Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tulip Time & Thanks

The past couple weeks has been Tulip Time in Topeka.  The gardens in our old neighborhood at Ward-Meade Park have been filled with color.  Walking the paths puts a person in such a positive frame of mind it's the perfect place to make a list of things for which I am thankful.

The gift of sight and the riot of colors in the garden.  
The rain that has softened the dry, inhospitable ground of a month ago.

The final quarter of the school year and the push towards the summer break.
The joy of anticipation as I begin to fill the calendar with events coming up this summer.
Good news...a dental position for my daughter, and a separate thankful that the position is in Topeka and she will soon be home.  In other good news...acceptance to a summer study program at Oxford for my son.  

There is so much goodness in my life right now, it required an explosion of color to convey how thankful I feel.  


Friday, April 14, 2017

Bunny Prints

A Throw Back from April 2013 when I wrote about an Easter memory for Mama Kat's Workshop.

Shield’s IGA  was a block and a half from my house as a kid.  Junior ran the store employing not only his own kids but a bunch of the locals as well.  At least three of my older brothers held jobs there in high school.
A special display of large chocolate bunnies caught my eye one spring.  Solid chocolate with a real ribbon at the neck, they watched me with their sugar-dot eyes standing on the front of the cart as Mom pushed by the display.  My mouth watered thinking about the chocolatey goodness of the bunnies, but their sheer size told me they were out of our price range.  I didn’t bother mentioning them to my mother.
The car had barely come to a stop as we returned home from Easter services that year before my younger brother and I were rolling out of the backseat on a mission to find our baskets.  Our house had no lawn, rather patches of mud alternated with patches of grass and dandelions.  It was around one of the muddy patches that we found the most amazing tracks.
We inspected them closely and were convinced they were bunny tracks.  There was only one small trail of the special tracks, but it was enough to lead us to two of the large chocolate bunnies I had been dreaming of.
Bill was the brother working as a carry-out at the IGA that year.  We grabbed our bunnies and ran straight to him hoping he might be able to shed some light on the mysterious tracks in the yard or how the special chocolate bunnies had come to be ours.  He laughed and assured us he knew nothing about our Easter treats.  Eventually, we gave up our interrogation and turned our attention to bites of chocolate bunny ears.  It was hard to stay focused on the mystery with that sweet taste on my tongue, but somehow I suspected Brother Bill knew the Easter Bunny a lot better than he was willing to let on.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Formerly Mighty Oak

For the past three weeks Thursdays have come and gone with me hardly noticing.  This has meant I haven't been part of Mama Kat's Writers Workshop for a while.  It happened again this week, but I am slipping in late using as my excuse the prompt Yesterday I forgot to... 

For the past eighty-six years two pin oak trees have stood sentinel in front of my house.  By the time I arrived on the scene the trees towered over the house giving it the curb appeal that originally caught my eye.
Someone had the foresight all those years ago to plant two oaks on the front lawn of each house on the street.  I will never know if there was a wise city planner at work or if the homeowners banded together thinking of the canopy of green that would greet them each time they turned onto our street upon returning home.  What I am certain of is that someone thought of those of us who were yet to come.  Someone put in the labor and expense required to plant the saplings that grew to line my street for many years--years they themselves would not be around to see.
For two decades the care of these behemoths has fallen to us.  We have faithfully cut away the dead and dying branches.  My husband doses the oaks with iron suppositories every spring.  Time marches on and predictably the trees are showing signs of age just as an arborist once told us they would.  We believe we can baby one of the trees through a few more seasons, but things don't look as promising for the other oak.
Despite a recent trimming of all visible signs of death or decay, we spotted three more branches this afternoon that are clearly dead.  A pile of wood chips lies at the base of the tree.  Lift the chips into your hand and they crumble at your touch.  These brittle pieces of wood apparently come from within the tree, making us wonder what might be happening where the bark keeps us from seeing.  
We stood a long time looking up at the branches and then circling the base of the tree in silence, neither of us wanting to say what we both know to be true.  We need to take the tree down before gravity does it for us.  
I can't imagine the hole that will be left when the grand tree is felled, but I know that it will not be permanent.  We made a pact standing under the meandering branches.  Once someone we never knew planted an oak tree that has provided us shade and beauty. Now it is our turn.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Imperfect Perfection

Inspired by Challenge

The women in my family are currently sharing the book Mistakes I Made at Work by Jessica Bacal.  It includes essays capturing interviews with twenty-five professional women who have accomplished much across a wide variety of fields.  My favorite section of the book is "Learning Resilience", and my favorite essay in this section is the interview with author and film-maker  Ruth Ozeki.  Each interview concludes with tips; Ozeki's second tip spoke to my heart:

The act of bringing anything into the world, of taking an idea and making it real means bringing it from the state of absolute perfection in your mind into a state of relative imperfection in reality.  Every novel or painting is like this: perfect in the maker's mind, but imperfectly realized.  You can look at this as a mistake or simply as an opportunity to engage--because it's through the making of mistakes that we are able to live creative lives.  

