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Friday, April 20, 2018

Why Not Achieving Your Dreams Can Be the Best Thing Ever


 Here is my case for being grateful when we fail:

I wrote a book about ten years ago. After I wrote it I thought, I’m done! Now to send it off and wait for the book offers to roll in. (Why are you laughing?)

So every few years I drag it out, dust it off, and try to polish it up before I send it out to be rejected by a new set of publishers and agents. It’s gone through about ten million ‘first drafts’.  

I finally bit the bullet a month or so ago and paid for a real editor (Joan Dempsey - thank you so much!) to take a look at the first 100 pages.

She didn’t cost as much as some of the other editors I researched and her feedback has been priceless. Not just on grammar slips and annoying writing tics but also character development and obstacles to the flow of the story. I have solid direction and focus (finally) on making my story a truly great one.  Baby steps. 

I was listening to a motivating speaker the other day and he was saying…find your passion and you will find your purpose! Find the thing that makes you forget about time and do that.  And I rolled my eyes. Right? How many times have we heard that? It’s an empty phrase.

I mean, yeah, ok, you should find that anyway, because it makes you HAPPY. And someday, if you work really, really hard, and you’re very focused, maybe you can make a few shiny coins from the thing that makes you forget about time passing. 

But in the meantime you’ve imbued your life with JOY and purpose and that spills out and blesses other people. It just does.  It’s like a universal law. When you’re happy, you infect others around you with happy too.  And space to find their own joy.

So what makes you forget about old man time? If you’re like me, it’s not just one thing. For me, it’s writing. And gardening. And reading. And yoga. But not meditating. (Am I done now?  Am I done now? How many minutes have passed? What’s that tickling feeling on my big toe? Is that a bug? Is it that giant spider we found last Saturday?)

And I’m not looking at the clock when I’m shoving a whole chocolate bunny in my mouth I’ll tell you that.

But do you know what really makes me feel like if I died tomorrow I won’t have regrets?  

Helping kids. Whether it’s sending a note to say I’m thinking of them (like Kaitlyn and Dylan) or finding that shy one that’s hiding in the back and bringing them out of their shell, helping kids makes me feel like…me. So does writing. And gardening.

I think the benefit of not finding success in the career you love is that it lets you be other things too. Would I still be working to apply to a masters program in school counseling if I had three bestselling books? 

No. 

Would I be Benji and Ellie’s mom? I don’t know.  Probably not. I wouldn’t have gone to work for Big Oil and wouldn’t have met my husband. My whole focus and being would be dedicated to writing another bestseller.  I wouldn’t be ‘distracted’ by my other joys, to my detriment.  My life wouldn’t be as rich and full as it is now.  I wouldn’t be a pretend-organic-farmer or a a mom to Benji and Ellie.  

So, thank you Universe.  Thank you for allowing my biggest, oldest dream to not come true, I am sincerely grateful.  I’m going to go hug my babies now.  My human babies.  Tomato plants don’t like to be squeezed.

“More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.”  Saint Teresa of Avila.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Throwing Words Down Wells and Evolving The Babies. Or, Changing Diapers of Yellow Poo.


I’m going to be honest, I’m confused.  This blog, what is it anyway?  Is it a way to communicate with friends and family back home? (I love you Canada!).  

Is it a way to crystalize my experiences and distance myself from them in the writing of them?  A way to connect the dots and make sense of my life, week by week?  (For sure).

These words flip into cyber space and they may ring down into your head like coins flung into a wishing well, winking sunlight and pinging off the sides of your thoughts as they make their way down to your heart.

Or more likely they’re winnowing out there in the great black emptiness of cyberspace, meeting nothing but silence, continuing forever without the interruption and company of a reader.

I just finished reading ‘A Tale for the Time Being’ by Ruth Ozeki.  It was beautiful and terrible, and dealt with pretty timely issues like suicide and Japanese Zen monks, War, bullying, and family tragedies.  

Not a light read.  I finished reading it last night at 3am, because Benji was up most of the night.  I finished it sometime between the times I walked the floor with him and Bill’s turn, trying to get him back to sleep.

Anyway - this week my blog, whatever it is, is really hard to write because I’m struggling.  

And my quiet desperation and anxiety is only dwarfed by my guilt for feeling it.  Am I doing this mom thing right?  Am I scarring them for life?  Why is it so hard?

