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

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.