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Nylons and Tadpoles

These halcyon days make me want to be a kid again. Amidst all the laundry, dishes, spills and messes I long for running barefoot, climbing trees and playing ’til the sun goes down. But I caution myself lest the neighbors think I’ve lost it and call the cops because I’m running down the field with a makeshift cape and twirlers.

The joy I see in my kids is so amazing. I can’t remember the last time my emotions were displayed at max. Where is the line between childhood expression and adult suppression? I look at the faces of my children and hope that their spirits are never crushed. I wonder how to reclaim a little of what they have…

So, when my daughter came sloshing up from the pond with one giant frog and a baby tadpole in her hands, I knew that I had to remember these days for all time. Decked out in pink with a tiny braid in her hair, shorts and pink puddle-jumpers, my daughter added her new pets to the already growing frog population on our property. Meanwhile her brother and sister were content to hit golf balls in the setting sun.

Today the golfers decided to join the marine biologist at the pond. They requested some old nylons this time, white ones no less in order to see better, and are hoping to catch a gazillion tadpoles to care for.

My husband says I better stop writing about it and go experience it. So, I’ll throw caution to the wind, take off my shoes and run down to the pond and play with my kids. I may put on a superhero cape for good measure, and if the neighbors call the cops…so be it.

Sunshine Day

Today is one of those wonderful, vibrant, show-stopper days. In the Northwest we savor days like these and wonder what life would be like if we could bottle it up. If I could, I don’t even think I would sell it. For a while I’d just pop the top and glug it to the very bottom, and then hand out bottles for free to the unemployed friend, the frazzled mom, the grandma stricken with Alzhiemers, the confused twenty-something, the tired neighbor, the sad child and anyone else in need of a little sunshine.

Well, I better get outside and though I can’t bottle it, maybe I can soak up enough sun to spill over to those loved ones in need…let’s hope so.

Orchids in an Onion Patch

I know this really wonderful mentor with seven children. She is a delightful and spunky woman who dedicates much of her time encouraging young mothers, or I should say mothers with young children – regardless of whether or not she is young. This encouragement is something I need in my life as a not-so-young-mother of three.

The topic of parenting is a fragile one for me to write about…because I know my own failings at it. There is a song by francesca battistelli and the lyrics say something like, “some days I feel like I can do anything, and other times I feel I’ve got nothing good to bring.” I feel like the latter part sometimes, but I’m so encouraged by people who have been through the rearing stage and can offer some advice to the rest of us. Goodness, we have so many questions about bed-wetting, lieing, bullying, sassing, picky eaters, disobeyers, dawdlers and free spirits! And, if you’re like me, I add ten years to the behavior and get really worried what life will be like with 15,16 and 17-year olds!!! (yes, that deserved three exclamations).

So, my friend the mentor, sent me an email and asked about my family. I saw her recently, but we didn’t have a chance to catch up, so when I received her email I was excited to share about all the good news and not-as-good news. In her response she used the phrase, “children are like orchids in an onion patch,” and I thought that was such a sweet way to put it.

I’ve always heard that orchids are hard to grow. They need the right kind of sunlight, not too much water and to be prepared to lose a few as you learn how to grow them. Well, I’m pretty sure we don’t want to lose our little orchids to the onion patch of this world. Some days it seems like children are hard to grow…lack of sleep, non-existent free time, discipline over the same issues. Keeping this all in balance is quite a job, but what I’m learning from the wonderful moms I know…is if you mix in attention, pour on time and shower them with armfuls of love…they will know who they are and what they are worth…a priceless orchid, a beautiful treasure. Better get tending, not sure if I’ve mixed in enough attention today!

Sowing Seeds of Harvest

Imagine going to your local garden store, picking out the perfect packet of seeds-heirloom tomatoes, okra, carrots, lettuce or beans and upon getting home, you grab a bowl, pour out the contents and start eating them with a spoon. I just read that people in some African villages are doing that, minus the bowl and spoon.

I don’t know if they are just too hungry and don’t want to wait for the harvest, or if they don’t have the skills and knowledge to make an abundant harvest a reality. But according to a relief worker, “One of the most frustrating things is that in villages where they receive seed, they often eat the seed rather than planting it and bringing forth the harvest.”

When I explained this strange phenomenom to my daughter, she told me that if she was starving she’d probably eat the seed because she might die before the harvest.

How often have I done this very thing because I didn’t want to put the effort into caring for the seed, fearing I might figuratively die in the process. In my example the seeds represent “lessons” I’ve learned, but somehow haven’t been sown into my heart in a way that I can use in everyday living.

