Archives for May 2013

Five Minute Friday: Imagine

Hello, Friends. Welcome back for another Friday spent with Lisa-Jo and the Five-minute crowd. Today, we’re taking five minutes to write on the prompt Imagine. Do you have five minutes to write, read, or both? Why don’t you join us?


1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community…

Today’s Prompt: Imagine

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There is a zoo in my head. In it, I’ve locked away memories of cold Saturday mornings spent cleaning up the animal pens. I remember the stench of manure, the buckets of dead mice. Once, a monkey reached through the cage to grab a fistful of my hair as I bent down low. Another day, a raccoon attached itself to my leg and wouldn’t let go, and I shook and shook my leg like a girl on fire, except I wasn’t. There was a raccoon attached to me. I saw a lama spit and a vulture attack and a pregnant donkey sway and keel right over onto the foot of my friend, knocking her down, squashed beneath its weight.

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We took our kids to the zoo last week, and the stories resurfaced, and as always they shook their heads and rolled their eyes. They think I imagined it all, that Saturday mornings at the zoo never really happened, that I never stared into the eyes of the big cat or fed the birds their prey. But, I did. There’s a zoo in my head, and it’s as real as the peacock preening in the tree above, calling for its mate. Its feathers cascading like a blanket full of eyes woven in green and blue silk, as we watch, mesmerized, and the ice cream melts into puddles in our hands.

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On discovering the thing you already knew

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I have a confession. This may sound rather obvious, but you should know that I now have official proof.

I am not a genius.

How do I know this? Besides my staggering inability to navigate my way out of my own neighborhood,  I actually sat down and took a preliminary test to prove what I already knew–I am smart, but not as smart as one of the other members of my household, who shall remain unnamed. This same family member suggested I take the Mensa online pre-test, just for kicks. I don’t know why I agreed to it because a woman who cannot help their 8th grader with math homework has no business in an exclusive club for geniuses (genii?). I obviously don’t belong if I don’t know what the correct collective noun is for a group of smart people.

Now, without warning, I might open my inbox to find a message delivered to me from Mensa. They mock me by sending regular emails suggesting I just might possibly, ever so slightly, have a minuscule chance of passing their full exam. Maybe. If the wind blows just right and the sun stands still in the sky and I remember a few things I learned from Basic Chemistry. See what I did just there? They would never accept someone who took Basic Chemistry. I just proved my own point.

We recently received the course selection for the high school my daughter will attend in New Jersey. The chance I would pass any of their courses, save Woodworking, is slim to none. I feel as if I’m running in the slow lane on the track, watching my children fly by. Which, coincidentally, is exactly how I spent my senior year in gym class, plodding along, watching everyone else pass me by.

I still feel this way at times, and I find my eyes drawn to every one else’s lane. I see the friend run by holding her big job title, another with her two book deal, and still more with an Ivy League degree, a big city art show, a thriving business, or even that dang Mensa card hanging conspicuously out of their back pocket. I used to tell myself to stay in my own lane, run the race in front of me, feet to the earth, eyes bowed to the ground. And now I wonder if sometimes I remain in my lane, not out of an inability to measure up, but out of fear. Fear there isn’t room for me elsewhere. Fear of looking like a fool. Fear of failure. Perhaps it’s time I raise my eyes to something more than coveting his or her success. Perhaps I might raise them and see that there is room in another lane for me, that my pace and my form don’t remain fixed. Perhaps it’s time I see this isn’t really a race at all, but a long and spacious run in which I get to choose the direction. I won’t find Mensa at the finish line, but I intend to find my own version of genius along the way.

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What direction are you headed in today? What keeps you moving forward, even when others fly by?

A history of us

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It took me many hours and six magic erasers, but I finally wiped clean nearly every surface in our house. Our walls are white, and over the course of three years, we filled them with scuff marks, fingerprints, pencil lines, grease and the like. As I cleaned, I found evidence of our family life all over the walls of our home–a hand-printed and marked up history of us. The fingerprints made their way up the walls as the kids grew, and so did the height marks made in pencil in the corner of the kitchen. I found chipped up sections where the paint gave way to the tape the kids used to hang blankets and sheets to create yet another secret hideaway. I found splatters of watercolors from art projects and melted wax crayon and various mystery marks from floor to ceiling.

After cleaning the walls, we pulled together the remaining electronic items and outgrown toys and drove them to the yearly school tag sale. Usually, I’m the girl buying, adding a few new books,toys, or household goods to our collection. This year, we spread our things across the lunch room tables, and sold them. Little girls ran away from our table clutching my daughter’s too-small princess dresses. A seven-year old friend purchased my son’s old roller blades and spent the afternoon skating by our table with a grin. A woman purchased our waffle maker with the Swiss plug, and she almost had to pry it out of my hands to complete the sale. I told her how many times I came home from a Saturday run to the scent of waffles wafting from the kitchen, and my husband standing over the maker with a plate for me in hand. She responded with a smile and an “I know, we love homemade waffles too.” as she made off with a piece of my life’s history in her hands.

