Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Keep stuffing your pockets, a love letter to my children.

When I was a Kindergarten teacher, I used to revel in what I found in my pockets each night when I got home.  Funny thing was that many times I didn't even recall how an object got there!  I would find colored beans we used for teaching Math, there would always be a few rocks, usually I found a note or two, many times I found partial pieces of candy, always some rocks and sometimes I found things I couldn't actually identify! I often thought then that I should photograph the pocket innards each day to produce a cool coffee table book.

Now I find myself emptying pockets again.  Every now and then,  Emma or Molly has a bit of something in a pocket, but that's rare.  Every single day, though, I find a museum worthy load of "stuff" in Harry's pockets.  Every day!  I find pieces of the earth in various forms.  I always find the wrapper from his snack.  Sometimes I find money, and on the good days I do return it to him.  I find parts of games or bits of plastic that fell off of one riding toy or another.  I find little notes with a few words on them.  And I ALWAYS find candy wrappers.  The oddest thing about the candy wrappers is that I'm never sure where those pieces of candy came from.  He giggles when I ask, and then the next day I find more of them.

When I'm on top of things in the housekeeping part of the mother job (this would not be every day) I remember to check the pockets BEFORE I wash the clothes, but that is rare - very rare.  I can sometimes remember to get the stuff out when I'm transferring from the washer to the dryer, and the wet drippy items are tons of fun to retrieve.  My usual routine, though, is to wait until I'm folding the clothes to find the goodies.  Lots of times I have a good time, wondering where he got the objects, what he might have been doing or saying when he stuck the stuff in his pocket.  That's what I used to do at the end of a long day, while I was unpacking all of the bags, purses, Kroger sacks, and small suitcases that the girls would pack during the day.  I would wonder, "Why did Molly pick up one item from each room of the house to put in one bag?" or "Wonder what Emma was playing when she put the baby doll in the bag and then added a glitter dispenser, a washcloth and a bedroom slipper?"  Sometimes that parental investigation can be fun.

The other day I pulled the pocket dwellers out of Harry's pockets on the way to the dryer.  They were wet and drippy and kind of gross.  I was frustrated about all of the mess and that I can't ever remember to empty them at the start of the whole routine.  I was probably muttering to myself, muttering about how I'm always cleaning someone's mess.  Then I stopped.  I stopped cold.

The face of my sweet friend, Barbara, appeared in my mind.  On Saturday, Barbara buried her twenty eight year old son.  And then I kept thinking.  I kept thinking about all of the people I know who have said goodbye to their children way before it was time, way before those children were through stuffing things and experiences and fun and living into their pockets.  I thought about the children I've known and I thought about the ones I've heard about.

And then I thought about a coffee table book again and about how very interesting and sweet this one would be.  This one would tell the stories of the days of my sweet child, just like all the rest of them.  They might all be stuffing their pockets with different treasures, but it would be fun to see and to wonder about what those little minds were doing and thinking and saying when they decided to tuck something safely into a pocket.  It would be a record, a record of the treasures that are special to our children.

And I thought about how those friends who have lost their children would give their lives to 'have to' clean the junk out of the pockets of their sweet children.  I thought about what a privilege it is to be the one to see the stuff; nobody else gets to find it, to wonder about it all, to touch little pieces of days spent at school or with friends or poking around in the dirt in the back yard.  I get to do that, and I thank God for that.  I wish I could give that ability back to the people who lost their pocket-stuffers.  I wish I could.

I vowed to enjoy those little pieces of my son, to laugh when I find the strange, unidentifiable parts of his day.  I said a prayer for Barbara and for all of the rest of the folks who had to say goodbye too early, and I prayed that I always get to unpack the pockets.

Keep the pockets stuffed, my little Bear.  Keep coming back home and I'll look for your treasures or your trash.  I don't mind.  Bring the little pieces of your days and keep living.  You and your sisters and all of your friends and the ones just like you all over the world - the ones who are lucky enough to have a roof over your heads and the ones that pray for something small to eat - all of you, just keep adventuring and experiencing and keep coming home.  YOU are the treasures in our pockets.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Notice the snake when you walk over it.

Some stories are funny.  Some are sad.  Some are just strange.  This is a strange one, and it's a moment I won't forget.

Five or so years ago, our family was at the beach - it was a morning, a beach morning, when some folks are out with young children, some are strolling along and hoping for the perfect shells and some are still in the bed, awaiting a good, beachy day later.  I guess it was about ten o'clock.  There weren't a lot of folks on the beach; but there was beginning to be more activity and folks were starting the set up on those big tent thingies for their family's headquarters.

My kids were having fun messing around.  It wasn't hot yet.  The sun was morning bright, but it wasn't yet burning our skin.  It was one of those fun mornings when the kids and dogs find all of the cool tidal pools and there is one pool per person.  It was good.

I was sitting on the sand, watching the kids, enjoying the slight breeze and I noticed something out of my peripheral vision.  Way down at the water's edge, there was some dark thing moving around, just where the wave reached the sand.  It looked like something was coming out of the water.  Hmmmmm . . . weird.  I stood up and kept my eye on the oddity.  The kid in me wanted to scream with excitement and run over to see what it was, to get everyone excited and be the first one to spot the coolness.  But, the adult in me said to wait.  "You're going to feel like a fool when you get everyone excited, they all run over to look and it turns out to be a stick."  So I waited and I watched.

It looked like the THING was unsure as to whether to stay in the water or break free of the current.  I kept watching.  My kids kept playing.  The sun kept shining.  I began to slowly work my way over towards the water, when I noticed other folks beginning to watch.  Even the 'on task' shell seekers were slowing down.  Folks were watching, but nobody wanted to say it.  Nobody wanted to say the obvious.  It was too crazy.

It looked like a snake!  I'm quite sure that my fellow observers were running through the same questions in their minds . . . Are their snakes in the ocean?  Is that normal?  Do any snakes that look just like the gray rat snakes in our back yards also live in the ocean?  Should a sea snake be exiting the water on a beach?  Have I ever heard of this?  Hmmmmmmm.

Some woman was brave enough to speak what we were all thinking.  She was brave enough to just say it, even though "IT" made no sense.  "That looks like a snake - doesn't it?" she said.  "It does."  "It is."  "What's a snake doing at the beach?"  (At this point, I knew I was seeing something terribly strange, but I was quite thankful that I wasn't going to be the only observer.)  This snake thing would have been a fish story that was very hard to explain!

It was a SNAKE!  It wasn't that the snake was enormous or scary or venomous looking.  It wasn't.  It was quite ordinary, actually.  What was not ordinary was that it washed up on the beach!  That is not ordinary!  As we all nervously giggled - half excited, half wondering what in the world was going on - a small crowd began to assemble.  The kids were all wide-eyed and happy, though I think they were mostly drawing on our excitement.  I doubt they really understood how strange the whole thing was.

Nevertheless, we were all in it together.  The whole of us, this crowd of morning beach-goers, were in an adventure together and it was fun.  It was a moment!  It was odd and strange and funny and exciting.

This snake that had us all captivated finally decided (or was forced by the strength of the tide) to make its way onto the beach.  It wriggled its awkward dark gray body out of the water, stopped for a moment as if to take in the scenery of the East beach at Saint Simon's Island, and then slowly began to inch towards the green, towards the maritime forest where it might have a chance to find some other snake friends.

