Friday, April 27, 2012

Dear Instagram

Dear Instagram,

Was I ever ecstatic when you showed up on the Android market!  I couldn't wait to cross the Great Divide and switch from our Android phones to the iPhone at our next upgrade.  Not for iTunes, though I'll use it; not for iCloud, though I'll use it, too.  But truly, exclusively for you, my dear Instagram.

But wait no more.  I was one of the 1 million people who downloaded Instagram on the first day it went on the Android market.  I had been drooling over my friends' Instagram pictures on Facebook, wondering how it is that they can make a picture speak, um, a gazillion words.  There was something about Instagram pictures--I didn't know what--that made them seem so polished, dreamy, and classic.  They also look different in that they are shaped like perfect squares instead of the digital 4 x 3 format. 

So with great excitement, I began to play.  On my version, Instagram has 17 preset digital filters that alter the look of your pictures.  Depending on which one you pick, your original photo can look faded, pop in colors, black and white, plus more.  And then I discovered the social networking component to it: it's like Facebook/Twitter all over again with following/followers in photo-sharing style.  Which, to me, is just decorative icing, since I really would be taking photos and sharing them on Facebook, Twitter, and my blogs anyway. 

With the blooming of my new tulips, I went to work.  I buried my face in mulch and weeds to capture a tulip with the bluest of skies as a backdrop.  I made Dear Husband hold a tulip in the most awkward position until his hand shook with fatigue.  I sneaked pictures of Dear Son watching TV or playing just so I could play with the digital filters.  'Mommy's taking pictures again' and 'What'd you do, take 20 pictures of that tulip?' were often overheard around here.  To which I'd reply, 'Yes, I love me some Instagram!'

(To be fair to the objects of my lens, however, some shots do not need any filters.  Some things speak for themselves.  And to take away their focus, color, or lighting would just be a crime of epic proportions.  To ensure that, I trust that the subjects of my photos will give me a piece of their minds in order to retain the essence of their beings.)

A few days after my precious (and free) acquisition of this fabulous app, Facebook announced its one billion dollar acquisition of Instagram.  That either validates my interest in this app or someone just has a lot of money to spend.  I don't know what implications this takes on for Instagram or Facebook, but since I planned to share my pictures there, it hopefully won't complicate things too much.  Facebook has already segregated Instagram pics from other mobile uploads in their own distinct folders; I guess it considers its Instagram pictures as already in a class of its own.

I've always enjoyed taking photos, and with the ease of digital cameras these days, photography just seems to be an easy hobby to take up.  But short of reading our new camera's user manual for all the different effects the camera is capable of--and when my days spare me no extra time to decipher a booklet of photography terms--my smart camera phone will just have to do for now.  And with Instagram, I'm good to go.

Of course, I'm late again getting on the It Train; I'm always catching up.  Instagram has been around  since 2010, and here I am, hopping on as a last minute customer.   But again, better late than never, since how else do you make a salt shaker look like it's melancholy and needs a little 'shake me up'?

So, Instagram, I am so excited to have you in my life.  You will decorate my vision with all sorts of still shots that elicit moods and conjure ambiances I have not had the pleasure to see before.  And it's as easy as pulling out my phone to do so.  I know that down the line I will want to get out that user manual and learn how to use a real camera, get familiar with lighting and focus and aperture, and create effects all on my own.  But for now, you are my stepping stone, and until then, you are my best friend. 


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dear Jolt

Dear Jolt,

As I was taking a photograph of my wilting vase tulip, you were the cause of the resulting effect--a blur.

And a blur is the way my eyes saw the world the past couple of days.  I continued to complete my day-to-day tasks on auto-pilot: getting the kids off to school; preparing meals; being a caretaker.  But my mind has been muddled by a jolt--one that rocked the center of my being.

I've spent most of my adult life practicing the things I preach to the kiddos.  Be kind; be courteous; be responsible; be just.  In the real world, when someone does not treat me in those ways, it is disheartening, particularly if it's a direct, face-to-face act.

For days now I've replayed the events in my head, over and over, like the repetition of a broken record.  A million what ifs, a billion I shouldas.  Like a novice driver who cannot merge to the outer lane in order to exit a circle on the road, I stayed--with trepidation and lost determination--on the inner lane, unable to get out.  I drove around and around until dizziness took over, and the blur became vertigo.

