Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Follow these simple steps, and you too can be a miserable person!

"You're a rotter, Mr. Grinch 
You're the king of sinful sots 
Your heart's a dead tomato splotched with moldy purple spots 
Mr. Gri-inch! 
You're a three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce!"

 I have seen 4 cars run red lights right in front of me in the last 24 hours. 4. Had I gone the moment my light turned green, I would have been hit. I could have been hit 4 times in the last 24 hours. And it is only December 17th!

On my way to take my littlest to school this morning, someone cut in front of me and then proceeded to drive 20 below the speed limit. I wasn't late, (amazingly!) but still I grit my teeth in frustration at the gaul of said driver. How DARE they get in my way?!? Why can't anyone in this city drive correctly!?!

Then I had an epiphany, lightning, struck my brain! Ok, perhaps it was not near so catastrophic as that.  Perhaps closer to the truth, is that I had a moment of conviction.

The person that cut me off had just come out of the gas station. They were driving an old van that had what my husband refers to as "the blue smoke of death" coming out of the back. A thousand possible stories ran through my head all at once:

 - Single mom of 4 kids, dad long gone. She spent her last $10 on gas to get home to see her family for just a short while before starting a long sought after job that would cause her to work on Christmas day. She NEEDS to get home to see her babies, even just for that short time.

- The car didn't work at first, if she doesn't make it to this meeting she will be fired.  She said a prayer of faith and tried once more and the car sputtered to life. Filled with thankfulness she pulled into the road without looking properly.  God knew I was paying attention, I was a part of her gift.

- Brand new Grandma just got word that her first grandson was just born - perhaps healthy, but maybe she gets only a short time with him due to a medical condition. The faster she gets there, the more time she gets. Every moment is precious.   

- Military wife/mother, just the call that her husband/son came back early and gets to be home for Christmas! Or perhaps he wont, perhaps her vision was blurred with tears and she just needed to get away, far away.

Thank you God, for the woman who pulled out in front of me today. I pray blessings on her and those she loves. I pray protection, I pray for health and joy and a long life for her dying van! Keep it running so long as it is needed.

Ah you see? Perhaps I am the only one who will pray for her this Christmas. Perhaps she needed it desperately and God knew, so he put her in my way. Thank you God, for putting her in my way.

It is funny to me how everyone's stress and aggression seems to come out while they are driving. It is as if we feel anonymous in our cage of metal, we will take liberties we never would have dreamed of had our name been attached to the action. How would your car look, if your name was pasted to the side of it in bold, bright letters every time you did something that was inconsiderate of those around you - regardless of how they were acting first? Would we make different choices if our sins were visible wherever we went?

As I was growing up, my mom had a sign up in the livingroom that read "Choose Joy." As I have battled the many challenges of parenthood, health, marriage and just general adulthood with its money, time and life challenges - that sign often flashes through my mind.

Choose Joy.  

You see, we like complaining. It is fun. It makes us feel important, it makes us feel close when we complain together. We enjoy feeling wronged, we like it even more when we get something out of it. "You wronged me, fix it now! You now owe me BIG time!"

My beloved mother recently celebrated a birthday.  And to celebrate becoming more wise, as birthdays are apt to do - she posted a list of "joy robbers."

To encourage you to Choose Joy this Christmas season, I wanted to post this list.  I know especially with all the stress that the holidays seem to bring, I regularly need a reminder that true joy is a choice, and not something that the world owes me.

Do me a favor. Read each line twice, slower the second time. And listen.

Linda Evans

1. Be a chronic complainer.

2. Demand unconditional love from people....no matter how you behave.

3. Throw temper tantrums when you get mad.

4. Do what you want to do, whenever you want to do it.

5. Demand instant gratification for your desires.

6. Think people should be able to read your mind.

7. Believe the world owes you.

8. Expect others to take care of you and solve your problems.

Did you listen?

We are all guilty! I know I am. 

So tell me, has your mind started forming "Buts" and "reason why" yet? Let me save you some time (and as always, know that I speak to myself here as well). You are not special, you are not the exception. You don't get a free pass because of xyz. You are accountable for your own attitude, regardless of the circumstance. 

Say it with me: I am the master of my own attitude!

Whats more, as the mom, I am the one that chooses the attitude of my home. That is a big responsibility, and one that I all too often take lightly. Today, will I choose stress? Annoyance? Distraction? Anger? Will I choose indifference, condescension? Will I choose to be the victim? Making all those around me feel guilty for unknown faults? Will I choose to be the aggressor? Making all those around me feel half of who they should be in order to bend to my will, my whims, my unpredictable flares of temper? Where will I find my joy? From the cowering of others? From the affirmation of others? From the neglect of others? Will I make myself feel strong by forcing others to feel weak? Will I find my joy in sharing misery with others? Will I find my joy in things? Will I find my joy in how much I can get from others? Or will I decide that joy is not worth my time - after all, I tried being nice and it got me no where. Why bother? Throw it all down, let us hate the world, Christmas, consumerism, hypocrites, drama, "fake people," let us be hateful together!

Choose Joy.

I am the master of my own attitude. This is not "how I happen to feel today." This has nothing to do with feelings. It is possible to be sad, and yet be filled with joy. Happiness does not = joy. Joy brings happiness, not the other way around. And it does not happen all at once, it is a process. And it starts with the choice.

Choose Joy.

Choose to let go of everything else. Take a deep breath, let it out. And Choose Joy.

Does this post make you angry? Annoyed? Feel inadequate? Good. It does the same to me. I have a hundred excuses you see, choosing joy is not easy. It is not comfortable. There are days I downright hate it. Being wronged by the world is comfortable. I like that. It releases me from responsibility. Being responsible is uncomfortable and takes lots of energy that I just don't have. Choosing Joy can be the most difficult thing we ever have to do, and it has to be done over and over and over. But it is good, oh it is good! And you know what? You do deserve it. You deserve Joy, it is a gift that has been given to you because you are so incredibly special! You are exceptional! And this gift has been given to you, to me for absolutely free! 

What difference will it make in the life of my children if I Choose Joy today? If I can model the opposite of those things listed above for them? What difference would it make in my marriage? In my friends, my family, in my own life? How amazing would that be? 

Father God, this Christmas I pray for Joy. I pray it for my family, for my friends. I pray it for my husband and for my children. I pray it for me. Joy unbounded, beyond logic, beyond words. I pray for your joy, so complete that everything else fades in comparison. I think you for the gift you gave to us, your baby boy. Your Joy, in human form.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Always Healing

Some of you know that I have been on a "journey of healing" to put it simply. I have been fed up entirely trying to be well on my own - even though my bloodwork shows my numbers being "within normal" I have still been battling many, many Hashimoto's symptoms and it has affected just about every aspect of my life, making me not as effective of a wife, mother and person in general!

Of course, I generally cannot embark upon any great life work without eventually sharing it with my beloved reader. It truly means the world to me to have you share in both my victories and frustrations. 

On this journey I have been focusing on three main aspects of being a whole person.

1. The physical side of health: What I do/do not eat - Seeing food as medicine with the power to hurt or heal based on the choices I make. Working to be balanced and listening to my body to know what makes it well and what makes it miserable.  Of course exercise is also a part of full body health, that is generally the easiest for me. But I am working to add into my normal work-outs lots of deep breathing as well as prayer for health. Sleep of course is vital and there is a small list that follows of other physical needs that I am making sure are not forgotten. Funny how sometimes even the most basic need can be forgotten as we get caught up in the whirlwind of life.

2. The spiritual side of health: This can be a real challenge with small kids.  Alone time for prayer and/or meditation, much less any kind of Bible study is almost laughable. I tried for a while to get up before everyone else, but even as I woke up at 6am, my kids had already beat me (and the sun!) to it.  Before 6 I doubt I will remember anything that I read, so I am instead finding small pockets through-out the day. 2 minutes here, 5 minutes there. I am living life with God laughing along at my side, being a part of the everyday - and it is good.

