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

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Your Plans Are As Unique As You

      Halloween was last night which means that today is the beginning of Christmas for me. I know it sounds overblown to some and like we are perhaps jumping the gun but this is the way that I can maintain sanity as a mama. If I give myself more time, I can enjoy my pumpkin spice lattes and the leaves turning color while I plan my gift lists and read to the kids from the holiday book basket. Its the best time ever to get my ducks in a row and even to get a little private celebrating in before we are traveling. One of the hardest things about traveling for the holidays is the feeling of no personal celebration, no ability to be the mama myself for the holidays.  We are all living our own individual lives and I know that part the secret to my own happiness is an earlier and earlier start on the holiday season. I use a Christmas planner and a couple of books in a haphazard fashion, I scroll Pinterest and I scribble lists on odd papers....and also, I fly by the seat of my pants. This is me after all.

None of those formulas for how many gifts to buy or when exactly you should begin making cookies and storing them in the freezer are exactly right for any exact year in my exact life. I do like the concept though....so I try to come up with my own personal targets and magpie into my plans those that do seem to align. The point is to enjoy and relish the bustle and prep, the weight of responsibility that comes with being a merriment creator and the freedom and mental space that can come from a little more time coupled with some plans and systems.

This week I am revamping our breakfast menus and schedules for some of the same goals: more space, simplicity, bustle, and responsible feeling motherhood. There are things to put in line and ways to trim our old meal ideas so that they fit our new schedule and the changing interests of the palates in our home. I wish we fit some vanilla template but none of these things work that way. We nature journal, but not like anybody tells you to. I just bought, leafed through and then sold a book on How To Teach Your Child Shakespeare because we were doing bits of it already, some things were useful additions and lots of it needed to be passed on because we have a plan, its just the one that we are creating ourselves at our kitchen table. Its an interesting evolution to see myself both becoming a planner and also recognizing that for our individual house, nobody can hand me the plan. Plans are dynamic and shifting, we outgrow them and get bored by them, and all of our households quirky oddments will never be in anybody else's list.

Here's the marching to the beat of our own drums...ah yes, but marching to a beat! Lets all plan our own plans and come up with systems by being the wise observers and sensitive curators of our own people and lives. There's no easy out, nobody can do the work of life for you. But, after all....Halloween was just last night, you have time and so do I.  

Friday, October 20, 2017

Friends Who Drag You Out Of Your Cage

Yesterday was one of those days that I was reminded that I need socialization as much as the kids. I can be a little prone to isolation as an act of protection. I feel so inadequate and unable to appear "right" socially. My kids are wild, my house is too messy, I never have cool snacks in my day bag. When I am feeling depleted it's so easy to cut out all socialization because it seems draining and I must to just keep on and cut the fat. But, you know....it's no short cut to bliss. I am a creature made to live in the warm circle of a village and I wither badly by myself, no matter how much it seems like a clever way to streamline my life. 

I am just blessing my friend today, with the wild kids and the also lived in house, the friend who hugs me every time she sees me and never lets go first. I texted her and said, "I am so droopy." And she said, "Remember that group field trip you never signed up for? Its today. You should come. I'll call the organizer and get you in and I'll buy your tickets so that when you arrive if you're late you can still get in." And I put everyone in the car and went. And she hugged me so tight when I got there and we went on the hayride and the corn maze and petted the goats and hugged some chickens and we all felt better. 

I love and hate that other human beings who are dicey and intimidating and seem like the hardest thing in my life sometimes are also the place to go for a boost, for being truly seen and where I can know that I am not alone. Its kind of maddening but its so right and true as well. 
We are going away for the weekend to a cabin in the mountains for some apple roasting, fireplace stoking, tea drinking retreating as a family.  Just us and a bunch of plaid blankets. I am so glad I am going into this weekend with that feeling of social warmth on my back that I thought I was too overwhelmed to reach for. I need to retreat and to step out. There may be no short-cuts but only the necessary, true, brave action. I love that God is wise enough to put people in my path to disrupt me and pull me in while teaching me to be still at once. It's like He knows what He's doing. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Words On The Platter

     Sometimes, in order to get going again we have to push the ball down the hill in some small way. I have been long fallow here and now I'm back and grinding away like Sisyphus but in an attempt to help things take on their own momentum and joy, I'm just going light. This is my little kick off the edge.....here I am, with my pen in my hand again.

Lets just marinate in some goods words, shall we? It seems like a good way to begin. Here are some of my own, personal favorites. Which ones did I miss that you love the sound or feel of?