The culture in which I grew up placed much value on humility.  In its practice, one is to never be proud, overly self-confident, or assuming.  Furthermore, when one receives a compliment, it is customary to very humbly refute the compliment and emphasize one's mediocrity.  Although I have been in my western culture long enough to no longer observe the latter, apparently, I have not escaped the boundaries of the former. 

So thus I wallow in my own world of pity before I move on.  I trudge through thick fluid in the dark and breathe in whiffs of a familiar stench that tastes metallic on my tongue.  I scream in a vacuum devoid of sound.  I feel the painful prick of a pin that deflates the air in my lungs so that--no matter how quickly I inhale--I cannot replenish the oxygen depleting through that pinhole.  I endure the throbbing ache in my chest when I am angry at myself for my lack of action, my meek personality, and my tendency to be overly considerate to others.  I diminish.

But, I am surrounded by Happiness, Love, and Kindness; they are my family and friends.  During this earthquake, I still see, however blurry my sights may be.  I see that Time will make this all better, and leave a scar that adds another ingredient to my Wisdom recipe.  I know that I must simply move through the stages of all the aftershocks, and ride through the ripples from the epicenter to get through this.  I will find focus again, taste the sweet nectar of confidence once more, and turn that wheel, merge, and exit the damn circle with conviction to get to my destination.  In the meantime, I bake banana muffins to speed along the healing.

Most importantly, I will have stayed true to myself.  I will not have changed me in order to achieve something that betrays my Self.  I will continue to be kind, and courteous, and responsible, and just, even when someone 'undid' all of those things to me.  When I have moved through all the stages of this recovery, I will still be me.

So, Dear Jolt, I know that you must appear in our lives every now and then.  And you almost certainly make unannounced, surprise visits.  But do know that I am rooted by a decent sense of Self, and that it will be hard to knock me so far off my feet that I cannot get back up.  I know I am still feeling your remaining effects, but once I patch that pinhole in my center, I shall once again breathe with ease and stability.  The world will stop spinning, and I will see clearly again. 


Friday, April 20, 2012

Dear Earth Day

Dear Earth Day,

We welcome you this year with our newly planted tulips that have gone into full bloom!

I have a favorite T-shirt with a beautiful quote that I always associate with Earth Day: The Earth was not given to us by our parents, but loaned to us by our children.  As we live our day-to-day life, it's sometimes hard to see the bigger picture.  It's not everyday that we think about how Earth has a finite life--with a beginning, middle and an end--and how lucky we are to be here in the midst of it.  I guess we all get a little reminder each year when our children learn about the good things we can do to keep Earth a better home in the month of April.

When we throw away a piece of trash, we don't usually think about the rest of its life.  When we take out a garbage bag, we don't think about all the garbage bags in our neighborhood, in our city, in our state, in our country, and in our world.  Multiply that one trash bag by the entire world's, then it's quite a scary picture.  When I do think about that, it gives me much impetus to follow the three rules of recycling: Reduce, Recycle, Reuse.  I recycle plenty of reusable materials (maybe a bit too much, as our closets are piling up with toilet paper rolls, glass jars, egg cartons, and milk jugs), since I always think I can make a nice project out of them with the kiddos.  However, I am also very guilty of not always putting recyclable materials in the recycle bin but instead into the trash.  But then again, I am the only one who will fish out something from the lovely trashcan to redirect it to the recycle bin.

On the topic of active recycling, our village provides us with a large trash bin and a small recycle bin.  I hope I am not the only one who finds this strange.  I believe that the recycle bin should be the bigger one.  We build up way more things that are recyclable than not.  When I see households that only push out a trash bin on garbage pickup days, it truly saddens me.  Not taking the time to throw something away in a different bin for the sake of reducing trash is just beyond me.  Not to mention our recycle materials do not have to be separated!  Our recycle center has one feed for all materials, so we just have to put everything into one bin.  It cannot be easier than that.  (And yet, some people still choose not to push out an extra bin.)

The kiddos and I talked about what we can do to help our Earth.  Dear Son immediately gave me some easy but great answers such as: turn off lights when they're not needed, make less trash, plant more trees and flowers, and recycle/reuse things.  Dear Daughter also mentioned a few more: don't waste food, don't smoke and drive less to make less air pollution, don't litter, don't waste water, and cut down fewer trees.   That they could come up with so many things already made me proud.  We discussed how we can accomplish each of these things in our abilities, and decided that we should stick to our own suggestions.

