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Archive for the ‘Worry and Woe’ Category

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It’s summer.

My car, with which during the school year I drive the highway so often I could do it in my sleep, stays in the garage. I take long walks instead. Occasionally with my husband, less often with one of my children, even more rarely with the whole family.  We’re at the stage in life where there are games for the kids to play and friends to connect with and social media calling to them at all hours, it seems — a constant distraction. So my walks are mostly solitary. I wander the beach, watching enviously as young families build sand castles and catch minnows and play tag with the waves.

Sometimes it’s early and the parents are bleary-eyed, sipping their coffee. It feels like just last weekend that I was them, desperate for just a little more sleep, but loathe to say no to an early morning trip to the beach and donuts on the sand, when one of the hardest parts of parenting was getting them to hold still long enough to cover them with sunscreen.

I’ve taken to collecting sea glass. There’s a beach not far from us where it can be found almost by the handfuls. But I prefer a less-crowded spot a little further away, where the glass is harder to find. Some days I come home with nothing, some days with a scant two pieces. Yet somehow all the searching makes me treasure each piece more.

I keep the pieces in an old apothecary jar, spotted by my husband and one of the kids on an excursion this summer. It’s a thing of beauty, tall and curved and delicate, the glass so thin I hold my breath each time I lift it from the shelf to add another piece. It’s so large that at this rate it will take me years to fill it, and there’s comfort in that thought.

Unless, of course, it slips from my hands and shatters. A disaster I regularly imagine, each piece a wicked sharp-edged weapon beyond anyone’s skill to repair.

And yet.

This morning as I held a tiny piece of sea glass, I wondered what it once was. Bright blue, it might have come from a bottle, but it’s equally possible it was once someone’s heirloom. A beloved vase. A perfume bottle.  A frame, sun-glinted on a mother’s dresser.  The loss perhaps not heart-breaking, but mourned all the same.

And now that identical glass sits in my hand. Its sharp edges have been worn away, and time and the roughness of the waves have transformed it into something else. Something entirely different, yet still treasured.  Stripped to the very essence of what it once was and lovely all on its own.

I still hold my breath as I replace the jar upon the shelf. I still treasure it in its current form. But I’m coming to realize that sometimes, beauty can be found after the breakage too.

 

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Remorse.

Remorse.

A few days ago, a friend and I met up for a hike.  Just before the trail entrance, we heard a weird noise, like the commotion of a bunch of chickens.  We stopped, tried to locate the sound, couldn’t, and continued on.

The Slobbering Beast was with us, and it’s been a bit since he was on a trail.  He was excited, bounding in giddy circles. He was even more thrilled when two other dogs showed up.  Since I didn’t know them, I put him on leash and called for their owner.   No one appeared.  We waited awhile, the dogs wandered off, and The Beast, my friend, and myself  got back to hiking.  Since we were heading into an area where there’s a lot of wildlife, I kept him on the leash and we jaunted along quite successfully until almost the end.  When the two dogs appeared again.

Still ownerless, but with something white and fluffy between them.

Yep.  A (recently dead) chicken.

I don’t know if it was the excitement of seeing his potential pals, the smell of blood, the sight of something soft and fluffy, or a combination, but The Beast lost his mind.  He hurtled a small bush and dashed into the undergrowth. He scraped through plants that might have been poison ivy.  He bumped up against several small rocks.

And since I was still holding the leash, so did I.

By this time I was prone, surfing the ground on my shoulder.  My friend was yelling, The Beast was still gallumping happily away toward the dead chicken, the two other dogs were barking a bit, and a single thought went through my mind.  Let go, you fool.  Let go.

So I did.

It’s hard for me to let go — of work that’s not working, of friends who are no longer friends, of emotions that are not serving my best interests.  So every now and then, the universe likes to remind me in the most physical way possible to move on.  It happened with riding — letting go can sometimes mean the difference between a good, clean fall and a bad fall where you get tangled up with the horse and gear — and now, since I’m not currently riding, the universe has apparently tapped The Slobbering Beast as a stand in.

I can’t control the loose dogs or the dead chickens life may throw at me.  Some days, I can’t even control The Slobbering Beast.  But I can control my response, and hanging on to something that’s not working mostly only hurts me.

Sometimes, as the song that’s playing everywhere these days says, you have to let it go.

 

 

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I think, somewhere between when I opened my eyes in June and blinked in September, there was a thing called summer.  I have memories of warm beach days, dripping ice cream, hot buttery lobster rolls, the smell of suntan lotion and chlorine, but they happened so fast it’s as if I dreamed them.

On the last day of school, the top of my daughter’s head was just below eye level, my son somewhere way below.  Somehow, they both grew three inches in that blink of an eye, my daughter now juuust as tall as me.  Not taller.  I swear.

This is the first school day in eight years I haven’t cried. How could I?  Both my children went eagerly  striding into that morning, looking forward to friends they hadn’t seen all summer, to new teachers, to taking their place in the world. Which is as it should be.  There’s nary a trace of the babies they were — the pictures hanging on my walls of chubby-cheeked toddlers are so removed from the here and now it is as if they belonged to someone else. I catch glimpses of them once in a while, mostly when their older counterparts are sleeping.  They’re not gone for good, but they are vanishing fast.

A billion years ago when I started freelancing, I had one rule — the television stayed off and the computer stayed in the office. But then my babies were born, and time to write was so scarce that the laptop became a fixture on the kitchen table so I could squeeze in a line here and there, between feedings and games and cleanups.  Somehow it stayed, even when the children grew up and went off to school.