3. The emotional. This is always the hardest for me. I am not a generally emotional person, and so being willing to be open to that when it is needed can be a real challenge. Admitting that every so often I just need a good cry and a moment to be openly lonely, frustrated, angry or even deeply sad. My oldest baby girl is so good at being there for me when it comes to this. She feels so deeply and can get to the heart of an issue with such childhood innocence and simplicity, where I would be blundering about for hours and entirely missing the point. I am thankful for her - and for all my children. They are such wonderful (and tragic) mirrors to our innermost selves. I am so blessed.

Through this journey, God has placed a mentor in my life. She is a nutritionist (among other things) with more certifications than I can count. I met her through a moms group and have been meeting with her to talk about shaping my whole body health, (all the things mentioned above) but especially my nutrition around what I personally need in order to be healthy. The journey is never easy, but after a few rough weeks I feel like I have woken up a bit. I had enough energy last night after the kids went to bed to do dishes, tidy the living room AND sort, fold and put away four loads of laundry! I wanted to cry with relief as I would walk into my living room and it was not a disaster zone! And for the first time in almost three years, I was not plagued with guilt over everything I felt I should do but simply couldn't because of the bone deep exhaustion that made it hard to breath, must less face the ever growing mountain that is the laundry a family of five can produce in a just a few short days.

So celebrate with me! The world outside today is all aglow with a fresh fall of rain, the air is crisp and clean. I have my morning coffee and I am enjoying the bustle of the warm restaurant around me. I am teaming with story ideas that I feel I must release onto paper or fly apart. I feel full of life and hope today. A world apart from where I seem...

I sat down to write last week. Of course I had a good idea of where I wanted to go with a particular story idea, and instead it ended up being very far down, left and sideways from where I ended up.  I wrote for two hours and at the end looked down at my computer screen to see a poem looking back - with whole sections I could not remember having written, yet there they were so I must have! I feel there is much in this piece that is open for interpretation. It is raw, un-edited. Perhaps it is meant to be. I do not feel like I wrote it for myself, yet I do feel it was written for a reason - perhaps for you beloved reader. So I will end my post of hope and healing today with this. Within the bustle of the holiday I pray peace for you all -  peace that whispers all around in a world that roars without a sound.

My friend and I

I have a little friend, as pretty as can be.
She has two legs, two arms, a nose and giggles just like me.
We like to run and skip and play,
she's by my side throughout the day.
We laugh and jump and sing together,
through sun and wind and wild weather.

Until the sun begins to yawn, and birds begin to sigh.
My friend she reaches to the sky, my friend begins to die.

“Oh please!” I beg, “don't leave me now, don't go” I cry in vain.
But as the sun dips to the west, the leaves turn golden reds.
The birds return to hearth and nest to tuck their babies into beds.

My friend she gives me one last wave and slowly fades to night.
My tears give sparkle to the stars, my grief it feeds the light.
The Moon she is a beast of beauty, a hunter sounds a call.
A dipper measures velvet black, a haunting song is calling back.
A world apart from where I seem, my friend is now a long off dream.
A time of joy so long forgotten, a childhood fancy now besotten.
An end so tired, the dark has woken into a world so vast and broken.

I sit alone upon the ground, the sky above is still.
Your peace it whispers all around, the world it roars without a sound.
I breath a song of love and sorrows, of loss and joy and new tomorrows.
Of blues and greens and brilliant gold, of songs and stories never told.
And though I'm old and gray and frail, a new day dawns, a new ship sails.
My friend with arms and legs and eyes, peeks or' the hill to soon arise.
And bathe me with her golden cry, as new and glorious as the sky!

Together we will fly untamed, cross mountain range and desert planes.
A flash of lightning rips the sky, A dragon roars a thunderous cry,
I give a wink and wave goodby, and we just laugh my friend and I.

(Written by Sarah Bethuel Reynolds)

Friday, November 1, 2013

I Am Multiple Me

 "Mrs. Darling first heard of Peter when she was tidying up her children's minds. It is the nightly custom of every good mother after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put things straight for next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered during the day. If you could keep awake (but of course you can't) you would see your own mother doing this, and you would find it very interesting to watch her. It is quite like tidying up drawers. You would see her on her knees, I expect, lingering humorously over some of your contents, wondering where on earth you had picked this thing up, making discoveries sweet and not so sweet, pressing this to her cheek as if it were as nice as a kitten, and hurriedly stowing that out of sight. When you wake in the morning, the naughtiness and evil passions with which you went to bed have been folded up small and placed at the bottom of your mind and on the top, beautifully aired, are spread out your prettier thoughts, ready for you to put on."                                    - Peter and Wendy (JM Barrie)

I am multiple me.

It's true you know. I don't seem to fit any kind of standard category, and while I am ok with being uniquely who I am - truly.  I'll admit...it has been a sorrow of mine that there are few who seem to "get" me and I always feel a bit foolish trying to empathize with others. 

I think most of us are born with the innate need to be "gottened" and yes I just made up that word. I think a good portion of my life has been spent searching for others that don't make me feel like I am on the outside looking into a world I will never truly understand.

It is possible a trained mental professional would have a field day in my head...or perhaps I flatter myself, and the truth is I am exactly like every single other human on the planet, and that idea alone terrifies me so truly to my core that I run away as fast as I can - and then I feel alone, because I have left it all behind in my hurry to get away. It is a catch 22 of belonging. I want to belong, but I want to belong on my terms, which in turn, makes me no longer belong.

I am multiple me.

This phrase has been in my head since I attended a SCBWI conference at the beginning of last month and one of the speaker's talks formed that phrase in my head. She was talking about how as authors, we have to be able to become each and every one of our characters. If you cannot be them, you cannot effectively write them.  Immediately my mind started finding my characters and discovering how I could relate with each of them. Then I started thinking of some of my favorite books and the wide variety of characters within them. I started imagining how so many unique personalities could fit into one authors head. And of course, being the visual person I am, I then thought of my favorite authors with the many heads of all their characters sewed onto their bodies so they looked like some grotesque version of a Halloween masterpiece. Of course, then I imagined my own characters sewed onto my own body and myself lumbering around awkwardly trying to stay upright - perhaps I could write a story about an author that gains another head every time they create a character? Oh goodness...

My multiple-ness has been feeling rather cluttered lately. Life gets too busy and I forget to organize. I need someone to re-arrange my thoughts for me, it would make waking up in the morning so much more pleasant! Or perhaps my problem is that I am not yet all the way grown up:

"I don't know whether you have ever seen a map of a person's mind. Doctors sometimes draw maps of other parts of you, and your own map can become intensely interesting, but catch them trying to draw a map of a child's mind, which is not only confused, but keeps going round all the time. There are zigzag lines on it, just like your temperature on a card, and these are probably roads in the island, for the Neverland is always more or less an island, with astonishing splashes of colour here and there, and coral reefs and rakish-looking craft in the offing, and savages and lonely lairs, and gnomes who are mostly tailors, and caves through which a river runs, and princes with six elder brothers, and a hut fast going to decay, and one very small old lady with a hooked nose. It would be an easy map if that were all, but there is also first day at school, religion, fathers, the round pond, needle-work, murders, hangings, verbs that take the dative, chocolate pudding day, getting into braces, say ninety-nine, three-pence for pulling out your tooth yourself, and so on, and either these are part of the island or they are another map showing through, and it is all rather confusing, especially as nothing will stand still." (JM Barrie)

Why is it that gnomes are mostly tailors? I never really got that - but it is true you know and I have always wondered why. When I am grown up I want to be the old lady.  She sounds fascinating...

Anyhow... it is very true that nothing ever stands still in my head. Perhaps if it would for just a moment I could catch my breath.  But then if it were to stand still I would soon get bored and want it to go on spinning again.

My brain is just fuzzy and full of things that might make sense if you looked at it sideways, squinted your eyes; jumped up and down three times and then stuck your tongue out at it.  But without those crucial steps it is all just a jumble of zig-zag lines.
I need to make a list - lists always help. It clears the jumble and creates calm. Perhaps lists are the tools used to organize minds.  I imagine lists being characters in and of themselves, almost willowy like a wisp.  And trailing behind them as they fly, a thousand tiny fireflies that put everything into order as it should be.

Alright. A list - an "I am Multiple Me" list. (All of a sudden 90's Alanis Morissette is in my head...) What would be on such a list?

