Monday, September 24, 2012

Blog Staff Calls a Break

Well, the extensive staff and board of directors at Press Pause has spoken and they must be heard. They have called for an off week for the blog. Chief writer and head photographer is away at the beach with her amazing extended family - and due to circumstances completely in her control, her trusty laptop is not.  This situation provides many a stumbling block to quality posts.

Enjoy this week, my friends.  Perhaps you'll look back over a past post or two - I'd like that.  Your following along - sharing your views and laughing and crying along with me - means more than you know.  Pass the blog along when you can and know that I appreciate your being here for the journey.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fantastic Firefighter and Best Ballerina Awards . . .

I love kids!  I love their zest for life, their inhibitions and the way they know to live in each moment!

These are two of my favorites, and it was special to be with them in their home, doing what they do best - play their way through learning and life.  How awesome it is to get the call to capture the every day in the lives of little folks - I'm a lucky one.

That great Cathedral space which was childhood. 
Virginia Woolf 

Blessed be childhood, which brings down something of heaven into the midst of our rough earthliness. 
Henri Frederic Amiel 

There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again.  ~Elizabeth Lawrence

I'd give all wealth that years have piled,
The slow result of Life's decay,
To be once more a little child
For one bright summer day.

~Lewis Carroll
Truly wonderful the mind of a child is.
YODA, Star Wars Episode II

Isn't it fun to look into the eyes of these precious ones and wonder . . . 

about what they'll do and be?

Monday, September 17, 2012

What do you see?

Saturday afternoon I found myself walking directly under this . . . 

and it got me thinking again about views and about how

we can't ever really understand something until

see the whole thing, 

from one perspective and then

another and then another and that 

we need a lot of information before we actually have the entire story.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Aesop needs your help . . .

For you, today, a fable.  A ping pong fable and the moral is for you to explain to me.

I begin . . .

In late July we realized we would be moving.  We knew our kids would be devastated.  Though we are against bribery from a moral standpoint, we knew we would be offering a bribe.  We would work to sugar up the deal until they realized that the move was good for them.  (You know you'd do it, too.)  (:

Could we find a house with a pool?  That would be grand.  No, we couldn't find one.

Would we move to a house with the coolest basement on the planet?  No, we moved to a place below the flood plain.

We've got it - we'll get a ping pong table!  Yeah, everyone has always wanted one.  That's the ticket.  That will work!  It's a relatively inexpensive way to 'buy' a few positive points towards the new life.  We would purchase a ping pong table.  Easy.

We searched for houses.  In every house we talked about where said table tennis set would go.  "You must really love that ping pong table," said our awesome realtor.  "Oh, we don't actually have one," said us.  Still, we saw it.  We placed it in each of the twenty three houses we saw.  We visioned fun at the ping pong.  We heard the bounce.  We felt the rush of the wind as we zapped the ball with force.  We were the ping of the great pong.  It would be wonderful.

We found the house.  We loved the house.  The house was perfect.  Oops, there wasn't a place for the ping pong table.  Oh, that's okay, we thought.  We'll use the groovy garage as a 'hang out' and the ping pong table will be the first addition to the new space.  We'll get the table as soon as we arrive.  It will be grand.

We moved in.  Our stuff didn't fit in the perfect house.  The perfect house had character but not storage.  The garage was full.  Hmmmm, we all pondered.  How will we fit the ping pong table?  Well, we just will, we thought.  It will work.  It will.

The weeks went by.  The garage sat stuffed.  The ping pong dream eluded us.  It was out there - close, within in our reach, at any one of the big box stores in the zip code.  We looked at photos of the ping pong tables.  We played ping pong at our friends' houses.  We imagined and we came to think that we would be almost Chinese-like in our skill.  It would all work out.  It was part of the plan.  We kept our eye on the prize.

Money got tight; after all, there are a lot of surprise purchases when you move.  Maybe we shouldn't spend too much money on this venture.  Craig's List - that's what we'll do!  We'll find the table on Craig's List, both fulfilling our dream and saving the environment from one more green and white rectangle in the landfill.  We will be heroes - Chinese heroes.  It will be wonderful.

