A Week of Lessons Learned (and it’s Only Wednesday)

I called my daughter last night to say goodnight. She’s on spring break, and we aren’t, so she’s spending a few days at Grandma’s house.

This morning at Grandma's.

This morning at Grandma’s.

Me: “I know it’s early, but I’m really tired so I’m going to bed and wanted to say goodnight.” [Note that this was 8:30 and I had already fallen asleep reading. The only reason I was awake to make the phone call was the dogs woke me to go outside.]

Sarah: Oh . . . I’m . . . um . . . I’m scared.

Me: What? Why are you scared?

Sarah: Never mind, good night.

Me: No, Sarah. Tell me why you’re scared.

Sarah: Because of the bombs.

I wish I could say that I stepped up and had a brilliant moment of parenting at that time, but that would be a lie. As my heart broke and my arms yearned to take her in a never-ending hug, I tried my best to say the right things; to tell her I understood her fear, but that she was safe and that they would catch whoever had done this.

I tried to say the right things, but the words tasted like dust in my mouth, because in some ways they are lies. I cannot promise to protect her from every evil out there, just as mothers all over the world cannot protect their children from the bombs and bullets that plague them. I cannot protect her from every individual who somehow values his/her personal beliefs over the lives of others.

I cannot protect her from it all, unless I lock her in a cave and never let her out.

Last week I wrote a post called “‘Crood’ Lessons” , where I discuss some of the positives and negatives of the movie. Who would have thought that the lessons from that movie would carry over into this week?

You see, the father, Grug, tries to keep his family safe by keeping them in a cave. He only lets them leave for food. Yet, even the safety of that cave isn’t perfect. When he and his family have to move on in search of something else (in his mind another cave) he learns that its more important to live life than to hide in safety and never do anything.

“Never be afraid . . . follow the light.”

I called Sarah this morning just after I discovered this connection by writing in my Morning Pages. I finally had a metaphor to use to help her. I told her fear was okay, as long as we didn’t let it stop us from living. We talked about the movie. I think she understood.

“What are you all doing today,” I asked.

“Making fairy houses,” Sarah said.

One of the fairy houses Sarah built for our back hill last fall.

One of the fairy houses Sarah built for our back hill last fall.

Life moves on.

As it should.

This week is full of the lessons that we must learn; about resilience and life, about caring for each other, about never giving up, about kindness and strength. This morning I saw this  post on my Facebook feed, posted by a girl named Laura Wellington who was 1/2 mile from the finish when the bombs exploded. The words underneath are hers:

Please help me by sharing this! As some of you know, I was 1/2 mile from the finish line when the explosion went off. I had no idea what was going on until I finally stopped and asked someone. Knowing that my family was at the finish line waiting for me, I started panicking, trying to call them. Diverted away from the finish line, I started walking down Mass Ave towards Symphony Hall still not knowing where my family was. Right before the intersection of Huntington, I was able to get in touch with Bryan and found out he was with my family and they were safe. I was just so happy to hear his voice that I sat down and started crying. Just couldn’t hold it back. At that moment, a couple walking by stopped. The woman took the space tent off her husband, who had finished the marathon, and wrapped it around me. She asked me if I was okay, if I knew where my family was. I reassured her I knew where they were and I would be ok. The man then asked me if I finished to which I nodded “no.” He then proceeded to take the medal off from around his neck and placed it around mine. He told me “you are a finisher in my eyes.” I was barely able to choke out a “thank you” between my tears. Odds are I will never see this couple again, but I’m reaching out with the slim chance that I will be able to express to them just what this gesture meant to me. I was so in need of a familiar face at that point in time. This couple reassured me that even though such a terrible thing had happened, everything was going to be ok.

This post–along with  so many others that tell of kindness in the face of cruelty–reinforces the idea that we cannot hide in a cave and hope the bad things don’t touch us. No . . . we must face the sun, move bravely through life, and battle the evil with our hearts open.

Even if that battle simply comes in the form of building fairy houses.

Today I have this message and wish for you, my readers, my friends, my loved ones. I hope that you live each and  every day with love and joy. I hope that you raise your voices in kindness and together we can combat any darkness that comes our way.

Let’s all stay out of the caves and follow the light.

Dear World . . . Using the power of Birthday Wishes

It’s still my birthday month, plus today is the fabulous Andra Watkins’ birthday, which multiplies the power of birthday wish magic in immeasurable amounts, so I have a few birthday wishes I’d  like  to share.