I am un-reliable. A sad but true statement. I hate it about myself, but this is a true list so I cannot sherk from what actually is.  I often don't text back or answer emails. I may want to talk to someone, but for some odd reason, picking up a phone and calling can be the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life (for no apparent reason.) Basically, I have no excuse - I am unreliable. I will tell someone that I want to call/text/get together with them soon and I never will. This has nothing to do with how much I love them, and my statement at the time I said it was 100% true. It has everything to do with the fact that I have too many Me's floating about in my head and just because one says something, it doesn't mean all the others will hold true to that.

I am not an extrovert, I am not an introvert. This bothers me. It always has. I want to fit into one of these molds, because I would like some warning before hand on whether or not people will exhaust me or thrill me. It ends up being a terrible guessing game where I get anxious before almost every social gathering, not knowing if it will wring me dry or make me feel happy, loved and full-filled. And it has nothing to do with the people, or the time of day, or the event, or anything at all. It just depends on which Me happens to be at the surface at the time. I get no warning, I cannot prepare. I just have to wait and see.

Everything in my mind has a color. People, places, things, emotions, actions and most of all, every story. Everything is brilliant, everything is painted to match itself perfectly. I never dream without color. I never have color without a story, everything in life has a story. The tree that beat the odds and grew to be straight and true between the cracks of the sidewalk. The crumpled piece of paper being blown about by the breeze in an abandoned parking lot. The child being hurried along by a parent; the parent that knows that if he doesn't hurry, the child may not get to eat tonight. Fantastic color, brilliant stories. The world is alive.

Monotony makes my ears bleed. Conforming makes my body hurt. I have an itch in my head that has to be scratched by going against the proverbial flow. If I fall into reliable patterns, into organized schedules for too long the itch becomes unbearable. I need to breath, I need to run, I need to sing loud - I cannot conform. I cannot, will not - be like you. But I also need consistency in life, which means I am constantly torn. I like to know what is coming next, I like to understand the pattern, but I want the pattern to change every so often so I don't get bored of it. It can be exhausting!   

I am exhausted. All. The. Time. But I have more energy then I know what to do with. Figure that one out for me and I will be forever in your debt.

I am arrogant. I have no tolerance for foolishness or disrespect. Be educated on a matter before you speak your opinion or I will judge you. I am very rarely wrong if I am giving someone information about a subject I have studied, I am wrong about people all the time. I make snap decisions about people - but I can also change what I think very quickly. Some people that I very much disliked when I first met them have become beloved friends. I am well aware that many people don't like me, and while I try hard to always be polite, I am ok with that knowledge. I am not a people please-er, so I am keenly aware that not pleasing everyone is a simple fact of life. I have no problem saying no, I have very strict interpersonal boundaries that I regularly break on a whim just because. I watch everyone, all the time. The world is my textbook. If I do not know someone's story I create it. I LOVE hearing stories from people and regularly forget them (not because I wasn't listening, just because I forget things a lot) so I am the perfect friend for someone who regularly repeats stories. I also love to add to your stories, whether it is telling you a fun way it could have been, or spinning a completely fantasy out of your wonderful beginning.

I firmly believe that tea can solve everything. If I am ever in a bad place, make me a cup of tea. If I am sad, alone, frightened or upset - make me a cup of tea. As long as I have a warm cup of tea to hold, everything will be ok. It is magic, there is no other explanation.

I don't like being touched.  The only people to which I willingly give hugs are my husband, my children and occasionally friends and family I have not seen in a very long time - but even that is pushing it. Mostly just my husband and my kids. It does not mean I do not love you, it does not mean anything at all...except that I simply do not like people touching me. I have actually researched sensory disorders because I am hyper sensitive to touch, sound and smells - to the point of it being physically painful at times. So if you ever see me duck out of doors at an event with an overstimulating environment, it is not personal, I just needed space over my head for a while and a break from the noise.

The sun is like a drug to me, I need time in it or I get depressed. Perhaps that is the southern CA girl in me talking. But I love it, sitting in the sun I can relax.

I love to read, I love to sing, I love to act, I love to write, I cannot dance...

I am curious. Yes...yes that about sums it up. I am REALLY curious. I am curious about pretty much everything. I am curious about people, I am curious about theology, philosophy, rhetoric, religions, natural remedies, books, stories, legends, history, culture, how to survive in the wild, psychology, music, texture, taste, sex, words, the origin of man, beauty, character, color, growing things, passion - I am curious about things that people are passionate about.  And I LOVE hearing people talk about their passions, it makes me excited about life.

I used to hate it when people would say "Curiosity killed the cat" it drove me insane! And I heard it a lot, mostly from elders in my life that wished I would just sit still for two minutes... But I remember someone saying it to me once and before I could stop myself I shouted back at the offender "It may have killed the cat, but it was also the cat's reason for living."I probably got in trouble for saying it...but I can remember that epiphany moment. I realized all at once that being curious could be a positive thing, and not just something that gets you in trouble. Perhaps that really sums up my multiple-ness. I am just curious.

I am Multiple Me. Always learning...forever curious. It is my reason for living.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

It does not end happy, but it does end well!

This is going to take some focus. So close your facebook browser, pause the TV, take a deep breath, and read. 

 There was a certain country where things used to go rather oddly. For instance, you could never tell whether it was going to rain or hail, or whether or not the milk was going to turn sour. It was impossible to say whether the next baby would be a boy or a girl, or, even after he was a week old, whether he would wake sweet-tempered or cross.
  In strict accordance with the peculiar nature of this country of uncertainties, it came to pass one day that, in the midst of a shower of rain that might well be called golden, seeing the sun, shining as it fell, turned all its drops into molten topazes—while this splendid rain was falling, something happened.

 It was not a great battle, nor an earthquake, nor a coronation, but something more important than all those put together: a baby-girl was born—and her father was a king, and her mother was a queen, and her uncles and aunts were princes and princesses, and her first cousins were dukes and duchesses, so the little girl was Somebody; and yet for all that, strange to say, the first thing she did was to cry! 

I told you it was a strange country.

As she grew up, everybody about her did his best to convince her that she was Somebody, and the girl herself was so easily persuaded of it that she quite forgot that anybody had ever told her so, and took it for a fundamental, innate, primary, firstborn, self-evident, necessary, and incontrovertible idea and principle that she was Somebody. And the worst of it was that the princess never thought of there being more than one Somebody—and that was herself.

 Far away to the north in the same country,among the hailstones, and the heather, and the cold mountain air, another little girl was born, whom the shepherd her father, and the shepherdess her mother, And yet, would you believe it? she too cried the very first thing. It was an odd country! And what is still more surprising, the shepherd and shepherdess were not a bit wiser than the king and the queen, for they too, one and all, so constantly taught the little woman that she was Somebody, that she also forgot that there were a great many more Somebodies besides herself in the world.

It was, indeed, a peculiar country—very different from ours—so different that my reader must not be too much surprised when I add the amazing fact, that most of its inhabitants, instead of enjoying the things they had, were always wanting the things they had not, often even the things it was least likely they ever could have. The grown men and women being like this, there is no reason to be further astonished that the Princess Rosamond—the name her parents gave her because it means Rose of the World—should grow up like them, wanting everything she could and everything she couldn’t have. The things she could have were a great many too many, for her foolish parents always gave her what they could; but still there remained a few things they couldn’t give her, for they were only a common king and queen. They could and did give her a lighted candle when she cried for it, and managed by much care that she should not burn her fingers or set her frock on fire; but when she cried for the moon, that they could not give her. They did the worst thing possible instead, however, for they pretended to do what they could not:—they got her a thin disc of brilliantly polished silver, as near the size of the moon as they could agree upon, and for a time she was delighted.

But, unfortunately, one evening she made the discovery that her moon was a little peculiar, inasmuch as she could not shine in the dark. Her nurse happened to snuff out the candles as she was playing with it, and instantly came a shriek of rage, for her moon had vanished. Presently, through the opening of the curtains, she caught sight of the real moon, far away in the sky, and shining quite calmly, as if she had been there all the time; and her rage increased to such a degree that if it had not passed off in a fit, I do not know what might have come of it.