Will they be healthy?  Stable?  Kind?  Emotionally mature?  Resilient?  Why am I not enjoying them more?  Why does it feel like it’s 80% struggle and 20% heart-melty moments of sweetness and baby cuddles?  And 100% obliteration of me as a whole person, as anything other than ‘mom’.  We’re so much more than that, am I right?  We’re feisty, and smart, and we have so much more to offer the world besides being the primary bum/nose/chin-wiper.

Things will get better, I know that.  I’m just coming off a week where Bill was in another country, and when he got back, he was working late every night this week except one.  Jichaan left to go back home, which was good but it was also change, an adjustment for the kids to settle into.  Benji’s getting his two year molars early.  (Yah me!)

And then there’s the post-nursing hormones crashing down.  Maybe that’s too honest?  It isn’t fun.  I found my phone in the vegetable crispier drawer of the fridge yesterday.  I.  Am.  Losing.  My.  Mind.

Sometimes they’ll both be screaming and/or crying and I’m just like…I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing right now.  So I go to the one crying the loudest.  Inevitably the one I didn’t go to will crawl to me in hysterics and try to push the other one off my knee and climb onto my lap themselves.

And you want to hear something really crazy?  They’ve both been asleep about two hours and I miss them.  Their warm little cheeks.  Their sweet baby smell.  

The way they run to me and don’t stop until they’ve literally run INTO me, because they trust me to stop them, catch them before they fall, and make everything better.

I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.  How many tantrums, how many baby rages, how many times I will question my own ability to reason logically.  (Or find my phone).  I do feel like if I can find the peace in my current situation, even when everyone is screaming about the yellow play-doh that Benji just ate, (yellow poop, yippie!) and I can forgive myself when I fail to live up to my own parenting goals (yellow poop=fail) and not beat myself up about it, I can evolve as a mom, as a person, but most importantly as a human being.

Mostly that involves me yelling at Ellie to stop kicking Benji, then me struggling with the guilt over yelling at all. Not to mention the guilt over the yellow poo. 

“Man must evolve from human conflict to a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation.  The foundation of such a method is love.”  Martin Luther King Jr.

Yeah, ok.  That does sound better than:

ELLIE IF YOU TOUCH THAT BABY ONE MORE TIME IT’S TIME OUT UNTIL YOU’RE 25!!! 

I bet he wasn’t changing diapers full of yellow poo though.  Just sayin’.


Friday, April 06, 2018

My Old Man Hands and Other Beautiful Things


I’ve always enjoyed being outside.  The sun on my back, the earth between my fingers, the reward of seeing the budding shoots of a new plant taking off.  Every day I’m out there pulling weeds, tying plants to stakes, composting, sprinkling ground-up egg shells around my tomato plants.  Talking to my carrots.  (Are you in there?  Or are you just a weed?)  

Mulching, checking for bugs, watering, checking for blight.

I catch sight of my hands these days, pulling weeds, reaching for Benji or Ellie, and I don’t recognize them.  They’re a worker’s hands.  

Gone are the smooth pale fingers of my youth, where I wrote or typed or shuffled papers all day.

I’ve got old man hands now.  Callused from digging in the dirt, strong rope-like veins in my forearms from carrying around two babies, 40 pound bags of compost or soil from the truck to the garden.  

And I love it.  You couldn’t smoosh me back into a cubicle now if you tried.  I’m too big with the wind of the 200 foot pines in my ears and the whole earth beneath my giant feet.

It’s been warm enough to play outside but not so hot we’re melting.  March and April are the perfect months to visit Texas.  It’s rainy, sure, but the mosquitoes aren’t bad yet and the sun won’t fry you like an egg in 22 seconds.

Benji is finally old enough for me to have him in the garden and only have to keep one eye on him while I putter about.  He’s got his own dirt pile to play in and he’s learning to walk between the rows.  I may have had to sacrifice a few plants in the process but I want him to enjoy being outside with me.  

I wanted to raise kids who love nature, who know her well so when they grow up they’ll help protect her too.  We’ve got one planet and we all share it together people.

Turns out I didn’t need to worry.  Except for trips to the grocery store and eating we’ve pretty much been outside all day, every day for the last two weeks.  Getting them back inside has been the problem.  I literally have to drag Benji inside kicking and screaming when it’s time for naps or a diaper change.  

Kid is in touch with nature AND his natural baby rage that’s for sure.  

And that’s another beautiful thing.  Not the baby rage, no that's super annoying but once he starts to talk more that will subside.  I assume...  