We searched Craig's List and everything else like it.  We found incredible ping pong tables in San Clemente and Omaha.  We found inexpensive ping pong tables in Baton Rouge and Waycross.  We scanned the charts each day, waiting for the table that was meant to live with us.  It would come.  We knew it would.

And it did.  On the day of our closing, I got the word.  Tony, from Auburn, had the table and we could meet him that night.  A mere 38 mile drive and $50 were all that stood between ping pong utopia and us.  The dream was alive.  We would reach the summit.  We could smell it now.

Everything was perfect.  June retrieved the children from school, and the news of the ping pong pick up made homework a breeze.  When Mr. Cleaver got home from work, the family would be ready.  We raked back the debris in the garage and carved out a ping pong table-sized hole for the insertion later that evening.

It would be a joyous time.  We would lovingly pile up in Mr. Cleaver's truck and happily cross country, singing and giggling our way to recreational bliss.  Our gps friend on the iphone would help us get there.  It was all working.  The plan was being carried out perfectly.

Oops, Mr. Tony, the table owner has to work late.  Oh, that's okay, we'll investigate the precious college town and grab a wee bit of dinner.

Oops, the children are getting irritable.  Apparently, an eight, eleven, and twelve year old can't be stuffed into the small backseat of the ping pong picker upper truck cab at the end of a tiring school day.

Oops, it's getting late.  Don't think the happy little ping pongers will be getting to bed early tonight.

Oops, June and Ward are developing horrific headaches.  We don't have any ibuprofen in Mr. Cleaver's truck.  That screaming from the rear is really aggravating the blood vessels in the foreheads.

Okay, back on track.  Got the call from Tony.  I must admit, I felt a bit daring being the only one with the contact information.  I was the only one who could take the call.  It was all so clandestine.  Oooooo, we are so cool.

We get there, we see the table, and we approach the summit.  Victory is almost ours.  We have stayed the course.  We will win Olympic gold in table tennis.  We are the tortoise.  We have persevered, and we will win.

Tony explains that the table is a bit hard to move, but that's okay.  We're fine with that.  It's just our start at the sport.  We're only using this table until we speak the lingo, know the jargon, talk the talk.  Then we'll purchase the real thing.  We'll probably travel to China and a news crew from the US will tag along to document the trip.  It will be big.  This table is just our first path to greatness.  It's the one that will be sold on ebay in a few years.  The table they started on, they'll say, and we'll donate the proceeds to children yet to realize the dream.  It will be swell.

Ward and Tony awkwardly maneuver the table into the truck.  There it is.  Almost ours.  I'm the one in charge of the deal.  I've got to finish it off.  I started this thing, and, golly gee, I'll finish it.  I reach confidently into my purse and grab the wad - it's more dramatic that way - a wad of money.  That's how we do things in these deals - that's how it rolls.  I dump the wad into Tony's hand.  He doesn't count it.  He trusts me.  We've been at this together for a long time.  He knows he's part of the dream.  His time with the big green instrument of greatness is over.  It's our time, now.

The trip home is happier.  The headaches are abating a bit.  The children are now falling asleep on each other and are too tired to fuss.  That makes it almost close to silent.  There will be a wrong turn or two.  That's not a problem.  We're almost there.  We've waited.  We've worked.  We are soon to reign supreme of the table tennis world.

A few volleys of the tiny ball and it's time for bed.  The greatness will start tomorrow.  We've attained it now; the dream will come alive in the morrow.  For now, the athletes must sleep.  They must rest their weary heads and imagine the moments to come.  A $50 table in the hollowed out hole in the garage for now - the world stage next year.  There are dreams to be dreamt.  We must sleep.  Our climb is all but over and soon we will know the thrill of victory.

The morning is beautiful, the smiles are a plenty and school passes quickly.  A few things to do after school and then we will begin our work with the paddles of our future.  A few more tasks and then we'll be free.  We are almost there.