 Of course as she grew, she grew worse, for she never tried to grow better. She became more and more peevish and fretful every day—dissatisfied not only with what she had, but with all that was around her, and constantly wishing things in general to be different. She found fault with everything and everybody and all that happened, and grew more and more disagreeable to everyone who had to do with her. At last, when she had nearly killed her nurse, and was miserable from morning to night, her parents thought it time to do something.

 A long way from the palace, in the heart of a deep wood of pine-trees, lived a wise woman. In some countries she would have been called a witch, but that would have been a mistake, for she never did anything wicked, and had more power than any witch could have. As her fame was spread through all the country, the king heard of her, and, thinking she might perhaps be able to suggest something, sent for her. In the dead of the night, lest the princess should know it, the king’s messenger brought into the palace a tall woman, muffled from head to foot in a cloak of black cloth. In the presence of both their majesties, the king, to do her honour, requested her to sit, but she declined, and stood waiting to hear what they had to say. Nor had she to wait long, for almost instantly they began to tell her the dreadful trouble they were in with their only child—first the king talking, then the queen interposing with some yet more dreadful fact, and at times both letting out a torrent of words together, so anxious were they to show the wise woman that their perplexity was real, and their daughter a very terrible one. For a long while there appeared no sign of approaching pause. But the wise woman stood patiently folded in her black cloak, and listened without word or motion. At length silence fell, for they had talked themselves tired, and could not think of anything more to add to the list of their child’s enormities.
“How very badly you have treated her!” said the wise woman: “Poor child.”
“What! Treated her badly?” gasped the king.
“She is a very wicked child,” said the queen; and both glared with indignation.
“Yes, indeed,” returned the wise woman; “she is very naughty indeed, and that she must be made to feel; but it is half your fault too.”
“What!” stammered the king. “Haven’t we given her every mortal thing she wanted?”
“Surely,” said the wise woman. “What else could have all but killed her! You should have given her a few things of the other sort. But you are far too dull to understand me.”
“You are very polite!” remarked the king, with royal sarcasm on his thin, straight lips.

The wise woman made no answer beyond a deep sigh, and the king and queen sat silent also in their anger, glaring at the wise woman. The silence lasted again for a minute, and then the wise woman folded her cloak around her. Yet another minute passed and the silence endured, for the smouldering wrath of the king and queen choked the channels of their speech. Then the wise woman turned her back on them, and so stood. At this the rage of the king broke forth, and he cried to the queen, stammering in his fierceness:

“How should such an old hag as that teach Rosamond good manners? She knows nothing of them herself! Look how she stands! Actually with her back to us!”

I will stop there for the moment. 

Let the breath go - do you have an odd sense that someone has just told you more about yourself then you wished to be known? Or worse - have you already begun to form a list in your mind of those that you think could benefit from reading such a story?  Ah yes - therein lies our deepest faults. How often do we in our Somebody-ness claim that today's children are self-entitled little brats, as we ourselves clamor in line to get whatever new item has caused that gut-pulling "I will not be satisfied until it is mine" feeling we so love to quench. 
Know, as always, that I speak of myself as well when I meander down the roads of examining the human condition. We all think we are Somebody - even if our own pet obsession is lamenting how un-Somebody-like we are. It is still eyes-focused-backwards, how much more Somebody-obsessed could we be than that?
I first heard this book as a child - but as children so often do, I forgot it. I recently found a picture book of an abridged version of just the princess side of the story in a used bookstore and devoured it; feeling both convicted and inspired - and all the while feeling as if I had stumbled upon both a precious treasure and a forgotten melody so beautiful, it must be divinely inspired.
I have done my fair share lately, of examining how we as a society raise our children. It is a topic close to my own heart, seeing as I am currently raising children - I often read books, study those around me and listen as mothers, fathers, grandparents and especially those without children of their own (Who can sometimes see behavior problems that we, as parents have missed in our arrogance and experience.) speak their thoughts on the matter. Everyone has an opinion on this subject...have you noticed that? Especially those who's opinions consist of "Everyone should be free to raise their own children as they see fit and no one, NO ONE better judge the decisions I make!" 

Now, to a point, I think we all agree with this - especially in today's elitist society. But all too often it is taken too far. This attitude breeds isolation - we seperate ourselves so entirely from those that could be of help - that in times of need, no one dares to speak a word of advice, for fear of being thought of as judgmental. 

I, on the other hand - as many of you well know, delve into this topic quite a lot - whether I should or not! As it is on my mind a lot. I spoke once of Bringing Back The Mommy Guilt a post that had close to 500 views (about 3 times what I normally have on this blog) and not one comment. Of course, that could be because I am so long winded that no one actually got to the end....I suppose I should probably work on that.

Now to make a short story shorter - the Wise woman takes Rosamond away from her parents, hidden beneath her cloak. She bids the girl clean her cottage, requires of her harder work then the princess has ever had to endure in her pampered life. And for all that - the girl glories in her anger at being misused and forced to work in order to eat. In her attempt to escape the cottage, Rosamond discovers a passage that leads her to several grand pictures - one in particular draws her eyes:

A blue summer sky, with white fleecy clouds floating beneath it, hung over a hill green to the very top, and alive with streams darting down its sides toward the valley below. On the face of the hill strayed a flock of sheep feeding, attended by a shepherd and two dogs. A little way apart, a girl stood with bare feet in a brook, building across it a bridge of rough stones. The wind was blowing her hair back from her rosy face. A lamb was feeding close beside her, and a sheep-dog was trying to reach her hand to lick it.
“Oh how I wish I were that little girl!” said the princess aloud. “I wonder how it is that some people are made to be so much happier than others! If I were that little girl, no one would ever call me naughty.”

Oh how easy it is to look at others and wish we were not who we were made to be! It is perhaps the biggest strike in believing ourselves to be Somebody - wishing instead we were a different Somebody or hating the Somebody we perceive ourselves to be. 

Now- on to our story. The daughter of the Shepard was named Agnus. And she too, was being watched by the wise woman. And although she did not have the fine toys and clothes as Rosamond did - she was stunted in other ways: 

She was not greedy after nice things, but content, as well she might be, with the homely food provided for her. Nor was she by nature particularly self-willed or disobedient; she generally did what her father and mother wished, and believed what they told her. But by degrees they had spoiled her. And this was the way: they were so proud of her that they always repeated everything she said, and told everything she did, even when she was present; and so full of admiration of their child were they, that they wondered and laughed at and praised things in her which in another child would never have struck them as the least remarkable, and some things even which would in another have disgusted them altogether. Impertinent and rude things done by their child they thought so clever! laughing at them as something quite marvellous; her commonplace speeches were said over again as if they had been the finest poetry; and the pretty ways which every moderately good child has were extolled as if the result of her excellent taste, and the choice of her judgment and will. They would even say sometimes that she ought not to hear her own praises for fear it should make her vain, and then whisper them behind their hands, but so loud that she could not fail to hear every word. The consequence was that she soon came to believe—so soon that she could not recall the time when she did not believe—as the most absolute fact in the universe, that she was SOMEBODY; that is, she became immoderately conceited.

Ah how things have changed! So terrified are we as a society today - that our children will have "low self-esteem" that we now look at these words and feel offended. "Of course I will praise my child!" we think. Read it again - there is a forgotten truth here, of which we need reminding.

Agnas never went into rages like the princess; and would have thought Rosamond—oh, so ugly and vile! if she had seen her in one of her passions. But she was no better for all that, and was quite as ugly in the eyes of the wise woman, who could not only see but read her face. What is there to choose between a face distorted to hideousness by anger, and one distorted to silliness by self-complacency? True, there is more hope of helping the angry child out of her form of selfishness than the conceited child out of hers; but on the other hand, the conceited child was not so terrible or dangerous as the wrathful one. The conceited one, however, was sometimes very angry, and then her anger was more spiteful than the other’s; and, again, the wrathful one was often very conceited too. So that, on the whole, of two very unpleasant creatures, I would say that the king’s daughter would have been the worse, had not the shepherd’s been quite as bad.

