13 July 2014

Postcards from Our College Tour

Here I sit, finally home after more than two weeks on the road.  Funny...sounds like I have been touring with a band.  Anyway, my plan before I left was to write a "postcard" every day.  The thought of sharing experiences of our road trip reminded me of blogging in England.  I was really excited to have the opportunity again.  Then it happens.  You know, LIFE.  You start out fresh and organized but it is a short journey to worn out and disheveled.  And if I think back to the day of departure, I don't know about you but I rarely leave *fresh*.  More like exhausted from all the preparation.

I still want to share some of our experiences so I will give you some photo postcards and the thoughts that come to mind.  Here goes:

Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia

First stop:  Washington and Lee University.  W and L is a cozy school in a quaint town in the rolling hills of the Shenandoah Valley.  Everything about the school is manageable and the thought of sending my first born here makes my heart happy and at peace.  It feels like high school kicked up a notch.  It feels safe, like nothing bad could possibly happen here.  It is well-manicured and well-run.  It is small enough that for the most part, like the bar Cheers, "everyone knows your name".  What mom wouldn't be happy sending her baby into the world in such a gentle way.  Gentle reminds me of genteel which reminds me of the South and the tradition of gentlemen.  Both George Washington and Robert E. Lee were, if nothing else, the consummate Southern gentlemen.  This legacy is strongly felt in the Honor Code.  The W&L website explains it best: 

The Honor System is one of Washington and Lee University’s most important traditions and traces its roots to the mid-1840s at Washington College.  During Robert E. Lee’s presidency (1865-1870) the Honor System under which students live today took form.  Even more important, he did away with the former written rules and regulations and established one central idea: that each student "conduct himself as a gentleman."  As a result, today’s understanding of the Honor System has one central tenet, that breaches of the community’s trust will not be tolerated.  Trust, safety, student autonomy- just a few more reasons that W&L is such an unusual place.

A school that encourages my son to "conduct himself as a gentleman".  What's not to love?

More postcards to come,

01 June 2014

Sunday Morning Snapshot

Saw this on Pinterest this morning and thought it would make a fun, quick post to keep my writing going.

Found the idea here.


*Listening-  I am usually listening to Christian Rock as far as music goes but right now I am listening to my kids chatter on around me.

*Eating- I made homemade waffles this morning.  Yum!  It's amazing how quick and easy they are.  There is a recipe for waffles with sunflower seeds and since I am a total seed freak, I am going to try them next time.

*Drinking- I am enjoying a lovely cup of Hunan Gold tea that Mark made for me in my beautiful Crabtree and Evelyn Blue and White teapot.

*Wearing- I am still in my comfy, cozy pajamas- pants that have places from all around the world on them and a purple K&B t-shirt that Mark gave me for my birthday.  Only New Orleanians will get that reference.

*Feeling- Sad for my friend who lost a child.

*Weather- Gray like the sky is sad and tired.

*Wanting- to sit here all day.

*Needing- to take a shower and get ready for Mass.

*Thinking- about all the things I hope to do this summer.

*Enjoying- that I actually wrote another post.


26 May 2014

Having my Cake and Eating it too

Well, hello there, stranger!  Long time, no see.  What's been keeping you away?  Oh right, I haven't been writing.  Well, it's time to remedy that.

This morning my husband and I were sitting on our usual perches, sipping tea and poking around the internet.  My husband commented that I seemed quite upbeat this morning and I immediately realized why:

Today is the day BEFORE my birthday!

There are several other reasons for the spring in my step today but tomorrow being my birthday is definitely the main one.  Other contributing factors are having exam week behind us.  Three high-schoolers with three different exam schedules plus a husband out of town and me substituting three days last week made for a crazy, hectic schedule.  Add two cherries on top: the start of swim practice AND dance recital rehearsals and you can see how fun last week was for our family.

Then we arrive at Monday morning.  A holiday.  The day before my birthday.  It doesn't get much better.

One of the cutest, cuddliest children's book characters- Kipper the Dog- posed this question:

"Which is best, I wonder, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?  
Presents or expecting presents?"

