Heroes and Villains

Growing up we watched Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights.  We rarely went to the movies but I do remember seeing “Sleeping Beauty.”  I’m not sure if it’s one my parents or my Granny took us to the theater to see, but I do remember watching it.

Because I never wanted to see that movie again.

We had the album soundtrack too.  And I did not want to look at the back of the cover.  No way, no how.

That woman, that creature was the scariest thing I had ever seen.  She was the stuff nightmares are made of.  Terrifying.  And when she turned into the dragon and fought Prince Phillip?  Oh my land, cover my eyes and just know there’s no way I’m sleeping by myself then.

Scary.

So it’s interesting that today I was conflicted.  Part of me wanted to see the movie “Maleficent” and part of me wanted to run the other way and never look back.  Guess which one won?

It’s been out since May 30.  The way movie math goes these days, I am certain it’s going to be pulled from the main theater any day now.  Our discount theater is closing, so I figured this might be my last shot unless I wanted to wait for the DVD release.  The fascinated little girl in me did not.  As scared as I was of the evil fairy growing up, I had heard intriguing things about this movie, and I wanted to go.  Today.

So we did.

Y’all.

I loved it.

Every bit of it.

This is a movie about redemption.  About how hurting people (and fairies) hurt people.  It’s about revenge, regret, and loyalty.  About what greed can do to friendship and how love can protect and heal.  It’s about revenge, regret, loyalty, and faith.

Really good stuff.  There was even a bit of redemption for an actress I’ve loved to hate for years.  Imelda Staunton, with whom I spent some time last night as I watched her play the role of the much-hated Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  Again.  Each time I watch her, I just get so angry.  She’s that good.  In Maleficent she was delightful as a spunky little fairy.  It was interesting that my feelings could change just that quickly.  The mark of a good actress?  Perhaps.

At the end of the movie, something was said about heroes and villains–and the truth is there is a little of both in each one of us.  It depends on which side we listen to and what actions we take that determine our fate.

If you have an opportunity to see this movie, it is a beautiful retelling of a much-loved fairytale.  Whether you hurry to the theater now or wait to watch it on DVD, I hope you’ll try to make time to see it.  No, I’m not getting paid to say that, but if someone were to send me a ticket or a copy of it when it is released on DVD, I could be okay with that.  😉 This movie ranks right up there with Drew Barrymore’s Ever After for its clever retelling of an old classic.  It was just that good.

Redemption.  Grace.  Love.  Hatred.  Greed.  Revenge.  Regret.  Love.

It’s all there.  The writers are to be commended.  What a story!  It all fit together in the context of the story we’ve all heard, and it made sense.

And you know what else?  There will be no more Malificent-inspired nightmares for me.  I know our own Princess loves her Anna and Elsa (from Frozen, for those of you who have somehow escaped the madness) but for me, I’ll take Maleficent.  A strong woman can admit when she’s wrong and then work to do something about it.  And I empathize with the pain Maleficent feels when she is robbed of something very dear to her.  Those tears…..that sobbing…..

And that’s all I’ll say about that.  I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.  If you’ve seen it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Thumbs up?  Loved it?  Fell asleep right after the previews? What did you think?  What moment was your favorite?  (These are the kinds of questions we heard in the go-mobile on the way home after the movie was over.)

Tonight I’m thankful for movies that entertain and make me think and feel.  I’m grateful for another reminder of this fact: we may think we know someone’s story, label them as evil or bad, and write them off.  But we don’t know.  There’s nearly almost always more to the story.  And when we take the time to listen to the stories of others, sometimes it becomes painfully obvious that all is not what we thought.  Many folks just need a shot at grace and redemption to rewrite their whole tale.

Love to all.

 

Letting Feathers Fly

The day after I shared with y’all the video of the beautiful Thai commercial and challenged us all to “be the feathers” who look after and over each other with compassionate hearts and tender hands, my friend shared this quote with me.

 

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Oh my.

She shared it with me as a different way of thinking about “being the feather.”  I really appreciate her taking the time and effort to make sure I saw it.

