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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Rhythms: When life races . . and when it slows

Ben Goshow

We’ve having tacos for dinner tonight. It is the easiest of all meals to assemble, and my children will love me. Win, win.

And that I’ve made it to the butcher in the middle of the day to buy ground beef signals that I’ve emerged from the cocoon of book writing. Surprise, the sun is shining, and you can buy ground beef at 11 am. These are my newest discoveries, and they are good, serving to remind me of the unordinary beauty of the everyday. I do not have to write a book to feel alive. I can buy ground beef.

And another wonderful non-event of the morning: my trip to Target to buy a digital camera for Camille’s school project. I will confess: we have a knack around here for buying and promptly misplacing digital cameras. Perhaps I can defend what feels defenseless by saying that at the very least, our children are living into our invitation to create, rather than consume. (I find this a particularly helpful distinction with technology use, especially when children would wish the wasting of their lives in front of a screen.) And so we buy digital cameras. And then we lose them. But in between the buying and the losing is the creating, and I hope that makes it worth it – at least a little.

The email came last week that Camille would need a digital camera for a project in art on digital photography. But the buying and the losing had presently left us with only one large (and expensive) camera, which Ryan uses (and Audrey uses for her beautiful blog) and a many-years-old iPhone, which takes no manner of spectacular pictures. Camille wanted to take neither to school. I can’t blame her.

So I had emailed Ryan to ask him to buy one. He did not. And when the morning’s panic began (“I neeeed a digital camera,”) you can imagine I felt a little silly to say, Well, I emailed your father about it.

Camille took the iPhone – and the charger. She didn’t complain, and that made me proud. Then I got to thinking this morning, after having loaded up my car with the 84 Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes our church had collected, that I might just run into Target, buy a digital camera and drop it by school as a surprise. She wouldn’t expect it. Me.

I got there ten minutes into art class. I caught Camille’s eyes, and she ran out of class. She was lit up. “You’re just in time!”

I hugged her tight. And then looked into that incandescence and said, “I got it just this morning. Because I needed you to know how much I love you.”

I grant that this is not a heroic act. Many of my friends do this kind of thing every day. But for me, it felt like an extraordinary gesture. Our kids are used to the constant reminders that they are one of five and can’t expect that Mom will run forgotten lunchboxes, gym bags and permission slips back to school. As one of five, they must each own for themselves a great deal of responsibility. For the most part, it’s one of the most beautiful and formative parts of their lives. They are one of five, and it’s good to grow up with the idea that others must never be expected to orbit around you.

But it is also good – really good – to see your mom show up at your classroom door and know she’d taken part of her morning to run to Target, to buy you a digital camera for your school project. Now you won’t be the only one without one. We all grow incandescent when we are loved like that.

I want to love like this.

And . . . I also want to write more books. Which means that I have to learn to live with the rhythms of my life and accept the limits they often force upon me. Sometimes I will race. Deadlines, unfortunately, don’t leave much time for puttering. They don't usually allow for ground beef and digital cameras before noon. But when they are behind, life can stretch its limbs and slow a little.

And slow means time to unpack the suitcases (I've been in Chicago and New York), rehang clothes according to color (because I like this kind of small indulgence), fight with your husband (because there's some accumulated debris from the last months of hurry), and read Brothers Grimm with your children (because this is one thing I took away from Q).

And, on Wednesdays, you'll find time to make tacos for dinner.