But this summer we had no internet access, so the laptops mostly stayed closed.  Less Facebook, less email, less checking of random websites.  I felt guilty not keeping up with writing groups and the blogs of my friends, but there was relief, too. And then in September, the internet and all its distractions returned.

I think it’s time to renew my old vow, and banish my laptop to the office during hours when I’m  not working.  The days are going too fast, and I want to have control over how I slow them down.  And it’s not just me who has been distracted — I see it happening now to my children, too, and I need to set a good example.  Plus, selfishly, I want as much time as I can squeeze out of them, want to glimpse those babies as often as I can, and I know the one place they’ll never be found is in the glow of a blue screen.

So my fall resolution, as it were, is to write with more intention and less distraction.  To create specific times to use technology and specific time to banish it.  To seize back the hours I’ve given to the internet and spend them as I choose, both mourning the past a little bit and looking forward to the future.

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What are your fall writing resolutions?

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So yesterday was a holiday here in the states. Which means my children had the day off. They are mostly very good at entertaining me — they build snowmen, they make up crazy dances, they try and explain their electronic games to me — the upshot of which is that I have a hard time doing any work in their presence. (I did hide in my study during the late-lamented football game on Sunday, because  I personally feel that if I am going to waste perfectly good brain cells there ought to be alcohol involved, and everyone else in my family HAD to watch it and it was too early for wine.)

And tomorrow they are saying may be a snow day, which at our house involves pajamas and popcorn and movies and reading and everything but WORK.  Because I only have my children and their childhood for a brief time and work is forever, ya know?  Except that I am only really working two days this week, because my daughter also has off FRIDAY.  Which means … I am screwed.

So, in lieu of a REAL blog post, I am leaving you a very pretty picture of what snow looks like near me. (Without the Slobbering Beast this time, because the day I took the picture he was curled up on his bed, completely over the white stuff. As am I, come to think of it.)  Enjoy, and if you want a longer blog post next time pray for school next week.

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My daughter is blessed to have people in her life who love her and enjoy sending her beautiful things to wear. We spent lots of the holiday at home on the couch, reading and watching movies. I mostly did that in jeans (sometimes pajamas) but my daughter often chose to wear her new clothes. She came down one morning in a gorgeous print dress someone had sent her, for a day that involved little more than eating, napping, and possibly eating again.  I was all set to send her upstairs to change when something made me bite my tongue.

Yes, it was a fancy dress. But shouldn’t all our days together rate as special occasions?

We did the math this weekend, my husband and I, over a bottle of wine. In a little more than five years, she’ll be winging her way toward the start of a new life. Five years worth of weekends, of vacations, of Friday family movie nights. Less if you factor in high school, when I’m told those family nights become scarce. Suddenly 52 multiplied by five doesn’t seem like much.

I want every day with my kids to be special, to have meaning and weight and be a joyous occasion.

In my china cabinet I have beautiful cups and saucers that belonged to my grandmother. They’re fragile, they have to be hand-washed, they always seem like a little too much work to bring out and use. So they sit there, except on special occasions. My children have few memories which include them, which is a shame, because my grandmother loved those cups. She would have loved seeing us use them.

I think my daughter has the right idea. Our ‘best’ — best selves, best lives, best hearts — ought to be on display every day.

(Confession:  I did ask her to change out of her white ‘fur’ vest when dipping chocolate, however. There are some limits.)

What do you save for best these days that you ought to be squandering?

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Hey there!

Do you read Writer Unboxed? No? You should. If only because I had a very depressing post planned for today, and then I remembered that nooooo, I couldn’t write that because I had a much more optimistic post about storytelling scheduled to be up on the Writer Unboxed web site.  See? WU already has made your day better. Go check it out! (And please feel free to leave me a comment.)

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Whenever we see babies, I always think (and sometimes say) how much I wish you and your brother were still that age. If I say it aloud, someone — usually a stranger — will tell me I don’t mean it, that (insert age here) is a lovely age, too.

Here’s a secret: I do mean it. I mean it with all my heart.

I’d take three again, the year you had such terrible tantrums I feared for your well-being, actually called the doctor to see what I should do. I’d take three-almost four again, when you started preschool and we began that long, slow separation process that still continues today.

Image Five, when you started kindergarten, and I watched you walk so bravely into a classroom filled with strangers, then went home and cried with your brother? Absolutely. The delicious chubbiness of nine months, when your elbows had elbows and your hair was something from a Shirley Temple movie goes without saying.

Even twelve. Someday, off in the very close future, you’ll be sixteen, and I’ll be longing for twelve — the year you are almost, but not quite, as tall as me, the year you’ve started a new school with new challenges and new friends and new opportunities, the year you’ve begun to look so much less like a child. Someday, I’ll see the year of twelve in a haze of golden light, because it will be a year that you were still mine.

You’re not, of course. You never have been. You have always been very much your own independent person. But it’s easier to pretend when you are little that I can hold you forever, keep you safe, keep you happy, keep your heart from being broken and your spirit intact.  I could still soothe your hurts with a hug or a kiss, distract you with a lollipop or toy. The hurts that are coming — and you will have some — won’t be banished so easily. The joys that are coming — and you will have those too — won’t be as easily shared. They will be your own, and you may tell me about them or you may not.

So I miss three. And eleven. And every single age you’ve been, even as each one takes you a step further down your own path. I’m glad I’ve been on this journey with you, glad to be your traveling companion, if only for a little while. No matter how far ahead you may wander, I’ll always be here cheering for you (quietly, so as not to embarrass you).

I may miss three, but I’m awfully proud of twelve.

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