The trip was slow, but the snake never seemed in doubt about which way to go, and it never acted particularly bothered by the fact that twenty or thirty bathing suited humans were along on the trip.  We made sort of a modified semi-circle around the snake and edged with it across the vast expanse of beach left by the low tide.  Those of us accompanying the snake were friends now; buddies who were experiencing adventure together - fast friends.

As the convoy, snake and onlookers, began to get closer to the sand dunes, we started to spread out a bit.  We let the snake go out ahead of us, to go on 'his' own towards the promised land.  Now we were a loosely formed crowd, eyes to the sand; and, much like a tennis match, our eyes moved together, just the way the snake did.  I would imagine that if an alien had been lowered to earth, it would have known instinctively that these odd humans were all watching the same event.  Their was no doubt.  I say that to explain the next oddity in the story.

The snake was nearing the green stubble of the dunes, and the crowd was excited, all of us wondering how we would explain this particular morning.  Every single human being (and a few dogs) on this acre or so of the beach was involved in this snake saga.  Every one of us.  There were no shell collectors ambling along, no sunbathers, no children giggling at the break of waves.  We were all held in the excitement.  And then . . . we all noticed a jogger coming up on the scene.

I think we were all anxious to share this strange story with a new onlooker, a new listener for our story.  It will be great to share this with a new friend - it will be grand!  We all watched.  The lanky jogger was coming up on us quite quickly.  I'm sure we all believed that he was busy trying to decipher what in the world was happening just ahead on his path.  I'm sure we all just knew that.  The jogger kept jogging.  The snake, followed by all of our eyes, kept on towards home.

And the runner kept running!  He was coming up on this strange assembly of humans and reptile and he kept running!  He was getting closer.  He was still jogging.  We were all watching, all waiting, all knowing that he was about to call a halt to the morning's run.

He did not stop!  He kept running and running.  If he saw the crowd, he didn't let on that he did.  If he noticed that we were all staring intently at the same thing, he didn't show it.  If he was interested at all, we could not tell.  He kept running!  We watched.  Time stood still.  At this point, the weird reality that a snake had emerged from the ocean didn't seem all that extraordinary.  What DID seem weird was this strange, tall man who appeared to have no idea that he was on this beach with any of the rest of us!

"Surely he'll stop", we all thought.  "I bet he's just being funny", one woman announced.  But he never stopped.  He never slowed his gait.  He never acknowledged us!  But, my friends, that isn't the strangest part.  He neared the scene, he kept running, he came within two feet of all of us without ever looking and then he did it - he did - he just ran right over the snake!  He never took his eye off of the horizon or the pier or whatever it was that he was 'watching.'  He ran right over the snake; and, luckily his stride and the snake weren't the same length, so the snake was spared.

The grand story of our day at the beach, the strangest thing that many of us had seen in years, the adventure that had brought us together was over - and that crazy man never even saw it!  The snake wiggled the last couple of yards into the brush and the man ran on.  He just kept running.

Wide-eyed and open-mouthed, we all stood there.  We had just spent thirty minutes enrapt in one of earth's oddities and this jogger, this 'outsider' ran right over it!  Is it possible that someone could be asleep while he runs?  Is it really possible that the man never saw us or the SNAKE that we were all watching?  Is that possible?  How very strange.

I've kept that story with me for some time.  I won't forget it.  In the beginning, that story was to be about how unimaginable it was that we all watched this strange snake wash up on our beach.  It was to be a fun story, with a bit of adventure, some laughs and lots of shared fun.  But then the story changed. The oddest thing that happened that morning was that one of us missed the whole thing.

The jogger kept jogging.  The jogger missed it all.  He ran on his path, eye on the prize or the beer or the swim or whatever he was running towards, and he never stopped!  He missed the fun, the camaraderie, the spectacle.  He missed it all.

Usually I'm jealous of the joggers who make running look like a religious experience.  Usually I wish I could make it look so easy.  Not this time, though.  Not this time.

That poor guy missed out on a lot.  He missed a great time, a time of wonder and a shared moment with new friends.  He missed being part of something exciting and different, something that made us all shake off the 'normalness' of the morning and watch a bit of God's wonder.  I would hate to think I could have jogged right through that.

I have no idea where the snake came from.  There was lots of talk.  Had he been forced into the water down the beach a bit and just wrestled with the waves until we saw him?  Had he been dropped into the ocean near the intra-coastal waterways and just floated to the beach?  The kids got back to laughing and splashing and running and playing and we adults marveled in the fun of feeling like little kids again.  We loved wondering together and laughed about how strange the whole thing was.  We never came up with a reason for the snake to have come up out of the water.  We never reached a consensus.

We did, however, agree that the strangest moment of the day was when the jogger ignored all of the excitement and ran over the snake and passed us all.  We marveled at how anyone could be that oblivious to surroundings, how anyone could be that focused, how anyone could miss something that all of us saw.  That was the strange story of the day.  The snake just helped us see it.

I think about that man from time to time.  I guess there are others like him.  I guess we are all like him at one time or another.  We all keep our eyes glued to something or nothing or one particular thing and fail to acknowledge what's going on around us.  I don't want to be jogging over any snakes.  I don't want to miss the excitement of the world.  I want to see.  I want to laugh and watch and wonder about crazy things that happen and then talk about it later.  I want the memories and the good times and the events that bust me out of normality and force me to follow the little gray snakes into the dunes!

The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.
Henry Miller

Friday, January 27, 2012

List 4 - I miss . . .

I thought about a funny list for today, but somehow memories kept flowing into my awareness this week. They haven't been sad memories; just memories and they've had me thinking.  Sometimes I tend to get hung up on things (not meaning objects exactly, more like experiences) that I had that my children will not get to have.  Sometimes I go on and on about that - just ask my children.  More than once, one of them has tried (unsuccessfully) to explain to me that they don't miss the 'things' I'm talking about and they are just fine.  But I MISS THEM for them, I try to explain.  That's usually unsuccessful, too.

So, today's list is a few things I miss.  As with all of the Friday lists, this is not complete, there is no particular order and I reserve the right to add to, take away or amend items at any time.  Check out my list and then make your own.  You could even use some time this weekend to bore your children or some friends with your list.  I'm hoping to use mine for a couple of pleasant day dreams (and then I'll go over it again with my kids).

In my home growing up, there was a gallery of family pictures on the landing at the top of the stairs.  In the middle of all of the framed photographs was a small plaque that read, "While giving our kids the things we had not, let's not forget to give them the things we did have."  I didn't get that.  Now I do.