Dear Husband and I also discussed the practicality of our recycle collector in the kitchen.  It is an old trashcan, which is too darn small.  A few milk jugs or juice containers would fill it up.  When it's filled, our laziness takes over and points smaller pieces of recyclable materials to the trashcan.  So we will be replacing our little bin with a large storage box to better facilitate the collection process before they go into the large recycle bin in the garage.  And I vow to not be lazy and place all recyclable materials in the box instead of the trashcan, even if it means running up and down a flight of stairs.  I'm making that my Earth Day Resolution (since I did not make a New Year Resolution this year). 

A few weeks ago at Trifecta Writing Challenge, I submitted an entry about Earth Day.  The prompt word was 'brain' in the third definition.  See details of the prompt here.  I'll leave you with this poem I wrote in celebration of Earth Day:

Earth Days

There are few things in life
That we can we really count on.
But our Earth promises us
Some things we depend upon.

The hours in a day,
And the weeks in a year;
They will never change,
We never have to fear.

Days turn into nights,
And nights back to days,
As Earth faithfully rotates
About its axis, always.

And the seasons of a year--
Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter--
One comes after the previous,
No matter where we shelter.

And so Earth's Brain
On auto-pilot will continue
To give us a steady rhythm
That our lives undeniably value.

It is, thus, natural for us
To embrace Earth's Heart,
And show our gratitude
To the planet we take part.

Once a year we are reminded
To be kind and gentle to Earth.
But all year long should we strive
To celebrate its dignified worth.

For our Home is incredibly rare;
As we know of no other place
In the vast universe so far,
That supports life and all of its grace.

So, Earth Day, I think we will have an annual tradition of welcoming you with our tulips from now on.  We plan to add more bulbs into the earth of our yard so our first-born tulips will not only have a sibling or two, but also become fuller, more colorful, and act as a greater reminder of how important it is to observe the elements of making you a better place.  Happy Earth Day!


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Dear Circus Spectacular

Dear Circus Spectacular,

On a weekend outing with the kiddos to see you a few weeks ago, I realized how much I have aged.

It must have been a long time since I've seen a three ring circus.  My memories of circus acts are from live shows and footage from television.  What I remember most are skillful tightrope walkers with their awkward, long horizontal poles, and swinging acrobats flying and flipping through the silenced air.  Each of their exciting acts always led to the crowd's cheers and roars.

Our Circus Spectacular show began with white tigers and giant elephants.  The tigers were released into the caged center ring, all one dozen of them.  They roared, swatted, leaped, jumped through fiery hoops, and stood up as the trainer's whips flew in the air.  Then the elephants trotted out, trunk to tail, parading through the rings.  The largest elephant -- gray, wrinkly, and docile -- showed off her humorous personality by skipping, begging for apples, and rolling her massive body on a tiny barrel.  I had completely forgotten how nimble and agile these enormous animals can be.

The first two acts immediately brought to mind the book I read last year, Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen.  Flashes of the book's major themes quickly surfaced: the hardships endured by life in the circus as well as the caste system that dictated how much adversity different crew members faced; the lives of the animals in captivity and their day-to-day training and transportation in confined spaces; and the dangers that stuntmen face and the risks they take in order to make a living.  I had no idea that this Circus Spectacular show was going to make me feel so unsettled.

The next set of acts involved ladies hung by their hair, spinning and twirling high up in the air.  Then, more women joined in by climbing up a sash and wrapping the sash around their bodies in such a way that they can let go, tumble down, and stop just short of hitting the ground.  While they were all beautiful to watch, it was also a bit heartbreaking; I wondered if the audience appreciated their efforts, as this was not high on the 'wow factor', and the applause was lukewarm at best.  I also couldn't help but think of what's really behind all their deliberate, presentation-style smiles.

The acts that took my emotions by a wild-goose chase were the daredevil stunts.  The ringmaster himself was in an incredible stunt act that took most people's breaths away.  Picture a long steel apparatus that turns on a fixed axis at its center, and one end sports a large wheel big enough to fit a grown man inside.  As this thing spins around on its axis, the ringmaster walked inside the large wheel with no belts or safety net present.  After a few rounds, he stepped outside of his wheel, and was then walking around on top of the wheel as the entire apparatus spun on its axis.  This stunt was called the Wheel of Death, a little too appropriately so.  I found myself wincing and looking away as soon as he took out a jump rope and started skipping while the wheel traveled at least 5 stories up in the air at a speed faster than we perceive from far away.  Then he blindfolded himself.  Then he did more things that made people screech and gasp from fear.  I cannot tell you what else he did because I could no longer watch his act by that point.  I only felt better when his act was over and he was still alive.