But wait, you say . . . if I share the wishes then they won’t come true. The wishes I want to share aren’t my personal, private wishes, but wishes that affect many other people. So maybe, if other people agree with my wishes and we all use the power of wishing and birthday magic together, some of the wishes come  true.

So let’s blow out some candles, find a falling star, and make a wish or two for the good of all:

There's powerful birthday wish magic in Andra's decadent looking dessert.

There’s powerful birthday wish magic in Andra’s decadent looking dessert.

 

Wish #1: Educational Sanity

“Whimper, whimper, whimper.”

I pull myself out of my hard-won deep sleep (after a 3 hour bout of insomnia) to the sound  of my daughter whimpering as she crawled into my bed for a  morning snuggle.

“What’s wrong, sweetie?”

She buried under the covers moaning and mumbling something.

“What? I don’t understand?”

“I’m not ready for MCAS long essay. I wish we didn’t move here. I wish I went to school where I didn’t have to take  these tests.”

“These tests are everywhere Sarah. You’ve taken them everywhere, they are  just more emphasized this year.”

“But Massachusetts is in the name of the test.”

“Well, yes, but every state has these stupid tests. That’s the problem. I just want you to do your best and not worry about it. These tests mean nothing about you as a student.”

“I feel like I’m going to fail.”

“I’ll be proud of you if you just try. I don’t care  about these tests. They have nothing to do with you and everything to do with a broken education system.”

“I’ll try, Mommy. I’ll try.”

Okay, so maybe this wish is a little personal. My heart breaks when I see my daughter losing the joy of learning to her stress over achieving some mandatory score on a mandatory test that proves nothing than the fact that these kids know how to take tests. They aren’t learning how to think, to be creative, to challenge themselves . . . they are learning how to take tests.

I wish for a complete education overhaul that does not treat education like a business and teachers like servants who only win rewards if they prove numerically that students are improving, when we all know learning can’t always be proven by graphs and charts. I wish for an education system that embraces creative learning, challenges and questions societal norms, and incorporates all the things I’m passionate including learning through the arts.

Does anyone else wish for some educational sanity?

Wish #2: Governmental Sanity

Okay, since I’m already wishing for the impossible,  I might as well wish for the ultimate impossibility of  a sane and functioning government here in the United States. I am probably naive. I simply do not understand why greed and hatred have such a powerful hold over officials who are supposedly elected to represent the will of  the people. I don’t understand why a body of people can continue to get paid and not fired when they aren’t doing their jobs. I don’t understand why 1/4 of 1/3 of the government (as in 1/2 of the congress which is only one half of one branch of the government) has held us hostage for so  long and can demand unrealistic cuts in the name of more money for the richest few in a country where everyone is supposed to be equal, and get away with it. I don’t understand why we are still fighting for equality for women in 2013. I don’t understand why immigration is such as an issue in a land full of one time immigrants.

I don’t understand anything. I feel we are being ruled by insanity lately, although I must say that some of the people I know who are labelled as “insane” or “crazy” would make wiser choices than many of our elected officials.

It’s a simple wish, bring some sanity back before the US. government destroys everything.

More wishes to come . . . 

I don’t want to overwhelm you with my long list of “soapbox” birthday wishes, but I will explore more for  the next few days, until my birthday month is officially over (although I am actually celebrating into April when I go to my birthday concert so maybe the wishes will continue).

If you knew the power of birthday wishes or any wishes would work, what would you wish for to make this world a better place?

Creating a Reader in a World of Multi-Tasking

I have been reading since I was at least 4 years old. I spent much of my childhood curled up under covers with my best friends, the ones found between the pages of books. I could spend hours or days hidden there, sometimes never coming up for air until I had read a book from start to finish. I’m sure there were times that my mother had to remind me to come down or leave the house.

Even now, if I have no other commitments, I can disappear for days, ravenously reading anything that comes my way. Much to my surprise, my addiction has only been fueled more by my Kindle (something I was against owning at first). Don’t get me wrong, I still prefer the feel of a book in my hands, and the joy of turning pages. But, once I discovered the ease of finding FREE books on Kindle, as well as the ease of making a purchase just after you finish one book and realize you want something else to read, I realized that there is something truly wonderful to having words at your finger tips.

