Popsicle Sticks and Provoking Posts

Summer is here.

School is out.

But lest you think it’s been a free for all around here–as was hoped for by my crew–let me reassure you.  No.

It has not.

I could see the gleam  in their eyes.  They were hopeful.  Then they planned.  And tried to manipulate and work the system.

To no avail.

Because I was one step ahead of them, you see.  I’ve been at this job for over 20 years.  Experience has to count for something.

So I took a cue from something that was being shared and shared again on the social media.  Using popsicle sticks to earn rewards.

I sat down with my sticks and sharpies and created one for each task/opportunity and the minutes associated with it.

Because, let’s face it, time with electronic devices trumps money around here.  These people love their Minecraft, Madden 13 or 15 or whatever, movies, music, etc etc etc.  Oftentimes, I refer to it as the Grumpy Screen, as it seems that staring at it for vast amounts of time makes folks grumpy.  Sometimes it’s them because of disagreements (“he took my pickaxe” “she burned my house down” “but I don’t want to play that football game with him” “we’ve already watched that episode–six times”), and sometimes it’s me because I want them off.

Why in the world do we have all these Legos and dolls and cars and whatnot anyway?

So yes, things like unloading the dishwasher and folding/putting away clothes and math practice and so on can earn time with their favorite games.

It’s not been foolproof, but it’s worked pretty well–that whole knowing what is expected of  them has helped folks know how to get on and behave and the like.

Yep.  That right there.  Knowing what’s expected.

It has cut down on a lot of misunderstandings around here.

So, in the spirit of that concept and how well it has worked, I’d like to share this for the world of social media–especially as it has grown to exist in the past six months.

If you want me to read all the things you are concerned about, things you want to complain about–first you have to earn my attention.

In the same way that my children have to earn their screen time, you have to earn my time by first expressing things worth reading–positive, encouraging, empowering, caring, compassionate words and thoughts and stories.  Shoot, some days kittens jumping at cucumbers will suffice.  I’m not hard to please.

Except that all the negativity and hate…..I’m over it.  I’m tired of all the finger pointing and accusations and hate speech and fear-mongering.  The fear-mongering may be the worst of all (in my opinion) because it tends to lead to the other three and all kinds of deterioration happens from there.

My Daddy used to tease Mama about the right hand ledger and the left hand ledger.  Things she did for the betterment of those around her “went” on one side, but if she bemoaned one bit about the time it took or how tired she was from her efforts, he teased her that it negated what she’d done because it had to go on the other side of the “page.”

There’s a bit of truth in that.  (Well, not about you, Mama.)

If we are always negative and sharing all of the angry, ugly memes and thoughts and quoting folks who are stirring up things just for the sake of dividing folks, then I expect few people are going to pay attention when we find something really good and want to share it.

And somehow when I thought about this, I thought about my children having to earn their time on the devices.

It’s all about balance, isn’t it?  Not all play without some effort put forth…..and not all the anger without some efforts to make good changes in our world.

I wonder if maybe we could use the popsicle sticks for Facebook and other outlets– we’d have to post so many good, inspiring, helpful things before we are allowed to post ones that complain or accuse.

It’s a thought.

Wishing you all a good balanced day and a dishwasher that needs unloading for an easy way to earn minutes for playing on your devices….. 🙂

Love to all.

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Our buckets–when something is done, the stick gets moved to the other side…..

 

The To and Fro, Then and Now

Some time around the middle of the day, I was exhausted for any number of reasons I could choose from, so I stretched out for a few minutes with Miss Sophie supervising.  She’s really good at that.  The Fella was home, and the littles were working on their lessons, so I had a few minutes to close my eyes.

It was one of those weird, not quite deep, slumbers where I’m aware but also resting.  Hard to explain.  I was dreaming of sorts, I think, when I felt myself being pulled back up to the surface.

In that moment, this thought crossed my mind as the image of our backyard swing came into focus in my head.

