"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Woodpeckers From My Life List

Today, on the playground I was distracted from a truly delightful mommy conversation by the lisping call of an acorn woodpecker! Right there in the middle of a suburban play area, across from the plastic twisty slide...there was a colony of acorn woodpeckers, Melanerpes formicivorus!!!  I took a minute away from my totally normal friends who are not magnetically drawn to woodpeckers and got to see them working away at peppering their telephone pole cum larder with holes, each one a storage hole for a meticulously shelled acorn meat. Totally exciting! I had wanted to see these guys ever since reading about them as a little girl. Most woodpeckers are pretty solitary, feeding from suet at windows around other individuals but mostly operating solo unless its mating season. This woodpecker builds a larder of acorns together with other frien


ds, male and female and shares nesting and incubating duties with other couples....its like a commune woodpecker! So California! I love it.

 When I was maybe 10 or so my sisters and I found an old woodpecker nest by mistake. We were knocking over deadwood in the area of the woods where we liked to play and we snapped open a deceased maple tree about six inches in diameter and there, in the snapped open trunk with a carved open cavity with the old nest, a shockingly minimal pile of woodshavings leftover from the excavation in the bottom. We were pretty fascinated by it and I remember feeling so lucky to find such a hidden thing. Google "downy woodpecker nest" and see how many people are getting glimpses inside of one. Its a pretty rare pleasure.


Anyhow, this was a whole new woodpecker that I had never seen before....we have no woodpeckers here in our yard at Orange Blossom Cottage, just jays, towhees, mockingbirds, crows and lot of assertive little hummingbirds. I miss them. They are a fixture of northern feeders and were an iconic part of my childhood bird watching. I used to leaf through field guides and make mental lists of birds and flowers that I wanted to see someday that seemed exotic and faraway...things that had range maps that were nowhere near Michigan. And there I was, a responsible 36 year old mother, transfixed by the sight of a one of those birds on my  imaginary lists, while suburban mothers around me offered their children goldfish crackers and placidly reapplied sunscreen. Its truly fantastic how life doesn't always wait for a "natural moment" to hand you a wonderful pleasure. I had to take a minute to swallow down my mania before I was ready to go back and join the group again. Some of the best victories have to stay private because only truly odd people can sometimes understand our own little fixations.

We spent a long time more lingering there while the kids shrieked and ran through the splash pad and we moms had many enlightening, comforting and hilarious conversations, someone got stung by a yellow jacket and we pack and unpacked our lunches over and over as kids ran in and out of our circle taking and returning bits of food and stray flip flops. I love a good playground lingering anyhow, especially if its with ladies that fill my cup and make me smile but my favorite kind of open ended recharge session plus a childhood bucket list item....that's a secret victory if ever I heard of one! And its only Monday, folks!

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Movers And The Stayers

Summer is here, and I have not been. That's the way with these warm weather months....all digging in the yard until way too late to make a proper supper by accident, reading way too many books and going on way too many exciting outings, catching up with all the friends and forgetting entirely those I communicate with online and far away. Please, let's pick up where we left off and carry-on with grace flowing around us to fill in all the gaps and distances and things I forgot to share and mention. We'll all catch up, shall we?

First of all, the elephant in the room we went on a stupendous trip to Italy. Totally amazing.

I have to write a post on several of the things I thought about our trip. So much to process and so much to share....more on that later.

Secondly, so much else is going on with us. One of my very close friends is moving away, the garden in our second year here at Orange Blossom Cottage is finally starting to come into its own, we had a really fun trip home to Michigan to see so much wonderful family, I have been doing some homeschooling public speaking this summer, and we are still ever in pursuit of giving ourselves a rich vibrant life with lots of space and breathing room in it.