As a matter of fact I’ve read around 10 books (or more) since I headed to my “summer home” at the end of June.

Sarah sees me reading all the time. She has picked up the (perhaps bad) habit of collecting books. She claims to love reading as well, but there is a difference that drives me crazy . . .

Sarah never seems to finish a book.

She has several books started. She has a summer homework assignment which requires her to read two books and write 8 essays (short) about them.

Getting her to sit down and read those books has become torture.

Not that she isn’t reading. She is currently sitting next to me reading her Highlight’s magazine. I just cannot get her to sit down and finish a book.

I have a theory. In a world where everything comes in high-speed mini-bites, she can only focus in short bursts. A magazine story or article requires a shorter attention span than a novel.  I see it with all my students, who never seem to finish their reading assignments completely. We are raising a generation of people with the inability to focus for an extended period of time.

It makes me sad. I can only hope that someday Sarah will find a book that she simply cannot put down.

Do you think reading is becoming a lost art?

Learning to Love Yourself

I just found out that someone here really does not like me, and has warned her daughter to stay away from me.

I’ve never had this happen before. I mean, I’m sure people have not liked me, but I’ve never had children warned away from me.

Ever.

I think it comes from a moment last summer when I was walking the dogs with Sarah and this girl. They asked if they could hold the leashes and I let them. Then someone stopped to discuss something with me, and the girls got too far ahead. Some smaller dogs came out, my dogs got away, and chaos ensued.

So now, it seems, my dogs have been labeled as bad dogs and I am a bad, untrustworthy parent.

I know I made a mistake, but it was an accident. Or am I supposed to be perfect all the time?

Anyone who meets my dogs would know that they are sweet, gentle souls. They just have power and like chasing little critters. In other words, they are dogs.

Smiling puppies.

But this isn’t about my dogs. It’s about me.

I don’t like being disliked. It leads me down a dark path. I start searching for what I did wrong. I start blaming myself. I start disliking myself, because of course it must be my fault.

Even though I know that sometimes people simply do not connect, for reasons beyond understanding. In the same way, I know that sometimes the opposite can happen, when you meet someone and feel an instant connection with that person. Friendship forms in a few moments of time.

That just happened this past weekend too.

Kimberly, Harper and Sarah. New friendships formed in the car and in the pool.

Why can’t I focus on that rather than on the negative relationships? I think it stems from the insecurity I’ve faced all my life, when I’ve always felt like I was on the fringe of groups, never truly belonging. It stems from my struggle to not worry about how others view me. It stems from my inability to truly love myself.

I recognize that as a problem that I am slowly changing. It is not easy, but I will succeed.

Call me corny but today I need a little positive message from Whitney Houston (RIP).

New Thoughts on Being Alone

Remember how about a month ago I wrote about how weird it was to be completely alone in the house for an entire weekend--no dogs, no child, no husband? Well, today I have done a total flip and am yearning for some complete, 100% alone time.

I woke up early this morning, even though my body was still aching for sleep. But, when the sun rises, the thoughts in my brain start stirring, at least to some extent. Unwilling to completely engage with the day, and still feeling a little disconnected, I decided to spend a quiet morning reading before I wrote in my Morning Pages and started the day for real. Nathan left to get breakfast, and I chose to stay back and be anti-social. The dogs started to hassle me as soon as he left.

A short time later, after Nathan had left breakfast for Sarah and made the 20 second trek to work, Sarah stumbled out of bed and immediately starting whining at me because she had misplaced blankie. Have I ever described blankie to you? Once upon a time it was a gray flannel shirt of Nathan’s that somehow ended up in Sarah’s hands at some point when she was just a baby. It became the attachment that could never be left behind, and now is a ripped and torn, but well-loved piece of extra soft fabric that dimly reflects its past as a shirt.

In this picture, Nathan is wearing the shirt when in was still actually a shirt. It may have been that day that it became “Blankie.”

In this picture taken the following year (when Sarah was 2 and 3/4) you can see Blankie scrunched in Sarah’s hands just behind Nathan’s head.

Anyway, as any “good” Mom would do this morning, I told Sarah to look all around her room for blankie, including picking things up. When that failed, and the moans and groans of agony started, I solved the mystery after recalling a bizarre experience from the middle of the night last night–one that could have been a dream, except for the evidence from blankie. See, I came out at some point to go to the bathroom only to be startled by the silent and spectral image of Sarah who nearly freaked me out by appearing in the darkness.