Near the end of the spectacular show were motorcycle daredevils that also scared the bejeezus out of me. Cyclists would ride up a ramp, fly through the air, and land on a down ramp with a loud thud.  Which is all fine, except that for the few seconds they were up in the air 3 stories high, they would leave their seats and do all kinds of things just short of letting go and falling straight down to the ground.  I just could not bring myself to look up at nearly half of their motorcycle flights.

Nevertheless, these stuntmen are great at what they do.  They are skilled and precise, probably in no real danger from harm since they do this multiple times a day, most days of the week.  They can probably do all of this with their eyes closed, literally.  But my mind just goes to the one darkest place here: what if.

Thankfully, there were a few acts that I simply adored.  The clown act with the wind-up stuffed animals: one stuffed animal walked with movements so real that I was completely baffled, and it turned out to be a dog dressed inside a stuffed elephant suit.  Then there were the jugglers: oh, the jugglers.  They were so awesome: the speed, the tricks, the showmanship.  And it didn't involve the risk of accidental death or bodily dismemberment!

So while I hid my eyes from all the spectacle, I took pictures of the kiddos.  And those photos revealed their immediate and true reactions to the exciting sights they saw.  They had that sparkle in their eyes that said -- wow.  Dear Son loved the motorcyclists; Dear Daughter was mesmerized by the Wheel of Death.  They enjoyed the show they way I enjoyed them as a child.  They watched it for the fantastic show it was, unfiltered by the lens of age, paranoia, and cynicism in my eyes. 

I'm a little saddened by my unexpected reaction to the show.  Perhaps it made me realize that age changes your perspective sometimes a little too swiftly and drastically.  I walked away from the show a wee bit disheartened by all the negative thoughts that inundated my poor old brain, which apparently lasted long enough to appear here.  But I am glad that the kiddos enjoyed the show.  So long as they didn't enjoy it enough to want to join the circus. 

So, Circus Spectacular, it may just be that I am too old for you now.  I'll always enjoy your cotton candy and clown acts, but I fear my weary heart cannot handle all the other risky excitement you showcase.  I'll just be busy photographing the kiddos and marveling at their looks of wonder as they watch you. 


Friday, April 13, 2012

Dear Best Surprises

Dear Best Surprises,

In our mundane, day-to-day life, you give us tiny glimmers of excitement.  On the weeks that drag on and Friday cannot come soon enough, you come as little gifts that help us get through the long day and the hard week.  Here are my Top Ten Best Surprises in my ordinary, uneventful, stay-at-home life.

10. That I find a wad of folded bills in the pocket of a jacket, from last winter!  #freelargeicedcoffeeday

9.  That due to age-related amnesia, I realize I am actually younger than I thought I was (because age becomes one big blur when approaching 40).  #freetravelbackintime

8.  That Dear Husband comes home early from work, unannounced, and takes us all out to dinner.  #pumpfistlikemad

7.  That on a Friday night, there exists 1). a Netflix movie to watch, 2). all ingredients for a cocktail present, and 3). enough wherewithal to last through the movie and drink.  #whatarethechances

6.  That the three things I went to the store to buy were all on sale.  #hitthejackpot

5. That at the exact moment I take a deep inhale in order to spew out infuriated loudness at my kiddos, Dear Son sneaks in an even louder, "I love you, Mommy!"  #workitlittleman

4.  That Dear Daughter decides to put away the clean dishes because it is 'fun'.  #howlongwillthatlast

3.  That I find a photo of myself that I actually do not detest.  #onceinabluemoon

2.  That I actually played a bingo word on Wordfeud in a game with DH: OH. THE. SHEER. JOY.  DH is insanely good at it, and I pretty much just always pout whether he wins by a few points or by a 3 digit number.  #oneinonehundredgames

(and... drum roll, please...)

1.  That when I've run out of clean knickers and are cursing the knicker gods for forsaking me (and thus having to run a load at the last minute), I miraculously find one last pair.  #myknickergodsrock

And there you have it: the best ordinary surprises life offers me.  At my age, I'm not a huge fan of surprises, since they are no longer the birthday or holiday surprises like the ones our kiddos get.  But any one of those above, I'll take any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Best Surprises, thank you for your appearances in my day-to-day grind.  Happy Friday!


