Saturday Wanderings

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Back when he was in fifth grade, maybe sixth, my son created a simulated Black Hole for a project for science. Now, this was not just a table-top diorama. No. When my kid creates a Black Hole, it is going to be a big one.

He thought long and hard about how he would complete this project. On Amazon, he discovered that he could purchase a large sheet of black lycra. He set about to create a frame for the material, and he used PVC pipe and joints.

Actually, the finished product was pretty impressive. He carried it to school unassembled in his sister’s duffle bag. When he put it all together, it was three feet tall and four feet from one side to the other. His teacher was impressed. But as impressive as this project was, it is not the point of this blog post.

Fast forward to this past fall. The large sheet of lycra had been hanging around my house for awhile. We all knew it belonged to W, but it was in the living room; it was in the bedroom; it was in the basement. It really hadn’t found a home. After it had kicked around for too long, W picked it up one day and said, “Do you think I could make a hammock out of this?” And the next thing I knew, I had a hammock hanging from the beams above the ceiling tile in my basement. The best part was that the ceiling tiles had to be pushed aside to make this work.

But then he decided he wanted to make it into a real hammock rather than just a piece of lycra tied to some rope tied to the beams. He spent the better part of a day pleating the material and stitching it together on my sewing machine. The parts that were too thick—where he looped the lycra over and connected it to the rope—were sewn by hand. His newly reconfigured hammock passed the basement test with flying colors.

So last weekend, he took the hammock on a camping trip to test it out for real. Yes, it is February, which means that here in New Hampshire, it is the middle of winter. Personally, I am not sure if I would rather sleep on the frozen ground or in a hammock at this time of year. When I was discussing this issue with my daughter, she had the same first response I had. “Bridges freeze first!”

(And that, my friends, is a clear indication that if nothing else, my daughter learned one important fact in her Drivers Education class, and it is one that she will never forget!)

The argument on whether it’s warmer to sleep on the ground or in a hammock (if you must sleep outside in the dead of winter) is still out for debate, but here’s what I did learn. Getting out of a hammock in the middle of the night in the dead of winter to use the latrine is not too much fun.

[Image credit: FreeImages.com / Orlando Alonzo]

Seeking Inspiration

I am trying to write. Something funny, something creative, something inspiring. but my mind is overworked, active day and night as it deals with life and loss and moving forward. I am looking for inspiration and something to sink my words into. And then there was this:

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Hardly an invitation to creativity.

This book appears to be as uninspiring as any book I have seen, despite the claim on its cover. I am wondering about the conversation in the design room the day this book was being completed. “Hey Boss, I need a cover for this textbook on creativity….”

“Yeah. It’s a textbook. Make it look like one.”

“But Boss, it’s a handbook. Of creativity. Shouldn’t it be fun? Creative, maybe?”

“Nah. It’s a textbook. Make it look like a textbook. Throw some color on it if you want.”

Hmm.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen some much more appealing textbooks. I’ve seen some downright fun textbooks. Most even have pictures or designs on the front cover. Just because a book is designed for learning doesn’t mean it has to be boring. In fact, a splash of color on the cover might make the reader more excited to read this book. I know that for me, the appeal of the cover definitely affects my interest in a book, but apparently, this is a centuries old debate, as indicated by the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” You know, the whole first impression thing….

But then I have to wonder why it is that we are so quick to judge based on what’s on the outside. There is much information held within the pages of this book. The fact that the cover is dry and stilted and downright uncreative is of little import to the material contained within the book. It just seems to me that a handbook on creativity should be… well… CREATIVE.

But I am trying to creative-ize my mind and clear the fog that has been hovering there. Perhaps the words of this book might inspire me. Or maybe they’ll serve to distract me just enough that creativity can slip back in.

The Cactus

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Tonight at dinner, my daughter went running up to her room and came back to the table with something in her hand. “Here,” she said, thrusting it into my hand. “Do you like my cactus?”

Over the past year or so, she has developed a love of succulents. I’m not exactly sure when this happened or why, but slowly, the plants began to disappear from the windowsill in the kitchen and reappear on the windowsill in her room. I noticed that some smaller pots were materializing, and shoots had been taken from the plants of mine that hadn’t yet made the trek up the stairs. [I am really hoping she doesn’t decide she needs some of my Christmas cactus in the next few days because it has just started to poke out some teeny tiny bud-lings….]

I examined the ceramic cactus in my hand. It was “growing” in a pot that almost looked like a wicker basket. The plant had understated spikes that gave the green ball a distinct cactus look. And the cactus bloomed with two dusty pink flowers.

“It’s beautiful!” I told her when I had finished my inspection.

“I made it,” she told me.

“No you didn’t,” I responded, only partially convinced by her words.

“Yes I did. It came out of the kiln yesterday.” And then she turned it upside down, so I could see the bottom. “My initials,” she pointed out.

Indeed, the bottom indicated that the piece was handmade. And it was beautiful! She just started taking a pottery class at school, this year. I can’t wait to see what else she brings home!

My Soundtrack

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Today’s blog prompt asks, what would be on a mix tape of my life? And so I thought about it. Long and hard, I thought.

I thought about my life: Single mother with three kids, two jobs, three cats. Running all the time just to keep up with everything that needs to be done, picking up everything that needs to be put back in place. Catching the things that fall before they land. Stocking the fridge so no one complains, there’s nothing to eat! Sweeping the dust, drying the tears, pulling the weight. Juggling all the balls that are in the air, even when someone tosses in a new one. Remembering the details before someone else forgets them. Always on my toes. Chaotic.

And then it dawned on me. Of course, my life soundtrack would be completely instrumental. Because there are no words to describe my life. Truly, there are no words.