It hardly makes sense, does it, as to why change is so hard for one who loved the back and forth and up and down of sitting in a swing?  How is it that so much is terrifying and worrisome when going higher than ever before used to bring such thrills?  Why is a leap into the unknown so frightful at times, when leaping from a moving swing filled all around with laughter and cries for “Again! Again!”?

Turns out my life is so much like being on a swing.  So what is the difference from then when I loved it so much to now?

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that on that swing I was controlling the “how high” and most of the time I could stop the swing when I wanted to and come back to stillness–to the balance found exactly in the middle of front and back, to and fro, forwards and backwards.

Balance.

If y’all need me, I’ll be in the backyard.  Looking for some of that.

Love to all.

Tire_swing

By Luke [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sardines and Food Allergies

This past weekend I took our Princess up to my alma mater where her sister is also a student for their annual event, where alumnae are encouraged to bring young women of all ages to visit as prospective students.  I enjoy it immensely as it has become something of a mini-reunion with fellow classmates, and it culminates in a scholarship fund-raising theater event–STUNT–which I loved when I was there and still love now.

Our Princess has enjoyed going for the past two years, and this year was no exception.  She had her “bag” packed by the middle of last week and woke up on Saturday SO excited.  She knows her way around campus very well, and she has the routine of the day down by now.  However, they did something new this year as an icebreaker.  The younger set of students played a game of “Sardines,” which has best been explained to me as a game of reverse hide and seek.  One person hides, and as you find her, you join her in her hiding spot, until there is one person left seeking all of you.

My girl ditched me and her bags faster than you can say “Golden Heart” (the class she will be at Wesleyan) and headed out for the game.  I was tempted to follow her out into the hall, but I didn’t.  I let her play and found myself holding my breath.  Worrying about how close she could potentially be with others who might have just eaten some of her allergens made me nervous.  I sat there, worrying and yet amazed at how eager she was to go play with these other girls, some of whom she sees once a year and some whom she had never met.  She had a great time, and all was well.  Then it was on to the mini-STUNT scripting activity, and after we took a break during the campus tours.  Later we joined all the others by the fountain for supper (we always brown bag these events), and then it was time for a pep rally and off to the main event in the auditorium.

A great night.  Aub was a part of the team who put the whole thing together, and they did a fantastic job.

On our way home after 11 p.m. that night, I asked our Princess what her favorite part of the day had been. I was sure it was going to be our visit to the campus store or her beloved Golden Hearts winning the STUNT Cup, but no.

“It was when we played Sardines in Taylor Hall, and then later when we played a modified version around the fountain after supper.”

Bless.

Y’all.

Of course.  Her two favorite times were when I wasn’t hovering.  Obsessing over clean hands and what she might be exposed to in the midst of a day outside our norm.

Bless her.  Her two favorite times were both when she had handed me the epipen case she wears cross body style whenever we leave home.  The two times when she let loose and was just another kid running around with friends and some who will be.

It’s hard, isn’t it?  This whole parenting thing and knowing when to let go and when to be on guard.  Add in a life-threatening allergy (or any number of other health issues), and the difficulty level in being a good, balanced parent grows exponentially.

I’m glad she had a great time.  I’m thankful she was safe.  I don’t know what the answer is, from one situation to the next–how vigilant to be without being obsessed and way overprotective.  There’s no precedent here for me, and I’m just doing the best I can in any situation we find ourselves in.  It was bittersweet to be reminded that she only wants what the rest of us want–to fit in and be a part of a good time and not be reminded of what weighs us down.

May we all have those precious moments.

Love to all.

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For more information about food allergies and research, go to http://www.foodallergy.org

 

 

Vertigo

Vertigo.

Vertigo is not fun.

If you’ve never had it, here’s how my bouts with it usually start.

I wake up and turn my head and suddenly my bed, my whole room is spinning.  Even closing my eyes doesn’t stop the sensation.

Fortunately, it’s usually manageable.  I just take extra care not to turn my head suddenly or bend at the waist.

Like I forgot and did a few minutes ago.

Not.  Good.

When it hits me like that, I just sit down. Stop.

I am still.

And eventually the world rights itself again.