  1. Screen doors on houses (that are missing the paint right around the handle) and squeak a little bit and make a loud bang when they are let go.
  2. Cabooses.  Apparently they held no real importance, but they meant a lot to me.  They helped make sense of things and helped us all know that things were in order.
  3. Footies with balls on the back and white Adidas with royal blue stripes.
  4. Eating fruit at the 'right' times.  I liked it when it was special to eat a watermelon, a peach or a tomato and you had to eat them when they were grown.  I know in my heart that I haven't tasted as good a piece of fruit in my adulthood as I tasted in my childhood.  It has been suggested that perhaps I am remembering it with fondness, recalling other feelings that went along with the eating of the fruit.  No way - they tasted better.  I hate to sound like Andy Rooney, but I'm just right about this.
  5. The little corner booths in the front of Pizza Huts.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, my thoughts are with you.  I'm sorry, but you haven't truly lived.  I can think of nothing that feels quite like getting to the Pizza Hut and realizing that one of the two booths was  open and you and your sister were going to get it - nothing.  There wasn't a ton of wiggle room, but the pizza definitely tasted better in that spot.  It did.
  6. Strumming a tennis racket and singing along, while performing a rousing rendition of "Crazy Horses" by the Osmond Brothers.  Guitar Hero?  Whatever.
  7. Going to people's houses and looking up on top of their refrigerator and seeing that shiny cool Charles Chips tin.  What happened to those?
  8. Those nice men (usually there was one in each church or sitting by the door at a gas station) who gave you a nickel or a dime or a quarter.  I think some of them gave away a piece of hard candy. They were nice and said, "Here, get you something nice with this."  Somehow, they weren't creepy and everybody loved them.  They were always prepared; and lots of times, you could hear the coins jingling when they reached into the pocket.  Some of them had side talents to go along with the gift, like talking like a duck or pulling the coin out of your ear or repeating long tongue twisters.
  9. The slide at "Wheeler Park" in Douglas, Georgia (where my grandparents lived).  It was at least five million four thousand two hundred and thirty six feet high and was undoubtedly the coolest piece of play equipment ever invented.  I count myself among the few, the proud, the privileged ones that got to spend afternoons on that skyscraping edifice before sensibility came into play.  If there was a slide like that today, I'm afraid I would see children harnessed to their mothers and being brought down slowly, one child per two minute period.  Never will there be a cooler thing.  If I knew where that slide was, I believe I'd buy it and put it in my yard as art.  And if it has been melted down for the metal, I hope I never find out about it.
  10. Walking home from school.  I did not walk home from school uphill both ways in the snow.  I did not carry a tuba.  I just headed out of the back of Gaines School, loitered a bit on the playground, met with other kids, cut through the woods that went from the road behind the school to our neighborhood and meandered along home.  Ponderosa Drive was a long, winding hill and what started as a loose gang of twenty or so kids, eventually wound down to just a few.  Sometimes we laughed and talked.  Sometimes one person was mad at another.  One time we saw a dog get hit in front of the Tumlin's and helped wait with the injured dog until a vet arrived. Sometimes we might stop at someone else's house to look at something or have a snack or watch tv and sometimes we might just walk straight home.  No parents were involved.  No worried grown ups watched us from behind trees; we just walked along.  We were learning about what to do on our own.  I guess we must have had to hurry some times, but I can't remember that.  It all seemed kind of slow.  I'm thankful, and I wish my kids got to do it, too.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

. . . what comes naturally.

It's raining today where I am - it's yucky and gray and foggy.  The morning was dark, and it was hard to leave the comfy bed.  You know that kind of morning, the kind where you need to see something in your mind's eye that encourages you to 'take the first step' down off the bed?  I quickly got that picture in my head this morning; I remembered what I was to do later today.

In just a bit, I'm off to work on an art project with sixteen four year olds.  Some of you may hear that and feel a little sick in the pit of your stomach.  Don't feel that way, though.  Read on.  I encourage you to try something similar.  (You can even try it with adults if you can find some willing and daring enough!)

I'm convinced - and there is nothing you can say or show me to change my mind - that we all arrive on this earth loving certain things.  I believe we all begin our life loving a few things artful - dancing and singing and painting and creating.  I can almost feel a few of you getting a bit nervous; you're thinking I'm about to suggest something crazy, something like how creative we all are, something outlandish.  You're right!

Check out the nearest tiny person.  Watch them.  Listen to them.  Ask them to dance and they will, regardless of the music choice.  Ask them to sing, and they will sing out without worry about pitch or volume or tune.  Give them some objects, anything really, and ask them to create something.  They will and it will probably blow your mind.  There will be a story with all sorts of detail and the child will probably have entered a new world by the time they begin to tell you about it all.  Give the same child a stick and a patch of dirt and she will draw the most magnificent mansion.  Give him a paintbrush, and you don't even have to give him any paints - he can create without it.  He might use water on the side of the swimming pool and paint on the cement.  It doesn't matter to a child; it's just fun to 'make something.'

You see, that's what is so refreshing about working with children.   They don't have all of the crazy boundaries that we have built around our selves that tell us not to try.  If he wants to sing, he does!  If she wants to dance, she does!  If they want to paint, they do and it doesn't matter what they paint.  The process is fun, and they aren't painting for anyone else.  They are painting because it feels good, because it makes them feel alive, because it is beautiful.

I'm looking forward to my art time with the kids.  I bet when I give them the paintbrushes and show them the empty canvas, there won't be any hesitation.  The only question will probably be, "where do you want me to start?"  One of them will giggle while she's painting because she feels happy inside.  One of them will probably sing because that's what he does when he feels excited and alive.  A couple of them will probably just talk and talk, without any regard to whether or not anyone is listening.  I'll probably be smiling most of the time.

Take a second and imagine all that we could do - you and I - if we didn't stop ourselves before we even began.  Imagine how much fun it would be if we sang when we wanted to or danced around, without regard to what others thought.  I know some of you may be bristling now.  Don't though.  Just take a second and think about trying something.  Try something out of your ordinary - outside of your box.  Try doing something that your three year old self did whenever she wanted.  Try it!

Just imagine . . .

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How to install a firepole of Love . . .

                                                            How to install a firepole!

I've known this great guy, Tom (well he's Chris to me, but that's another story) since he was about ten.  I taught with his Mom and know his incredibly cool family well.  For years, he was the neat son of my good friend; and then, lo and behold, he grew up and he went to college and he became a teacher!  I was teaching in Atlanta at the time and knew that he MUST work at Garden Hills Elementary with me.  I did a lot of marketing about our great school to him and did my best to explain to the principal how wonderful, creative and tremendous he was.  This just wouldn't be a good story if he didn't get the job, which he did.  (He told me later that I had given enough rave reviews that he would have gotten the job even if he had showed up to the interview naked with streamers flying out of his butt -  envision that if you'd like.)

Fast forward a bit and we are both happily teaching together.  It was fun to teach alongside of Tom, after I had done the same with his awesome Mom years before.

Another way to make this a great story we need to introduce "the girl" to the story, right?  Well, that I can do.  A couple of floors down from Tom and right beside my classroom was Shael, the beautiful, funny, bright heroine of the story.  Tom and Shael became good friends, like the rest of us.  Then 'the rest of us' noticed that their friendship was a little different - they had done it - taken the plunge - fallen in love!  For reasons I can't remember (I really wanted to so that I could step in as a hero) I bragged often about 'setting them up.' I guess I put together recommending Tom for the job and being friends with Shael as, well, as . . . Deana, you're responsible for the whole thing - good job, girl!

Now fast forward a bunch of years, maybe twelve or fifteen, to Indianapolis, Indiana.  They have created a groovy life there, with their two kids, Lily and Cole.  They do cool things together.  They have fun.  I often hear about what the two of them are up to and think to myself, "They've got the right idea - they're putting the emphasis where it matters - they get it - they're having fun and showing those two lucky kids what life is about."  It's always fun to hear what's up at their house, always inspiring.

