices the whole time, but despair because its too late to change your mind now. Don't make decisions when you're tired. View your work through fresh eyes in the morning. You'll remember why you love what you do.
There will be days when you lie down to take a nap and awake feeling as if the whole world has moved on without you. The smallest things will make you doubt your friendships, your capabilities, your ability to love and be loved. Look again; you're not alone.
There will be days when you want to have a pity-party, to feel sorry for yourself, to grovel in your misery.  Get over yourself. Pick yourself up and keep moving. Do the next right thing.
There will be days when you leave dinner smelling like the cafeteria. Ok, that's legimately gross, but everyone here deals with that, don't let it bother you that much. 

***

Here's what you need to do--
Finish that project, I promise that its not gonna be as hard as you make it out to be.
Make Tea. Everyone deserves tea, even--especially--those who feel wretched about life.
Read L'Engle. Remember how she always does you a world of good? how she puts into words what your didn't know you knew? yes. remember that. Read.
Get over your pride, your stupid idea of not needing any help, and go ask for a hug.
Cry if you have to. It's cathartic.
Do the next right thing, always keep moving forward. 
And most of all, remember who you are and Who's you are. Honor Him in all things and He will illuminate your life with His glory.