Sunday, November 30, 2014

Poem: Ties

I wrote this a while ago, but I've been thinking about it this weekend. I've started to get a little energy back lately and I really, really, really want to make some changes in our lives. I want to stop being so crazy busy eighteen hours a day, seven days a week. There's only one catch--I can't see how.

And until I can figure out how to change it, our life simply is what it is. Kind of like this poem I wrote back when. It meanders a bit, but that's kind of the point.

Sunny Sunday morning
Warmth in irregular
Squares on the carpet
Children sprawled coloring
Dog napping on guard
Poetry playing notes

Steam puffs from the iron
The crooked made straight
As my hands work on
My mind runs free
In separation and conjunction

The divergent tracks
Of my life crash together
A phrase, a measure
Calls forth tears
Spotting my work
Giving me pause

Forty years is not so long
These hands are young
In their work, too young
For my heart to surrender
For my soul to crave rest
For my life to be a chore

Mindlessly, I count—
As I do when bored
Or enduring—
The stops and stations of my trek
Thirty-three times three times 365
Setting the table—so what?

Twenty-seven times 365
Making lunch
That’s fine, really.
Vacuuming fifty-two times twenty-five
Plus more than a few…
Sounds good.

Fourteen times five
Dress shirts pressed, less a few
Plus pants—
My mind snaps back
To now
No need for dispensation

Blessed, privileged
My daily bread abundant
I live the American life
And I want to die to it
I want the peace
Of ending the endless

I do not choose this time
And this place, this race
I choose rest by a
Sun-dappled stream
Birdsong, hidden treasures
Children’s laughter

Warm, long-cooked meals
Full, rich nights of sleep
The joy of creation
The peace of making
The pleasure of adding
My craft to our home

Colorful cushions
Music that moves
Stories we share
The peace that opens hearts
And lifts eyes to meet
In shared truth

All that I’ve pushed aside
Dubbed optional, expendable
For the grim satisfaction
Of getting the job done
All that I let go is everything
That I want of life

Exhausted, shaken, I gaze
At the trainwreck in dull wonder
Which track leads away?
Which cars carry weight?
What to salvage? What to scrap?
What do I do?

What do I know how to do?
What do I want to do?
What if I do nothing?
Which question do I answer?
Somewhere under these iron weights
My heart beats, tired and stubborn.

“There was nothing to do, but always the next thing to be done.” Tehanu, Ursula LeGuin

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dog's Life: A Photo Essay

This morning our dog Bruno decided to do his morning business by the pond. In the dawn light, the pond lay still. Within its frame of water lilies, the water made a perfect mirror for the delicate tints of the sky and the crescent moon, still sailing high above.

I thought, Wow. Talk about a Poop with a View.
Didn't have my camera today, so this is a slightly less gorgeous morning, but you get the idea.
You know, dogs don't have it so bad. Our half hyper-fun Border Collie mix/half lazy hound dog mix certainly doesn't, anyway. His days consist of a variety of exquisitely comfortable naps interspersed with the odd rough-and-tumble with our son or a super cool field trip, usually involving dashing rabbits or squirrels.

Nap Position 1--notice the all-important "hanging out tongue" technique.
Nap Position 2--we politely don't mention what historical salute this resembles.
I can't forget--he does have some self-imposed duties. He gives every guest a thorough sniff-down. No smuggling illicit food in here! And he barks at everything that goes by the house...but only from eight in the morning until ten in the morning.

He keeps his work/life boundaries clear.
Self-imposed duty--but when his two hours are up, he leaves the stress at the office--er, house--door.

Variety in Napping Locations is the spice of life!
 Bruno does sometimes pick his head up when I come into the house--skeptical eyebrows are a bonus--and I am always flattered by the attention.

Guarding the Va'Cuum
And how could I forget his other job? He must use all his courage and might to guard the house against the evil Va'Cuum--and then he must repurify all the carpets that have been befouled by the monster. Once the Va'Cuum falls silent, he finds the exact center of the horrifyingly cleansed area and reclaims it for the Forces of Good!

Reclaimed by the Forces of Good!
"Yes, I admit to chasing the church squirrels, but I did NOT poop on the lawn. Mom did NOT pick anything up here. Move along."
No matter what, at the end of the day, he's an integral part of our pack, loving and well-loved. Enjoy that nap, Bruno!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Take It and Run

Last weekend our Girl Scout troop ran a 5k race to raise money for our local hospice house.

Let’s face it--I was worried. Very worried. I have a long track record of helping girls step out of their comfort zones, but this time I was out of mine as well. The only other even remotely similar thing I’d done was Tough Mudder AAAAAND…that’s not even remotely similar.

Given the crazy schedules of daily modern life, we didn’t practice a whole lot as a team. We did a half mile for practice one time and I got even more worried. I honestly wasn’t even sure if we’d all finish the course. Luckily, we have a great leader and great parents and fantastic scouts. So we went for it!

In short, I learned—AGAIN!—how stunningly beautiful young people can be when they rise to a challenge. Many of the girls and their families have already said how much they’d like to do another race. I know our family wants to do it again! But most of all, they showed that they truly live the values that scouting teaches.