But I also kind of wanted to run away from her.  (and maybe stick my fingers in my ears too?)

Because, Monday, you see, was one of those days.  A day I would have run away from if I could have.

In hindsight I realize it wasn’t nearly as big as my heart thought it was at the time.  Ah, the clarity of hindsight, right?

But there in the middle of it…..

I had a call from an attorney I’d never met regarding business with my Mama’s and my Great Aunt’s estates.  He needed some documentation from me ASAP and suggested I “just fax it” to him.

*sigh*

If you have a fax machine in your home, more power to you.  I did not mean to misrepresent you when I replied to his request.  However, I have been asked so many times in the course of handling estate matters “Do you have a fax machine?”

No.  I do not.

I thought about what to tell this gentleman–the one who answers the phone by saying his name, and then “Attorney at Law” immediately following.  Oh dear.  I much prefer “my” attorney who has walked this journey with me and been so wonderful–he almost sounds distracted when he answers “Law Office.”  I’m really good with that.

“Sir, what I need for you to know is that most folks just don’t have a fax machine in their homes. And I’m one of them.”

Okay, I was frustrated.  I have a lot buzzing this week and driving paperwork down to him 45 minutes one way was not on my list.  Not until we were scheduled to meet anyway.  Which we were.

And I told him just that.  I asked him why it wouldn’t work for me to bring the papers with me as I had initially been told to do.

And then he said it.

“Well, how do I even know she’s dead?”

 

 

It was so silent, there weren’t even crickets.

I held the phone out away from my ear and stared for a second.  I could not have just heard what I thought I did.

“Ummm, sir, I can assure you she is. I’m not just taking all this on for the fun of it or for my health or anything like that.”

Yep, by now I was crying.  But I didn’t want Mr. Attorney at Law to know.

He suggested I call my attorney and have him find it in his files and fax it to his office.

All I could think of was if one more person said the word “fax” in my presence……

I called my “Law office” good guy who immediately set to work finding and fa—sending over the phone line copies of the required documents.  He wouldn’t even bill me for his time.  (Note to self–need to do some baking.)

The Attorney at Law called me back, this time saying that the documents were not sufficient for me to be able to handle the aforementioned business.

What?!

I was starting to get a bad taste in my mouth with this guy.  Then he made a condescending comment that let me know he didn’t think very highly of my Mama’s business acumen, her planning, or her intellect.

WHOA.  BACK. THE. TRUCK. UP.  NOW.

My Mama and I didn’t always agree.  I’m not perfect.  (Well there’s a surprise folks.)  And neither was she.  But she was one of the smartest and most ingenious, creative people I knew.  She could make something out of nothing, whether it was clothes or a meal or a craft or book report project. She had skills.  But if she didn’t know how to do something, she either researched it or she found someone else to handle it.  She didn’t do anything half way.

I was seeing RED.  Don’t ever disparage my Mama.

And oh help him, I knew right then and there he had never heard of my Great Aunt.  She was known in his same small town, and she was respected.  Her Daddy had been a farmer and the probate judge and she worked for him at the courthouse before marrying.  She was a class act right up to the end, but she would not have hesitated to have this boy for lunch.

And this apple doesn’t fall far from that tree.

I’m not proud of what I said next, but it happened.  I guess so far you might think I’m sharing this story with you because Mr. A.A. Law didn’t think through what he was saying before he said it.  He didn’t guard his words.  And okay, that’s where I was heading if I’d written this Monday night, but I didn’t.  I’ve had time to cool off and put it all into perspective.  At least somewhat.

So yeah, as he was explaining the “problems” with the legal document, I snapped back, “Well at least now you know she’s dead.”

Oh my.  The only sound was the sound of him sputtering. And then, “Well, I didn’t say that.”

I won’t go into details, but suffice to say I assured him he did, and then I started crying.  This time he knew about the tears.  I told him that, for whatever reason, it was just as fresh as if it had happened the day before.  He said IF he offended me he was sorry.

Well he did.

