Angela Amman

The connection between ease and strength

 

Motivational quotes float around Pinterest like dandelion fuzz, getting stuck on my boards and in my head. One of them comes out of the mouths of the instructors at the studio where I work out many mornings: It doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger. A quick search lead to this possible source of the quote:

Quote about strength

screenshot courtesy of Goodreads.com

“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.” (Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free)

For the past few months I’ve been dragging myself out of bed for a 5:30 barre class — a variety of classes really, from barre to cardio kickboxing to a boot camp that might be my favorite. I’ve been there 107 times since I started going in March.

A friend started coming to classes a few weeks ago. Thursday morning as we stretched before class, we laughed a little about various sore body parts. She mentioned she’d hoped she’d stop being sore after she got over the initial discomfort from starting a new workout. I paused and shrugged a little, shaking my head.

I still get sore.

I know I’m stronger than I was when I started. My kicks are higher, my lunges lower, and I recently added weighted gloves to kickboxing days. The changes, though, came about so incrementally I can’t pinpoint when they happened. And that greater range of motion means my muscles still scream at me some days.

quotes about grief

one of my dad’s old coffee mugs — perfectly sized for black cherry ice cream

 

My old Care Bear rests on the couch a few inches from my still-sore legs. Abbey brought it down last week after a slightly painful dental appointment — mine, not hers — and I haven’t been able to take it back upstairs to the stuffed animal bin. He was a birthday gift over thirty years ago, gifted by my dad and tucked under covers in beds from my childhood canopy to my dorm room and beyond.

Last week, I turned 39, the age at which people like to joke about having one more year before 40. I laughed and ate cake for dinner and breakfast and tried not to think too much about how this was my first birthday without my dad.

I still felt my breath catch in my throat.

Tears don’t catch me off guard as often as they did in April and May. I know when they’re coming, the weight in my chest a familiar presence I recognize and acknowledge, as I try to figure out if the tears are stoppable.

I still feel them trace their familiar path down my cheeks some days, but some days I don’t.

The sharp realization that he’s gone isn’t getting easier, but I think I’m getting stronger.

The changing nature of coloring eggs

coloring eggs with kidsWe colored eggs for the first time on Abbey’s second Easter. On her first, she was barely able to flip from her back to her stomach, and we dressed her in a cuddly bunny onesie and cozy white pants.

For this milestone, this coloring of eggs, I dragged her little picnic table into our littler kitchen and spread brown paper bags underneath its legs. Each color dye filled a clear cup, the best way to see the eggs seeping into candy shades, and the most uniform way to photograph her first egg-dipping experience.

I stripped her to a white onesie, chubby legs bare, in an attempt to save her clothes from permanent stains.

I didn’t know then that very few things are permanent.

This year, during our coloring of the eggs, Dylan wore a Frozen t-shirt adorned with a smiling reindeer, and Abbey wore a rhinestone studded camouflage t-shirt she got as a favor from a friend’s birthday party. My dye cups didn’t match: lowball cups we registered for at our wedding and daisy-encrusted juice cups I finagled from my Grandma Rose’s house.

My dad remembers drinking out of them at their first home in Detroit, before they moved to the only house I ever knew to be my grandmother’s. She’s gone now, and I don’t remember drinking from the flowered cups at her dining room table, but I think of her each time we use them anyway.

We lost Ryan’s grandma last week, a woman who hugged me like she knew and loved me the very first time we met. She hugged me that same way each time I saw her, and we don’t always realize how important a hug can be until we know we won’t feel that exact grip again.

I hadn’t seen her since Christmas; the days and weeks slid into months, and a quarter of the year is already gone.

This year, the kids and I dyed eggs in the overcast light of a cold, spring day, and I didn’t worry about protecting our floor or our counters or their clothes from stains. They’re quick now, using fingers and spoons and wiping both on paper towels so the colors don’t bleed too much on the eggs, though all six of our hands were stained by the time we finished.

The color faded within a few hand washings.

Very little is permanent, and I’m beginning to wish for another chance to stain clothes, to breathe in their hair on this exact day, because tomorrow they might smell just a smidge older. I hug them tightly when I kiss them goodnight, three, four, eleven times, so grateful for the giggly grips of their hugs and the imagined hints of pink and green staining their nails.

The weight of a backpack

growing up I met her after school today, because even though her play date was ninety percent confirmed, sometimes first grade days don’t unfurl as planned. Today, though, everyone was smiles and giggles, and I kissed her goodbye with an offer to unsnap her backpack from her back, to take it home with me. She declined.

