Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Day is Long but the Years are Short

Gretchin Rubin of the Happiness Project often quotes the line "the day is long but the years are short."  This summer I am experiencing an acute and chronic case of time-speed vertigo.   This is the summer when Elliot turns nine.  NINE. YEARS. OLD.  Which means that nearly a decade has passed since he has been with me.  The exponential growth is showing no sign of slowing.   In fact, Elliot's growth and development seems as swift as  a speeding train.

This weekend, we faced the big job of organizing and packing away toys.  Was it a coincidence that we ended up with nine boxes?  One box of toys for each year.  Each box was sorted by name, marking the journey of his little boy-hood.  One for animals, a big box for train sets, one for Matchbox cars and tracks, one labeled action figures, one for Transformers and one for Star Wars, one for toy weapons and armor, a box of wood blocks and a box of random parts.  All will be saved and made accessible if he decides to reclaim those hours of imaginary pretend.  The Legos have survived our packing spree.  Earlier this year, we decided to make peace with Elliot's plastic brick building obsession.  He now has a special Lego building room that we created by converting two connecting closets into a narrow room.  It even has a window!

I usually do not enter this space.  My feet thank me.

This does not mean that my son has completely given up on imaginary play.  His imagination is thriving, but the materials and tools have changed.  Lately Elliot is becoming more of a builder, a maker, a crafter and a creator.  We are in the process of becoming a more project-based home school.  The current project is three dimensional paper Minecraft world which has held his attention for weeks.  We set up our ping-pong table, covered it in plain paper, then printed out patterns to create folded figures and cubes.

 Overlapping that project is Elliot's Ninja Art, which is steadily growing.  In addition, we are also preparing for the annual birthday party, which will be a sleep-over with an outdoor movie and campfire.  This year, I thought we might skip the party and take one friend and visit the water park.  But when Elliot had no cavities at the dentist for the FIRST TIME EVER, we decided that a celebration was well deserved.  Note to self: brush, floss, rinse. Daily.  Then you won't have the shame of tooth decay to report to your son.

Parents of the party-goers will probably kill me, but I'm working on handmade toys for the goodie bags. This is because I despise the plastic garbage found at Walmart and Party City.  Inside each bag, the children will discover little bows with q-tip arrows to play with in Elliot's three dimensional Minecraft world.  I know some of our homeschooling friends will love those!  Younger children will receive a different prize that is not so controversial (toy weapons! scandalous!) or as challenging to little fingers.

The quiver fits around the arm or wrist, but Elliot likes to wear his up high on his shoulder.  They are inspired by the Leaf Men from the movie Epic.  These little bows kept Elliot busy for hours.  Sometimes he was able to shoot the q-tips as far as 8 feet.  During the party, they will be used only at designated target areas. Otherwise they will be required to return their prizes.

One of the games we are planning is capture the flag. Are you sensing a warrior-like theme going on here? From this pacifist mother?  Conflict resolution has been a years-long conversation in our household.  I am confident that Elliot understands the difference between real war and imaginary, pretend play.  I have come to embrace his boy-child desire for action and conflict role play as a part of normal childhood development.  This acceptance places me in an uncomfortable position as a member of a Quaker meeting.  But the dilemma has passed. I have to honestly admit that my high idealism makes me a hypocrite.  While I claim to be a pacifist, my husband argues that I am most certainly not.  Perhaps this is because he is often the recipient of my anger and frustration, my stubborn, persistent drive to stand for myself when no one else will.  It's true that I love kindness, that I embrace compassion, that I strive for love over hate.  But in reality, I'm probably pretty defensive when I feel attacked.

  So, march on, childhood, in all it's imaginative forms!  We've collected a huge supply of cardboard boxes for each team to build their "bunkers" and "jails."  So along with the bows and little q-tip arrows, each child will receive a capture the flag kit, which will have arm bands for team colors and flags.  Each child will also receive a paper sack with s'mores ingredients.   So far we are attempting to keep prizes and games friendly to the environment and to the wallet.  We'll see how that works out in reality!

In between the rush of activity, we have been enjoying our evening meals on the back porch.  Usually the afternoon storms roll in just before dinner, giving us cooling breezes from the sluggish humidity.

How is your summer speeding along?  Sometimes the heat here makes me wistful for times when I wore a scarf in winter, with the ice crystals clinging to the yarn, and that moist scent of winter air, filtered by that handmade, warming wrap.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Prairie Homecoming

The village of Agency, Missouri is populated by 210 families.  It it set in the rolling farmland of the heartland of America.  The distance from Greensboro to Agency is 1068 miles.  Which is a manageable drive if you stop to sleep in Nashville.  But when your dog has a severe bout of diarrhea, you must keep on driving and stop frequently, making the trip an agonizing 24 hour ride.

It was all worth it.  This trip held every emotion, from frustration and despair to joy and love.  My husband's childhood home is a place where my perspective of life expands like the sky.  These journeys into the farms of western Missouri uncover things about myself that I fail to recognize at home.  Travel teaches and stretches my understanding for what is possible.  Upon my return, though tired and weak from emotional stress and a marathon drive, I find that I am driven to throw away limiting behaviors and work harder.  I am in a season of life where my body is strong and capable, my mind active and seeking.  The goals and hopes I have are elusive clouds on the horizon, but my joy is in the daily chores.

April is poetry, but June is a novel...full of afternoon storms and muggy heat.  It is the fading of spring blooms but the ripening of squash on the vine.  It is a boy and his dad, catching bass in the pond.