Like many, I have a love/hate relationship with facebook.  There is plenty negative to list, but this is not the place for that.  There is a lot of good, too, and that is what this story is about.  I planted myself in front of the computer the other night to check in, pointed the browser to fb, and I smiled for the next five minutes!  The first update I saw was "How to install a Firepole" and the smile hit my face - I knew I'd love the photos - I knew it!

I was right.  I did love the photos and the witty commentary and the idea and the humor and the craftiness and the creativity and the LOVE!  You will, too.  I promise.  So, here is your homework (and it's fun) click on the link below.  DO IT.  You'll enjoy it.

I don't know much about woodwork or carpentry.  I never measure anything.  I'm not great at projects that involve both beginnings and endings.  Maybe you are.  Maybe you can peruse the photos and captions and then you can install your own firepole.  That would be awesome!

Most likely, I won't get to that.  I won't forget the 'firepole' lesson, though.  I won't.  I looked at those photos, I thought about those sweet people, I smiled and I saw LOVE.  I thought about those two kids.  Thought about how proud they must be of those 'out of the box' parents.  Thought about all of the giddy kids that will visit in the future and how much fun they'll have.  Thought about a Daddy spending all of those hours on that project.  Those photos said, "we love you."

I'm thinking now about 'firepole' projects I can do, we can do.  I'm wondering about the times that my actions show my loved ones how much I care.  We can't all pull off what my buddies did.  But we have different talents, leanings, loves.  Maybe we can come up with our own projects, our own firepoles of love.

                                                HOW TO INSTALL A FIREPOLE!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Keep your eyes open - there could be a big bone in the soup aisle!

Really, there could be a large dog bone in the soup aisle!

I was shopping Sunday night; not having too much fun, not making the mundane very zen-like the way I read I'm supposed to and not really doing a very good job of checking things off of my list.  It was one of those shopping trips where your mind is all over the place - it would be great to get in, get out and show up at home with the ingredients for five healthful dinners.  It wasn't turning out to be such a trip.  I had a list that was a bit discombobulated, I was pre-occupied with the 'to-dos' of the coming week and I wasn't being very logical about the task at hand.  It would be perfectly accurate to say that I was not in an 'intentional' state.

I moved along, and the only thing I do remember being aware of was that embarrassing feeling of seeing the same family on each turn to a new aisle - apparently we were shopping at the same pace but in opposite directions.  I remember them, but that's all I remember.

And then, poof!  I was awakened!  I began rolling my eyes along the lower area of the soup section, though I don't believe soup was on the list. I sort of noticed that the 'low sodium' Progresso was just about gone and then I saw IT!  A LARGE BONE WAS IN THE SOUP AISLE!  I loved it!  It made me laugh!  It woke me up!  It made me wonder, "Why would someone stash a large bone in the Progresso row?

I shared one of those smiles inside, that only I see, and enjoyed the secret laugh about the large bone.  I giggled to myself as I stooped oddly to take a photo and saw the elderly man wondering what was wrong with me.  I imagined him going home, and just before Wheel of Fortune, telling his wife about the sad lady in the funny black pants who was taking pictures of the lower shelf in the soup aisle.  It put a fun spin on the ordinary shopping trip!

My trip took on a new face, and I began to make conscious decisions.  I opted to quickly get the few items on the list and then get out of there!  I didn't want to spend my Sunday night ambling around the store, just waiting to see what I came upon in the Ingle's.  I remember being sure of that.

The 'bone in the soup aisle' has had me thinking, thinking about the many times I must be 'asleep' in life. I wonder how many occasions I muddle through, barely aware, not being in charge of my actions.  I wonder how often I miss out on being awake.

I'm thankful for the crazy big ole' bone in the soup aisle and for the way it woke me up.  I love that our eyes can see the out of ordinary in the midst of the mundane.  I'm glad that someone stuck the big bone in that spot, glad that it made me laugh and delighted that it served as a wake-up call.

Sometimes I need that.  I  suppose you might, too.  I'm keeping my eyes open today - who knows what I might see.  It probably won't be another bone, but maybe it will be something hilarious or touching or loud or soft or kind that wakes me up, makes me pay attention.

Here's to wake up calls in the soup aisle.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Don't count on doomsday

One day last week, I brought my kids and a couple of friends home from school.   I needed to drop off Molly, my oldest, with her little brother Harry and his two friends.  I had to run a quick errand with Emma to pick up her friend.  It was an easy to carry out plan, very straightforward.  Set up the homework on the kitchen table, everyone is in charge of themselves and hold off on any playing or eating until I returned in ten minutes.  Easy enough.

The kids happily deboarded the minivan, lugging along their backpacks and headed into the house.  Emma and I scooted off, and all was right with the world.  The sun was even shining brightly, and the sun roof was open.  It was one of those afternoons where things seem "just right."  It felt like everything was going according to plan, everyone seemed cheerful, and  I recall birds gaily chirping.  You get the scene.

And then, Pleasantville exploded with one little phone call.  No matter what you do or where you live, you've had those calls.  You know, the ones that let you know your plans have changed or the ones that let you know that folks are not doing what you wish they were doing or the day will not continue along in the same Zippity Do Dah way it was before the call.  I don't mean the calls of really bad news; I mean the inconvenient calls, those that aggravate us.  We all get them.  This was mine . . . it was a recorded message.

(read this with the voice of a very upset eight year old and sound like the entire world as we know it is falling in.  make it sound like you might actually be having a medical emergency and there is a chance that all of the other children in the house may have been crushed under a roof implosion.  read it with a frog in your throat and make it sound like you could be close to your second to last breath ever.  also read it like the entire world is working against you and that you may not be able to speak much longer.)

Mama, this is Harry.  I really think you should come home because it's just really not working out without you.  So, I mean you should come home quickly because everybody is kinda mixed up and Molly can't really handle it all so you need to come home soon because please so that Molly won't have to deal with all of this because everyone is just trying to let her speak to you, speak to her to ask her questions and I can't get Study Island to work and my paper is torn because of when I had my water bottle at school spilled when I had my bookbag, and so I mean, that's it because so please come home soon because I really want you to come soon and Molly can't figure it out. . . Oh, and this is Harry.

That was my call and I have written it here in its entirety.  Apparently after the urgent call, Harry wasn't even able to muster the strength to hang up the phone or maybe the friends had risen up in a coo and had taken over the entire house; so I couldn't get them back on the phone.  Things were bad.  That was clear.  Completely clear.

Ughhh.  The birds stopped singing, I stopped whistling, and I dreaded the return to the scene of the crime and destruction.  I gave up on the afternoon.  It was ruined.  I knew when I got back the four I had dropped off would be in tears, the house would be a mess, the dog would have eaten all of the homework and the children may have even eaten the dog.  The siblings would be fighting, there would probably be debris in the yard, and somehow I figured someone else would have entered the scene.  I don't know, someone like the Orkin man or something.

The moods of the whole lot of us would sour.  Yuck.  I can't remember what day it was, but I remember thinking that I had never liked that particular day of the week anyway.  Ugghhh again.  We picked up our new friend and headed back home.  I did my best to cover my aggravation, but in my heart I knew . . . I knew the whole afternoon was a mess now.