Having a close friend move is a new experience for me as an adult. I realized once when talking with my husband that I had never been dumped by a boyfriend...although I'd dumped guys several times. It was a strange self-discovery. Did that mean I was selfish, pompous, picky, or lucky? I felt like I had kind of missed out on a rite of passage and the ability to claim normalcy in some tiny way. Weird how all the things mean things sometimes. Having a girlfriend move away and leave me is like this too. I have left several times, been guilt tripped, sobbed over and begged to stay. I've had people tell me they could never replace me, that they were mad at me because I had to move or resentful because I didn't consider them in my life location plans. But, through all of that I have always kind of played the same role. Tried to thank the stayers for their love, their loyal affection, their sharing of their time and lives and feelings and tried to walk the balance of showing just enough of my own feelings about moving to make sure that my humanity shows but be strong enough to comfort my friends and help them imagine a good future while not letting the negativity and depressing guilt get to me. I've never been the stayer. My gal is leaving and while I don't resent her adventure or the stress of packing up and shifting all her worldly goods to a new state....its surprisingly complicated for me too....even though I have no real clear role in the moving and shaking. I'm all conflicted about how much to show my cards with her. Do I cry in front of her, tell her exactly what she means to me or try to just keep it light and cheer her on while crying on my own time? Or is it some back and forth seesaw of behaviors. I don't want to be clingy and desperate but of course I'd love to make sure she knows that I care and that I will deeply, rawly miss her when she's suddenly not there for random roadside berry picking and hilarious girl's nights.

This relationship stuff gets me in to trouble in my marriage too. I want to be strong and independent and never have my husband be suffocated by trying to "be there for me" but I really want to be real and open and wear my heart dissected open on my sleeve. I think the thing that really gets me is that I so badly want reciprocity. I want to be sure that I share like he shares, that he wants my dirt and my pain as well as my hips and my best jokes. I start to feel gun-shy when its not clear that we want the same depth. Nobody wants to realize retroactively that they were an over-sharer. Ain't nobody got time for that!

I worry about this kind of thing with my friend too. I want to communicate my pain at her loss and my adoration of who she has been in my life at exactly the same level she discloses with me. I'm not sure I want to feel the same...just control what I tell her to visibly be her emotional twin. I'm always the emotional one, the deep feeler, the raw transmitter and sometimes its fatiguing to be judged as the eternal mess or the out of control girl or the person who is never done processing. I don't mean to be that way and when my feelings stay inside of me it mostly doesn't feel that way....its only when I leak them in disproportionate amounts and people get their measuring tools out and point them my way that I look a mess and seem like a problem. I wish there was a neat way to let my friend know that I will miss her exactly as wildly and deeply as she misses me and that I will probably culture some even darker and deeper feelings that she'll never know too and it all means that she's been really very special to me and I wish her the world. I'm lousy at being what people expect or want although I am one of the most people aware and over observant humans I know. Its tough to wish you could be just right and feel blind about making it happen. Moving is hard, even if you're staying.

Good thing there is shiny, crinkly swiss chard in the garden and orange roses by my front door, the sound of children's laughter in my yard and more phone calls than I can answer from people who love me. Summer ain't so very bad, even if its lumpy in places.


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Friday, April 7, 2017

Lucid Dreaming, Joy and Exegesis

I have learned the skill of lucid dreaming, knowing that "this is just a dream" is a useful edge when I am trapped in a nightmare like I was early this morning. I can change elements of the story occasionally and if that doesn't work I can exit the dream on command. I woke myself, eject-button-style, when I realized that the story-line (telling my boys to clear the table, item by item by item while they ran off to other parts of the house after each fork or napkin) was only imaginary and that I didn't actually have to walk through that scenario in my sleep as well as in my waking hours. I woke up and lay there in the dark laughing about what a cheated dreamer I was, my brain having nothing better to conjure up for either dream material (if it was a dream) or scary nightmare fright (if it was a nightmare....which I decided was more likely). How lame!

A listened while I related my silly, exhausting dream, annoyed that I had experienced nothing beyond my hum drum real life. I chuckled at the joke that my own daily living had passed for nightmare material to my brain. Not scary, no....but draining and negative, for sure! And then, A said, "Yeah, you know, I'm struggling with that same attitude of unwilling participation with math with one boy right now, each problem means dragging him back into the task and forcibly directing his attention. I wish I knew what to do to fix it." I mused that I had been studying on that for quite a while myself! How to get  the boys to not only do their work but also to learn to cultivate a good attitude while they do it? Oh, to get them to be self-motivated with desire to complete the things they are given to do, with a love of the feeling of satisfaction, the value of industry and skill to find joy in the simple tasks! I get so endlessly sick of the starry-eyed yearning my boys have for video games and the heel dragging, eye rolling attitude they have about helping the family with any kind of work!