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Dear Suzuki Book Concert

Dear Suzuki Book Concert,

You are the proof in mastery of a book in the Suzuki music theory series.  You are a celebration of growth and advancement in music learning for the student.  You are also a challenge to see how long parents can hold their breaths.

In Dear Daughter's Suzuki Music School, Book Concerts are held periodically for students who have learned all the songs in a book.  Students perform at least five songs from the book from memory, repeats and all.  Except for the piano, all other instruments require accompaniment with a piano.  This is an optional concert for students, as there are four required concerts for all students (2 solo concerts and 2 group concerts) each year.  It is undoubtedly not an easy feat. 

I found out about the dates for the scheduled Book Concerts about 6 weeks ago.  At that time, DD was on the last piece in Book 3.  The Spring group concert's music was just posted.  There will be four pieces from Book 3 (although one piece will be changed to another key) that DD will have to play anyway.  I had never felt that DD would be ready for a Book Concert as strongly as I have this time (she did not participate in any previous ones for Books 1 and 2).  I struggled with the idea for a few days.

First, I asked DD if she might be interested in performing in the Book Concert.  She shrugged.  Maybe.  If anyone deserves to receive the Most Indecisive Award of the year, it should be DD.  Granted, this isn't something that is fun; it is something that she would actually have to work hard for.  But she didn't flat out say no

Furthermore, committing to a Book Concert is not only work for DD, but I had many other issues to consider.  I would have to commit to all the practicing at home.  I would have to grow some extra patience, enough to last over a month.  I would have to face the anxiety of her going on stage for an optional concert. 

Since DD's very first violin recital, Dear Husband and I always smiled at her while we were a total nervous wreck on the inside.  I've often joked about sweating profusely and holding our breaths during her recitals.  These worries have evolved into questionable blood pressure and the need for anxiety meds on my part, and improved lung capacity and increased blood circulation on DH's part.  And this isn't Tiger Mom at work; I do not get myself into a mess because I want her to play perfectly or be the best performer.  DH and I have a near nervous breakdown for her sake.

As a little perfectionist, it is difficult for DD to make mistakes.  And when she does, she easily falls apart.  During the first few years of violin practices at home, upon any mistake, DD would start the piece over.  She would not listen to advice about just working on a few practice spots.  It was the entire piece, played perfectly, or nothing at all.  During those early recitals, we were so afraid that any mistakes she'd make would break her.  If she had a bad experience on stage, we thought for sure she would give up playing violin all together and consider herself a failure.

This is her fourth year of playing violin, and I guess she's learned a thing or two about being on stage.  She has put a certain kind of trust on the stage, where she goes into a special concentration mode that allows to her play with care and grace.  This is my fourth year of being a mom to a violinist, and I guess I've learned a thing or two about my own freakish paranoia.  I've finally realized that -- after every concert so far -- DD has always played beautifully, and nothing ever less.  Still, I struggled about whether or not to have DD participate in the Book Concert.  I knew that I could easily persuade Miss Indecisive if it was the right thing to do.  Or, I could have easily shut one eye and let the Book Concert pass us by.  But I wondered if I would miss an opportunity to allow DD to know what she is capable of.  I suspected that she was capable of this if we both worked at it together. 

So I took the plunge and signed up, after which DH said to me, "Why didn't you talk to me first before you opened your big mouth?" spoken like an equally freakish Dad about his perfectionist daughter.  (Okay, those may not have been his exact words, but it was indeed the exact sentiment conveyed).  See, I'm not the only one.  But I believed.  And we practiced.  And rehearsed with the piano accompanist twice.  And we got ready. 

This past Saturday, DD took the stage, and played 5 pieces from Suzuki Violin Book 3 (two of which will be repeated for the Spring group concert).  She played for 13 minutes total.  13 glorious minutes that made my heart swell with joy.  To have remembered all the notes was amazing enough.  To have continued playing through tiny little slips of the bow or finger was huge.  To have stood there with the grace and poise she possessed was monumental. 

It didn't matter that I popped my Xanax too late, and my heart pounded through the entire 13 minutes.  It didn't matter that I couldn't keep my feet still or that my palms wouldn't stop sweating.  It didn't even matter that DH broke his breath-holding record or that his arm almost fell off from holding the camcorder for 13 minutes.  What mattered was that DD accomplished something that made herself feel very proud.  The best part of this entire process for me was that there was not one single tear or one ounce of resentment on her part during practices at home.  I think we've both learned a thing or two about violin practices over the years. 

