Simplicity

Recently, I was on a social media site, and I saw a picture of a pinecone in a tiny pot sprouting itty bitty pine trees. This picture was astonishing to me, both in its cuteness, and in its simplicity. The idea that I could take something as generally disregarded as a pinecone, put it in some dirt, and watch it grow captured my attention.

Not long after seeing this picture—on one of only a smattering of gorgeous spring days we’ve experienced—I stepped out for a walk during lunch. Rather than walking toward the road, I chose to walk to the back of our building. I had only a couple minutes to enjoy the warmth and the sunshine, and the grassy yard was calling to me. The ground under the pine trees was littered with beautiful, perfect pinecones. I’m going to try to grow one! I thought to myself, so I picked one up and brought it inside.

One of my students immediately discounted my idea to grow it. “It’s so dry,” she commented. “I can’t imagine anything growing out of that.” But then again, that is the miracle of a seed, isn’t it? That an object so small and dry and seemingly worthless can sprout life and become something as majestic as a tree.

Maybe my little pinecone will grow a seedling, and maybe it won’t. But I’m going to give it a try. I’m feeling a need for simplicity and growth in my life.

And if this pinecone does grow, maybe it really would be just a little bit of a miracle.

Blink

Over the years, we have hit milestones with the regularity of the thump of a flat tire. Thump… thump… thump…. At first, it’s kind of reassuring to know that your child is hitting all the important milestones. But recently, it seems the car is speeding up and the milestones thump by faster and faster—at an alarming rate of speed, really. And this week, my daughter completed—and submitted—her first college application. Breathe.

These monumental occasions always give me pause and compel me to take a quick (or leisurely) inventory of the years that have come and gone. This most recent milestone hints at the small amount of time I have before she is off and testing her wings.

The early years of single parenthood are still vividly etched in my memory. I spent the days looking in the rearview mirror, counting heads in the backseat of the car. As the one parent of three very small children—all under five—I was always afraid that in my sleep-deprived state, I would leave one behind. Maybe one slipped by me somehow, and was still hiding in a store in the mall. Perhaps someone went to use the potty and was in the bathroom finishing up, or worse, didn’t get in the car and was standing in the driveway in a puddle of tears wondering why I left without him/her. In those early years, that fear never fully dissipated.

I blinked and we were in a new house in a new neighborhood with new friends and a new school. Little hands reached for mine with regularity. A hand to hold; a hand to help; a hand to lead the way. Those were days of constant attention and discovery and learning. There were toys and games and books and building and dancing and crafts. LOTS of crafts.

And then I blinked.

And the day came when they were all in school, mornings first and then full days. The school bus rumbled up the hill in the morning and swallowed them up. I would watch as the bus drove off up the road and out of sight before I ran home to switch to “adult” mode and be on my way to work. In the early days, I was home from work for 3:15, always needing to beat the bus to meet the kids so they were supervised and transported to the activity of the day. Always rushing so I wouldn’t be late.

Until I blinked.

The kids were able to ride the bus to their activities. My work hours increased, and an after school sitter took on some of my role. Extra keys were made and cell phones purchased and the kids further shaped their identities as they took their first tentative steps toward independence.

I blinked again, and now they are nearly through high school. They will be out on their own soon, with jobs and lives that take them all in different directions. That doesn’t mean my job is done. A mother’s work is never done, is it?

Just don’t blink.

Mother Image

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I sit in my car listening to NPR, staring out across the lake. A group of water-fowl float in a line in the middle of the lake, lazily drifting across the surface. The story on the news is focused on discussion of the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, the troubles in Rio, and the profound separation of the haves and the have-nots in that city.

It is peaceful and quiet at the camp. The campers left for home earlier in the day, and only the staff remains, finishing up their Friday staff meeting. Every now and then, a burst of deep male crowd voice breaks the silence. First, a cheer—a group of young men voicing the same words loudly and in unison—bursts from the meeting hall up the hill. A little while later, laughter. And still later, applause.

The voices are deep and grown up, and can’t possibly include my youngest child. But then again, they can. He has grown and changed—and continues to do so—on a nearly daily basis over the last year or so. The image that I have of him in my head doesn’t match the reality of who he is and who he is becoming. He is part of this group. He fits in.