As my daughters and me were talking about this, I reminded them of the many lessons their parents-in-training try to give them. It’s easy to say they won’t lead the dogs to the mud just to watch them get dirty, or eat conspicuous-looking berries, or make frown faces, or spray mom’s perfume, or bully children at school, or wear mom’s MAC “Sobe“-really-hard-to-get-out-of-the-carpet lipstick. (Taking a deep breath).

It is easy to “hear” the lesson, but it is much harder to bring forth a harvest from it. We know we are supposed to forgive people (seed), but it’s very hard to do when you are in the middle of a situation (unsown seed). We know that time flies (seed), but we settle for and focus on the mundane and passive things in life (unsown seed). I’m really trying to work on this last one. I want to be more diligent in how I spend my time, making sure my family knows how fiercely I love them.

So, this Mother’s Day week, I’m trying to be more aware of how I use my seeds. I don’t just want to chomp down on colorless, bland and odorous seeds. I want to savor a harvest of ripe, cherry-red, glossy “early-girl” tomatoes. And though the task is a challenge at times, there is a promise I’ll try to sow into my heart, “those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.” The psalmists know their stuff…I better get sowing!

Crossfit and Gardening

Just the other day I spied a large, dead and unattractive shrub growing on the side of my house. I’d actually been noticing it for some weeks now, but I don’t garden unless it’s at least sixty degrees outside, so there it stood to the wince of my neighbors, I’m sure. So with sun out and warm temperatures, I approached the sorry shrub with shovel in hand. Little did I know my Crossfit training would come in handy for such a time as this.

As it turns out, the shrub in question was a Mock-orange with an intense citrus scent, which now sprawled out in a gnarly heap with a scent the antithesis of sweet. I wasn’t sure how to approach it, since it was my height and right next to the house. I couldn’t get enough leverage with the shovel, so I made a few demarcations at the base and stood back to evaluate.

I re-approached, and this time used Crossfit to handle the situation. Crossfit is a series of exercises that combine, “constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movement,” according to www.crossfit.com. I’ve been trained for three short months and now found myself applying it to this odd situation. So there I was assuming the “dead-lift” position, and grabbing the weak stems, I yanked that Mock-orange out of the ground and hauled it to the compost pile.

In previous gardening seasons, I would’ve spent a fair amount of time hacking my way at the base, and eventually getting my very capable husband to finish the job. Unfortunately, he actually saw me hauling the large encumbrance to the designated compost area. After he said, “Good job,” I knew I would be left to my own strength for all future gardening situations.

Next, I was off to a certain part of the garden that needs to be re-edged every year. I’ve dreaded this task in the past because I had no leg strength to speak of. After my Mock-orange success, I tried my hand at edging the grass with a pointed shovel. It proved to be a surprisingly easy task, and I now know for certain that all the dead-lifts, pull-ups and squats have increased my strength and ability.

Many of the Crossfit heavyweights may laugh at this simple Crossfit mom’s outlook, but it really is working for me and the lifestyle I lead. I’m no longer intimidated by the linebackers, firefighters, law enforcement officers or models who do Crossfit, it has wide ranging appeal for all fitness levels, even mine.

If you’re up for a change from the stair stepper or elliptical machines, and if you want to see muscles consistently percolate to the top, seek out a Crossfit facility. You may find yourself easily wrestling with heavy equipment or carrying a child up the hiking trail. As for me, I’m looking forward to my next gardening task and leaving most of the tools behind.

If you are already into Crossfit, let me know. If not and you have questions, send me a comment!

Happiness and Love

I’m currently writing an article about whether or not we can buy happiness and love. At first glance, the concept seems a little strange. Can I really go to the nearest mall, slap down a few greenbacks, and walk out with happiness in my pocket and love in my handbag?

When I was a little girl growing up in sunny California, there was this one tree with leggy branches, and peeling bark. The leaves on this tree were the exact split combination of silver and forest green. My parents told me that it was called a Money Tree, and I thought we were rich! Who said, “Money doesn’t grow on trees?”

Now that I’m a little older (ok, a lot older!), I’m convinced that money buys choices, not happiness or love. I can choose to buy those really funky bejeweled sandals, or the practical non-bejeweled walking shoes. I can choose the trendy, everybody-has-to-have-it $350 Coach handbag , or I can choose to buy a non-label purse and settle for function.