No, it's because it’s peaceful out here, and calming.  There’s something about walking under the trees, even just kneeling in the garden pulling weeds that works healing on a persons soul.  Just, being out here will calm Benji down if he’s upset, pretty much instantly.  Better than Tylenol.  

I can see it in me, in my kids, and even in Bill’s sister Laurie who is staying with us for another few days.  Even Jichaan.  I see them sitting out there on the patio, looking out at the back yard, soaking up this…magic that is creation.

Anyway.  I wanted to share some beautiful things this weekend, something that has helped give my life meaning and purpose and peace.  

“I like gardening.  It’s a place where I find myself when I need to lose myself.”  Alice Sebold.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Standing up to Bullies or No Cockroaches Here, Thanks or Happy Easter!


For a few hours Thursday morning we were without power.  The silence was so complete I could hear the crackling of the gas stove (which we lit by hand).

The Rice Krispies were snap-crackle-popping so loud I had to put in ear plugs.  

It was cold and calm.  I gave Benji breakfast by the light of four candles and a strategically placed flashlight.  We watched the sun come up through the trees, Ellie still asleep and Jichaan brooding quietly in his cave.

No internet.  No TV.  After Benji went down for his nap nothing but a hot mug of green tea and a blank page.

Ahhhhhhh.

I didn’t think I’d feel this kind of peace for some time to come.  Certainly not this morning, not after the night we had.  

There are a couple of verses from childhood running through my head ‘This too shall pass’ and (paraphrasing) ‘When you’ve done all, stand.’

So, let me lay this out for you.  I stood up to a bully yesterday.  A bully in my very own home.

Yes.  Jichaan didn’t approve of the cost of my sweet cleaning lady who comes twice a month and helps me remember what a clean house feels like.  For two minutes until my children systemically and gleefully tear it apart/spill apple juice on it/crush chips into the carpet again.

Life is too short.  And messy.  And…if it isn’t REALLY clean, like REALLY CLEAN, we get BUGS people.  Like, big ones.  Cockroaches and flying many-legged things that make my goosebumps have goosebumps.

I’m not a saint, or an angel.  I’m just me.  I’m a pacifist, and a turn-the-other-cheek-second-chances kind of person.  At least I try to be.  But something flares up hot and immediate when I’m being pushed around.  

And then it hardens and I will not be moved.

There are some who say - he’s 95.  Just let him have his way - just humor him a little longer he won’t be around much more.  

Reality?  Everyone caves to Jichaan.  The only question is how quickly.

Immediately so as to avoid suffering?  Or eventually, after he has relentlessly hounded you day and night until you throw up your hands and agree to anything to make it stop?  He is a minor tyrant.

To be honest, I’m kind of a pushover.  I’d rather have peace than my own way 95% of the time.  But when I feel like I’m being bullied?  It’s like a special super-power that surprises even me with it’s grit.  I wouldn't even have known it was there except, well, except for bullies.

Anyway, I said no.  I said cleaning lady stays.  Especially since Bill will be in China this weekend and won’t be available to help me scrub/vacuum/dust/Clorox and in general keep the nasties away.

He erupted into a very predictable (and loud) tantrum worthy of only maybe Shannon Doherty when she didn’t get the part of ‘Drama Queen Three - the Return of Highest Drama Over The Silliest Of Things’.  

Apparently I am dis-invited from his funeral.

I do have compassion for the idea of a proud older man, faced with end-of-life realities and decisions.  It isn’t easy being 95, physically, emotionally, spiritually.  There is no doubt he is suffering.  Actual pain in his body I am sure, and emotional pain from suddenly, and for the first time in probably decades, losing a power struggle.

I welcomed him into my home.  Nervously, admittedly, but with open arms and with the hope he and his grandchildren could form a special bond, fill that special spot only a grandparent can.

That might still happen or be happening.  

But, it is clear he doesn’t want to live here unless he is boss.  Which I just made it clear, he is not.  And that’s painful, yeah?  So I have compassion for the bully who, once someone stands up to him, begins to look diminished in everyone’s eyes.  Instead of fear there is pity.  

And the bully has the choice to change, to grow, to reach out and be vulnerable and loved.  Or he caves in on himself and becomes bitter and isolated, resentful and wretched.

It is my sincere desire that he reach out and accept the love and support he is being offered.  There is love here in my house, and warmth and forgiveness.  There’s crazy too, and nervous breakdowns on the horizon.  But love too.  

But no cockroaches.  And no bullies.

“Courage is fire, and bullying is smoke.”  Benjamin Disraeli.