But I guess my lesson in all of this, and why I wanted to run from my friend’s quote she lovingly shared, is that I wasn’t any better than Mr. A.A. Law.  I spouted off without thinking about where my words would land, but even more importantly, HOW they would land.  I let my emotions take control, just as he had let the business at hand take control.

We both forgot one important thing.  There was a human being on the other end of that phone line.  One with a whole life full of stories leading to that moment, and with thoughts and feelings filtering what was actually being said.  Was he out of line?  Sure he was.  But was I any better for throwing it back at him later?

I can’t be sure.  My heart tonight says No.

Part of me hopes my Mama and my Great Aunt are proud that I didn’t just roll over and take what was being said without calling him on it, but part of me wonders…..no, part of me wishes I had handled it a little better.  (And I swanee I can hear my Mama calling out from the Other Room, as she often did, “Y’all play nice.”)

Later when I called Mr. Law’s secretary to relay more requested information, I’m afraid I was snappy with her too.

Feathers flying.  Words going out of my mouth wreaking havoc on hearts.

Not feathers where they should be.  Tucked in close around the heart of another –a shield and a refuge.

Shoot.

A mere day after I stood and encouraged and pleaded with folks to #bethefeather

Oh.

It’s almost more than I can bear.

This life is hard.  I so want to be somebody who makes an impact on the world one minute, and then the very next moment, I am flying off the handle and making an impact all right–a negative one.  Not what I was hoping for.  At all.

Tonight I’m thankful for the difference that a day makes.  The clarity that can come from walking away.  And for a message that, if I’m about to open my mouth, maybe I shouldn’t–thank you gnats for that one.  I am thankful for good guy attorneys and for folks that have my back.  And I’m trying to be grateful that I get a chance to meet Mr. A.A. Law in person, in his office, and look him in the eye.  It won’t be easy, but I think I have to apologize for my mouth, for my snarky words–to him and to his secretary, who was only caught in the crossfire, bless her.

Actually, I’m not telling the truth.  I know I have to apologize.  Because I can hear my Mama as clear as if she’s sitting right here next to me.  And who knows, she probably is.

“Act like you are somebody.”

Yes ma’am.

I hear you.  That’s what being the feather looks like sometimes, isn’t it?

Love and hope for a chance at do-overs for all.

 

 

 

 

In the Waiting and Uncertainty

Yesterday I was at the Getting Place getting some “stuff,” and this gave me pause.

Black jelly beans.  They were Daddy's favorites.

Black jelly beans. They were Daddy’s favorites.

And made me a little sad.

The Easter Bunny brought us jelly beans every year, tucked in our green plastic grass that was put away in a bread bag every year for safekeeping until the next Easter.  And every year, I would dig through and pull out the black ones first thing.  And pass them to my right.  Where my Daddy sat at the end of the table.  They were his favorites, and little on Easter morning brought me as much joy as giving him these favorites of his.

This was in the day before they bagged the black ones separately all by themselves. Once they started doing that, I usually picked a bag up for him–sometimes for Easter, sometimes just because.

He’d keep the bag with a twist tie on it, and it would be stored in the little wooden box that sat by his recliner in the living room.  Daddy would pull out the bag, untwist it, pour a few in his palm, and eat the licorice flavored sweets.  Then he’d twist the bag back up, and tuck it away until his sweet tooth called out for them again.

I read something years ago about Holy Saturday, which is upon us now.  That first Saturday–the day after Good Friday.  It was described as a day of waiting, of uncertainty, of in-between.  A day of not knowing.

I think back to the time after Daddy was diagnosed with Lymphoma, his Giant to fight, in 2009.  So much of that time felt just like that–waiting, being uncertain, weeping for what we were most afraid of, feeling in-between, longing for resurrection in the form of good news–remission, a cure, a misdiagnosis, a miracle, something, anything.

What I didn’t know or see at the time is that in those moments of waiting, there were many small moments of redemption and life-affirming joy.  In the midst of the fear, there was faith.  In the grasping for answers, there was hope.  In the moments of worry and sadness, there was laughter and light in his eyes, his voice, his stories, and his words.  In those moments of being in-between, the who we were with conquered where we were.