I vote for Christmas Eve.  Expecting presents.  Always.  No doubt.  Day BEFORE the birthday is better.  Once your birthday begins, you can feel it slipping through your fingers, knowing it won't come for another year.  Just like Christmas Day.

So here I am enjoying this fabulous day-before-my-birthday which happens to be the day AFTER the dance recital.  Always a glorious day.  Always a relief.  Combine that with it being a holiday and I am feeling downright giddy.

Here's one more secret to my lighthearted mood.  I LOVE the start of summer.  Putting the school year to rest and starting a new chapter.  It's even better to me than New Year's Day.  All the possibilities are there:  lists of books I'd like to read, crafts I'd like to do with the kids, outings and fun times all waiting to be enjoyed.

So here I sit, full of possibility and anticipation.  It's a great place to be and I just wanted to share it with you.

Happy today!
Happy tomorrow!

08 March 2014

Embracing the Messy Glory

Lately death has been intersecting my life- friends and acquaintances dealing with lives cut short,  terminal illness, tragedy.  It seems to come in batches, doesn't it.  Like death is a person and when he comes calling for anyone near us he hangs around for awhile casting a shadow on our days, our thoughts, weighing heavy on our hearts.

Last week I finished the book I was reading.  I love the feeling of finishing a book.  I love the sense of accomplishment but, more than anything, I love that the world of books is open again.  Hmmm...where will I go next, what adventure will I share?  In the library, I'm like a kid in a candy shop.  It's just too hard to decide when faced with the endless shelves of stories waiting to be read.  Finally I narrowed down the choices and went home with four books, including Each Little Bird That Sings by a new favorite author, Deborah Wiles.  I had no idea what the story was about.  

I was a little surprised when I realized the book is about a girl whose family runs a funeral home.  REALLY?  Was death looming that large over every aspect of my life?  Well, I thought, it may help me gain some insight.  It is a children's book, after all, so I knew the subject would be handled with care.  Maybe this could soothe my heart.

I love a book set in a small Southern town filled with quirky characters named funny names like Peach and Comfort.  I love a book that makes you cry when you least expect it.  I love a book that displays the heartbreaking beauty of life so vividly it takes your breath away.  This is just that kind of book and Deborah Wiles is that kind of author.  There is a forward that sets the stage when she reveals that this book was written out of her own personal experience of surviving a significant death, which makes me want to hug her even more.

The quote which sums up the book (without giving anything away in case you want to read it) is spoken by great-uncle Edisto who spent his life dealing with death:

Open your arms to life!  Let it strut into your heart 
in all it's messy glory!

When life seems so fragile and it appears that tragedy is lurking around ever corner, "It takes courage to look life in the eye and say yes to the messy glory".  In the end, a life lived without challenge, without tears, isn't living at all.

Thank you Deborah for using your pain to create a beautiful story that we all can share.  Thank you for reminding us of the messiness of life.  Thank you for reminding us to embrace it anyway.


PS.  Check out the SHOP tab at the top of the page to see this book and others by the author. 

03 February 2014

And Then There's February

It is was January.  That means out with the old and in with the new.  We face the new year, resolved to improve ourselves and our lives in every way.  Suddenly life is reduced to resolutions and to-do lists.  Measured by order and productivity.  Everything in it's place and a place for everything.    Eat, think, live, be- BETTER!

Every January I get swept up in this mindset but this January it had been weighing on me in particular.  This January is different from past years.  Lately, I have been working full-time.  Well, short-term, full-time if that makes sense.  There have been ample opportunities for me to substitute at my children's elementary school as several babies have been born over the past two years.  As my last maternity leave was nearing a close everyone started to ask the question,  SO....What will you do with ALL THAT TIME?  I know it was a perfectly innocent question, one asked out of friendly curiosity.  However, each time it was asked I felt stressed.  I felt pressured.  Surely now that I had managed a household of seven and worked full-time I would be able to solve the world's problems with ALL THAT TIME.  The question of what I would do had never loomed heavier on my mind or my heart.  I was becoming fearful of those empty days and hours.