For the sake of time, let me skip ahead - Agnas is taken as well and also asked to clean the womans cottage. She, being a clever girl does her work without question - yet still she is filled with anger and resentment as she sees her Somebody in the mirror and works to fix only the outside - and not that which is within.

I truly beg of you to go and read this whole story, for I am skipping so very much. I honestly believe that this story should be handed out to new parents as they take their children home from the hospital. It should be required reading for all, the young and old alike. For there is much to learn within these words. I myself grow quite convicted as I read this book - as I should. For words such as these: "From thinking herself so clever, Agnas came to fancy that whatever seemed to her, must of course be the correct judgment." Truly strike me to my core.

As you may have guessed - the girls switch places. Through the pictures they both travel, and I am again convicted as the shepherdess takes little Rosamond into her home and treats her as she should have treated her own daughter:

 But the shepherdess was one of that plentiful number who can be wiser concerning other women’s children than concerning their own. Such will often give you very tolerable hints as to how you ought to manage your children, and will find fault neatly enough with the system you are trying to carry out; but all their wisdom goes off in talking, and there is none left for doing what they have themselves said. There is one road talk never finds, and that is the way into the talker’s own hands and feet. And such never seem to know themselves—not even when they are reading about themselves in print. Still, not being specially blinded in any direction but their own, they can sometimes even act with a little sense towards children who are not theirs. They are affected with a sort of blindness like that which renders some people incapable of seeing except sideways.

How often I have said how much I cannot abide those that hint at parenting advice. "Well, you know what I did for my children (being X-Y-or Z) and they were sleeping through the night/potty trained/obeying the first time/cleaning up their room by (pre-determined accepted time-frame for said task to be accomplished). I do my best not to fall into that category - but sadly I do not always succeed. And I beg your most humble forgiveness if I have ever offended you in this matter. Perhaps it needs to be a change of modes on the part of the complainer. Instead of venting - let us ask for help. Let us ask for prayer - but know, that in asking you will receive! So then let us be receptive. You do not have to take advice, we are always free to do what we believe to be the best for our own children. But there is a very good chance that we could learn something useful in the asking. Something we may never have heard; that we never would have even thought of, had we not first asked. Let us parent together! As in life, we were not meant to do this alone.

The story goes on, and again I beg of you to read it. Promise me you will? The princess makes her way eventually back to the wise woman - it is through pain and humbleness and losing her "Somebody-ness" that she finally begins to learn. Oh why are we always so surprised when good lessons are hard? 

"Rosamond," said the wise woman. "If you would be a blessed creature instead of a mere wretch, you must submit to be tried.” 
 “Is that something terrible?” asked the princess, turning white. “No, my child; but it is something very difficult to come well out of. Nobody who has not been tried knows how difficult it is; but whoever has come well out of it, and those who do not overcome never do come out of it, always looks back with horror, not on what she has come through, but on the very idea of the possibility of having failed, and being still the same miserable creature as before.”

“You will tell me what it is before it begins?” said the princess.
“I will not tell you exactly. But I will tell you some things to help you. One great danger is that perhaps you will think you are in it before it has really begun, and say to yourself, ‘Oh! this is really nothing to me. It may be a trial to some, but for me I am sure it is not worth mentioning.’ And then, before you know, it will be upon you, and you will fail utterly and shamefully.”

Life is hard. Learning is almost never pain-free. But think, think for a moment back on who you once were. Think of the stories you can tell, the problems you have mastered, the lessons you have learned. Now think of the miserable creature you would still be today, had you not endured that pain. Just as labor brings about new life in the most literal sense - so do our trials bring about new and great beginnings - and the giving up of our own Somebody-ness to become who were were truly meant to be.  

Let us live this life together. Let us not complain, except when we wish to learn. Let us not give advice, except to humble ourselves as teachers. Let us always, always be learning.

I often think on what kind of person I wish to be when I am old. I know that I wish to have white hair. I know that I wish to have several knobby canes that are creative and exotic and great conversation pieces. I know that I wish to have lots of grandsons and at least one granddaughter. I know that I wish to live with my probably very crazy husband in a very small house with a very large shop so he can create things to his heart's content. And within that shop, I wish to have a cozy nook where I can read and write to my heart's content. I also know that when I am old, I wish to be very much wiser then I am today. I wish to have stories, I wish to have mountains I have conquered and I most certainly wish to no longer be the miserable creature I am today. I pray everyday that I can give up my Somebody-ness in order to become the truly real Me. I know it is not an easy road, but it is a good one.

I will not tell you how the story ends - for I truly wish for you to read it in its entirety yourself. Here again is the link. But know this; that as it is in all good stories, it does not end happy, but it does end well.

And that is all my double story. How double it is, if you care to know, you must find out. If you think it is not finished—I never knew a story that was. I could tell you a great deal more concerning them all, but I have already told more than is good for those who read but with their heads, and enough for those whom it has made look a little solemn, and sigh as they close the book.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

On Being, and Growing...

"I'm Hans Christian Andersen
My pen's like a babbling brook
Permit me to show you, dear sir
My very latest book
Now here's a tale of a simple fool
Just glance at a page or two
You'll laugh ha, ha but you'll blush a bit
For you realize as you're reading it
That it's also reading you
I'm Hans Christian Andersen, Andersen, that's who!" 

 The above verse is from the Danny Kaye Hans Christian Andersen Musical. Not many people have heard of it, fewer have actually watched it.

It is spectacular.

If you will look here and here, you will see that over the last few years, the question of "what I am going to be when I grow up" has been plaguing me. I have known for some time, that once my kids were otherwise occupied (school) I would not be willing to stay at home, twiddling my thumbs... (or even worse, doing housework!) just waiting for them to be finished every day. I do not, at the moment, feel called to homeschool my children. They love the school they attend and so do I...so what would I do? I have looked into finishing college, and to be sure that is still an option. But I have often felt there was more.

About a year ago I started jotting down some story ideas that have been tumbling about in my mind. I have, currently, 4 children's book ideas started. I have gotten excellent feedback from the few people I have read the ideas to - of course I am also well aware that these people are biased and not at all experts in this field - but they have been encouraging all the same.

This has certainly been a year of change for our family. Kids are older, I no longer have a baby in the house and most nights I can boast a full 7-8 hours of sleep. My wonderful husband got a new job last April and now has the freedom of working from home. I have battled some health challenges and got a test result just today that was very good, I am within the realm of "normal" now as far as thyroid levels are concerned. So wonderful to see! I have also learned now to cope better, just on my own from day to day. Though it very often still is a day to day process.
 A month or so ago, we were blessed with my husband getting an unexpected raise at work. As we were getting ready for bed that night, he shocked me with his idea of what he wanted us to do with the extra money.

A little back story:  I had put Kaylee's name on the waiting list for the best preschool in town (both my older girls attended there) right after she was born to insure her enrollment. I was, however, sad to discover they no longer accepted kids for only one morning a week (all I was planning on doing since she is just barely 2). Instead, they required 2, 3 or 5 mornings. Sadly, we simply couldn't afford 2 mornings per week, and so I had made up my mind to call and take her off the list - I just hadn't gotten around to it yet.

So as we were brushing our teeth that night, my wonderful husband surprised me by saying: "I want you to go ahead and put Kaylee in school the 2 mornings a week, with one condition. You have to use that free time every week, to write." It took me a second to answer, my mind started swimming. "I can do that." Was about as intelligent a response as I could muster. Of course, he also added that as soon as my books had sold and were making as much as Harry Potter books, then he could retire and I would support him.

No pressure...

But all that to say, I honestly feel - for the very first time in my life, that I know what I want to be when I grow up.

I want to be a writer.

You see, I have to write. I must, if I don't, something in me begins to die and I become a shell of who I should be. It has been a process learning this. I would get more and more sour in life, grumpy and argumentative and not really understand why. My husband has now learned that when that happens, the best course of action is to hand me a cup of tea and banish me into my room all alone (or as he did today, send me off to a coffee shop, laptop in hand and tell me to stay out as long as I needed). There I can sit and become myself again, by pouring all the words out of my head and onto a page. There I can look them square in the face, then I can breath. But I cannot simply write, someone must read what I write. I need to know that someone, somewhere is reading my work. That is what gives my words life. Without you, my dear, beloved reader, these are but letters on a page. With an audience, they become real, they become alive. And I can be freed to become myself again.