You know how that goes.  Everything is rolling right along, and then . . . boom!  One phone call or one conversation or one bit of financial news or traffic pile-up or misunderstanding changes the whole day.  You just kind of know it's a wash.  That was the deal.  We drove up, I dreaded getting out of the car and facing the natives and the dog was barking.

I braced myself and pushed open the door.  I slowly turned to peer into the kitchen, just hoping to see at least one child still able to walk on his own accord.  I prayed for the best.  I hoped for a miracle.

Guess what I saw?  Three kids sitting at the kitchen table, busily working on homework and one in the study on the computer.  Molly was helping one of our friends on his math and the dog settled back in her favorite spot on top of the couch.  Everything looked exactly like it had before I left.  Everything except for the bookbags and pencils and papers and textbooks.  There was a little bit of laughing, a hello or two to the new friend and that was pretty much it!

I was ready to fold in the whole day!  What!  I had already called it quits on a happy family night and then come home to THIS!  I asked Molly how things were, expecting that this question would lead to the impending destruction of the day - "Oh, everything is great!  I got the boys working on their Math, Harry had a little trouble signing onto the website but we got that worked out, we found one of the homework papers had gotten wet from a water bottle but we put it out flat on the table and it's almost dry.  Everything is great!  What did you get us for snack?"  I asked Harry how everything was, knowing that surely this question would explain my doomed mood. "Oh, everything is good.  We're almost finished with our homework, we just need to finish our spelling.  I tried to call you earlier but I couldn't get you, so I left you a message."


And, that was that.  Nothing was wrong.  No one was unhappy.  Everyone's homework was finished.  Friends were happy.  Snack was good.  The sun kept shining and the birds began again their singing.  I took my little buddy's message and decided that indeed it was all BAD.  I wrote off the rest of the day.  I took one little piece of crazy news and painted it all over everything before I even checked it out.  I let myself let go of a little piece of goodness just from that.

We could learn a couple of different things from this scenario.

  1. My son has an overactive sense of the dramatic and apparently needs to 'get it out of his system' to feel better and move on.
  2. Sometimes we too easily let go of the good and decide to let a tiny bit of bad cover our day or our week or our life.  
I already know the validity of No. 1.  He does have an overactive sense of the dramatic.  I don't think that's what I'll take from this afternoon, though. 

How often do we let this kind of thing happen?  Why is it so easy to 'sell out' when things are moving right along?  

It's raining cats and dogs outside today.  I have a lot of work I need to be doing.  Harry is home sick.  Things need to be straightened up quite a bit.  But guess what?  All is well.  Tim is off today and he just built a fire, I love writing a blog, Sadie is back up in her spot on the couch and everything is pretty darn great.  I think I'll be a bit more careful next time I ruin a good day with just one little bit of uggghhhhh.  Hope you will, too.

Friday, January 20, 2012

List 3 - Things I learned from having babies that I should be putting to good use now

If you've had babies around your house, you'll remember these.  If you have them now, you probably won't laugh.  If you have not shared a home with a baby, maybe this list will give you some ideas to implement.  

What I Learned from Having Babies that I Should be Putting to Good Use Now:
  1. If you are out of glue and need to adhere something to a surface, use Cheerios soaked in milk. You may feel free to use "Oat-i-ooos" or any other generic brand - they apparently contain the same magic sticking ingredient.  This method is every bit as good as any 'super glue' product, so feel free to put milky Cheerios on top of your hard hat and attach to a board, suspended from a 100 ft. high bridge.  It will hold you.  WARNING:  Do not let any of the wet Cheerios drop on the floor.  They will become part of the surface.
  2. Everyone needs an object that makes them feel better.  Grown ups might not want to have a pacifier or a thumb anymore, but you can find something that works.  I have a really cool and soft, brightly colored blanket that we bought on a trip a few years ago.  The women in the shop in Bronxville, NY told us that it was printed by hand by women in India.  It could be the softest thing ever.  Sometimes I can feel better just thinking about it.  
  3. If you are really, really, really mad at someone and want to make them suffer, without leading to serious physical complications, try this:  Purchase a sippy cup with a screw off lid.  Fill said cup with milk.  Put it in your car.  Let it settle in a spot like under the seat or on the floor and stay for a few days (summer days are best).  DO NOT OPEN TOP UNTIL YOU ARE READY TO CAUSE SUFFERING.  Upon seeing the person in question, give them the cup and ask them to take off the top and smell.  It could take years for them to get over the experience.  Immediately throw the cup away.  It must not be salvaged and can never be cleaned to original condition.
  4. There is nothing like being read to.  No matter the age, it's good to have someone read to us or tell us a story.  You'll see; try it.  Choose someone you love, whose voice is soothing to you, ask them to begin and then just relax.  It's okay to close your eyes.  Sometimes you can create the illustrations in your brain.  It will give you a warm feeling.
  5. If you're out of sorts, paint a picture.  Find a good spot and just start painting.  It doesn't matter what you paint with; you can use watercolors, acrylics, pudding, even plain old water.  You don't even have to know what you're painting, and it's not necessary to keep the finished product.  You might notice that you begin to forget yourself just a bit, and you may even begin whistling or humming.  You will feel better.  My children always removed their shirts before painting, but consider for yourself whether or not that is a good idea.
  6. Water makes everything better.  Any mood can be lifted with water.  If a bad mood comes on, quickly move to the nearest source, including but not limited to:  beach, bathtub, kitchen sink, mud puddle, pool, shower, or creek.  If you are inside, you may introduce bubbles for an even groovier experience.  
  7. Use more than one of your senses.  It's never enough to just see something.  Make sure you get to touch it or smell it or taste it or listen to it.  If you can figure out a way to play with it, that's a plus.
  8. If it's playtime and something is no longer fun; move on.  You are in control.  If you are bored or tired or need a new experience, try something else.  Some stuff is only interesting for a while.  
  9. Trust your instincts.  We all know what (and who) is good for us.  Go with your gut.  People that make you feel like waving your hands around are good for you.  People that make your heart feel sort of heavy aren't so good for you.  
  10. End the day with the people or things that make you feel good.  That might be your doggie or a hot bath or a good book or your favorite person or your softest pjs or warm milk.  Try to make that a habit.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

5 basketballs and guts

Yesterday I witnessed a marvel.  Really.  It wasn't so much the athletic feat that was marvelous but the guts.  As with many afternoons at our house, kids were inside and outside doing any manner of things.  We had actually had a 'homework check' and everyone was completely finished with all assignments - the big kids and the little kids.  That meant everyone was free to pursue the school day fun of their dreams (or the best they could come up with using the yard and the innards of the garage).  There was a strange, newly invented game on the side of the house that involved colored circles from a hop-scotch set and two lines of kids.  Emma seemed to be in charge of that and the small folks gathered 'round her seemed content with the set-up.  A few of the boys opted out of the two-lined circle game and headed to the basketball goal in the street.