And I am thankful.

As I was sitting there, on the floor, next to the thing I bent over to pick up, waiting for the spinning to stop, it occurred to me that life is very much like that.

Something shifts and our world goes topsy-turvy.  Unfortunately, in the midst of that, it is rare that I find myself able to let things go, sit, and be still, but until I do, chaos ensues.  I only contribute to the spinning madness.

Once I can sit, listen to the quiet, and still my spirit, I usually find that things get set to right again.  Oh, I’m not saying it’s easy or that I don’t have to do something to right my world at some point.  What I have come to realize is that if I still my soul before taking action, things seem to go so much better.

And the vertigo doesn’t last nearly as long.

Tonight I’m thankful for the stillness.  And the quiet.  And the peace in my soul that comes from simply sitting.  And not trying to fight all that is out of order all at once.  And I am thankful for the grace that allows me to get back up and try again, once the spell is over.

Wishing you all a moment to sit and be and still your soul.  Love to all.

 

Behind the Blog…..and What Comes Next

We went to our favorite farmer's market and got our Elbertas.  Our yearly trip.....a good day.

We went to our favorite farmer’s market and got our Elbertas. Our yearly trip…..a good day.

So, today, this happened.

Yep.  Seven boxes of peaches.

Peaches to share and peaches to prepare. 

Peaches, peaches everywhere.

It’s what my people do.  Since I was little and we all sat around the table together with bowls and paring knives and more bowls, I have been a part of putting up peaches in the summer.  Peaches played a huge part of my life.  And what a gift to have a taste of summer in the middle of winter–so yes, over the next couple of days, I’ll be peeling, slicing, dicing, and putting them up.  Tucking their secrets and sweetness away for another day–when it’s dark and cold and sunshine and memories of summer are needed.

It’s funny.  After we got home, I sat down with my first peach of the summer (Daddy always said the ones before the 4th of July weren’t worth bothering with anyway).  It was sweet and tangy and filled with the taste of sunshine.   I ate in about five minutes (because I was stretching it out) what it took Farmer Brown a whole year of worrying over to bring to fruition–and that’s not counting the years before the trees were producing.  He pruned his trees in the dead of winter, and when the blossoms started showing, he hoped for no more cold weather for that could damage the blooms and reduce the crop.  After the little baby peaches came out, he and his crews thinned the trees, so that the peaches left would grow bigger and stronger.  And when the time was just right, they picked them, placing them gently in boxes so they wouldn’t bruise.

How do they know?  Which branches to cut?  Which peaches to drop to the ground?  What the right level of ripeness is?

I don’t know, but somehow it all comes together so I can savor the flavor of nature for five minutes.

Yep.  Here we are.

Yep. Here we are.

Another thing is happening today.  As I type.  This is my 500th post.  I wrote a few before I started back last year on April 7th and wrote each and every day.  So…..500.  Here we are.

When I hit the one year mark, I thought I might take a break from blogging.  For just a little bit.  But I wasn’t ready.  My mind and heart were whirling with things I had to write and thoughts I wanted to share.  As I’ve said before I write for me and for my children–so they will know their stories and who their people are, and so they will know who I am and what I believe and why.

And so many of you have joined us for the journey.

I am humbled.

So many kind words, so much encouragement.  I am thankful for all of you who have taken time to read even one word.  And for those of you who have shared your own stories and thoughts, I appreciate it.  You matter to me, and the gift of your time taken to read and to say hello–that means a lot to me.

Because, you know what?  Much like Farmer Brown, I put a lot of time into what comes into fruition.  (Even those Haikus last month.  I walked around the Mouse House during the day tapping out syllables on my chest as we were standing in line for a ride or the bathroom or whatever.)  Some posts I think about for days or weeks before I write them, and others come together at the last, quickly and sometimes almost seamlessly.  I worry over language, spelling, grammar, and offending folks.  Because no matter how strongly I feel about something, I do not set out to create a me and you.  I much prefer there to be an “us.”