We finish our work, we tidy our lists, we assemble our bookbags for the following day.  We go out and easily slide the table from the confines of the old garage into the bright, wonderful world.  The breeze is perfect.  The temperature is perfect.  The bounce of the ball is perfect.  We are not yet perfect, but that will come.  We are the tortoises of the story - we wait for the glory.  We keep at it, keep fighting for the summit.

The feelings are light and airy as the paddles joyfully tap the ball again and again.  It's all wonderful.  We have made it.  There are spend the night parties that just got better.  After school is a whole new thing.  Parents and children will coexist in harmony and neighbors will amble over for the fun.  It really is a whole new world.  It was all worth it.  We have a ping pong table.

Oops.  Not anymore.  There is a simple lean.  There is a leaning of one side that puts too much pressure on the other side that adds pressure to the failing supports of the base that begins to slide out from under the entire structure that falls to the floor in defeat.  It is over.  It lasted but fifteen minutes.  There is a strawberry on the knee of one of the competitors.  There is no blood.  It does not appear that the big toe is broken.  There will only be a bruise.  That's all that's left of the dream now.

It's nightfall.  The shattered heap of all of our yearnings must be stuffed back into it's hole.  It must be sheltered from the elements.

Maybe we could offer someone the net and balls and four new paddles to come and take it away.  This is not our agony of defeat.  We won't give up.  We are only deterred - only for a minute.  The game is in our soul now.  We mustn't let it go.  We simply cannot.

The fable, friends, and I leave the moral of the story to you.  I must rest now.  I am spent.  My dream is alive but must be treated with tender loving care.  I must rest. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The cam-locks are talking . . .

Wait . . . you don't know about cam-locks?  I didn't either, until a week ago.  Now I'm different.  Now, I understand.

If your house is full of beautiful antiques or you haven't recently put together any top-quality pressed board shelving units, you may have completely missed the cam-lock.  You've missed out.  Let me explain.

Should you find yourself needing that little extra corner shelf or nifty little computer desk (and you need to pretend that those pieces are made of something that was actually once part of a tree), you'll find they come in tidy and small packages.  You'll be happy as you easily slide the box from the sparkly shelves into your shopping cart and again when you deftly heave the unit from car to home.  You'll be feeling good; maybe singing something akin to "I am Woman" or "Rocky's Theme" - but that's where the moment ends.

The box will sit there, staring at you, as you go about pretending you don't see it and that you're not ignoring putting it together.  You will move along, until a sense of dread pervades, and eventually you will meet the box eye to eye.  You will remind yourself that your IQ is high enough to successfully construct this furniture, that the directions are understandable and that you can actually find the tools required to finish the job.  You will talk and you will believe.  You will assemble the needed instruments, gather your icy Coke Zero and confidently grab the instructions.

At this point, you'll want to cry, just a little bit.  You'll think of other things you could do - that maybe this is the time to clean out a closet or call a friend or return some emails.  You'll talk yourself into staying on the project.  You'll imagine what it will feel like when you're successful, how you'll brag and be the world champion of putting together particle board products.  The whole world will love you and you'll be a viral sensation.

Back at the directions, you'll first come into contact with the word cam-lock.  You'll wonder if others know about such a thing and you'll worry a bit.  You won't be put off, though.  You'll press on.  You'll look at the pretty picture of the precious little corner computer desk; keep your eye on the prize.  You'll begin to read the instructions, which will sound something like this:

Prior to assembly, make sure that you have all of the pieces needed for construction, including 8 small wooden dowels, 10 medium ribbed wooden dowels, 6 long wide wooden dowels,  9 small screws, 9 medium screws, 10 bolts, 16 cam-lock bolts, 17 cam-locks, 10 wood-look panels, etc., etc., etc.  

You'll look at the pretty picture again and you'll decide that you might not really want the furniture in your home at all.  Then you'll come back to your senses.  You'll clear your throat, straighten your posture and take a deep breath.  You'll re-read the instructions over and over and over.  You'll find that 'step 1' is actually a conglomeration of fifteen steps and that the thin-paper instruction booklet contains Steps 1-15, for a total of 225 steps.  You'll start slow and then you'll start over and then you'll start over again.  You'll be doing pretty well, and your faded confidence will puff again.  It will all be okay - okay, that is, until you get to the words cam-lock.