Sometimes the basketball games are organized, using one ball for a modified 'two on two' or rousing game of 'H-O-R-S-E'.  Yesterday, though, each boy had his own basketball.  (You will notice that I will NOT be using the word 'ball' at any time in this post - I will consistently write out 'basketball' even though you all will know what kind of earth-shaped object I'm speaking of.  If you are the parent of a boy or know the parent of a boy, you will know why.  I have been trained never to say or write b-a-l-l, unless there is time for an hour long laughing session.  And the plural of the word is even better!  Saying those words, and others like them, is akin to giving a boy the best birthday present of his life and hearing the funniest joke ever, EVERY TIME.  I mean knee-slapping funny every time.  It's a strange phenomenon.  So, I will always identify spheres used for games and sports by their entire name.)  The guys were enjoying random shots with no particular rules.  Everyone was happy.  (I forgot to mention that there were 'pizza rolls' in the oven, which also brings about a joy not found naturally in children .  If you ever find yourself with a house full of children and no snack options, run to Dollar General.  You can purchase large bottles of "Lemon-Lime Flavored Soda" for 88 cents, they always have 'pizza rolls' and you can get in and out in a flash.  The children will be so excited about the 'pizza rolls' and the friends and the fact that you are buying soda in the middle of the week that they will not mind that their "Sprite" is "Clover Valley Lemon-Lime Flavored Soda.")  So, to recap, the boys were happy, and I know that I've just written a paragraph with most of the sentences in parentheses.  It seemed the right thing to do.

In the kitchen, hovering over the preparation of the healthy snacks, I was surprised by the door flying open with four screaming boys - "You've got to come see, you've got to come see and bring your camera!"  I ran for the camera and followed them out the door, delighted that I wasn't running out to break up a fight or wipe up blood from a collision.  "There," they said, as they all four pointed up at the goal.  It took me a minute to realize what the excitement was all about.  There were three basketballs stuck together in the net, as if all three of them had to make a basket at the same time.  I cheered, I clapped, I screamed for the others, and I took a couple of shots.  They guys were delighted and explained how it had happened.  Two of them had taken shots at the same time and both made the basket!  Then a third lightly tossed in another shot that landed atop the other two.  I realized from the volume of the voices that it was truly a miracle.
We had fun working to get the basketballs out and then I wandered back to the house, hollering something about them calling me when they got four basketballs in the basket.  "Okay," they simultaneously yelled.

I got back to the important work of vittles preparation for the hungry and forgot about the superb athleticism I had just witnessed.  Approximately 180 seconds went by and again the door flew open - they had four basketballs in the net!  Now we were in the big leagues!  Now we had the side yard athletes, too, and all of us marveled at the net.  We stared up into that beautiful, bright winter sun and proudly gazed at those basketballs all stuffed in the hoop.  It was impressive.  At this point, it was hard for the afternoon to improve.

But . . . alas, it did.  After we all squealed with delight and helped them to work the four basketballs out of the net, the boys explained that they were "going for five."  "All right, dudes, go for it," I said, heading back inside.  And, bless Pat and my two fifteen packs of 'pizza rolls', they did it!  They worked together to configure a way to get five basketballs in one net at one time.  I present the picture here for proof and for your viewing pleasure.  It really was a groovy day.

I've thought a lot about those boys and their basketballs and their determination and their guts.  I've thought a lot about how much I continue to learn from my kids.  I've thought a lot about how I might have confronted the same dare.  I'm afraid I probably would have laughed it off and said, "I can't do that."  I probably wouldn't have considered just trying it and I probably wouldn't have had the guts to just go for it, not worrying what the onlookers thought.  I would have missed the fun, the excitement and the miracle.  I imagine that most of my peers would react in the same way.  I wonder how many things we miss when we don't have the guts to try something, even if it's a crazy dream.  I wonder.

Since beginning this blog, I've had many folks tell me that they wanted to write a comment, but they were afraid they might say the wrong thing or say something silly or something that others might not agree with.  I understand that - I do.  I have the same fears most days when I put this little white Mac in my lap and start typing.  It's gutsy to put ourselves out there.  It takes guts to say or write or throw a basketball without regard for others' judgements.  It's easy for me to tell my friends to go ahead and comment or say what they'd like - it's no big deal.  But I know, and you know, that it's harder done than said.

Kids have a lot of guts, huh?  They have a spirit that tells them to go for it.  They don't have all of the experiences and fears and feelings that we have bagged up to tell them what might not work.  To children it's fine that it might not work.  It's fun trying.  It's fun going for it.  I admire that.  I admire their guts.

I pray my children and their friends will hold onto that.  I'm remembering all of the times that I've 'gone for it' - remembering what I learned or what I saw or what I did or how funny it was when it just didn't work.  I think yesterday was a good lesson for me,  that net full of five basketballs and those scruffy proud faces below it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

dear photographs

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately.  Writing this blog has had me in a thoughtful place.  (I'm using the word 'place' the way my Dad has always used it.  Dad talks about the place where people are, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with where they live or where they are at this particular moment.  He might say, "She is in a really good place right now," meaning things are just peachy, or "He just isn't in a good place right now," which is bad news.)  So, I'm in a thoughtful place, which is neither good nor bad, just a time period where I've been doing a lot of thinking.  I'm learning that writing a blog will do that to a person; sharing pieces of myself, recalling old memories and putting my words and pictures "out there" gives me occasion to think.  I'm enjoying it.  Thanks for coming along.

I've spent a great deal of time considering what words and pictures I'd like to share.   If you know anything at all about me you know that I have A LOT to say and I take A LOT of photographs.  It's difficult to decide what goes where and when it should appear.  It's fun to think about future stories and pictures I'll share in the time to come; and I've  noticed that even the preparation leads to interesting thoughts and invites me to remember, revisit, consider, and dream.

A few months ago, my good friend Leigh shared a cool website, and I visit it often.  If you haven't heard of it, you're in for a treat - a thought-filled treat!  When you have a few minutes to enjoy something different, something quiet, something that will make you think, point your browser to DEAR PHOTOGRAPH and enjoy.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.  The dear photograph site is an antidote to so much we are bombarded with on the internet.  There is no motion or bright colors or exciting graphics.  There is no contest, no competition, no race.

On dear photograph you will see snapshots from the past taken in the present.   Snapshots from the past taken in the present.  What started a couple of years ago with 21 year old Taylor Jones quickly turned into a blog with millions of visitors.  The Canadian, Jones, was living at home with his parents and was looking through an old photo album.  He happened upon a snapshot that was taken at the same table where he sat looking at the photo.  He snapped a new photo of the old photo in the same place.  What came of that and a few other similar photos became this mega hit.  The site will draw you in, I suspect, and it will have you thinking.  Visit and see.  This is fun homework, and it's full of discoveries.

You might enjoy just looking around the site at what others have done.  You might look at all of the photos from one particular day or you may jump from day to day.  It seems when I spend time on dear photograph my mind wanders to places I've known.  Sometimes those are sad places, but many times they are happy ones.  I find myself 'going through the motions' of those on the website and imagine different photos I might use.  My husband loves to look at old photos, and he likes it best when they are in no order.  He thinks it's fun to be surprised each time he reaches for another photograph in the stack, never knowing what might be next.  Visiting this website might be much like that.

Go for a visit and stay for a while or check in quickly and then go wherever your mind takes you.  That's the fun part.  Enjoy.