So yes, not that what I write is always a “peach,” but for each thing you have read there is about  two hours of keyboard time behind it.  Writing, rewriting, editing for grammar/spelling, and then rereading.  And making the decision to hit publish.  Do you know what I have to say sometimes to be able to hit that button?  Some nights, when I’m exhausted and my emotions are overwrought over what I’ve put down in words, I say to myself, “Ah, well, no one’s going to read it anyway, so okay…..” and I hit the button.

But rest assured, I know you have been reading.  And I thank you for that.  The gift of your time and allowing me to share my stories with you…..HUGE.   THANK YOU.

And so now, at Post 500, I feel like my little guy Cooter.  Earlier this week as he went through his checklist of what all he wants to be when he grows up, he looked over at me, wiping his hand over his brow, and said, “Whoo.  I’m swamped.”

Oh me.  I hear you, bud.

I have several boxes of peaches to put up.  And peaches wait for no man or woman or blogpost.  They go from zero to ripe pretty doggone fast.  And I have littles to move on to China in our homeschool studies.  AND we have big family fun happening this week–the week in which we celebrate with family who lives far away and finish going through the last of my folks’ things.

Whoo.  I’m swamped, y’all.  Good stuff.  Hard stuff.  Life.

At the one year mark, I was a little afraid that if I missed even one night I wouldn’t keep writing.  And so there was the night I stayed up until 2:30 a.m. to finish writing after my brother visiting from out of town stayed up with me until 1, laughing and remembering and talking.  There was the night in September when I witnessed the miracle of my niece’s birth and curled up in a corner of the room after to share about it.  There’s been numerous nights when I sat down at 10 p.m. to think about my day and decide what was “worth writing home about.”  It’s been a good ride.

And now I know the truth.  I won’t stop writing.  If it’s not for the blog, I will work on some other projects.  Because after 500 posts, I think I can say this, if still a bit timidly–

I am a writer.

Because I write.

I’ve not published a book, and I may never do so.

I’ve not won an award for my writing since high school, and I’m okay with that too.

There’s a lot of “never haves” and “not dones,” but the truth is, those can’t happen if I don’t try.  No one’s going to walk up, knock on my door, and say, “Hey we want to publish whatever you are writing right now, doesn’t matter what it is.  Just hand it over.  We already know it’s great.”

Are they?

Nope.  See, I knew that.  And so I am going to take a break from blogging for a little while.  Here’s the deal.  I don’t know if it will be one night or ten.  I may even think of something I have to share and be back tomorrow night.   But I might not.  I might still be peeling peaches and listening to a little read to me, while my oldest goes through the list of what all she needs to head back to college.  Yes, we’ve got big beautiful normal things going on around here.  And as much as I love writing, and as sure as I am that I will continue to write–what a relief it is to know that now–I also know I have a life to live.  With my children, my people, the ones who make me laugh and whom I love.  As my Mama used to say, “There’s a time for all things.  Ecclesiastes 3.”  Yes ma’am.

Balance.

And there’s also this stack of books I’ve not made time to read yet…..some of my favorite author friends are often sharing about things they are reading.  So I know that’s part of being a good writer too.  Reading good writing.

Thanks if you’ve stuck with my ramblings so far.  I am excited to explore writing on some projects I have in mind. (And I’m scared to death, is it okay to tell you that?)  I love sharing my stories with groups, so maybe I will work to make that happen more as well.  I don’t know, but I do know that I feel peace.  I give thanks for all of the nights I’ve sat down and eventually hit publish, and then you all have read it and encouraged and agreed or disagreed respectfully.  Thank you for that.

I’ll see you around here soon.  In the meantime, y’all, I might just go take that nap.

Love to all.  And many, many thanks.

 

On Buzzing Bees, Balance and Joy

The past two mornings as I’ve taken Sophie out for her morning constitutional I’ve been delighted to see bees.

Yes, bees.

See, I’m worried about them. I have friends who raise bees, and I’m really worried.  I’ve heard lots and lots about how the bees are disappearing, and folks don’t know why or they do know why and it’s not good news.  I’ve seen the pictures of all the food we would NOT have if we didn’t have bees.  It’s not a pretty picture.