Utterly Enjoyable Autumn Words

And then, just because delicious words make me think of poetry, in a When You Give A Moose A Muffin Style....lets have a classic poem by James Whitcomb Riley. I like to imagine my farming great-grandpa, suddenly possessed of a desire to write poems speaking out these lines while he stumps along from orchard to barnyard to his masonry trimmed farmhouse where I was this summer. I miss him and I wish he could know my little boys and that I could marinade in his comforting presence and imagine they will turn out sturdy and reliable and warm, like him.

When the Frost is on the Punkin

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it’s then’s the times a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here—
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees.... (click here for the rest) 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Seasons, As They Really Are

Here in the Bay Area we have arrived at September like everyone else but here it doesn't mean cooling temps and getting out the scarves and the tall boots. Just when your mind and the American Marketing Machine has you most primed for autumnal bliss, Cali has me all whip lashed. September and October usually hold the warmest, most classically summery weather. We have popsicle afternoons and pool dates and though the apples are ripe and we do indeed need to start prepping for Halloween, its best done in tank tops and shorts. 
We have not had a particularly hot summer this year and there have even been times when it felt a little too chilly so it feels so odd to remember that its expected that we get this heat wave and start using our A/C now.

I am thinking about how in the world I can catch some of that fall flavor in summery ways. I had an iced chai tea the other day because......autumn flavors + summer temps. I want to start making roasts and wearing my hair down but its time for a little bit more warm weather celebration before we get there.

Time to go apple picking and plan one last camping adventure at the same time. Californian Autumn means a different thing and I have to start adapting in my own mind to this reality that is my world and my neighborhood. I love hearing and seeing all the seasonal markers that are different here and owning that fact that we have seasons....just different ones, or even the same ones with different markers and signifiers.
I wanna be the kind of woman who is curious about her world, open to her own microsmic environment and the story that its bringing. It may not be what I am primed for, what the general public talks about or what I have ever seen before but...its mine. Really, in some ways this is the story of what I am learning as a grown-up in general the last few years. My marriage, my kids, my housekeeping, our schooling, my reading schedule, my art career, my own professional life and personal development, my spiritual unfolding...none of them seem to trot down the expected trajectory. I am trying to let go of what I thought I'd have and see and know and instead wipe the slate blank and draw what I really see, like they tell you in art. Instead of drawing the projections of my own mind and expectations, what people tell me I see or should see....instead, in faith, I'll just step into the season I am really living and try to learn to love it in all its difference, and variation and cope with the odd bits and sooth my own nerves about how it isn't what I thought it would be.

Because, truth.....its what it is and its also beautiful, even if unfamiliar.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

End Of Summer Notes

We are going tubing down a river tomorrow morning and I should be in bed by now so that I will be awake bright and early to make everyone omelettes before we leave. (Boys who go places with no food are not boys you want to go places with.) Instead of sleeping, I am up folding laundry, contemplating the moving away of one more friend, obsessing about my homeschool plans and trying to decide how to wedge in one teeny stay in a rustic cabin in the mountains before the holidays. So many things going on and suddenly it feels like everything is speeding right up.

I told Ru and Nib that they could both sign up for fall baseball since we skipped out on the regular spring season. Argh! I am such a lazy mama....I don't wanna do it! I have the hardest time convincing myself to be ambitious enough to arrange friend play times and classes or activities of any kind. Nib has incessantly nagged me all summer long to take him fishing and I only managed to do something about it once when we were in Michigan sleeping 20 feet from my in-laws private dock. Better a little than nothing at all. Ha. But, seriously....I think I need to just take myself to a local bait shop or a pier and let some old men school me on how to catch the local fish and how in the world to fix up the fishing rods I have but have not in proper order. I am considering one of those cushy trout ponds for a personal boost as a beginning.

In all seriousness, I do want to have and to show ambition. I am not interested in avoiding all work and having my kids end up resentfully annoyed at their own inability to participate in anything because I dragged my feet for all eternity. I am however, loath to sign up for baseball. I love watching how they learn from coaches and build friendships on the team but I truly hate rushing off to practices and having our whole life filled with practice and games.
 So far, I have still not received a note about Little League starting up for fall season.....so who can say. We must not butcher our chickens before they're hatched.

I have been harvesting the little volunteer Sungolds in our garden for the past couple of weeks. I was a little nervous to see what would appear when they began fruiting since I know Sungold is a modern hybrid and not very inclined to end up true to kind. I have been very surprised by satisfied by how very like its parent this tomato has appeared. I have the same juicy, sweet/tart little golden marble fruits and have been merrily filling a folded over pouch in my shirt with them pretty much anytime I find myself lingering in the yard. I have also been picking arugula, some tender second and third flush broccoli and our first very late crop of peas. The peas never seem to make it inside to the house, the kids like them too much. I'm all for healthy snacking however, so there's not much fuss to make over the issue.