Somehow, my mother-image of my children is not keeping up with their growth and their approaching adulthood. My image is mired in memories and the experiences of raising them from their earliest days through the years up to the present. Every moment blends together to create the image that I hold of them—always younger than they truly are unless they are standing right in front of me.

Some people might say my mother-image needs adjusting, but I think it is fine just the way it is. At least for now.

Blog party

Today, I am partying with Jacqueline and the blogging community at: https://acookingpotandtwistedtales.com/2016/07/31/where-are-you-its-happening-this-way-party-time/  Come on over and check out all the great blogs!

Necessities

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In the living room, my son is trying to convince my daughter that some colleges don’t provide toilet paper. I’m not completely sure, but she doesn’t seem to be buying his story.

He and I had this discussion while she was in the shower. It started like this: he decided it would be good to add paper towels to his college packing list. That naturally devolved to the need to bring toilet paper, as well.

“I think you’ll find the school will provide that,” I stated, amused at the ludicrous thought that such a necessity would be overlooked.

“I hear some colleges don’t provide it,” he pushed the issue, spinning this new story as he spoke.

“Really?” I asked, recognizing he was going to make up something. “Like what school doesn’t?”

He threw out the name of an institution that one of his friends will be attending. Since his friend recently returned from his orientation, he would know first-hand if the school didn’t provide such a thing. It was a plausible story, but my son was joking, and I knew it.

“Can you imagine paying all that money for college and having to provide your own toilet paper?” I snickered. “That would just be ridiculous!”

Not to mention how that might work in a shared dormitory bathroom….

Yes, we have some crazy conversations in our house. And yes, I end up thinking about things I most likely would not otherwise consider. Sometimes, that would be a good thing.

Online Journaling Workshop!

This is a journaling workshop run by my amazing friend, Kate. I can’t wait to take part in this workshop. Check it out!

Kate Johnson, Heartwork

Soul ReclamationComing up on June 3,4 &5  (or download to do when you wish)– I’m excited to be offering a guided journaling workshop!

This is about reclaiming parts of ourselves, long misplaced, buried, forgotten.
This is about inviting ourselves to feel more whole.
This is about mindfulness and presence, awareness, and forgiveness and shame-release.
This is about letting go, even a little, of our fierce grip on some of what keeps us from being able to move forward into who we are becoming.

DETAILS
** 5 guided journaling exercises posted on a private page on my website over the course of 3 days.
** Each exercise could take as little as 10-minutes
** “ Journaling“ could mean writing or not, art or not, but something “external”, not inside your head, usually works best.
** Participate in real time or download for later.
** A totally optional private, temporary, Facebook group…

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this moment: pronouns and plane seats

I am sharing this thoughtful post by my blogging friend Laura at Riddle from the Middle. Thoughts on listening to others as they navigate their way through the world.

Riddle from the Middle

There are times when I’m listening to people in this great big world of ours, and I can’t help but notice how careful we’ve all gotten.  How the explosive nature of the general public has pushed some people into the shadows and forced others to tread oh-so-gently when meeting someone new.

Hearing folks hold back, hush up, or dance around an issue isn’t just annoying anymore.

I’ve found it’s almost painful listening to someone walking on eggshells.

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Brunch Party

My friend Jacqueline is holding a blogging brunch party today. Check it out and join us:

http://acookingpotandtwistedtales.com/2016/03/19/brunch-party-time-live-link-its-a-party

Liebster Award

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At the end of last week, Susan, at The Best Things in Life nominated me for a Liebster Award. I was thrilled, but before I accepted, I felt like I should achieve some crazy blogging milestone. So maybe I did not achieve a “crazy milestone,” but I posted my 50th post!

In the blogging world, 50 posts is not much—a drop in the perpetual post-bucket. However, for me, it feels pretty big. I put off blogging for a very long time because I was afraid that I would not be able to keep it up. I was afraid my hectic life would get in the way, and my blog would fall by the wayside with only 10 or 15 posts. While my posting has slowed down a bit since my spring teaching picked up at the beginning of February, I have still kept at it. I will get back to posting more regularly.