So yes, I see bees dancing around in my front yard and I want to dance too.

I didn’t see them much as I walked on.  I think that’s the case for two reasons–one, our grass hasn’t been cut as recently so it’s a couple of inches high and there’s something tiny flowering out there.  Two, we don’t spray.  For weeds or bugs or anything.

I’m so confused.

I see folks asking about spraying for mosquitoes or other insects.  I pass folks’ yards on our walks with the signs in the front yard.  The name of the company happily emblazoned in big bold letters and in tiny print “Insecticide applied–stay off grass.” Or “weed killer applied, keep off.”  Oh me.  True confession time:  I am terrified to walk on their grass–even days later.  When the children were very small I made them cross the streets to get away from the “sprayed” yards.  And now, with Miss Sophie, I don’t let her near the sprayed yards either.

I was traumatized years ago by a large can of industrial strength insecticide used for cattle in the pastures.  It helped keep the flies down.  Only this was being used indoors, and…..I still shudder when I think about it.  I can’t and don’t do bug sprays.  That’s it.

We do have some all-natural sprays made with essential oils.  And if the fact that the mosquitoes circling around on July 4th, big enough to tote off a cat or small dog, didn’t bite us once is any testimony, it’s good stuff.  And it smells so good.

The word balance keeps coming to mind.  And not because my Cousin and I were just speaking about it.  I despise spiders.  Actually I don’t despise them, I am terrified of them.  When I was little, Mama read the book “Be Nice to Spiders” to me to show me they are our friends and we need them.

Spiders, flies, bats, frogs, rats, snakes, and so many more…..

all of them part of the balance…..

we need them all to be part of the world we live in.

They keep each other in check.  Making sure nothing gets off-kilter, out of balance.

I’m no scientist.  I don’t know a lot of the facts.  I get that mosquitoes can make people sick.  I get that the spray can take care of them, ridding the possibility of the disease.  But what else are we opening ourselves up to when we open that Pandora’s box? It scares me so much that I’m pretty sure I’m not ready to find out.

I have no answers.  So maybe I’ll just sit out on my porch and think on it awhile, as I listen to the bees buzzing or the frogs singing at night.  If you don’t have the answers either and just want to sit too, come on up.  I’ll be at the end of the street on the porch with the unmanicured yard and the bugs flying around.  You can swat at ’em if you want or use some of my lemongrass spray.  Because for now, that’s as hardcore as it’s going to get around here.  My soul needs some balance and I’m thinking that keeping it in the nature around me is a good place to start.

Wishing you a place to sit and listen to nature’s symphony.  Love and balance to all.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

If you are interested in learning more about bees, here’s just one link among the many I found when I looked them up.  http://www.buzzaboutbees.net/

I’m using a bug spray made by a local company that doesn’t have it on a website, but I have used this and it worked great too.

http://www.amazon.com/Skedattle-Natural-Anti-Bug-Spray-8-oz/dp/B007P5AJV8/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1405739483&sr=8-8&keywords=natural+bug+spray

A couple of cool tips for caring for your plants naturally–  http://www.9news.com/story/life/home-garden/proctors-tips/2014/07/10/proctor-keep-pests-away/12422437/

And finally this:  http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=125636  “Why We Need Insects, Including “Pesky” Ones”

Just a little food for thought.

Getting Off My High Horse…..Just in Time

A Golden Retriever going over a teeter-totter ...

A Golden Retriever going over a teeter-totter at an agility competition. Edited (cropped) by Pharaoh Hound (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have a new word.

At the beginning of this year I chose the word “Open” to focus on this year.  To see where it led me.  It has had surprising twists and turns, but I think it was spot on for my journey this year.

Until today.  Today I heard the word that I’m going to focus on for the rest of this year.  Because it’s just that good.

Balance.

A doctor said it.  How important it is.  How good it is to have balance.  Out of balance?  Bad.  Very bad.  I’m thankful we didn’t find out how much worse out of balance could be.  Suffice to say, I wanted to wrap my heart my arms and my whole being around that word and make it mine, to make it ours.  Our whole family.

