Context for “Seen and known”

Feb 22

Context for “Seen and known”

Yesterday I wrote the post about our pottery-painting-on-a-school-night and it was a wonderful story to tell that is so authentic to the best version of my mom self, and a testimony to Greta’s greatness. It was a hard won shining moment.

A couple of things struck me that I did not point out in the story that would have made for more authentic context…

Yesterdays post was written from the chemo chair, which means that Wednesday night was Cycle Day 24 in my chemo cycle. I’m technically supposed to be on a 21 day cycle, but this treatment is a doozy, so I am stretching the days a bit where I can in order to optimize life events and overall quality of life. My motivation in making some magic happen was definitely driven by the knowledge that Wednesday night was literally “as good as it gets” with regard to how strong (or not strong) I feel. It was a last hurrah on this cycle before starting a new cycle of chemo the next day. Carpe diem!

Greta’s comment about doing something “outside the house with Mom” struck me because between winter, energy, and germ-risk, I am doing much less outside the house than I otherwise would be. Within a month I should have perennials peeking out of my gardens. Bring on spring!

Pottery-painting is normally a birthday-level activity; a major treat. They love it.

In this version of my life I have struggled to think about hobbies and interests that I pursue. I have a dynamic and interesting variety of things that I like to do but that I am just not capable of doing right now. That’s okay, and it doesn’t change who I am, but it does change how I interact with the world. I am proud of my past hobbies, and I’m proud of myself now too.

After reflection on this topic, I have identified that my current hobby is going out to eat and talking with people I love. Which is kind of laugh-out-loud funny to be considered a hobby. But it’s really true. Last night’s dinner out was a major win for all three of us. I love authentic conversation with my people, and it’s one of the best versions of Jen who shows up. The magic of the going out to eat part is simple: it eliminates the plan, grocery, prep, cook, and clean up portions of the event… all of which suck energy from me and make it extremely difficult to be present for the meal itself. However, it is still a treat to go out to eat: the cost is prohibitive and we also value raising our kids on meals at home. We are really grateful for the meals and gift cards that our village so graciously provides — I’m brought to tears on a weekly basis over this because it is such a game-changer in my day-to-day.

Greta also wanted to go out for ice cream (specifically Menchies, her favorite) on Wednesday. I said no to that part.

I worry that my kids are entitled. All parents might worry about that, but it’s highlighted for me because we live differently because of my condition. Our experience-rich life choices are wonderful, but I do wonder about the costs. It makes random magical nights like this one a little less magic and a little less random. And the answer to the worry is always: do not worry. We do our best with balance — and like all parents — we’re not sure we’re getting it right. Our best is good enough.

Often — all the time, actually — Maren and I get comments about how much she looks like me. It was really prevalent this summer when I had longish red hair again, but it continues. She’s widely referred to as my Mini Me. Greta gets so jealous! Greta does not have my red hair, but she does have my green eyes, and I love that the theme of the story I wrote was about me seeing her for the bright brilliant person she is: my green eyes looking into hers. When I went back to reread my post and saw the picture I was struck anew by what lookalikes we are. When she was a baby, we compared her baby pictures to mine and she looked much more like me in her baby pictures than Maren ever did. (Whereas Maren favors Brad in her baby pictures.) It is sweet to me that Greta and I are looking more alike as she ages–our smile, our eyes, our general facial structure, and I really see it in our laugh lines and cheeks in this photo. I know Greta would be delighted if she got some ‘you look like your mama’ comments too. Meanwhile, I showed her this photo this morning and we talked about how similar our faces look. She beamed, and made me promise to print this picture for her to keep in her room.

When we got home from our pottery painting I was super tired and had some necessary tasks to complete beforeI could go to bed. I had to turn in some updated cookie numbers for Girl Scouts, and realized after 9pm that I lost the cookie form with all the record-keeping. Brad — with his endless tank of patience and compassion — helped me look for it. He was very calm whereas I was kind of stalk-stomping around the house. I was not my best self: a wallow moment where I was angry and frustrated at myself for not keeping on top of things — all the things — better. At around 9:45pm I went in to Greta’s room with a flashlight and found the key document tucked in to one of her bags — so I found it — and the cookie helper graciously let me turn in the info a day late so I could go to bed as my exhaustion demanded. I so do *not* have it all together, and I have low moments too.

This week I came downstairs on a school morning and asked Greta, “Do you have your lunch packed?” (She loves to pack her own lunch.)

She said, “Nope. We are out of bread,” and she was writing on a notepad. “So I am strategizing about my options.” She was not upset, just very nonchalantly problem-solving.

Two thoughts went through my head. My SuperMom cape is obviously flying — no bread (again). Greta using the word strategizing and problem-solving like a champ? You go girl!

I was proud of Maren during our dinner and pottery painting night. She and I quickly discussed her homework situation and she jumped in right away to be onboard with the Greta Plan. She is a people pleaser by nature which makes her very easy to get along with which is very convenient. She loves her sister and also puts up with more from Greta than anyone — they are each others only siblings after all. We are working on her speaking her mind and advocating for herself because those things are harder for her.

During my rest/nap, in the car on the way to pick up Maren, and driving through the parking lot, I was thinking of all the reasons we couldn’t / shouldn’t / wouldn’t do pottery painting that night. I literally changed my mind in a snap when I stopped — out of exasperation and frustration — in that quiet corner of the parking lot and turned around to look into her eyes to give one more shot at trying to understand. And in that moment I *saw* her. Only because I paused long enough to see her. And thank goodness I did.


  1. Reg Rindels /

    Jen, I adore you!

  2. Powerful!!

  3. Cindy Jones /

    Great pic for the books! Love the giraffe peering in between you both.❤️

  4. Both of your girls are definitely *YOURS*. They both resemble their mama in different ways. Two beautiful and powerful posts. So thankful you stopped to see Greta and that you all worked hard together to say YES. Love that it was a school night and no doubt, an evening they will both remember. Print two copies of your photo, and tuck your copy somewhere you need to be reminded that YOU ARE SEEN, Jen. And you are so loved.

  5. Melanie /

    There’s no mistaking how much Greta looks like you! In fact, that was my very first thought when I saw the picture: she’s your mini-me. 🙂

  6. Tamara Huss /

    I was actually just thinking after I read your post yesterday how much Greta truly does resemble you and how grown up she looks! I love seeing pictures of your girls and reading about all of the things you do together? Especially since my boys are the same age as your girls! They are truly blessed to have you for a mama! You never cease to amaze me Jen!

  7. You’ve just inspired someone to “pause” this year. Thank you for that!

  8. Jana Rogers /

    She is just as beautiful as you are!! Green eyes, warm smile, and expression of anticipation. You are raising amazing little humans. Mom you need a exaggeration on a “high five”.

  9. Diana G /

    Jen, you make my day richer with your insightful writings. The depth you give to a seemingly insignificant comment from the girls makes me want to listen better to those around me, to be less me and more them, to *see* from the other side. Thank you and may your hurrah days be more prevalent to enable more Maran/Greta Plans reach fruition.

  10. I absolutely noticed how much the two of you look alike in that photo when I read the original post! (And is it weird that I *didn’t* notice the balloon giraffe until after reading the story and going back for a second look?) What a precious treasure you’re creating for your girls with this blog, to be able to go back when they’re older and be reminded of these small moments, and to have a glimpse of who they were and who you are during these years. It’s such a beautiful love letter to them.

  11. You are a wonderful mother and can tell by how amazing your daughters are. My first thought in seeing your previous post was how much you two look alike! Love and light being sent your direction.