The boys and I are working more on nature journalling and have been pulling out our paints to sketch things up a little from time to time. I am still trying to use our journals for a chance to record and research new species to us since moving Out West. Speaking of new species to us...we recently revisited the trees I noticed this spring when they were blooming. I thought they were maybe apricots or peaches but this time of year I could clearly see that they are almond trees. So amazing to discover that there are so many exotic nut trees scattered around. I sometimes feel like I know a lot about plants and animals and that outdoors and that I can feel confident in my knowledge. And then I think about things and realize that I am still humblingly unknowing in many ways and make absurd sounding rooky guesses. I only just realized this spring that the leaves of apricot trees look nothing like peach tree leaves and that I had been walking right past them all my life and not noticing. And then, there's the almonds-look-nothing-like-other-nuts-they-look-like-peaches foul up that I made in trying to learn what was along the highways. I can't believe how much there still is to notice and know and understand....even about the common things. One new fun tool I have been playing with as I learn is the app iNaturalist. Its actually kind of amazing. You take a picture, it notes your location via gps and then identifies your find. Super empowering. The boys love it. We end up running around at parks snapping pictures of things I would normally just shrug at.

Summer isn't quite over yet, even though school is starting next week so I am looking forward to a few more beach days, a little blackberry picking, a pie or two, a rodeo and a music festival. Autumn will come in its time but I'm not quite ready. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Poetry Friday: A Piece About Perspective

Happy Poetry Friday! Its been a long time since I participated but I'm back in the saddle, summer fueling my creative side. Today is the day I share an original poem, hopefully one I made up just today and join in with other poets and poetry lovers to share our work and the work of those we admire. Today our host for Poetry Friday is Mitchell Linda over at A Word Edgewise. Go take your morning cup of coffee over tomorrow and glide through all the stacks of wonderful poems. Such a great way to open your mind for the weekend and to take it all out and shake out the wrinkles before a new week begins. 

This week I am sharing a poem that was begotten via a poetry prompt from our hostess. Thank you so much for the beautiful first line, Mitchell Linda... This took me happy places. I was thinking of the very common scene in my backyard with my four little boys playing together and losing things together over the garage roof or over the fence to the neighboring yards. Lots of great images and meaning layers there if we look at even the simple and mundane scenes in our lives.  
Above Ground
"Don’t worry—there are ladders."
He told his little brother after they
Sailed a balsa glider quite out of reach
Onto the garage roof.  
He was just deflating, melting into a
Puddle of heartbreak on the sidewalk,
his kindergarten joy sailing out of reach
Onto the garage roof. 
His big brother lifted his chin with a finger,
And gave a wink towards the rungs
And pulled his hopes upright again
Onto the garage roof. 
How many times I could have rallied
If I could only learn to look up myself.
Remembering that there are ladders
Onto the garage roof.


Reading Stack and Summer Lull

This week we are back in the swing of our own life again, finally. Part of the challenge has been not only settling in after a bunch of travel but also just changing our own set-up here at home. A is at yet another new job (he adores change and stimulation) so we have a new schedule to digest and wrap into our life. Its also a new season and the school year approaches which, as they say in You've Got Mail:
"...makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address. "  
So, that right there is justification for self-organization and assessment and the sort of things I spent the morning on today: making up a new daily schedule, printing off my weekly goals, re-writing the kids chore chart (everyone gets a new chore at their birthday and everyone had birthdays). I am hoping to be absurdly organized and get the chore chart laminated and slapped with a matching dry erase marker in the next week. I have printed attendance charts for the coming school year (state law here in California for homeschooling) and have subscribed to a printer ink program so that we won't have any last minute panics about papers that are finished but need to be printed the night before co-op. Its a good time of year.

We are also in the middle of the lull season. We have had our travel and our excitement and now its time for things like grilling in the backyard, taking slow evening walks, watching the weed patches for caterpillars to raise and checking to see if friends can come over to play. Its the rest in the garden when the extremely fuss-free daylilies bloom, the dramatic peonies and foxgloves are over and the zinnias aren't ready yet. The roadsides are all chickory and oatgrass, no blooming trees anymore and not much else in view besides the gentle endless sun and the tiny basking fence lizards blinking at each other.