I came down off my high horse today y’all.  It was a quiet moment but it knocked the breath out of me.  Probably no one else even noticed, but I knew.  And I have spent a day in remorse.

Years ago someone I cared about very much had an anxiety problem.  He went to a physician who gave him a twenty question test, diagnosed him as depressed, and put him on medication.  He didn’t warn this patient against drinking with the medication or recommend that the medication be partnered with therapy.  Just “here’s your medication–take good care.  Be happy again.”  I knew something wasn’t right then, but it was five years later when I was in the Marriage and Family Therapy Masters Program that I realized why it didn’t sit well with me.  I believe in treating the whole person.  It’s a pet peeve of mine for doctors to prescribe psychotropic medications but not also refer the patient to a therapist.  They need both.

Unfortunately, I let the pendulum swing too far.  I became a huge advocate for therapy–for friends, for family.  I believe it’s every bit as important to have an emotional checkup/check-in as it is a physical one.  But I forgot one thing.  The opposite is also true.  It shouldn’t be one-sided either way.  The best therapist in the world (and I know him) can’t help if the body isn’t doing okay.  The body can’t do what the body can’t do.

And if things are wonky in the body, how in the world do we expect the emotions to be stable?

And yet we do.  Or, to be perfectly honest, I did.

Today, as I sat listening to a doctor describe imbalances in hormones and body chemicals, it hit me.  I had forgotten, in the midst of pushing for therapy and “talking it out” and mind over matter-ing it, that the body has a role in this too.  In the well-being.  In the wholeness and BALANCE of life.

Whoa.  Beep beep beep.  Back it up.

Something that should have been so obvious, probably is to most of you, had just flown right over my head and my firm belief in therapy.  And I almost messed up big time.  But then I heard the word balance.

As in, Tara, balance between mind and body.  Physical and emotional.  Thoughts and feelings.  Work and play.  Rest and activity.   That word is a part of every single part of our day.  Or it should be.

I’ve said it before.  We live in a very broken world.  Emotional illness and mental illness is all around us, yet we tend to make it the elephant in the living room that no one really wants to talk about.  We’ll talk about all kinds of physical diseases and ailments all day long, but we forget that as the creatures we are, it all is interconnected.  One is related to the other.  An emotional imbalance has at its root a physical issue.  Balance between mind, body, and soul is imperative for good health.  And good living.  Unfortunately, hurting people hurt people, including themselves.  People who have nowhere to turn, whose bodies can’t right themselves often find their health issues manifesting as emotional or mental problems.  And then where can they turn?   Many are afraid they might be called crazy–many might think they are crazy themselves.   If we don’t speak out on behalf of people and whole health–BALANCE–this world is just going to get more and more broken.  And I don’t know how much more this world and its precious people can take.

Tonight I am thankful for good therapists and good doctors.  We need both.  And for a healthy respect and cooperation to exist between them.   I am thankful for friends and family who leave no stone unturned when it comes to the well-being of someone they love.  And I am thankful for a doctor who respects balance and seeks it–for his patients and for himself.

Balance.  Here we are at the onset of what can be the best and yet most stressful time of year.  People are already sharing posts and pictures and emails about how many shopping days left until Christmas.  (*major Mike Wazowski eye roll here* Please people, stop the madness.)  For so many, whether for financial, emotional, relational, or physical reasons, the time approaching the “family” holidays is just plain hard.  Things can get harried and hard fast.  So yes, balance.  In quiet time and activity.  In contemplation and action.  In work and recreation.  In speaking and in listening.  In celebrating and in remembering.  Balance.  I think it’s the perfect lens to focus and view life through over the next three months.

May balance affect your vision and give you clarity as well.  And if it doesn’t, it’s ALWAYS okay to ask for help.  Sometimes balance is best illustrated by a seesaw.  And you can’t keep one of those balanced by yourself.  You have to have help. It’s okay to ask for it AND it’s okay to offer it.

Love to all.