I lay there in the dark in my bed and there was silence for a second and then I added off-hand that despite all my searching, the only technique I had turned up was the super bland, usual "leading-by-example thing." We could improve that....and suddenly I was reeling mentally in deep conviction. How often do my boys hear me complain to my friends about the endless laundry pile or sigh heavily before I start washing the mountain of dishes, put off making my own bed because even the process seems discouraging to me or gripe at the end of the day about my righteously earned feeling of weariness??? Oh dear. So, I have no clever ways to teach loving work (bribes don't work so don't even say that....they only teach love of the bribe) except to learn the lesson myself and demonstrate it to my sons so that see and feel around how it is to love your work, to enjoy your own output and to feel useful in your own mundane place. What if my children never absorbed the lesson until adulthood when they were responsible for reminding themselves to work and only then learned to be cheerful about mowing the lawn, helping with carrying in the groceries and picking up Lego after Lego after Lego? Would it be worth it? Would I put in the effort for that end-goal? Absolutely. One thousand times yes!!!! What if I knew that my boys would never, ever "get it" but my own life would change and I would have the virtue I so badly want them to develop? Is it worth it to work simply for my own improvement and the knowledge that I could live my life with the ability to find warmth and goodness in the things I now claim are the bane of my existence? Yes, if it were a sure thing, I'd do it then too.

Suddenly, my mind flew to my friend who I had been wracking my brain to help. This particular pal had been complaining about the grind of her life, the way everything seemed the same and she had nothing to look forward to. I had been thinking about how to suggest ways for her to add thrills to her existence. Could she paint like I do? Write on the side? Get away for ladies nights out with friends once a month? Maybe she was in the wrong career and taking destiny in her hands and changing jobs no matter the cost and work was the thing! This particular friend is rather taken with scriptural advice so I had been looking through scripture for something to support my intended suggestions. Alas, I had been able to find only instructions to: "work at whatever you do with your whole heart," "render your services with good will, working as to the Lord," have a "cheerful heart [which is] good medicine while a crushed spirit dries up the bones," "enjoy the good of all your labor for it is the gift of God," "commit your work to the Lord and your plans will succeed," "work with enthusiasm as if working for the Lord," "excel in your work because you know your labor is not in vain," know that "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" and know that "all hard work brings a profit."
And if you can believe it, I had stopped my exegesis there in a spirit of annoyance at not being able to find anything useful. *head desk*

Here, in the early hours of the morning....the words barely out of my mouth that the only thing I had thought of to help my boys was the boring suggestion to lead by example, and with a litany of scriptural inducements towards humility and joy in mundane work running ticker-tape-style through my mind...I laughed out-loud. Maybe my decision to categorize the dream as a nightmare and my reaction to eject in disgust from the plot were illustrative of something important and maybe it had been given to me as a dream to help me reexamine something I needed to learn. Isn't even teaching and re-teaching unwilling pupils, correcting their work kindly over and over and over....the work I have been given? Why am I complaining about this? Why am I not working to find joy there?

I had intended to teach honesty to my kids and share vulnerably that "Mommy understands your feeling of sloth" and I had accidentally stopped there and not progressed to teaching the vulnerability of Mommy wanting to learn love of industry too, and the authenticity of the fact that sometimes I need to change my own attitude to make things go the way they ought to. There is nothing in any of these things that is actually bad, I'm lucky to have so many dishes to wash, so many clothes to fold, to have all these little boys to teach and to have a husband who humbly asks me to pick up the slack he can't carry instead of doing in all himself or hiring assistance. These are gifts. I need to shoulder my lucky burdens like I'd pile so many presents into the car after a Christmas visit....with gratitude and cheer, showing my sons, my id and my ego the truth of intentional, grateful industry and how it triumphs over the lie of drudgery.


"Work hard, but not just to please your masters when they are watching. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart.
Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people."
Ephesians 6:6

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