I will start with the 4 children's books I have started. I plan on going through a publishing company right now, I want to be taken seriously - but I will also be researching the self publishing route to see what holds the best opportunities. 

As Mr. Carpenter told the young and reckless Emily of New Moon: "Ten good lines out of four hundred, Emily—comparatively good, that is—and all the rest balderdash—balderdash, Emily.... If at thirteen you can write ten good lines, at twenty you'll write ten times ten—if the gods are kind. Stop messing over months, though—and don't imagine you're a genius, either, if you have written ten decent lines. I think there's something trying to speak through you—but you'll have to make yourself a fit instrument for it. You've got to work hard and sacrifice—by gad, girl, you've chosen a jealous goddess. And she never lets her votaries go—not even when she shuts her ears forever to their plea.”

A jealous goddess to be sure. I know I have mountains of work, blood, sweat and tears ahead of me. But I feel up to the challenge. 

I thank all of you for encouraging me to start this process, Especially my truly remarkable and always 100% supportive husband. Without his encouragement, I may never have thought this as any more than a hobby and a passing fancy. I will not pretend that I am not scared - I know there will be many hurdles along the way.  But I am also very excited - the idea of people from all over getting to read what I write is positively thrilling.

This is where I ask for help from you, my dear readers. I will need a team of sorts - editors to be sure! For we all know that while I may be able to write something interesting to read...there is a very good chance no one will be able to read it due to it being riddled with spelling and grammar errors. I need resources, words of experience from those that have started (and especially finished) this road themselves. I am merely starting out, I know I have lots and lots of growing to do, hours of research in front of me and many dead end roads, scraps, bumps and bruises ahead. But perhaps most of all, I need a group of people willing to read and give honest opinions - be fair warned, I will likely require signed documents/non-dis-closer agreements of sorts. I will be going about this is officially/legally as I can. Advice on that front is appreciated as well!  But I will need feedback as I work - or I will get burned out. And my wonderful husband, amazing as he is, is not a reader. I need feedback - good and bad, from those that love to read. Please send me a private message on Facebook if you are interested in being a part of my team.  I will likely set up an email account specifically for my book related ventures - but have not gotten that far as of yet. It is all just starting after all.

And so the adventure begins! I am truly excited. I think I need to read the Emily books again, for it is she I feel a true kinship with lately. Perhaps because I feel like a child, just starting out on this life adventure. I leave you with her thoughts:

 “Tell me this--if you knew you would be poor as a church mouse all your life--if you knew you'd never have a line published--would you still go on writing--would you?'
'Of course I would,' said Emily disdainfully. 'Why, I have to write--I can't help it at times--I've just got to.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Emily of New Moon

Monday, July 8, 2013

My Ship, My Tattoo

Not just the Spanish Main, love. The entire ocean. The entire wo'ld. Wherever we want to go, we'll go. That's what a ship is, you know. It's not just a keel and a hull and a deck and sails, that's what a ship needs but what a ship is... what the Black Pearl really is... is freedom.  - Jack Sparrow

This journey started when I was a teenager - but instead of going through all that again, just read this:   

Ever since I was a child, I have gotten a thrill when I see a ship, a large one. I have been on boats before, small sail boats - not really meant to hold more then 10-12 people (that is the closest I have come to being on a true sailing ship) and I felt completely at home on them. I don't get sea sick, I love the sun, I have a terrible sense of balance on dry land, so why not add the shifting of waves to it all! Being on a boat, on the ocean, it fills me with a sense of calm, of freedom, adventure, peace and wild joy. It fills me with a sense of home.

At 30 years old I started researching. I had, by that time settled on a ship. I knew I wanted my kids names on there somehow, but had not figured out how yet. Then one day after a trip to the library I was reading my children a story with beautiful illustrations and actually stopped reading in order to just sit and look at a picture. The book is called The Great Kettles: A Tale of Time and I am excited at the moment because I just spent 15 minutes online, tracking it down and I found it! And now I may have to buy it because I remember liking the book and I feel it deserves to live in my house. So here is the picture I first saw:

I snapped a photo of it with my phone and sent it to my sister so she could draw it up for me, with a few changes of course. This is what she created:
I loved it, and immediately started researching artists.  It took me close to a year to find an artist I truly loved. I wanted a clean style, creativity (I wanted the artist to use the base drawing and make the picture his own, without losing the magic of it) I wanted it to have a bit of a sketch feel, almost like a slate or even charcoal drawing, be done completely in black ink and be a good size so it took up a large portion of my upper back. I chose to put my girls initials on the flag and to make the "pirate" aspect of it more subtle, no blatant flag. 

So I had the drawing, I had my ideas - all that was left was to make the appointment and get the tattoo...and I started getting a little scared. I knew I could handle pain, after all, I have had three children with no medication. I can handle pain! But actually paying someone to do that to me went against my human nature. So I decided to go back a few steps and start a little smaller.

I love 3 children's books so completely and utterly that it brings me to tears and laughter, (often at the same time) to read them. Those three books are Winnie the Pooh, as is demonstrated by this blog. Peter Pan, as those that know me know WELL. And Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (as well as Through the Looking Glass).  One of my most well loved quotes from Alice is her simple statement of "Curiouser and Curiouser!" It makes me laugh every time. Here her world is falling entirely apart, the most bizzar creatures are popping up left and right and her reaction is a simple "Huh, now isn't that odd!" No fear, no panic, just "Curiouser and Curiouser!" I want that attitude in life. I want to look disaster in the face and shake my head and laugh. I want all my steps in life to be as bold as Alice. So I started small:

Not the most flattering angle for a foot I know, but I wanted to get all of the words in the picture. 

After that tattoo was done, I started to get excited for the next one. I had handled the pain just fine. (Aside from an almost fainting spell that I am saying was a lack of lunch that day...once I ate something I was just fine. I did not faint, no matter what the tattoo artist may tell you!) I gave them my picture, we talked through it all and made our appointments.

I wish I had gotten some pictures of the sketches the artist did as we decided on the final picture, it took some time to get it where I wanted - but finally we got started! By that time I was technically 31, but no one is really counting right?

The beginning sketch:

 The only issue I had with getting the tattoo where I couldn't see it, is not being able to watch and know when the pain would start. You just hear the buzzing of the needle and you know it will come, but you don't know exactly when! The first sesson took four hours. One hour to finalize the design and prep, and 3 hours for the first phase of the tattoo:

I was very pleased with how it was turning out. He had changed it to look a little more like a real ship, and less like a children's book illustration. Which was good, I wanted it to be all it's own and not just copied. About a month and a half went by between sessions, and I finally got it finished this last weekend! The second session took another 3 hours, but was well worth it in the end.

My finished Pirate Ship Tattoo!

 I am VERY well pleased with the final product. It is exactly what I had in mind, and it is now very fun to look back on the journey and be nothing but proud. As you can see, I couldn't resist adding the "Second star to the right" so Peter Pan is represented.   

As of right now, I do not plan on getting any more tattoo's. Though I hear they are highly addictive and almost no one stops at two. So we shall see - I have been asked several times WHY on earth I would ever want a tattoo - and perhaps that is a post for another time. But I think it is simply a part of my story. I have always wanted it, and in a weird sort of way it makes me feel more complete. Like I have been walking around without hair for most of my life and I finally realized what I was missing.

We, as humans all have a story. We all dress/talk/behave in a way that broadcasts our stories in one way, shape or form. There is a part of us that we want known, that we need understood right away.

Some people tell their story by wearing loud jewelry, or fancy shoes. Trendy clothes or a cute, styled hair-cut can answer a lot of questions about a person in seconds flat. It shows what they value, what they want to represent. Who they want to be.

Some people you will never, not in a million years, ever see without make-up and/or hair done. That is the part of their story they want seen. Perhaps it is protection against fear of rejection or a shield against getting too close, too real. Either way, it answers questions in seconds. It helps life to be a little bit easier.

Some people always have dirt under their fingernails, paint on their arms, glue on their hands or oil and grease on their clothes. That is their delight, that is how they wear their stories. You know a part of who they are instantly without ever having to ask. Before they even begin to speak.