The parenting equivalent of the point Ozeki makes is the understanding that we learn more through our mistakes than we do from experiences that seem to go flawlessly.  Truth be told, we humans are rarely flawless at all, but times we come closest are when we are performing tasks or using skills we have already mastered.  Real growth does not occur here. Learning and stretching lie in the untested.  Handmade commands a higher price than machine made because there is beauty and interest in the imperfect, and there are so few among us willing to go the distance to create a thing of beauty or to risk sharing it with the world.  Don't be discouraged when things don't go exactly as you envisioned they would; your vision is limited by your imagination.  Take a risk and trust.  What may at first appear imperfect as it is unfolding, may evolve into the very plan God envisioned for you.  The plan that takes you beyond your wildest dreams.  

Monday, March 20, 2017

Throw Open the Windows

As I tossed and turned in my stuffy room last night I thought of this piece I had written several springs ago.  Then I got out of bed, threw open a window, and slept like a baby.  

The weather is fabulous.  It is like God flipped a switch on the first day of Spring and we have had nothing but nice ever since.  I have been going through the house throwing open every window.  My allergy prone husband has been stumbling along behind me closing them nearly as quickly.  I am trying to be a patient and supportive partner.  I do not suffer with allergies and so I forget sometimes how the very things that bring me joy can make him miserable.

I love the feel of the breeze blowing through the house in the spring.  All winter long we have kept things cozily buttoned up (which I also love) so that the air outside is kept outside.  But the winds of change are stirring things up out there.  It is fresh, light and comfortable and I want to invite it in and let it scoot away all that is stuffy, musty and stale.

This time of year feels like all things are possible.  The squirrels do their happy dance on the lawn which I am aware has more to do with mating than the weather, but still is a Spring time thing. Graduations and weddings come and young people launch new careers and new lives.   There is promise. There is potential.   Change is on the breeze and it carries with it opportunity.  Who would not want to throw open the windows and yell, come on in?  Then comes my answer- a string of about thirteen hearty sneezes.  I walk in to the sunroom and there sitting by a window closed tight as a drum I find my poor husband eyes half-mast, red and watery; half loopy from an array of over the counter remedies; goofy, medicated grin on his face. Happy Spring, my love, wish you were here!
March 23, 2011

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Changing Seasons

It has been too long since I made a list of things for which I feel grateful.  It isn't hard to do this time of year.  I love the fickle days of early spring.  Sunshine and eager blossoms one day, gusty gales that chill to the bone the next.  The perfect season for a heart that is never quite ready to let go while simultaneously looking ahead tingling with anticipation.  
For sunshine and blossoms, and wind that causes the branches high in the tall old oak trees out front to sway.  For first buds and hints of green replacing brown.  Clouds that float across the pale blue sky. For rain and the smell of the earth waking up. The first morning the sweet chirping of birds registers on my mind.  For all the hallmarks of an early spring day,  I am deeply thankful.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Anybody Home?

I once read the most startling essay written by a boy who must have been ten or eleven when he wrote it for a school assignment.  He vividly described the anger in his home and how he and his sibling as the smallest and most vulnerable often became the landing place for all the frustrations and hopelessness his parents felt.  After a particularly intense clash with his father, the boy was sent to his room.  Throwing himself on his bed he cried to the point of exhaustion, slipping in and out of sleep.

He wrote of feeling groggy at one point and uncertain whether he was even awake.  In the haze his father came to him.  With a gentle touch, he reached out to his son apologizing for taking his own sense of powerless out on the boy who was surely even less powerful than he was himself.  The boy felt a warmth flood his heart and drifted back to a more peaceful sleep than he had experienced in a long time.

The story ended with the boy shocked to his senses by the angry shouting of his father.  Suddenly aware of his surroundings, he comprehended that he had indeed been dreaming and that nothing in his circumstances had actually changed while he dreamt.

Reading this story scrawled in the childish script of a young boy, I recall audibly moaning from the pain of the piece.  Yet, he was not writing to elicit a reaction; he was writing of life as he knew it.  I wish it were true that this boy’s experience was unique or that it couldn't happen to people in my part of the world.  The truth is that the boy attended the same school that my children attended.  He and children like him live in my town.  They are someone I know, and someone any of us might know.

A child can be impacted by an adult who takes an interest, who is willing to read with him, to volunteer in his school or his activities.  There is too much pain in this world for one person to impact it all, but there is pain in small pockets that we can each impact. Go out into your world.  Touch another life.  Genuinely helping others gives you a sense of usefulness. When you return home you will discover you are more content in the simplicity of your home than you ever realized.  Home should be a beautiful place for us all.