Unbeknownst to her, the kind of pride that parents feel about their children far outweighs the one you ever feel for yourself.  All the things I've done in my life that I was ever proud of shy in comparison to this moment, where I feel the pride for a little human being I call 'my daughter'.  It was then that I knew we had done the right thing.

So, Suzuki Book Concert, am I ever glad that we finally took a part in you after four years of violin lessons.  It was so nice to see all that sparkle on stage: the gleaming sequins on DD's shirt, the glittery diamond-studded black ballet flats she wore, the shiny blue nail polish she sported next to those violin strings, as well as the twinkle in her eyes as she finished the pieces and looked up from a last bow.  Wouldn't you agree?


Friday, April 6, 2012

Dear Real World

Dear Real World,

You are what we parents try to prepare our children for, aren't you?  We want our kids to be ready for you when the time comes for them to stretch their wings and fly.  Well, I seem to be a little confused about how to teach my kids for you.  Let me explain.

We've taught our kids right from wrong in settings such as school, home, in public, etc.  They know all about 'standing in line' and 'waiting for your turn'.  They know not to say mean things or be violent.  They certainly know about listening and following directions.  Maybe all too well.

One day, Dear Husband watched Dear Son through an extracurricular classroom door where the children were engaged in a group activity.  DH later described to me what he saw.  The children were lined up to take turns and toss a ball into a target.  DS was at the end of the line.  Well, somehow, he just seemed to have stayed at the end because other children kept cutting in front of him.  There was a lot of pushing and shoving, and other kids had several turns before he even had one.  DH was so frustrated watching this that he wanted to go inside the classroom and get him to have a turn.  (But of course, he held back like any sane parent would do).

But DS just stood there, patiently, waiting for his turn.  La-di-da.  He was neither upset or impatient at all the action around him.  Eventually, he got his turn and he did his thing.  And then he went to the back of the line, just to miss a few more ball-tossing opportunities.  It turns out that he did all the things he was taught to do.  But from a bystander's point of view, where did that get him?  Several lost turns, kids taking advantage of his unassertive personality, and getting nowhere for actually following directions.  Which makes us parents wonder and worry, how would he fare in the real world?

Dear Daughter also has a very quiet disposition.  She never causes trouble, voices dissenting views, or makes mean remarks about anyone.  She stays out of the limelight, and is quite content getting along with her small group of friends at school.  When I was growing up, by her age, I already had numerous tearful moments when others were mean to me or hurt me physically, not to mention that I also bullied others myself (um, yeah).  DD has never had such an incident.  The only time she remembers something remotely close to being bullied was when a group of older boys had not-so-nicely told her and her friends to leave the part of the playground they wanted to play in.  Either her school is doing a great job with its anti-bullying message (which it really is), or she has just managed to stay away from trouble (which she really has). 

But here's my fleeting thought.  If she has never even experienced any real conflict thus far, how will she fare in the real world?  When something negative does happen, will it rain down like a ton of bricks on her and completely wipe out her self worth since she's never felt it before?  How do we prepare her for the real world without having her know what it's really like out there?  How do we let them go out there when we know there will be hurt gotten?  How do we balance the 'wish to protect' with the 'wish for them to fare well'?

Chances are, people who are not afraid to step over others' toes and take advantage of opportune moments will go farther than their counterparts.  (I don't think I need to name any examples here; we can all think of many).  Likewise, people who have had lots of painful experiences in life may be wiser but may also turn away from facing more emotional chances.  Hmmmm.  Which end do I want to be on, and which end do I want my kids to be on?

No, instead of coming with nice, hardbound instruction manuals, our kiddos just come to us all by their naked selves, and makes us parents figure this stuff out.  I suppose somewhere along the way, we use our own experiences to decide which end is the better end of the stick.  Well, as I write my own Parenting Manual, I declare Trust.

So, Real World, do you see what I mean?  How do I do my job when you are not always so kind, but moreover, a necessary evil and a rite of passage for my darlings?  I guess I must just Trust that they believe in what they do: whether or not they think achieving success at the expense of others is okay, and whether or not being jaded is disallowing true, full, and deep experiences.  And we parents would support them which ever end they choose, so long as they are good with it.  (This is not to say I am no longer in muddy water; I will not see clearly until I know which end my kiddos choose, at which I time I will still wonder if we taught them 'right'.)  What do you say, Real World, how about if you throw me a bone or two to help me write my Parenting Manual? 