For those of you that know me, you know I don't do things half way. I am not always an easy person to be around. I have faults, I have scars. I am rough around the edges. I rarely say what is right or proper in any given situation, but I am loyal and will fight for what I believe in. I have an unquenchable sense of laughter, adventure and more then a little bit of stubbornness. I am a writer, I am a storyteller. I am a wife and mother. I am a rebel, I am pirate, just ask my kids. I am a sailor, and now I have a ship!

This is my story. I am proud of my story. The process of getting to where I am now often hurt, it was rarely easy and I don't expect it ever really will be. But the story is MINE. And there is joy in the journey.

This - life, stories. This is my art.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My Superhero

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
― Fred Rogers

I have been watching people a lot lately. As most of you know, I love watching people, perhaps even more so than anything else in this world. People are amazing, truly amazing. So unique, so REAL, they have so many levels, intentions, so much to give, and they need so much. Things that are palpable as well as metaphysical.  And those needs, can change at the drop of a hat. So it never gets boring!

I had the privilege of sitting in on the selection process of a jury recently (first time I had ever actually been called in). I say 'sitting in on,' because I was in the second group and never brought foreword because they filled the box before I was given the opportunity to answer any questions. But I got to watch and listen, so that if needed, I could come foreword and fill a seat. I LOVED it! Here everyone had told me how boring it was and all the ways they thought best to get out of it. (Isn't that what you do when you have jury duty? Try to get out of it? I had in my head this miserable process, because everyone constantly just wants out of it!)

But no, it was fascinating! I got to hear about peoples lives, what they did for a living. Their kids, what they loved, what made them angry. What they considered important enough to change their view of justice, right and wrong - what helped to keep them un-biased and what lines they drew as far as prejudice was concerned. Fascinating!

I have been working hard to change my attitude about people lately.  I find that I have been very focused of late on all the ways I feel that people regularly let me down. My last few posts have been a perfect example of that. I can get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of brokenness that it makes me want to give up hope. "Why bother!? Eventually they will let their humanness shine though - or they will see mine which is even worse. Eventually they will break a promise, say sometime offensive or take something I say in the wrong way and then it will take energy that I do not have to spare. Better to hide in my house, see only a select few people marked 'safe' in my book and shut the rest of the world away." But as much as I would like to give in to my reclusive nature, when it comes down to it, I need people. I need people a lot. So that means I need to see the good, or at the very least - I need to not focus on the bad.

I love watching people, I love seeing what is different and unique. I try hard not to judge styles and choices (unless it personally hurts someone else) but I have very little energy. So while I love seeing people be themselves, if it takes energy to be with someone, I will avoid it. Because my kids come first. They need my best, I can't waste energy. I feel like a wimp, truly.  Because I know some truly super moms that have physical struggles FAR surpassing my own.

I have a dear friend with the cutest 4 year old little boy, and she has dealt with physical hardships for her whole life, and she is amazing! She doesn't pretend it is easy, but in the midst of daily pain she is a truly spectacular mom to that baby boy. She laughs with him, she shows him off. She asks questions and finds what will work best. She takes life head-on, even in the midst of all kinds of struggles - she sees the beauty and the art in pain. She has such a heart for all those around her and creativity and passion flow from her unabridged, leaking into the world around her. That boy is so very lucky he has her as his mom. She makes me want to create something beautiful, because she is beauty and creativity - even when the pain makes it hard to move. She is so very beautiful. She inspires me so very much. I talk to her and I get so excited about life, about art. She is my superhero.

Me? My thyroid is a little low (tsh was at 35, even while on medication, last it was checked, for those that know what the numbers mean - so I have to go through the process of balancing medication again). So I'm tired. All the time. But really, that means nothing. I have it easy, oh so easy! I can get to the point sometimes where I feel so sorry for myself. I shouldn't. I have no right. I think that is the time when I need a good knock on the head or a slap in the face. I have it easy! 

I love watching people.

I got to hang out with a lovely friend today, one I don't get to see very often. She has 5 beautiful children and she is so encouraging. She makes me want to be a better mom. She speaks so openly about her struggles and triumphs as a parent and her home is so surrounded in love and warmth. As we were leaving today my Ayla says "Mama, I wish I could live here." She knows! Even a 5 year old knows a happy and healthy home, without even knowing why. Not to say ours is not happy,  I know Ayla just loves playing with her friend and she has no intention of moving out of my house. What kid doesn't dream of getting to live in the same house as a fun friend. But she recognized pure joy in a home, and she loved every minute of her time there. Sure parenting is hard, but this friend embraces the challenge instead of fighting against it. How easy it can be sometimes to become bitter because we are overwhelmed as moms. But she is so inspiring to me, she makes me feel honored to be a mom. Because it means I get to be counted in the same category as she. To be in her presence is to be with Joy. She is my superhero.

People are amazing!

My sister in law went through years of yearning for a child. God said wait. Now I have a wonderful nephew, who is no relation to her or my brother in law by blood - but there is no question in our minds that he is their baby boy. Sure there are challenges that come with adopting an older child. There is pain, there is grief, there is struggle. There is so much learning, but oh he is such an amazing kid! She was made to be his mom. To care for imaginary injuries, to give hugs and answer millions of questions. To get dizzy watching him zoom from room to room, to laugh at the crazy things he says. To make up for the years where he hadn't found her yet by giving lots of lots of cuddles NOW. To show off his spectacular skills and enjoy rare quiet moments of rest. It has been, and continues to be so inspiring to watch their journey. And she is so spectacular! She is so good at playing with that kid - whether it is throwing a ball for hours, going on bike rides or playing candyland 12 times in a row. She makes me want to be a better mom. I laugh at her stories, and feel such motivation to just get down and dirty playing with my kids. To see a family learn and grow together, when they started out as strangers. Sure it is not easy. But it is so right! Like the pieces of a puzzle. Sure they don't look alike (though I think he has my elbows) But they are so very right for each other! She is my superhero.  

People are works of art.

I knew several moms of special needs kids. Wow. Just, wow. There are no words for how amazing you are. I want to give you a medal, bake you a cake. Throw you a party! I want to clean your house for you, cook all your meals for a year, give you a day at the spa - or even better I want to watch your kids so that you can go to the bathroom all alone for a whole entire day!  I want to give you a hug and tell you that you are doing an amazing job. Because you are. Every single one of you. You love those kids so very very much. I can see it. Sure you are tired, probably way more tired then me! Yes you are overwhelmed. The everyday things you struggle with are magnificent. The things I take for granted that you strive towards so hard...I have no words. All I can say is that you are my superheroes. I am in tears because I want so much for you to know, you are SUPERHEROES. Every one of you. And I see how hard you work because you love your babies so very very much. I know there are tears, I know there is grief, I know there is much frustration. But it is paying off. Every drop of sweat, every tear. You are superheroes.

People are spectacular.

I know many single moms. Being both mom and dad, working to make a living and coming home to a house that won't tend itself. Growing and raising strong kids all on your own, without a break. Without a chance sometimes to even breath. I see you, you are doing such an amazing job with those kids, they are flourishing. You are my superheroes.

People are resilient.

I know so many moms that have to do it alone for 6-12 months at a time, working more than overtime so their husbands can be out defending our freedom. I see you. You are spectacular! You inspire me, you are truly my superheroes. 

People are magnificent.

Mom's with empty arms. Whether the desire was there, but never full-filled or whether your arms were full - but only for a moment. I see you. I have not forgotten you. I want to hold your hand, look into your face and let you know that I remember you. I remember your little ones. I see the sorrow, the joy, the grief. I don't fully understand it, but I remember and I see you. I know that even though others forget, and move on - that you still think about your babies all the time. And that is good. It means you are a mom. You are still looking out for them, no matter where they are. You inspire me so much. So much. You are my superheroes. Don't ever forget that. You are superheroes.

People are broken. We are human. We are faulty. But we are superheroes. All of us. There is art in the sorrow. There is joy in the journey. There is peace in the storm. We are superheroes.

I'll end with a quote from the Doctor - come on, was bound to happen eventually!