There will be multiple drilled holes of many different sizes on each of the particle boarded planks.  The drawings on the instruction diagrams will be a bit confusing, and each of the small wooden dowels, medium ribbed wooden dowels, long wide wooden dowels, small screws, medium screws, and cam-locks will look like it could fit into any hole.  It will be confusing.  You'll want to quit.  When the directions ask you to insert the cam-lock into the hole and tap lightly to only partially complete cam-lock system, it will be hard to determine what 'partially' means.  It will be difficult to decipher which wooden dowel goes into which drilled hole and it will be incredibly hard to imagine that the cam-lock system will ever really work.  You'll not understand about waiting until the proper step to twist the cam-lock to the right to finally tighten the system, and you will attempt to work around that; to do it your own way.  It just won't look like it will work.  You won't have hope.  You'll determine that people in a strange land, far away developed this crazy system to try to aide folks (with no handy bones in their body) in putting together furniture that looks like it's supposed to.  You'll know it won't work out, that you'll probably have to box it back up and tape the top closed and return it back to the store for a full refund.  You'll be just about to call it quits.

And then . . . you'll take a deep breath, gather your thoughts and read the instructions incredibly slowly,  intent on understanding only a small step at a time.  With each few words, you'll carefully trust and place the odd pieces exactly where the directions say.  You'll have small victories.  There will be a big mess all over the floor; but, little by little, you'll make strides.  Before long, a few of the pieces will be together and they'll actually look like the picture diagram.  There will be some more snags; some more steps that won't make any sense at all.  You'll have to slow down again.  You'll have to back up and take another few deep breaths and then re-start.  It might take a long time.  You'll finally quit saying that it won't work, and you'll just enjoy working on the project.  You'll trust that the crazy people who developed the whole thing were actually trying to help.  You'll get more of the pieces together.  Soon, it will be evident that you are actually doing it correctly.  When you twist the screwdriver to the right for the last time and feel that click, it will feel like a miracle - a true, blue spectacle - a miracle come true!  (Just threw that in for the ole' Barry Manilow fans out there.)

We have a little particle board corner in our home.  There is an awesome little shelving unit with six boxes to organize stuff close to the door.  There is a small desk (with the same shade of pressed wood, of course) which neatly holds our family computer.  Those pieces don't look much like miracles.  That's not the point.  The thing that came to me during the 'cam-bolt' sessions was that even those pesky little items of hardware were serving as a reminder to trust.  When I trusted that things would work out - when I took my time and relied on myself to get the job done - I did it!  I didn't build the Eiffel Tower, but I made sense of things I didn't think I could maneuver.  I'm just hoping I can remember to do a little more of that in the real world.

Stop.  Listen.  Breathe.  Believe.  Small steps.  Keep going.

Good stuff!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Birthdays, Bocce Balls and Spoiling Grandmas!

Fall is in the air this morning, but I'm still catching up on posting some summer fun!  Enjoy these sweet faces, taken on a stifling hot day.  This awesome gang was celebrating birthdays, having a blast outside and enjoying some down time with family.

It was wonderful to be with them and a reminder to slow down and enjoy one another.  On this day I was thought back to many special times of my childhood.  I remember how it feels to be in the safety of the adult's circle of conversation, where kids can play, laugh, sit and listen, daydream, snack, and play some more.  It doesn't get much better than that!  I wonder if I'm offering my children enough of that, and I appreciated this wake-up call

My dear friend, Evelyn, is often teaching me things, and our photo session was one more lesson!

What she affords her grandchildren is priceless.   



Crazy times.


And . . . bocce ball!  

I'm always thankful to be part of memory making, and I love thinking about these kids looking back on  these photos with their own children.

Friday, September 7, 2012

List 32 - I need a weekly test!

We're back in the school groove.  Well, we are beginning to move closer towards being back in the school groove.  Here are a few surprising facts about the academic year, so far - we have not yet been late to school, I am working diligently on our 'family command center' (sure to be a popular blog post in the future) and we have been packed up and ready each night before bed.  Impressive, I know.