We are reading several read-alouds since I can't seem to ever get enough sitting around together reading at this time of year and the kids are just as excited as I am about all the options. We are listening to Pollyanna in audio form from the free and delightful Libravox collection and also reading the third Harry Potter book, The Prisoner From Azkaban which occasionally gets too exciting and full of plot tension to for relief we retire to Swallows And Amazons which is the best for firing the love nature and sense of capability in little boys, not mention a love of sailing....also on the stack at the moment is Dandelion Cottage, a vintage favorite about a group of little girls who play house with an abandoned cottage in their northern Michigan village. The boys always wish we could find a nearby house that's empty when we read the next chapters, and they start eyeing up the empty lot nearby.
 We recently finished Girl Of The Limberlost (added to my narrow list of favorites) and More All Of A Kind Family (book 2) all about our favorite, laugh-out-loud Jewish sibling set, total fun and lots of interesting cultural discussion to boot! We plan to read the rest in the series of both books.  Ah! So much good fun, take-you-away storytelling and interesting stuff to talk about together. We love our read-alouds. The new schedule at our house means we start breakfast early so I am stretching it out a little so that we can linger at the table together making up for the early start with a little reading at the table while we sip our tea and coffee and digest a little. Kind of lovely to find you have the time for some new little nugget of enjoyment. Shift and tweak, it isn't all difficult and grinding.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Tips From The Slower, Italian Life

Italy. Time to talk about it a little bit. The big thing I want to talk about is culture, the way Italians live day to day...although the food and sights and history were epic, of course...not in any way to detract from the gorgeousness of it all.

Italians do three big things differently than Americans which look to me like they would revolutionize family life and the mania of existence. I cannot stop thinking about these items and I'm still chewing on how to incorporate them into my life here and wondering how in the world they managed to create and maintain such a different standard for normal than we do.

They wash all dishes by hand. To make sure this happens, they don't own dishwashers. We AirBnb'd our way through the country and nowhere, at any stop was there a dishwasher but every single kitchen was equipped with a dish rack. I talked to a few Italians about this and they think dishwashers are wasteful since they take up space and use more energy than a sink of hot water and your own strong hands.

They hang out all laundry to dry. Another appliance that no Italian homes seemed to have was a dryer. I specifically rented places with a washer so that we could minimize our luggage and our spending by doing our own laundry as we went....not at one house was there a way to get the items dry quickly. They had lines or racks and maybe a big bucket of pins....but that was it. Get hanging. The most elegant sections of town have clotheslines at the windows.

They cook real food and eat it at tables. Always. That means no eating in cars on the way to practice or school, no dashing off to meet friends with a sandwich in your hand, no sipping a milkshake on the way out of work, no microwave in the kitchen and little consumption of packaged processed foods and a very high rate of cookery literacy. Nobody in Italy feels like eating real food that you made yourself is fancy. Its just normal. It took us a little while to figure out this rule and we made fools of ourselves a couple of times by snacking in public before we caught the drift. But now that I think about it....I'm smitten.

I can't help chuckling, envisioning American households trying to do without dryer, dishwasher, microwave AND snacking.....however similar this prescription is to my own anomalous upbringing. Most of our country is locked to these conveniences. What an interesting proposition it is to consider their elimination and think about what it would do to us. I think the big change would be a massive slowing down. You cannot run a life at top speed with no convenience cooking or on the run eating. You can't quickly run Junior's baseball uniform through in the short cycle and have it be of any use when all you have is a clothesline for step two. So much of the way we live is both facilitated by our convenience items and locks us into the trap. Italians also don't have every child enrolled in 4-6 different extra-curricular activities which eat up proper meal times and space for laundry sessions.

We are part of the way there on some of this stuff....intentionally slowing down and maybe even purposely hobbling ourselves so that we have excuses to stick to our slow living. We have four kids and no dishwasher and I had already been doing a bit to beat back the snacking obsession after reading Karen Le Billon's fresh, enlightening book about French food culture and parenting.

There is still room for improvement. I do have a big black microwave (that I am terribly bad at remembering to clean) that is squatting on my counter-top. I'm not sure I need it. I mean, I use it....but mostly for things like heating a mug of water for tea because we are too lazy to use the kettle that particular moment, cooking artichokes (because they take forever on the stove top) and melting butter for eating seafood. I'm not sure its bad to have one, per say....but I can see than they keep me on a fast track. I'm not sure that's good.

We are trying to cut back on our eating on the run. If you didn't get a chance to eat at the table...its worth considering if you could just wait until the next meal. Eating genuine meals shouldn't be rushed into eating in cars and while running down the sidewalk. We should just make time to eat together properly, even if it means not making it to our appointments sometimes. I think that's a good goal.

And now I come to the clothesline, coiled in my garage... I have space in my yard, a dry climate that's great for clothes hanging and a bunch of clothespins waiting to be used. Its time to hang a line at my house....the summer months could be great for hanging out our laundry and saving some electricity while utilizing those UV rays and freshening things up a little. Slowing down is possible.


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!


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.


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