“What are you doing Sarah?”

“I’m going to the park.”

“What? You can’t go to the park now.”

“I’m catching fireflies.”

“Go back to bed, Sarah.”

She walked over to the table holding Nathan’s computer and sat down, placing her hand on the mouse.

“Have you been playing computer games?” (The lights of the computer were blinking, but the screen wasn’t on, I was just really tired.)

“Yes.”

“It’s too late to play computer games. Go to bed Sarah.”

“Will you help me?”

“Go to bed!”

She wandered into her room and crawled into bed.

Complete silence in a moment, as I stumbled back to my bed.

I would have forgotten about it, except that I discovered the missing blankie on the chair. She even brought her music player and headphones out. She doesn’t remember a thing.

That mystery solved, I started reading again, only to be interrupted every line or so by a random question about sleepwalking from Sarah, or a random thought about something from Sarah.

“Sarah, I’m trying to read!”

A few moment passes, and another thought bursts out.

“Sarah, your breakfast is in the refrigerator. Please eat while I read.”

“I’m not hungry. But I’ll read, too.” New questions a few minutes later, about words. Questions that I always want to answer with “look it up” as her dictionary was 3 feet away.

“Sarah, I’m heading back to the bedroom so I can read undisturbed.”

“Sorry.”

A few minutes pass. Perhaps a page or so. The dogs follow me back there and start their loud staring, hoping to get something if I could only read their minds. Then Sarah comes back, with a new thing she just has to tell me at that moment.

This happened several times.

“Sarah, I came back here to read in peace. Please do something!” She finally started eating and playing a computer game.

I did manage to finish the book and was finally ready to write in my Morning Pages, but  the chance of me accomplishing that while being tracked by 10 legs, 6 eyes, 2 tails, and one chattering mouth was pretty low.

“Sarah, I am going to go somewhere and I am not going to tell you where. I will have my phone, but you cannot follow me.”

“My guess is a coffee shop.”

“No, I am staying on the lot, but you cannot follow me. I need to be completely alone.”

“Okay, I’m going to the green room. Are we going swimming this morning?”

“Yes, but first I need to be completely alone.”

I found a place underneath the gazebo at the arts center next door, and I wrote in my Morning Pages. My phone buzzed, a text from the people who were supposed to swim with us.  “We’ll be ready in 15 minutes.”

“I’m not ready. Give me 1/2 hour.”

Finding a place to be alone at this bustling theatre is a challenge. Even when you hide away in your cabin, the worlds seems full of eyes and ears and voices.  The 30 minutes or so this morning made me realize how valuable alone time really is.

It is, actually, priceless.

 

 

 

 

It All Comes Down to Choice

Choices we make define who we become.
Choices  we don’t make allow others to define us.
It all comes down to choice.

In an age where women daily face
the stripping down of choices
each decision we make
adds fuel to the fire
of our right to make choices.

It all comes down to choice.

I’m not talking about life or death here
I’m not talking about my body
or that of a fertilized egg.
Those choices are important
but they are not the only choices that come
with the package of womanhood.

It ALL comes down to choice.

I’m talking about my core
my being
my self
and how each decision
or non-decision
either opens a door
or slams one shut.

It all comes down to choice.

The path I choose is my own to choose
but I am not travelling alone
so one choice
affects all
choices.

IT ALL COMES DOWN TO CHOICE!

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference." Robert Frost

Imaginary Monsters (100 WCGU)

This weeks challenge by Julia is a huge one. In her words:

Your mission, should you wish to take it up, is a BIG one. We are going to celebrate the Bard by writing sonnets! I can see some frowns! Don’t worry it will stretch your creativity.

  1. You MUST write 14 lines (this is the minimum)
  2. You can use 10 syllables per line (choice)
  3. You could use the following rythmn – a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g. (choice)

So, the least you have to do is write 14 lines. Limit is around 100 words. You may need to go over slightly if you choose to do 2 and 3. The topic is of your choice but of course if you fancy including George and that dragon he is supposed to have slayed then feel free!”