I took a look at the “Official Rules” for the Liebster Award —which seem to be ever changing and marginally “un”official. (The Liebster Award: The Official Rules). In looking at the rules, I realized that I had a little flexibility. And to me, flexibility means room to color outside the lines, something my creative self adores! But I will try to stay within the bounds of the rules as much as possible.

First of all, many thanks to Susan at The Best Things in Life for finding my blog in this jungle we call the Internet, and then nominating me for this award. Sometimes, finding the good stuff feels like magic, but other times, it seems like pure, dumb luck. As a blogger, I have to get better at the magic aspect of it.

Next, I will answer Susan’s questions:

  1. What state or country do you live in? The U.S.—New Hampshire.
  2. What is the best thing about where you live? Eventually, it stops snowing and spring arrives.
  3. What is your passion? Helping writers to develop their craft. Raising caring, happy children.
  4. How do you relax? Relax? Am I allowed to do that?
  5. Vanilla or chocolate? Um… is coffee an option?
  6. Favorite vacation spot? We have the most wonderful camp that we go to. It’s not really a “vacation spot” per se, but my children and I—and now some of our extended family and wonderful friends—have created some amazing memories there. Because it was the first “vacation spot” I was able to take my children to, it has become a very special place to us.
  7. Favorite band? Too many to mention—lots of bands and lots of solo artists.
  8. Why do you blog? I blog because I find it relaxing. I think that even though I am a little crazy creative and unique, there is much of who I am (to my kids, friends, students, co-workers, pets, etc.) that is part of the universal experience of humanity.
  9. What was the last book you read? I read a lot of YA literature. I just finished Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children for a class I’m teaching.
  10. Weirdest thing you have ever eaten? Lamb’s brain. Served on the half-skull.

And now that I have answered these questions, I will nominate six bloggers—who may, or may not, choose to accept the Liebster award—and pose some questions for them to answer:

EpicGran

Renaissance Musings

Hypedad

Scribbles and Crumbs

Motherhood and all the rest

Bari Nan Cohen

Here are my questions:

  1. Where do you live?
  2. If I were a tourist in your area, what should I absolutely not miss?
  3. How long have you been blogging?
  4. Is there anything you have found surprising or unexpected about blogging?
  5. What are your blogging goals?
  6. In one sentence, tell me about your writing process.
  7. What is the most interesting place you have ever visited?
  8. What is your favorite book/series?
  9. Do you have any pets, and what types?
  10. What is your favorite book?
  11. What is your favorite movie?

I look forward to reading your responses!

Family business

I was in the grocery store the other day, and I wandered into the bread aisle where a mother was arguing with her teenager. She was telling him how disrespectful he had been of late. She was disappointed that he wasn’t taking more responsibility around the house. She wanted him to be more involved with the family and their activities. He never went anywhere with the family anymore, she whined. Why did he have to act this way? His counselor said he was making progress, but he was supposed to be more involved…. Why wasn’t he doing what his counselor said??

This conversation went on at great length as mom carried on about all the things that were wrong with her child and his behavior. She palmed the loaves of bread, weighing one against the other, as she told the boy how much of a disappointment he was to her. Her voice became louder, whinier, and though she didn’t actually yell at him, it might have been better if she had. But she was in the grocery store, after all.

I was embarrassed for this woman. I thought about quietly suggesting that she take her conversation elsewhere. The boy probably would have appreciated it. No doubt, he would have been mortified if he had known how many people now knew about his business—his family situation, his counseling, and his inability to live up to his mother’s expectations. The store was quite crowded, after all, and the bread aisle is always popular.

But the boy wasn’t actually there. In fact, I don’t know that she was talking to a boy at all. I don’t know that she was talking to a teenager, though her tone and demeanor gave me my biggest clues. The entire conversation took place on her cell phone.

For whatever reason, cell phones allow people to believe that their private conversations should be held in public. They haul out their cell phones when they feel the need to say something, and they don’t bother to look around to see who might overhear. Or who might be offended. And they don’t consider that not all conversations are appropriate for all forums.

In this case, Mom was complaining that her son was disrespectful, and I’m pretty sure I know where he learned that trait. I would guess I’m not the only one who figured that out.

So the next time you’re tempted to haul your private business into the grocery store in a loud and unfiltered cell phone conversation, look around to see who might overhear what you have to say… and blog about it later.