We just got the finish line pictures today* and, in them, I see the bonds among the girls. I see their sense of fun. I see how they always give their best effort. Most of all, I see how they care for each other.  That day, they showed so clearly what I love about these kids.

Our first two scouts to cross the finish line did their best to tie, to cross the line together just as they’d run the course together.

Our next scout, one of the teenagers, flew across with a beautiful natural stride, crossing at 47 minutes because she’d run with our seven-year-old son the whole way. We hadn’t been sure he’d finish, let alone at just over 47 minutes and full of pride. What a gift she gave him!

Then came another older scout, partnered with our youngest, a first grader.  The older scout went on to earn her next belt in tae kwon do that day—testing an hour and a half after finishing the race. And how many six year olds can run three miles these days?
Somewhere in there, all the wonderful parents who made it possible finished strong. One mom, nine months pregnant, carried her two-year-old across in the best happy dance ever.

But the picture that really makes my heart catch shows the last two scouts in our group to cross the line. After they completed the course together, one girl pulled ahead at the end. She stopped—right at the finish line—and looked back, waiting for her friend. The photograph caught it perfectly, showing one girl throwing her heart into her running and one girl, waiting mid-step, head turned to look over her shoulder.

Sometimes all we need to do is put the opportunity in front of them. If it’s meant to be, they’ll take it and run with it. After this, I don’t care if we do anything else this year; it doesn’t matter if we earn a single badge.  Our scouts are champions!

*In the interests of privacy, I haven't used the actual finish line pictures (of other people's children).

Monday, November 3, 2014

Ode to a Middle Finger

I had no idea how many times I use my middle finger in a day. Until I injured it.

I foolishly (no need to get into how—imagine a mom with mom brain and a broken flower pot. ‘Nuff said.) sliced the skin off the tip of my middle finger while cleaning up for Little A.’s big birthday weekend. I’ve spent the time since being humbled by my reliance on good ol’ “tall man.”

My long, strong middle finger does so much for me. Since I’m basically a polite, soft-spoken person, it allows me to express myself fully. For example, without it, I can only say this:

As an edtor. Type for a lvng. T’s oay to skp most letters or gve them to other fngers, but some just can’t be typed wthout t.

I also find that my middle digit does a lot of the heavy lifting in my day. It’s always sticking out there, so it leverages all my interactions. Need me to lift a frying pan from the bottom of the stack? Totally going with that middle finger. You want the volume turned up? Need that middle finger.

Tucking in a shirt? Opening one of those window locks? Scrubbing the slime out of a dog bowl? Yep, all get the middle digit treatment. And when the kids need me to dig change out of the bottom of my purse? Yeah, I lead with the middle finger. Oh-my-gosh-so-much-pain-if-you-forget-it's-hurt.

Did I mention how many times a day I put my hands in water? Seriously, the mom life consists of either cleaning some sh*t off something or subsequently cleaning said sh*t off your hands. Try doing that with a bandage or an open wound! I ended up wearing a rubber glove half the time.

Because I'm bad, I'm bad...
I know I'm a child of the '80s, but I did not like Michael Jackson anywhere remotely enough for this!

Longhaired folks, I know you hear me when I say this, but sometimes people just don’t get your need to use your middle finger.

I mean, I said to Big A., “How am I going to wash my hair now?”

He looked at me as if I were totally idiotic and he said, “Use your other hand?”

Now, you KNOW why I needed a middle finger there. Of course he doesn’t get it; his hair is a quarter inch long, for crying out loud.

I’m happy to say that, ten days later, we’re on the mend. I can type again. Alleluia! I can wash my hair. I can clean the dog bowl. I can dig through my purse with only the slightest twinge.

But I will never, ever, take that special appendage for granted again. All hail, mighty middle finger!
This photo is solely for illustrative purposes. It has no additional meaning and any resemblance to any other body part, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Five Minutes in My Life

Because five minutes is all I have lately. And five minutes is plenty. Multiply that by however many times it takes to get the hours that our kids are awake and you will have an excellent idea of the glorious madness of my life. I’m blessed, truly. I know it.

But sometimes I have to roll my eyes.

So, Little A. had been inside most of the morning and we plan to go to church later. Normally, that would require some serious outdoor running around to pull off, but he’s been tired lately—a week of birthday and Halloween will do that to a guy, you know.

So, I asked, “Little A., how are you feeling? Do you need to run your fidgets out before church?”

Little A. said, “No. I’m fine.”

Then, as I started talking to his sister, I hear from the other room, “Fidget-o, fidget-o, fidget-o!” sung operatically, a la Rossini.

We may need to run outside just a bit before church.

His sister had just finished having watermelon in her lunch for the seventeen billionth day in a row.

I said, “S., we have to find some new fruits for you to eat for lunch.”

Her eyes lit up and she said, ”Peaches!”

I sighed. “Well, peaches are on the dirty dozen, so we should buy organic. They’re hard to find except in season.”

S. smiled triumphantly. “It IS season, Mommy. The parking lot at Publix was full of cars from New York.”

Drum roll, please.