I don’t typically feel sentimental about “stuff”, but this weekend, as our things disappeared into crumpled up shopping bags right in front of my eyes, I thought of this online space. I thought of the photos and the stories, and I thought of you and how you understand the need to keep a place where the memories don’t gather dust or take up valuable space. Here, I wrap up my history–my family’s history–in words that can’t be magic erased. I can’t sell them for the best price or watch you skate by wearing what remains. Instead, you allow me the privilege of sharing them with you, week after week, month after month, year after year.

I know we will buy more stuff, and I know we will scuff up the floors of our next home. My kids will continue to grow and we’ll make new memories and the handprints will continue to climb up the walls. Our history will continue to unfold, one waffle, pencil mark, and story at a time.

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What story are you telling right now? How do you keep the memories and still let go of all the stuff?

 

Five Minute Friday: View

Hello, Friends. Welcome back for another Friday spent with Lisa-Jo and the Five-minute crowd. Today, we’re taking five minutes to write on the prompt View. Do you have five minutes to write, read, or both? Why don’t you join us?


1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community…

Today’s Prompt: View

The view outside:

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The view inside:

From where I sit, the downstairs floor is a wreck. Snowboards lean up against the fireplace, baskets of stuffed animals and unused light bulbs keep company in the corner. An overpriced crock pot sits next to too-small shoes and a stack of Halloween costumes. It is utter chaos. I wiped down the old toys and the oscillating fans yesterday, fitting new batteries and making them clean before the household goods sale tomorrow.

We will squash half of our lives into our car, cart them all to the school, and then sell them. As I cleaned and priced items for the sale, it brought back memories. The Saturdays my husband filled our home with the scent of homemade waffles. The juicer we gave him for his birthday. The cuddles with furry, inanimate friends. The mountains we boarded down. The dust of our lives scattered across every surface. Three years of our life here–gone, done, finished. It is a hard ending.

In the corner, on the table we will keep, sits our chess set. The players form lines, they await their orders, and they stand at attention, fully ready for the next game–the next time they get to travel across the squares on the board. I admire them their sense of order, their readiness in the waiting. I feel like used goods, tired, with bits and pieces strewn all over the wood floor. But, I am also full of memories, filled to the top with dust and glitter and the scent of a well-lived life.

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Thanks for stopping by today. If you’re new here, we are currently in the middle of an international move. I write about it incessantly because, well…it’s my life right now, in all the mess and the glory.  What does your view look like today? The one on the inside?

Simple stories

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I joined a group of writers online called Simple Stories. The idea behind the group is to encourage a return to telling our simple stories. You know the ones–the stories about the sweet simplicity of our days and not the huge, life-changing, epiphany type of tales. Because, let’s be honest, everyday life isn’t one huge epiphany after another. Usually, life is one hackneyed meal, untied shoelace, and dirty toilet after another. Except for the times when it isn’t. My life is exceedingly complex at the moment. It is full of jacked up dinners and scrub brushes, but it’s also full of major life changes. I find it hard to tug on the one string that tells a simple story.

Today, I offer you the truth. Our life is crazy. It is not simple or easy or full of epiphanies. It is suitcases and paperwork and lots of teenage tears. We travel non-stop in our free time. Our home must stay in show quality all the time, as the realtor likes to call immediately before she arrives with a prospective renter. We bought a house in the US and I have not seen it in person. Can we let that sink in for a minute? I HAVE NOT seen my own house. I missed two appointments last week, just because. The roofers came to replace the roof and in that process, created a new leak, which ruined my daughter’s bedroom wall. And we have a pile of housewares to sell covering every inch of floor space in my dining room. The realtor is going to love it–I know I do.

Sarah Bessey says “Chaos is my muse”, and while I try to adopt this same mindset, I’m not feeling it right now, Sarah. I’m just not. But then–yesterday. Yesterday, we drove to the Rhine Falls in northern Switzerland, and after I sufficiently (and loudly) shamed my children for ignoring my warnings to dress properly, we sat huddled together on a boat wearing shorts and ballet flats, and sailed straight into the current and the mist of the falls. The water roared around us and our faces tingled with the cold spray and not a one of us complained. We said “wow” as we stared at the rushing water and the one tall rock jutting straight into the sky from the center of the falls. At the top of the rock, a flag waved. It continued to flap in spite of the wind and the chaos created by the incessant rush of water hurling itself at its feet.

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We then sailed across the river and climbed to the top of the hill overlooking the falls. We ate lunch and we laughed and we talked and we dreamed together of summer. The sun came out and the kids warmed up and my husband made me giggle and I saw that flag waving in the center of the chaos and we ate mini-pancakes from a curbside stand before making our descent. I laughed to myself at the woman wearing high heels and a miniskirt on a waterfall hike. Then I looked at my daughter with her leggings scrunched into her shoes in an effort to create “socks”, because doesn’t everyone refuse to wear real socks on cold, wet days? And I smiled all over again. We arrived at the bottom just in time for the boat ride back across the river. We climbed on board and we huddled together and I felt the warmth of us from my head to my toes as the current carried us back.

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My heart is breaking for the families in Oklahoma today. I’m praying with you from across the ocean, and holding my kids a little closer tonight.