The interesting thing here, is that happiness and love are the two most sought-after emotions, and we typically do go hunting for them with money. I think we’ve seen a bit of this regarding our current economic woes. We reason that we’ll be “happy” if we can just have that thing. We think “love” will knock on our door if we’ve covered ourselves in the latest trends, and topped it off with properly coiffed hair.

Our brains are wired to solve these economic problems. If I find something I want (which is often!), my brain will try to figure out how to get it. I can charge it, sell something else to get it and so on. Once my brain and I have come to a solution, I have my “want” in hand and feel like I’ve just conquered a problem-solving dilemma. I also have a little happiness and love in my heart, which lasts temporarily until the credit card bill comes. And so it goes.

What if we convince ourselves we already have the money to buy the “thing?” The actual, tangible desire of our hearts at the moment. If I “knew” I could afford to buy that new car, my brain wouldn’t go into problem-solving mode, it would go into reasoning mode. I would now start asking, “Should I buy this new car?” or “Does it make sense to buy this car?” I would no longer accept a ridiculous price tag just to have it, and ask, “Is this a good price?”

I have yet to adopt this line of thinking, and hope I can trick my brain into playing along. As for happiness and love, I will tuck them in my heart and not go looking for them at the local mall. Although I do have a 30% off coupon at Guess! Oh, dear.

Reflections on Starbucks

I happen to live in the Seattle area, where corner coffee stands are abundant, but for some reason Starbucks is the place I end up. When I stop to reflect on why, a few solid reasons confirm my subconscious’ ability to automatically point my car in the direction of the nearest one.

For many people, holding a steaming cup of Starbucks Coffee is a status symbol. Someone told me that there is actually a person he works with, who refills his paper Starbucks cup with lunchroom coffee, and walks around with the lid on pretending it’s the real thing. I don’t think you’ll find this coffee phenomenon here in Seattle, we are all used to seeing a plethora of paper coffee cups bearing all kinds of logos. This particular event happened in a different state, where perhaps a paper cup of Starbucks Coffee actually improves your status. Hmmm…a four-buck status improvement, interesting.

Other people find that their loyalties lie at the Starbucks counter. They can have their coffee drink made exactly the way they want it, and have it served by the same person who served it yesterday, in many cases. Coffee aficionados can tell you why Starbucks Coffee appeals to their taste buds. They can tell you about grower alliances, the harvesting of coffee beans, how roasting them affects their taste, and so on.

These are not among my reasons for why I find myself at Starbucks most mornings, (a fact my husband says I need to change). I could care less if I’m holding a Starbucks paper cup, or one that I got at the coffee stand down the street. The actual cups are probably made in another country, and the logos add to the price of my latte. As for loyalty, I couldn’t tell you anything about how Starbucks makes their coffee, and I sure don’t have a clue about their alliances in Africa or Guatemala.

For me, having a drive-thru is a major factor for me, in whether or not I will frequent a Starbucks. I’m certainly not going to get out of the car when I’m running late with three children in the back. For a few years, there was only a walk-in Starbucks and I hardly ever went inside. I found a few good coffee stands on my many routes, and was fine with them. Recently, however, two more Starbucks stores opened exactly seven minutes from my house in either direction (it’s so sad that I know this), and these are the ones I frequent. So long independent coffee stand representatives, unless I happen to be on a different route.

When I do have time, Starbucks is open late, and I often meet friends there to chat over our steaming cups of java. The atmosphere is strangely relaxing amid the caffeine, and if I need to buy a gift for someone, all I have to do is peruse their many available treasures. Who doesn’t like coffee?

Although I’ve been told to reduce my Starbucks expenditures to respect our budget, perhaps I can share these reasons with my husband, and becoming enlightened, he will allow me to go to Starbucks carte blanche. I won’t hold my breath, how will I suck down the Grande-Vanilla- 2-Pump-Extra-Hot-Latte, I’ll be enjoying in about seven minutes?

Ecce Homo ~ “Behold the Man”

Ahhhh, Easter! What a wonderful time of year. It has a dual meaning for me…a parallelism of sorts. Signs of new life begin to appear, from the budding branches to the moistening of the earth. Last week I saw a man mowing his yard, not that unusual, except that I eagerly look for this particular sign to indicate spring has arrived. You can say “weird” out loud, it’s ok! Do you know of anybody else who looks with such anticipation at where and when they will see the first mow of the season?

I’m also reminded of the new life I have. I’m encouraged that with all my abrasive thorns, gnarly limbs and frosty appendages, I am being renewed day by day!