I didn’t think about the backpack when I dragged two bikes upstairs from their winter home in the basement. I wheeled hers down the street, helmet dangling from my fingers, as I watched Dylan ride ahead. His legs worked at the pedals, his knees so much closer to the handlebars than they were in the fall. His voice carried on the wind, and I noticed the squeaky grinding of his training wheels and wondered if we should oil them or remove them.

He reached her first, announcing himself with squeaky wheels and jubilation at riding through the wind, and I chatted with my friend while he slid comfortably into the last few minutes of the play date. She squealed with joy at the site of her bike, and I still didn’t think of her backpack. Three bodies flew around the cul-de-sac on bikes, and I inhaled still-cold air and only thought of her bag when my friend retrieved it from inside the house.

I slid it over my shoulder, ready to carry it home, while they cut through the evening air with pumping legs and laughter.

Instead, she pulled it on her shoulders, snuggly clicking the chest strap over her jacket. They rode ahead, weaving between each other on the street.

I chased them, wishing I’d worn running shoes instead of rain boots, and yelled their names to call them closer to the curb. We let cars pass once, twice, three times, our rambling ride coinciding with the commute home for many drivers. Only as we moved deeper into the neighborhood did I relax and let them ride far ahead.

Her hair streamed behind her helmet as she pushed her legs harder, faster against the wind. She stood on her pedals, and her sure, strong legs moved confidently, the butterfly backpack bouncing a little against her back. I lost my breath in that instant, noticing the way it seemed like she had always pedaled so smoothly, like she had never teetered between training wheels nor wobbled to find her balance without them.

I jogged to catch them, wondering how they could stretch the distance between us so quickly.

As the road sloped upward, she paused, her breath quickening. When she unstrapped her backpack and handed it to me, I gladly shouldered it for the remainder of our journey home, grateful to share the weight of her day until we returned home.

What moments have made you realize how quickly your kids are becoming independent?

The magical nature of five

IMG_2508Thank you, sweet boy, for not holding it against me that your birthday letter is a week late.

Dear Dylan,

You asked for frosted sugar cookies, shaped like a bear, and covered in chocolate instead of my go-to vanilla icing. The cookies cooled during bedtime, when you lounged on the rug with your favorite person in the world. Abbey read to you, both of you snuggled into footie pajamas that tease me into pretending you’re still little enough to need your blankets tucked up to your chin. The three of us lingered in the yellow light; the two of you would procrastinate bedtime for any reason, and I needed a few more minutes with you as a four year old.

IMG_2474Five seems impossibly big.

Back downstairs, I pulled staples from the shelf. Even my decidedly unprofessional kitchen skills can manage icing. And unprofessional they are, accustomed to figuring out meals you will deem edible. At five, your vocabulary is decidedly larger than your list of acceptable food choices, something that alternately amuses me and makes me wonder if I will be serving hot dogs at your graduation party. Chocolate icing is simple in its ingredients: cocoa, confectioner’s sugar, a bit of milk, vanilla, and corn syrup.

The trick is in trusting the proportions.

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At the start, the bowl seems to overflow with the powdery, dry ingredients. Sweetness and bitterness mingle, abutting each other but remaining uncombined. The wet ingredients seem meager against the fluffy, dusty sugar, impossible to keep the cocoa from spilling over the sides of the bowl.

Yet careful mixing coaxes the mixture into the glossy, rich icing that grips green jimmies and blue, green, and white nonpareils.

On the verge of five, you are so much like that mixture.

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You fight bedtime with requests for more water, a book from a shelf in a neighboring room, questions about a conversation we had sometime in the bright glow of the afternoon. I touch your hair gently, saying I love you each time I leave, my teeth clenching against the twelfth version of those words, and then suddenly you are asleep. Your cheeks still turn pink while you slumber, and I remember the toddler you once were.IMG_2489

You request attention and assistance until I need to extract myself to walk to the other side of the room. While I worry about leaving you on your own, fifteen feet from me, you crouch over your LEGO “constructions” and knit your brow together as you click together the pieces for each careful step. You hold your creations aloft with pride, voicing each character and trading pieces between your favorite sets. You lose socks with abandon but grasp your favorite LEGO figures with a tight, sure grip.

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You are curious and questioning, affectionate and forgiving. You press against us during books and movies, creeping closer and closer until the space between you and your object of affection disappears into a whisper. You’re beginning to question your sister, and all three of us are shocked when you contradict her proclamations. Your daddy and I try to keep our laughter hidden in the other room, though we love that glimmer of independence. IMG_2514

You are five, which is impossibly big — and impossibly magical.

So much love, always.

xoxo

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