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Dear Blessings

Dear Blessings,

On a beautiful spring morning, I acknowledge you as we are in a good place.  Sometimes 'good times' don't get enough credit.

So often are we inspired to write when something unhappy, tragic, or negative happens.  I've written about Dear Son's terrifying concussion last year; my dysfunctional OCD brain processing a spill inside my handbag; and the tragic acquisition and loss of our carnival fish.  Or, we write when something extraordinary, funny, or heartwarming happens.  There are lots of those sorts of Letters here, too.  But today, I am thinking about the fact that nothing is really happening (other than the fact that the tuplips I planted last fall are about to flower).  Which can be a very good thing, because it means that we are uneventful in the most optimistic way.  But as mundane as nothing happening, I have two thoughts to share about blessings.

First, I've added a few new terms to my definition page, 'Word.'.  The first one is 'Mommy Magic'.  Since my kiddos were little, I have always remedied their irritable behavior with a hug (I called it a 'squeeze').  We all know that hugs makes us feel better.  However, last year, I saw the movie Temple Grandin, and learned much about Grandin's work with autism research.  (Incidentally, this month is Autism Awareness Month).  Her invention of a squeezebox that she used to calm herself was incredibly fascinating.  This deep pressure calming concept was also featured in a Grey's Anatomy episode by a cardiologist with Asperger's Syndrome, although this particular portrayal invited criticism on the accuracy of her behavior.  Grandin believes that deep pressure is calming to people with certain sensory processing disorders, and has published clinical data to prove her theory. 

I must have internalized this theory, because now my remedying hugs to my kiddos have become full-body, tight, and prolonged squeezes.  And it works.  I cannot say if it's the extra pressure or the extra time I spend on the squeezing, but after the release, irritability level for both kiddo and myself decreases tremendously.  Last week, the kiddos and I were engaged in a sit-down, group painting activity at a play date, when DS' attention span came to -- appropriately for his age -- a dead halt.  The whining and tears began, and we were headed for a speedy downward spiral.

I took him aside and offered him some 'Mommy Magic'.  "What's that?" he asked, still with tears in his eyes.  So I squeezed him hard, for a good 15 seconds.  "Oh," he said, with tears still in his eyes, but now with a smile.  He was visibly feeling better.  We walked around and wiggled off some stored energy from all that sitting.  Days later, he came up to me and asked for some Mommy Magic, and then proceeded to explain what that is to his big sister.  I think that term will be around for quite a while in this household. 

My second thought about blessings is related to a particular Trifecta Writing Challenge I had participated in.  I wrote a poem that illustrates this nothing-really-happening post.  The prompt word was 'trail', and you can see the details here.


"Is that there a shooting star?"
Ask my boy of a line afar.
In the dimming late afternoon sky,
Over the horizon a streak I spy.

"No, I think it's an aeroplane!"
And my girl begins to explain.
"The dot in the front leads the line,
And the tufts of smoke trail behind."

"Oh," he says, quite content,
And studies the line on its descent.
She smiles, and looks at me,
And in her eyes delight I see.

I look at them in quiet amazement
My heart imprints this endearing moment.
For I hope that they will always find
Teaching and learning from each other, kind.

This is 'a take' on actual events.  This did not happen in exact words, but similar conversations have occurred between the kiddos.  Such kiddo talk of sibling kinship do take place when they are not fighting playing in harmony; they are like that to each other.  And while I take in this conversation (in my head), I think to myself: not much happened here, but so much just happened!  I'll let the words speak for themselves and just allow myself to bask in the blessing of it all.  And this brings us to the second word I added to the Word. page, 'Mommy Moment'.

But if you really know me, you don't believe me when I say there's nothing happening.  Lots of things are happening right now.  I've been busier than ever with a few projects and upcoming deadlines.  But it's nothing I can really complain about; everything is good.  So I just wanted to take a moment to declare Goodness State by sharing my Mommy Magic remedy as well as a quiet little poem that describes a calming yet powerful Mommy Moment. 

So, Blessings, I gladly count you and acquiesce your presence.  Please stick around, and never be a stranger!  Let it be known that I do not take you for granted.  Cheers!