Christmas Lights

img_2667It’s nearly winter where I live. The shortest day of the year is less than three weeks away, and the past few days have been particularly dark and dreary with heavy clouds, drenching rain, and murky fog. The rain has offered some needed relief from the months’ long drought, and while it may seem as though I am complaining, I am not. In fact, I find rainy days offer an opportunity for introspection.

But sometimes dreariness lingers, as it has recently. So with the shorter days, I am doubly glad I put up my Christmas tree this week. I am a huge fan of LOTS of lights One small tree (well, it’s a bit taller than I am…), 520 colored lights. (Yep, I like the colored ones). It bathes my living room in a pinkish glow of cozy warmth.

I am intrigued by the fact that so many winter traditions include festivals of lights. Even the early people knew that lighting the deepening darkness was a good thing that might make them happy. As I sit beside my tree in my living room, I am grateful for the thoughtfulness of their traditions.

For the past couple days, I have been seeking refuge in this welcoming light—both early in the morning, as I drink my coffee, and late in the day, when the daily activity of my house is winding down. Over the next month, I will continue to find moments and create excuses to sit by the tree and think and hopefully, write. My blog challenge in November didn’t go as well as I would have liked, so I have downloaded two lists of prompts for December. If my creativity is not sparked by one list, perhaps it will be sparked by the other. And perhaps I will produce extra blog posts this month.

Because … hope. It “springs eternal,” whatever that means. And for this month, at least, I will sit in the light of my Christmas tree as if I am soaking up the vitamin D infused rays of the sun. And I will quietly wait for inspiration to land here with me in this space.

The Choice

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As I was driving home from dance tonight (yes, I take a dance class—tap, if you must know. Perhaps I will make that “interesting fact #2…”), the NPR commentator was talking about “the surprise election of Donald Trump.” This was not the first time I had heard these words today. It seems that the outcome of yesterday’s election was a surprise to many people.

It should not have been a surprise. There were, essentially, two candidates running, and one of them was going to win. I suppose too many people had already decided the election results weeks in advance, and they put stock in their choice as the only possible option. They didn’t consider that the other candidate might win. And in that way, it was a surprise.

My own ballot was lacking a candidate who represented my values as a single mother working two jobs, as a person of faith, as someone who values kindness and respect. There was no one who seemed to represent the honesty and integrity I want in the person who is running my country. Perhaps the difficulty I had making any choice at all made it easier for me to accept the outcome.

My son voted for the first time in this election. And all day, I have been dealing with my students, individuals who also voted for the first time. These young voters, they are passionate and full of youthful energy and inexperience. The last time we had a new president, they were ten or eleven and so entrenched in their own childhoods that they barely noticed the passing of the torch, no matter how upset or anxious or elated their parents might have been.

Right now, these young voters are upset and fearful. They are reeling from what is their first major setback, and they are looking to us to set the tone for how we move on from “the surprise election of Donald Trump.” On social media, many people have said, “What am I going to tell my children?”

Well, here’s a thought. Tell them our country has a new President. Tell them that this president may be a good president or he may be a bad president, but he is our president. Therefore, it is our job, as Americans, to come together to support him, to guide him, to pray for him, and to help him to make this country the best it can be.

We can help him by being kind to each other. We can strengthen our country by joining together and loving and respecting one another, by being role models for our children, by healing the divisiveness that has characterized this election. After all, when you say you hate your neighbor, friend, family member, etc. because he/she voted for a different candidate than you did, what does that say about you?

No, we may not agree. But it is our job to support our president—whether we agree with the choice or not—because we are all in this together. We the People will set the tone for the next four years. Together. We will either all go down together, or we will all rise up together.

My daughter, in her youthful wisdom, said to me, “We haven’t even given him a chance yet. Maybe he will surprise us.” Because when we approach new situations with an open mind, we might just be pleasantly surprised. I, for one, am holding out hope that this is one of those times.

Brain transplant

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Sometimes (actually, often), we have some unusual conversations in our family. The other day, I got in the car with W, and as I settled in to drive, I felt a twinge in my knee. “Ooo, my knee hurts,” I commented, mostly to myself.

“Is that from when you fell?” he asked, and I nodded. Back in January, I was pumping gas, and I attempted to step over the loop of hose between my car and the gas pump. Bad idea. The hose tripped me up, and I fell, my left knee taking the brunt of the landing. Let’s just say after the embarrassment, the tears, and the initial pain, I had recovered, but my knee… it was slow to heal.

“You should probably get that checked before you have to get it replaced,” he said in his fifteen-year-old matter-of-fact way. “I know someone who had one replaced.”

“I know someone who had two replaced,” I bested.

“You know those cars that have so many parts replaced they are practically brand new?” he asked, taking the conversation in a related-unrelated direction.

“Yeah. Can you do that with a human? Replace so many parts and organs they become a ‘new’ person?” I chuckled at the thought.

“That would be weird.” He looked out the window, and that was probably my cue to stop the conversation. But I didn’t.

“What about a brain transplant?” I ventured. “That might make someone a new person.”

“They can’t do that.” He went for the logical, but I wasn’t having it.

“But what if they could?” I pressed. “You would be a new person. You might not even remember who you were; you wouldn’t recognize your family or your friends….” I tried to think about the multitude of dilemmas presented by this type of major operating system transplant.

“You’d have someone else’s memories and thoughts,” W started to engage, but then stopped. “But they don’t do that.”

“Maybe it wouldn’t really be a brain transplant.” My mind was working overtime as I tried to wrap my head around this concept. “Maybe you’d wake up and say, ‘Oh look! I got a new body!’ For the person whose brain it was, it would be a body transplant.”

Oh my! I believe I’m thankful they haven’t figured out how to do this type of surgery. At least they haven’t figured it out yet….