So, on this Good Friday I ran across a beautiful painting from the hands of an artist by the name of Antonio Ciseri (you can google his name and click ‘images’ to see more of his work.) The title of this particular piece is Ecce Homo (pronounced ĕk’sē hō’mō ) and is Latin for “Behold the Man.” It portrays the scene in the book of John where Pilate presents a thorn-crowned, purple-robed Jesus to the angry masses and declares, “Behold the Man!”

Did you know before this scene took place, Jesus was in the garden praying so intensely that his sweat was in the form of blood? Have you ever felt so intensely about something, so in anguish that you sweat so profusely? You and I will never see droplets of blood exude from our skin, it was a physiological phenomenon. Maybe that’s why the only Gospel that mentions it is Luke, the physician, one who studied the human form.

This weekend as I put smiles on the faces of my kids through an overdose of sugar, and as I visit with family I love so much, I will also “Behold the Man” and remember all that He did for me…and you.

Happy Easter Weekend (Look for part 2, Sunday)

Moonstruck

Found something interesting to share. At least I thought it was interesting…you may as well.

The intro blog stated that topics will be wide-ranging, and so we move from “gumstretch” to “moonstruck”…oh life inside the chrysalis!

In the ancient world, many believed that not only could one get heat stroke travelling by foot, but that you could also be struck by the moon! The other day, my daughter was looking at our calendar and noted when the next full moon would occur, so when I came upon this notion today I found it curious and can’t wait to tell her when she wakes up.

Anyway, they believed that if someone had seizures it was caused by intense moon exposure. The word “moonstruck” is a literal translation of the Greek word for “seizures.” This is the part that I thought was the most interesting…the word “lunatic” comes from the word “lunar” or moon. So all those childhood myths about the crazy things that happen during a full moon, have come full circle. Can you imagine actually being struck by the moon? It isn’t something I ever really thought about…I know Cher has a movie by that name. And lunatic…well I’m not gonna go there so early in the morning!

Blessings!

Gumstretch

Yep, first part of the title is gum…I’m sure you are familiar with it. I’ve tried carefully to avoid it as a mother of three, but it caught up with me just yesterday.

As a rule we are not a gum-chewing family. My husband thinks it’s rude (when certain people do it), I get frustrated because the taste runs out and after three hours I’m still wondering why it’s in my mouth. The kids of course love it, so we made up gumball Saturdays (going on three years now) and the rule is that if you take it out, you throw it out. It is a big deal for them because they don’t get gum at any other time (I know we are so mean!). And, if ever we are not home on a Saturday they are quick to remember that as soon as we do get home, they get a gumball.

So yesterday I had one of my very best friends over for a playdate. We have seven children between us and it was just a fun day…definitely one for the books. The subject of gumballs came up, probably because we have a large gumball dispensing machine (which doesn’t work because I bought the wrong size gumballs and we now have to use a gumball basket), that attracts the eye of every child who comes over. So they inevitably asked their mom if they could have one. I can’t say the ‘N’ word to other children, so we moms agreed to let them have this little delight, which is every child’s rite of passage (they will say when their all grown). Which means my children get to have not only a Saturday gumball, but one on playdate day as well.

Four hours later, maybe it was three, we are rushing to get somewhere as is usually the case. I’m sure you can relate. Anyway, I’m just filled with happiness, driving down I-5 on a beautiful day and my daughter (I won’t mention names, but those of you who know us will catch on quick), says, “Mom, I still have my gumball!!” I just said, “uh-uh” and didn’t think much of it until I look back a few minutes later to see that she had taken it out to save it for later so she could eat her gogurt. Unfortunately, she stuck it on her bare thigh, and with her window rolled down, wind in her hair, berry gogurt quenching a long hot day, she crossed her legs! That’s right she crossed them and when she took them apart it was a spider-web of gumstretch. She, not being skilled at how to get gum off of anything because of our gum rules, kept stretching it piece by piece. Those of us who are more seasoned at these things can imagine me calling out instructions, “don’t stretch, pull low, pull low!” and “don’t get it on the car or your clothes!”

All ended well as I threw back a wipe (those things are amazing) and we got to where we were going, she got the gum off of herself, and car and clothes were spared.

I sometimes feel like I can’t get free from things. It could be an obligation, a chore, a season of waiting (like now) or a phase of some kind. The gumstretch reminded me of that feeling. Send me a comment on how you got free from something, or if you are currently stuck in the middle of a gumstretch season, maybe we can help each other!

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