Just imagining some 'dear photograph' projects.  Hope you will too.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

the perfect compliment

A few days ago I ran into one of my favorite little people ever.  His name is Charlie, and he is a super cool kid.  He's the kind of kid that you just know is on his way to being a super cool adult.  Charlie paid me the best kind of compliment, the kind that makes me happy that I do what I do.  Charlie's family had just received the prints from our photo session, and Charlie looked at me with those giant, magical eyes and said, "We really really 'likeded' our pictures."  Ahhhhhh


Charlie's family is a photographer's dream.  We met at a spot that meant a great deal to them, a place holding memories and special times, and it was fun for them to share the space with me.  Having time to allow them to 'show me around' and explore with the family gave us the luxury of photos in many different spaces with many different moods.


It is meaningful for me when I know that I am creating art that is appealing to clients, pieces that they will want to look at time and time again.  Part of being able to do that depends on subjects that are willing to loosen up and allow me to casually press the shutter as we talk together and enjoy the time.

My buddy Charlie will be a big brother in a few months.  I'm thankful that when I look back at these images, I see a family of three savoring the last of this phase and quietly awaiting the new one to come.  I like how these photos tell that story, that they can look back at these in years to come and remember the way they felt on this day.


Consider your own photos and think about the ones that you tend to look at over and over.  Chances are good that you were also enjoying the moment the photo was taken.  Chances are good that you and your family or friends were happy or thankful or in the middle of something really fun.  We are much more likely to love our photographs when we loved taking them.  Those are the images that we can see in our mind's eye, even when we're away from home.  Those are the photos that tell a story, that capture a feeling, that press pause on a moment in time that we want to hold always.

    Thanks for the awesome compliment, Charlie.  I 'likeded' taking your picture, too!

To view the complete session, visit the gallery.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Trying to make a comparison and striking out.

I've been thinking a lot about Martin Luther King, Jr. in the days leading up to our 'day off' in celebration of his birthday.  I've been thinking that a thoughtful reflection would be perfect for today - something that brings together some past experience of mine and the ideas behind this holiday and the work of MLK and others in the same war.

And then it hit me - I've had an experience that fits the bill.  In 1995, I cashed in my teacher's retirement (there was not a lot there and thankfully my Papa and Nana never knew) and began planning a trip to Africa.  I have absolutely no idea where I came up with that idea, but I remember just knowing that it was the trip I needed to take.  My role as a parent today gives me a hint at how amazingly hard this craziness must have been to my Dad, but I definitely did not get that at the time!

Plans went along swimmingly; and it seemed that with each day leading up to the trip, the details got better and better.  I intended to be gone for just over six weeks and to have a journey that consisted of different 'mini experiences.'  I could not wait to board the plane.  Somehow, at the time, the idea of boarding the plane alone to fly to the other side of the world and be met at the Nairobi airport by someone I did not know seemed perfectly normal!  I was met in the middle of the night by the driver for the sister of a friend of a friend, who turned out to be an invaluable help through much of my time there.

My travels were varied; to say that what I learned on this trip changed my life is an understatement.  That's not newsy, though.  Any voyage by an 'awake' human is life-changing.  One cannot see the world through different eyes and step on foreign soil without being different.  All of our travels stay with us, altering our daily lives forever and ever.  While in East Africa I got to know a few families of expats from the US and then spent three weeks with a group called, "Global Volunteers", in a village in south central Tanzania.  The stories from those three weeks are numerous and deserve their own airtime, but today I'm remembering a different part of the trip.

In the last few days of my month and a half away I enjoyed casually moving in and out of different areas of Nairobi.  I had met fantastic folks by that time and loved having lazy time to discover this city far from my home.  There were good times with laughter, many good meals, a few awesome short trips I will never forget, and this time was the perfect ending to an unbelievable trip.  These last few days I've remembered a certain day trip into the city center of Kenya's capital.

The day was easy, laid-back and non-stressful.  I was beginning to get excited about returning home with my new stories of safaris and new discoveries and also starting to regret that I would soon leave.  I wanted to do a bit more poking around before I left, spend the day casually strolling the city streets and peer into shops of all types looking for art, some of which peers at me now in my house far from that day.  I don't remember what I ate for lunch, but I do recall that I had meaningful conversations with two different artists and loved being able to take the time to hear about their crafts.  I was almost whistling along the sidewalks, enjoying being such a 'world traveler' and loving the memories I was making.  There are times in life when one thrives on being alone and this was one of those times.  It was a good day.  It was an easy day.

And then, as I ambled along a street I hadn't been on before, I realized something I've never felt before.  I realized that I was the only 'white' person I could see.  I saw no one who looked like me.  I marveled at the realization.  I couldn't believe it.  What an experience I was having.  How proud I was.  What a moment - wow, how it was changing me.  I would never forget it.

I thought about this moment when I prepared to write on this MLK holiday.  And then I realized what a fool I was.  There was absolutely nothing about this experience that had anything remotely similar to the ideals for which the bright and open minded people of the civil rights movement fought.  Nothing at all.  I strolled along the streets of Nairobi in perfect comfort, new treasures in hand, and met friendly faces at every turn.  I moved as I wished, stopping and starting at my own will and paused to eat or shop when I was ready.  I was excited and intrigued, and each few minutes offered new opportunities for me to learn more about this small world.  Folks with faces different from mine smiled at me, asked me endearing questions and helped me along the way when I was lost.  I knew little about the people I met that day and they knew little about me, though I conducted my day in just the way I wanted.  I had no feeling remotely close to fear.

There is NO similarity between my 'really cool day' in Nairobi at the end of my amazing journey and the horrific days of brothers and sisters of another skin color on any given day in history.  My walk as the only caucasian on a block in Nairobi who met with only friendly or indifferent faces holds no comparison to the walks of so many African Americans who walked into the faces of hate for so long.  I contend to be understanding, but I cannot truly have an idea of what it feels like to walk strongly and continue fighting when one is met with stupidity and violence at every turn.  I have no idea about that.  I have no idea why I was born with skin of one color and another was born with skin of a different color.  I know that one day that won't matter, and I hope I'm alive to see it.

I thank God for courageous people who give all that they have for ideals that help us get closer to the way we could live peaceably together.  I thank God that I grew up with parents who shared that dream with me, and I pray that Tim and I are doing the same for our children.  We are trying, but we can't tell them what it's like to walk down the street barraged by hate because we don't know how it feels.

Friday, January 13, 2012

List 2 - word up!

Happy Friday to all! Today's list is about words - well, sort of, but I just tempted you with the post title. I'm not at all sure that I know what it means when folks say, "word" after someone's statement. I think it might mean, "uh huh" or "I know that's right" or "I know what you mean." I might be way off, but I just go with it. (I do that a lot and it usually works quite well.) I know, however, that I have absolutely no idea what it means when one person says "word" and the other person says, "word up." Word up? Where in the world is the word going? What's up with this word?

Word up, I say to my kids every now and then, hoping I haven't just told them to *&%$ off in some secret language. To me, o great aficionado of all games wordy, word up is what you say when you've finished your play and you're waiting on your opponent. These days (well, really, these late nights) I am enjoying - that's a nice way to say obsessed, addicted, entranced by, etc. - Words with Friends. If you haven't played, I'm sorry and you should. If you have, then you probably share my addiction. I know addiction is a strong word; but for those of us on the front lines of this phenomena, I don't think the word choice is too strong. You understand. You know you do.

But, alas, my friends. Before you begin to think your blogging friend is shallow or being controlled by the small, hand-held smart box we call a phone, read on . . . I think I can account for some of the hours I have devoted to learning all of the two letter words in the English language and how many different ways one can use an x. I've decided that there are lessons to be learned from WWF . So, here is my list for this Friday.