In typical Lisa fashion, I could not simply take the easy way out and write fourteen lines. I had to incorporate all aspects of the challenge, while also adding in some of the muddle that is in my head. These past few days (if you haven’t noticed) have been challenging ones for me as a parent, with no simple solutions in sight. One thing that we discovered yesterday is that the constant talk of Stranger Danger that is enforced on a regular basis has created a young girl who is afraid to interact with the world. That makes me sad. So, all of that combined resulted in my entry for this weeks 100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups.

“Here there be dragons” as some adults say
Seeking, with monsters, to grow childhood fears
Hoping to control their instinct to play
Creating a world where joy leads to tears.
“I’ll fight them!” calls George, “I won’t let them win.
If dragons mean we can never have fun.”
“I want to too,” Sarah’s voice sounded thin,
“Fear of the dragon’s means that they have won.”
Did they find dragons?  Why yes, in a way.
A young little dragon hiding in fear
“Why don’t you big bullies just go away?”
There are no monsters that will hurt you here.

Children and dragon slayed “monsters” that day
by learning to conquer fears in their way.

Uh, never wake a sleeping dragon. (Another Sawdust Festival purchase)

The True Secret to Successful Parenting (aka What Not to Do)

Am I supposed to listen when you talk?

“I surrender!” I say to my young little sprite
who has decided her bedtime should be at midnight!

“I quit!” I say to that saucy little doe
who chooses to ignore everything I know.

“Do what you want,” I exclaim to the stubborn little lass
while hiding in my bedroom away from her sass.

I can’t win this battle
I can’t win this fight
My Mom voice doesn’t matter
as I  do nothing right.

 So today I have decided to admit my defeat
and let her rule the roost while I eat something sweet.

Today She is Nine

Early morning birthday girl.

Today she is nine.

Just yesterday she could fit in the crook of my arm, or fall asleep on my chest, mouth milky after feeding from my breast.

But today she in nine.

Now she is a person with hopes, fears, and dreams. Now, each day brings her new challenges and new successes.

Nine years disappeared in an instant. Will the next nine years move just as quickly? In another nine years she will be preparing to head off to new adventures. Perhaps college. Perhaps an adventure around the world. I already don’t want to let her go, and yet I know I have to.

I woke up with a song in my head. The song Nathan and I selected as our wedding song after seeing Jason Alexander perform it on television. I don’t know if this is the exact performance we saw, but I found it on video.

We danced to (a version of) “We Live on Borrowed Time” at our wedding, and it seems so fitting for today.

“Now we may have a year
Or we may have a lifetime
No one can be certain
What the future will allow
But you and I are here
And this time is the right time
Cause one thing that I know
Is that we have each other now “

Today she is nine and I’ve loved her forever.

I DIDN’T Hear it On the Bus

Okay, I admit it,  I stole from another blogger. The title is a take of the fabulous series over at Young American Wisdom called “I Heard it on the Bus” .

I braved the bus today, chaperoning four third grade classes on a field trip to the Pequot Museum about 1 1/2 hours away. The museum was fascinating, including a village set with figures to learn all about Native American life. I was only allowed to take pictures in the Gathering Place, but here are a few:

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I did hear a few interesting tidbits, like the boy who told me that his great-great-great-great grandfather is still alive and kicking at something like 16o + years old, or the girl who told me that her great-great grandfather was on the Mayflower. (I think they need to review the concept of “great ancestors”).

But, I couldn’t help reflecting on what I didn’t hear. Now, I’m not claiming all the bus rides of my youth were pleasure experiences, but I remember one thing I loved. Whenever we were on the bus for any length of time we sang. The whole bus. We sang childish songs. We sang favorite songs. We sang “Three cheers for the bus driver” (especially on field trips).

This bus had no music.

Well, there was the girl sitting behind me who hummed Christmas Carols through vibrating lips.  And there was one brief chorus of Adele’s “Someone Like You” toward the end of the trip when the bus driver turned on the radio. (So appropriate for third graders who face heartbreak on a daily basis). No songs with silly and sometimes naughty lyrics. Nobody leading a chorus of some call and response ditty.

The other thing I didn’t hear was a group thank you for the bus driver. One of the teachers reminded the students to thank him on the way out, but there was no mass calling out. For that matter, I didn’t hear any teacher try to encourage the bus to be a community and represent the school with pride.

Maybe my memories of bus rides past are merely figments of my imagination, but I really miss hearing the music of young voices enjoying life together on the bus.

Does anyone else have good memories of bus rides past?

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