 "You know that in nine hundred years of time and space and I've never met anybody who wasn't important before.”

You, are important. You are inspiring. You are a superhero.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Prune your roses for God's sake!

 “One of the new things people began to find out in the last century was that thoughts—just mere thoughts—are as powerful as electric batteries—as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body. If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live... surprising things can happen to any one who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place."
                                                                 ― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Alright parents, I am going to level with you.

Something has been bothering me for several weeks now and I need some answers. So I am going to be perfectly honest with you, and I need an honest answer in return.  I will preface this post with saying that special-needs parents are completely and utterly exempt from these questions. You are all super-hero's in my book.  I direct these questions at parents with children that do not have any social challenges beyond just learning to grow together.

In the last month or so, I and my children have had the privilege of being a part of many, many birthday parties/school functions and/or other social gatherings that have involved lots of kids running around like crazy - a mix of kids. All ages, all different school-styles, all different home lives. Usually lots of sugar and/excitement has been involved, so there is a certain amount of grace I am willing to extend.  But please, hear me out. You see, I am an observer by nature. I have often talked of this. I watch people. A lot. I watch interactions, re-actions and general social habits of all sorts of people, young, old, parents, kids and everything in betwen. And something lately has caught my eye. A re-accuring theme that is popping up right and left and it is leaving me confused and bewildered and I will admit, more then a little angry.

So I have some questions. And I want honest answers.

1. When did it become perfectly acceptable for kids to yell at their parents? And I am not just talking about little ones, all kids. From the very young, to the young adult. And maybe I am just missing something here. But parents are responding to these...I can only explain them as "angry summons" with a mild, humble "yes sweetie pie?" as if it is the most normal thing in the world.

I am honestly asking this question. Why is it acceptable behavior? Why are parents rolling over, presenting as doormats and allowing their children to speak disrespectfully to them?  Is my standard simply off somehow? Am I the only one that see's this as wrong?  Please and Thank You are gone, "Mom! I'm Hungry! Get me some food now!" has replaced it. And yet, no one is saying anything about this being not ok.

2. When did it become acceptable for children to destroy property that does not belong to them? To walk into another person's house and trash it? To rip things off of walls, to knock over furniture, to break items...I don't care how old the child is. When your kid is being destructive, whether they are 6 months or 6 years (and I saw both in the last few weeks), you stop them. You remove them from the situation, you apologize to your host. You make amends for the items that have been destroyed...but no, I am wrong again. The answer is...you look on blankly as it happens right in front of you. You don't notice, and when it is pointed out, you shrug it off as if it was bound to happen and don't even lift a finger to help make it right. "If I don't acknowledge it, it will go away" seems to be the attitude.

Why is this ok? I truly need an answer. I am completely appalled and confused. I saw this time and time again and I really don't understand. I wanted to say something, and perhaps I should have. But when the host, and the child's parent are both sitting inches from me and no one says a damn thing...who am I to complain? It left me confused and disarmed.

3. When did it become acceptable for children to scream. And I don't mean just the "kids are having fun" happy yelling of outside play. I mean SCREAM. Yell, shout, screech- sounds that would make a banshee blanch. A complete disregard for those sitting very, very close. Now, I suppose this question may not be fair. I have very sensitive hearing and suffer from tinnitus. So for me, everything is amplified. But for heaven's sake! (And now I sound like an old lady) Can we PLEASE keep our voices at a reasonable level? I tell my children that the purpose of screaming is to alert me when something is wrong. You know the boy who cried wolf? When kids scream (and I mean scream) as a part of normal play, it takes away that alert that parents naturally have to jump up and act at a sign of danger. It all becomes noise. And it makes me want to stick forks into my ears! I truly cannot handle it. And yet "she is just a screamer" seems to answer the question. Of course she is a screamer, she has never been taught how to control her voice! Is this normal? Am I the weird one? I am asking honestly. Why is that ok?

4. Why is it ok for children to push, shove, hit, slap, and body slam one another all in the name of play? Now, if it is a group of older kids I do understand that a certain amount of physical play is fully expected, that doesn't bother me. But if a mixed group of kids are at the top of a playground structure, and the large kids are continually shoving the small ones aside, running the risk of knocking them off the structure completely...why am I the only one that seems concerned.  When I actually catch a child mid-air that has been knocked down from 5 feet up...and it is not my own child...and the parent of the older kids just sits and laughs...how is that ok!?!  Do you not see the blatant disrespect for another person's body? Their safety? Their well-being? Not to mention waiting your turn to go down the slide! They shrug their shoulders, or mumble a scarcely heard instruction but never, not once did a parent act. Not once did someone remove their child and fix the behavior. Not. Once.

Why not?

And why am I the only one watching? Why am I the only one asking the big kids to be aware of the small ones?  I have to tell my own kids just as much as the others, my kids get distracted and forget just as much as their friends do...but I am there to remind them. But after a while, at several events I found myself giving direct instructions to specific kids who had parents sitting 3 feet away ("please don't throw sand in other kids faces" "grabbing a toy is not ok" etc.). And the parents either nodded along or ignored me entirely...I don't understand.

Why am I the only one? I am honestly asking. When your child is putting other children in danger because they are barreling through and/or not watching where they are going, WHY are you not there reminding? When your child knocks another kid down because they are being reckless, why are you not removing them from play until they have a moment to settle down and re-group? When your kid hits a smaller kid, or grabs a toy or worse, pushes them down entirely - why is it ok to simply not notice? I need to hear the justification. Because I am angry at how these kids are treating one another. I am angry at the hurtful words. I am livid over the disrespectful tones that kids are using when speaking to their parents. And I need to know why.

5. And with this I'll end my rant for now. When did we become ok with our kids being demanding, disrespectful, hurtful and jeering with one another. Especially the girls. Cattiness, insults, one-upping each other when it comes to toys, clothes, shoes, abilities and even worse, friends. It deeply saddens me. And what is worse, I am pretty sure this is a learned behavior.  When we as adults speak disrespectfully about one or to one another, it catches on.

How is that ok? Why do we barely blink as we tear down one another with words. Our spouses, our friends, our families.  It has become so mainstream we barely even notice when our kids do it to one another faces. Not only that, we are not equipping our kids to stand up and tell someone "that was not a nice thing to say." I hear an angry tone, and see a hurt face and then the subject is changed and the words are simply skipped over and forgotten...by the one who said it. While the one who heard it shrinks. It is ok to use words to tell someone "that hurt me" but we don't teach our kids that. Why not? We have this whole "politeness" thing backwards! We don't see the need for "please" or "thank you" but to tell someone "those were not kind words..." Ooh no! We don't want to be rude!

So we shrink.

I am not a helicopter parent.  I like letting my kids figure out things for them selves as much as they can, I do not feel the need to fight all of their battles for them. I want them to be able to experience the lessons that scrapped knees and hurt feelings have to offer. This is not the kind of play that concerns me. I am talking about complete, 100%  disregard for anything and anyone surrounding you. And I'm sorry, but give your kids a little credit. They are not too young to understand, these lessons start the moment the behavior does. At least that is what I have always believed...

That is why I am honestly asking. Because it is midnight and I can't sleep because so many of these scenarios are running through my head and I Don't Understand.

The world is a harsh place. Finding a balance for my wee ones can feel like an impossible task. And again I will be honest with you. I believe in the "it takes a village" parenting idea. If my babies are out of line and I do not see it, please - correct their behavior. Because rest assured, I will do the same for your children. If I see danger or malice around a child I will address it, that kind of behavior will not be tolerated on my watch. If this bothers you then please, let me know. I will stop. I will leave your child be, but be fair warned. If you do not correct the dangerous behavior, my children will be removed from your child. Because it is my job first and foremost to keep my kids safe. As it is yours.

My goal, is to place agreeable determinedly courageous thoughts at the forefront of my children's minds as much as I can, especially when they are small. It is my job as their parent.

For you see...

"Where you tend a rose, A thistle cannot grow.”  -F.H.B.

  Let us tend our roses well. Both those of our children as well as in ourselves. And let us hold one another accountable. I know I need reminders sometimes. The thorns need pruning quite often.

For God's sake, please! Tend your roses well.