I hadn't had very much time to adjust to life with all the kids in school.  I sent my youngest child off to preschool only months before the first long-term sub job started.  It seems I was just pondering my new life and it was gone before it started.  Suddenly I found myself on the outside looking in.  I was actually on the working woman side of the fence, peering in at this odd world.  What do stay-at-home moms do all day, anyway?  It is often asked with a bit of envy and a healthy dose of contempt.  What had I done before I worked?  Certainly moms with young children at home are given a pass so to speak.  We can all understand the amount of time it takes to care for a tantrum-throwing, mess-making, attention-demanding toddler.  But what happens when the kids all go to school?  Not sure what other stay-at-home moms do but I can sum up my first month home in two words: NERVOUS BREAKDOWN.  Think I am being funny?  Well, sort of.

I found myself waking up at 5:30 am hell bent on seizing the day (Dead Poets Society being one of my all time favorite movies, after all).  I would breathlessly worry my way through the day always wondering if my priorities were precise and what I else I could, would, should be doing.  By 10:30 pm, despite having crossed everything off my neatly- written to do list I collapsed in bed feeling like I had not accomplished enough.  Was I productive enough?  Was I creative enough?  I was striving to be both and losing my sanity in the tension it caused.  I think the word tension is key.  In researching the definition I came across this line which stunned me by how well it summed up my month:

When things feel so tight they might snap, that's tension.

Then I found this quote by Calvin and Hobbes writer Bill Waterson which gave me a laugh:

“God put me on earth to accomplish certain things. Right now, I’m so far behind, I’ll never die.” 
― Bill Watterson

Doesn't that sum up the mentality of the modern world?  It feeds into the idea that if you are busy you are important.  Your life matters.  And busy means measurable results.  Productivity.  Beds made.  Laundry folded.

I lived my January in response to an argument in my head.  An argument with nameless, faceless working women.  An argument with a voice I had encountered a few times then continued to replay in my head- You stay home.  You are not important.  I was living my life justifying it to everyone who ever made a snide comment about women who choose not to work for a time.  I was living my life, making daily choices for every one else-  EVERYONE ELSE, who I finally realized turned out to be no one- not even myself.

Now February has arrived.  In college I had a Garfield cartoon on my bulletin board claiming February to be the "armpit of the year".  I loved it then but now I couldn't disagree more.   January is a fresh start which is too demanding in it's resolution, it's perfection, it's righting all the holiday wrongs.  Heck, righting a lifetime of wrongs.  That's just too much pressure for our feeble human nature.  And then there's February.  February is a kinder, gentler month.  January is a sprint.  February is the start of the long-distance run.  Where the rubber meets the road.  Where the wheat is separated from the chaff.  What change can you really implement and live with?  What change do you want to make for you alone, no matter what the world will think.

I am happy to have survived January with my sanity mostly in tact but I am also happy that it is now in the rear-view mirror.  I am thankful it is February.  I do, however, realize there is value in both. We need the hard slap in the face that is January.  We need to be productive.  We also need the humane dose of living within balance that February, and the months after, provide.  Just as there is value in and need for both productivity and creativity.  Work is necessary but production without creativity fueling it would turn us into robots, living to work.  "Are we sent here to do chores and hold horses?" asks Thoreau.  On the other hand, creativity- a real enthusiasm, inspiration and passion for something- without any production is useless.  Dr. George Sheehan writes:

     Otherwise, we are merely wishing, idle dreamers in the world of the flaccid spirit.  We must want something and want it badly- want it with the zeal and passion and enthusiasm of a Don Quixote or a missionary.  Then, we will suddenly find ourselves in motion, with a clear focus on our goal.  Once moved, the spirit and the flesh are like a team of matched horses, each asking more of the other.  Fused by the will for that brief and wonderful moment, the flesh and the spirit become one.
     I am-just as you are-a unique, never-to-be-repeated event in this universe.  Therefore, I have-just as you have- a unique, never-to-be-repeated role to play in this world.  Mine is a personal drama for which I am at once author, actor, director, and producer.

With a hard-fought January behind me and many lessons learned, I am ready to write, act, direct and produce a wonderful February that just may last a lifetime.