These are the things (I hope) I am learning from WWF:
  1. Look carefully, and then keep looking. You might not see the letters you need right away. A good possibility may not be obvious; but if you keep at it, a good option may appear.
  2. Always change things around. Sometimes it helps to look at a situation from many different angles. Keep scrambling your letters, making new combinations, new possibilities.
  3. Don't ever think, "I am good at this" for your opponent will immediately come back with the best, highest counting word known to mankind.
  4. Sometimes you need to take a break and come back to the game with a fresh set of eyes. Move away from it and try again later, after you have put your mind on something else.
  5. Play with folks you like. No sense in entering into something that is supposed to be fun unless you have loved ones along with you.
  6. And don't forget to have fun. Don't take the game too seriously. If you aren't enjoying it, then it's not worth playing.



Thursday, January 12, 2012

Say "Cheese" and say it often

Photographs ARE more than paper - I know you all know that. And, I know that many of you have already read the post that I am sharing today. It has been all around the internet over the last few days. It is sad, very sad; and it is hard to read. It is hard to think about. I want you to read it, though. I don't want you to read it just to be sad, and I don't want you to read it as some sleazy way to promote what I do. I am a photographer because I love it and because I know that helping to preserve pieces of our lives is important. My clients understand that, and so they are willing to invest in the process. Sometimes it is expensive and always it is worth it.

I want you to read this blog post from another photographer because I think it has more of a message than making the investment in photography. I think this is a call to all of us parents (often Moms) that it is IMPERATIVE that we have photographs of us - when our children are older, they will want to see what WE looked like, what WE did with them, when WE looked happy or tired or excited or sad or content, what WE shared with them. As parents, we work hard to ensure that we have photos of our children at every age, in every phase, at every special event, etc. How often, though, do we think of a zillion reasons why WE shouldn't be in the photos? My answer to that question is . . . OFTEN!

Do we fear that our children will grow into adults who look back at the pictures of us and see tired or overweight or without make-up or not dressed correctly? Are we afraid we won't measure up? Will we not look as good as the other mothers and fathers? Will our children wish that we had been dressed more fashionably? That's preposterous - you and I both know that.

Our children will see the one thing they are looking for - their Mama or Daddy or Dad or Mom or Pop or whatever you are called. They will see you and remember how we usually looked on those regular weekdays when they came in from playing. They will remember what made us laugh and when we got a serious look. They will remember just the way they sat in our laps or just how we threw them in the air or that we always looked at them in 'just that way.' They will look at those photos, snapshots or formal, and they will tell their children what it was like to be the child of us. I doubt they will notice the make-up or lack of it, the outfit we were wearing, or the amount of weight we needed to loose. They won't be looking for that. They will be looking for pieces of their past; pieces of the way things used to be. They will hold on to our photos in the same way we hold on to theirs.

As I look at the above photo I remember a grand good time. I also see a terribly fuzzy photo, taken with a cell phone, of a crazy tired woman with a funny looking paper thing on her head. I doubt that's what Emma and Harry will see when they look at the photo in years to come. I believe they will see a Mama who loves them, who laughed with them and tried to make that particular night fun. I believe they'll remember how they were the waiters and that they served the food to everyone on the porch and that they helped me use paper towels to make a chef's hat. I believe they'll remember.

I write this today and share this post for you AND for me. I suspect that you are like me. I spend most of the time behind the camera; and even with much prodding from loved ones, I rarely step out and get in front of the camera. That's not okay. I might not love seeing myself in pictures, but my children will; and seeing the photographs that we take today will be the tangible pieces they have of times gone by. I cherish the photos of my children as babies and toddling to walk and making a mess when they learned to eat - they will cherish the photos of their Daddy and I laughing and hugging and smiling and being surprised. I owe that to them. I do.

Please read:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

a can of peas for the whales

Well, friends . . . apparently yesterday I had a moment of confusion. It was not intentional, but it did work (for just a bit) in my favor! I stated in I Can Spell Organization that I was forty six. Most unfortunately, that fact is untrue; and even more unfortunately, two folks simultaneously figured it out and called me on it! My dear husband shrieked from the computer room, "Hey, that's my underwear drawer on the internet" and then he noticed the age mistake. And then my dear friend Shannon aptly realized that I am forty seven - ugghhhhh. I admit it. It is true. And, even though it would be awesome to receive the gift of an extra year, I was already gifted with that one day last summer.

You see, to further point to my confusion, I mistook my years at my last birthday celebration. I thought I was turning forty eight until my daughter Emma nudged me and said, "Mama, you haven't been forty seven yet!" It was a miracle! To quote that big-nosed hunk of man, Barry Manilow, it was a "true blue spectacle, a miracle come true." I had been given another year - right there - just like that! It was one beautiful moment, and I guess I wanted more. So, you see, yesterday's innocent mistake was just my subconscious screaming for another miracle and grabbing it.

But don't think I don't appreciate the kindly reminders. I am all about kindly reminders. In fact, I am quite sure that if I did not receive them from my children frequently throughout each and every day, I fear I would be unable to put this I've sort of got my act together look. I appreciate reminders. Life is confusing!

Whenever I am confused or hear about another's confusion I always remember a story that is my all-time favorite there are too many things swirling around to keep them all straight story. I think of it often, and I always smile. Sometimes when I hear it, I wonder if we are all filling up with too much - too much to do, too much to think about, too much to juggle and sometimes even too many good deeds.

I was a teacher for twelve years before I got married and had three amazing kids. I loved being a teacher, and I worked hard at it. I have a million wonderful moments inside me from those years, and I learned so much - I also hold on to a lot of laughs! Here is one, a great confusion story:

At our school, in the fall of the year, we were all fervently working towards the upcoming holiday season. There was much to do and many things swirling! As is done at schools all over our country, Thanksgiving was our time to hold a large canned good drive for needy families. We were doing well, and the children were very excited. We were using the food drive to teach throughout the day, and they loved thinking about what they were doing to make a difference and they looked forward to each day when they could count the cans from each classroom. Even my kindergarteners were thrilled with the project.

Along with the food drive, we had an exciting new project. Scientists had recently discovered that right whales had begun populating the areas around Georgia's coast, and everyone was excited about the news and photos abounding. Our school administration had made the commitment to 'adopt' a right whale and send money for the support of marine biologists to keep safe the habitat of our whale friends.

I was thrilled with the wonderful way I was tying together both of the good deeds of the families. "Look at the good we are doing, kids!" I would say each day. We learned about right whales, we plotted their sightings, and we learned about how many people right around us go to bed hungry each night and all that we could do to make that different. It was an amazing phase of wow, I'm a grand teacher! It was awesome!

And then - poof - I was reminded of just how confusing life can be. One of my most intelligent students, one who raised her hand for every answer, who always knew what was going on was sweet Rebecca. It was always wonderful to see her happily bopping in each day for another round of learning. This particular day, she bopped in as usual, proudly carrying a can of little green peas. She ran towards me as quickly as she could and held the can of peas high into the air. She reached towards me with the canned peas and confidently exclaimed, "Here's my can of peas for the whales!"

God bless the whales, the hungry and the confused!
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