Part of getting back into gear is the inevitable routine.  Some of the routine we love, and some we'd rather not have to endure; nevertheless, September finds us all trying to re-fit our square pegness into the round holes of the organized world.  It can be tough!

I like the predictability of it all, though, and sometimes I'm comforted by it.  I love that we have 'late start' Wednesday and that two days after that is 'spirit day/casual dress' Friday!  I love that current event paragraphs are always due on Thursday and that football games are on Friday nights.  I even love the ever-present FRIDAY SPELLING TEST.

It's odd, really, that I'd like such a mundane thing.  I can count on it, though, and, gosh darnit, I like that!  No children were consulted in the writing of this post.  The opinions shared here are not necessarily the opinions of the actual Friday test-takers.  Life told us long ago that spelling tests were on Friday, and we get it.  If you have a lot to do later in the week, you know you have to study your spelling words early.  It's like brushing your teeth when you wake up (or immediately after you told your mother that you just brushed) - school starts with a spelling test on Friday morn.  It's simple, really.

I got to thinking last night about how it might be a good practice for the rest of us.  Maybe we all need to be held a little more accountable (to ourselves) about what we're working on - maybe we need to spend a little time each day preparing for the quiz on Friday.  It wouldn't be for the whole grade or anything; it could just count like a small test.  It would need to be each week, though, as we'd need to get in the habit of it all.

Hmmmm.  That would change things!  I'm trying to imagine my weekly quiz needs.  Maintenance is foreign to me, so this could be life-altering.

Here are my Friday morning quiz questions:

  1. Is there anyone you need to reach out to or be in touch with?  Do so now, before preceding to number 2.
  2. What made you laugh this week?  Did you share it with someone else?
  3. What needs to be removed from the 'worry' list?  Strike through it.  Be gone.
  4. What did you learn this week?  Have you decided how best to alter things to arrange for the new knowledge?
  5. Do you have any socks that need to be matched?  Go do it.
  6. Could you open your closet door in front of anyone besides your best friend?
  7. Is something trying to get your attention?  Maybe you should listen.
  8. Did you remember to spend some time just listening?  Maybe you could plan for better next week.
  9. You know those things that you do that you really love?  Think about why you love to do them.  You could add more of that.
  10. What's the one thing that you could actually do to afford yourself some joy this weekend?  Do it!

What are the questions on your quiz?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sparkling Eyes in Chimney Park

I love kids.

I love photography.

Sometimes I get a bit excited when I meet new kid friends, and I loudly remark about their sneaky smile or their twinkling eyes.  I don't mean to act like a crazy woman, but I tend to jump and see them as my camera might.  I get a little fired up about this stuff!

I see a set of sparkling eyes and I'm ready to start shooting!  That was certainly the case when I met these two cuties, the grandchildren of dear friends.  Though it was stifling hot on the day we got together, there seemed to be a bit of magic in the park.  These two were the perfect little adventurers, and I loved following their fun, sharing their enthusiasm and capturing their love of the beautiful surroundings.  What fun!


Good times . . .

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

. . . a third option.

The ole' Bear (Harry Graham, age 8) has shed a ray of light on something I thought was set in stone, and I'm going with it.  

I preach a lot.  Well,  at least that's what my children would tell you.  I consider it giving of myself to make their worlds a better place.  Nevertheless, one of my oft-used topics is the veritable glass of water.  Is it half empty?  Is it half full?  

I spend a great deal of time encouraging them to view the glass of water with rose-colored glasses and live out the Norman Vincent Peale inside their little souls.  As you might imagine, that does not always put them on the sunny side of life.  Sometimes I can get the feeling that there is a slight, minuscule, little, itty-bitty chance they are not listening.  

They are, though, and Bear proved it just the other day.  He went past the usual old idiom, though, and added his philosophy to the whole question:

You know, Mama, I've been thinking about something and I just wanted to tell you. 
I get what you're always talking about with the glass and the water deal.
I really do.
But, I think there's another choice, too.
I think sometimes it's not half full or half empty -
sometimes I think it's a little of both.

Point taken, son. Point taken.
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