Elliot's first bass!  

It is a live theater performance in the beautiful cultural district of Kansas City.  Elliot decided that Shakespeare comedy is "silly, but true." I could tell that he was following the language despite the fast pace, when half way through, he swatted a bug and said "a fly goes before me."  HA!

If you ever travel to Kansas City in the summer, I highly recommend attending the Heart of America Shakespeare festival.  It is world class theater!  

June on a Missouri farm is peace.

And freedom.

It is place and time to renew the spirit and to refresh feelings of love for family.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Winner of the Hugging Tree Giveaway

True Random Number Generator  1Powered by

Congratulations Shelly!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Hugging Tree Giveaway!

Hi Friends!  Today I have a special gift to share.  As many of you know, I am a champion for the expansion of Mary Gordon's international program Roots of Empathy.  It is a program that brings babies and their parents into school classrooms to teach the language of feelings and empathy for all.  Because I love this program and would be thrilled to see it come to my community, I'm reaching out, writing letters, emails, talking to people, and praying.  As it sometimes happens when I'm inspired by something good, it manifests into a creative project.  The Hugging Trees are new items I'm showcasing this week in the shop, with 100% of the profits to benefit the expansion of ROE.  Today, I'd like to share a Hugging Tree with one of you!

The Hugging Tree

New for 2013! It's The Hugging Tree! 

*****Special Announcement: Starting this month, 100% of the profits from the sale of The Hugging Tree will be donated to the expansion of Roots of Empathy in the United States. Roots of Empathy is an award winning international program which teaches the literacy of emotion and empathy through nine classroom visits by a new parent and a baby. Creator Mary Gordon believes that babies are the best teachers of empathy because they have not yet learned to hide their emotions. By involving children in the unfolding story of the parent-child relationship, Roots of Empathy is engaging students in a world of social and emotional learning

Mary writes: "Roots of Empathy places babies in the role of teachers because babies love without borders or definition."

"This program puts relationships at the center of what creates a civil society, whether that society is a small classroom, the whole school, the community, the country, or our ever shrinking globe."

******In every instance of child abuse and neglect, empathy is the missing element.

*******Studies have proven a 50% reduction of aggression in the classroom. It is changing the world, child by child.

About The Hugging Tree:

Made with all new materials and filled with soft poly fill, this item simply feels good to hug when you're having a rough day. 

* The Hugging Tree helps with posture; the canopy and trunk support the shoulders and spine while seated upright.

* Excellent for relaxing yoga meditations

* Fits well with woodland or nature themed decor

* Supportive to the neck and head while reclining; excellent reading pillow for home, office or classroom.

* Teddy bears love to sit under it.

* Custom colors available, please convo with requests Patterns may vary depending upon availability. 

About the giveaway:

In the comments, please share a true story about a time when someone's compassionate kindness healed a hurt inside.  I will choose the winner using a random number generator.  Please notify me of your Hugging Tree color choice and include how you would like to be contacted if you are the winner.  I will not publish personal information or email addresses.   


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Tangle

Because this blog is not anonymous, there's a wide, deep river of life and dialogue that is happening under the surface of these weekly reflections. There are characters and conflicts, long discussions, life lessons and grief.  There are moments of loving kindness, freedom and joy, gobs of daily, boring routine, relationships that wax and wane in their intensity.

There are anecdotes and situations that arise with no apparent meaning, which call us to question and wait in a state of unknowing. 

And I leave those interesting bits out for the sake of privacy.

Yet still I am compelled to write through the complicated issues. To capture in some inadequate manner the emotional truth of events that bind us like the jumbled string of Charlie Brown's kite.  

So far, this is a season full of sunshine and children swimming, a season of discovering new running routes and blissful bike rides on the shaded greenway, a season of  playing music and creativity, a season of fireflies and feeding carrots to the horses that live on our street, a season of back yard campfires and nights spent reading Great Expectations aloud before bedtime.  It is a season of swinging in suspended chairs and hammocks under a canopy of dogwood trees.  With all this beauty, there's another, darker shadow.  A  tangle in my heart.  The kind of tangle that appears when someone we love, who lives far away, is experiencing cancer.  

This tangle also includes the knots of life-long relationships. The patient and the family surrounding this patient   are a mass of complicated knots.  I have learned, through painful interaction, that my role is extremely limited.  This is a drama from which I must observe from the shadows of the curtains offstage.

This is a tangle which will unravel without much interaction from me, except to observe and breathe silently along.

Today I pray for healing and the shrinking of tumors between people that no one can see on a scan.

There's also this complicated knot of feeling beautifully, vibrantly alive in contrast to another person's illness.  Have you ever felt guilty about simply being healthy when someone else is suffering?  I used to feel this way when my father was fighting the cancer in his chest.

I felt guilty to be alive and well.

My dad said, "My demise is coming."  He said he wasn't afraid to die.

But I am.  And I was afraid of that moment when I would have to say goodbye to him.  It was terrible.  It was fully of messy, salty tears mixed with choking sobs and snot and guilt.  Other people were in the room, so embarrassed by my pain that they left.  I don't know if he could hear or understand me, so bloated was his face, his mouth slack jawed and open, sucking air.

It was a time when I walked around wearing a cloak of helplessness, chain mail heavy.  I didn't know if I would ever be able to take off that cloak.

Some days, I still wear it.

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