And that’s as it should be, isn’t it?  Even in the hardest of situations, because of who I was with, I was able to get through the where and the what, and move beyond with a tad bit of hope and a whole lot of love.

Daddy’s jelly beans.  A precious memory.  But what makes it so special is the memory of his hand held out to accept what I offered from mine.  The smile on his face, acting like he was surprised that I didn’t want them myself.  The way his eyes lit up when he bit into the first one every year.  Daddy loved black jelly beans–he loved us even more.  And in the waiting, in the uncertainty, it was that love that conquered all.

May your waiting find you surrounded by those who love you, and may you find the joy and peace of Easter waiting for you on the other side.

Love to all.

 

like the first flower of spring–a sign of new life…..for all of us

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A new baby came into the world
Did you know?
Did the feel the shift in the universe
as those around made room in their hearts
just for him?
and soon the memory of their lives before him

will grow distant and hazy
His Mama worked so hard
laboring for hours
and days and weeks and months
planning
and eating right
and dreaming of this new life
as a new person herself–
As Mama
His grandmother worried
it’s what parents do best
praying for wisdom and guidance
and health and love
And all those worries
floated away at 11:35 p.m.

when she first saw his precious face
and new ones took their place

it’s a part of this loving another

This new life
brings Hope
Joy
Laughter
and a chance for redemption
To this weary world
Just as the first flowers of spring do after the dark, cold winter
He makes us think of new possibilities
for him and for the world
and reminds us of those we have ourselves
This new life has made a crack in the hardness in all of us
and the light is shining through
A new baby was born
Did you know?
They say this happens four times every second on this planet

Just

Wow
Our world is filled with so many chances for joy
if only we pay attention with our eyes and ears and heart
Oh little one, bless this day that you bring your special and one of a kind love to this world
You are already changing this place for the better

for that my soul leaps with happiness and laughter bubbles up from within
Go forth in peace to love and serve the world
one day
But for now rest, little one,
and let us comfort you and guide you and love you

and hold your little hand
There’ll be time for all that other later
For now you make it better with your sweet sighs and precious eyes

and smiles that come suddenly

like a sweet gift

and lift us up
Blessed be the little ones

And the ones who love them

Amen.

On journeys, memories, and finding peace

Journeys.

We begin them.  We come to the end of them.

One year ago tonight, the Fella was flying a night sortie.  He wouldn’t be home until after midnight.  I had a sick young’un who was on the upswing of the bug, and my oldest was supposed to go to a Wesleyan College information night at Bare Bulb Coffee.  It had been a week of rearranging plans and cancelling get-togethers.  Like you do when one of your babies is sick.

It wasn’t ideal, but we made it work.  Aub and I took turns watching the littles in the Blazer in the Bare Bulb Coffee parking lot, sitting and playing games on my cell phone with the heat on.  Somehow we got questions answered, met the Provost, found out about Scholarship weekend, and made a refundable deposit to hold her spot in the Class of 2017.  When we were all back in the car together, I took my phone back from the littles, and prepared to drive us home.  A notification on my phone caught my eye.

A missed call.

From my Aunt’s cell phone.

This did not bode well.

I called her back.  And my churning guts were right.  Mama was at the ER.  In severe pain.  In her quiet way, made even quieter by Mama’s presence, my Aunt shared with me that Mama had called her and asked her to take her to the hospital late that afternoon.

If Mama was hurting badly enough to return to the hospital, she was not doing well at all.  She had been in the hospital for eight days the previous August, and she did not ever want to return.  But nobody really does, do they?

I was thinking about all of this today, and I thought about my Aunt and how it seems like she’s always been there for us whenever Mama was in the hospital.  All the way back to when we were all young.  I remember us staying with her family when Mama was in for several days (I think) following surgery.   If I remember correctly, she took us back to our house to shower and change for bed, and then we went back to her house for the night.  I don’t have all that real clear, but what I do remember clearly is knowing it would all be okay.  Because of her.  My Aunt has a way of making me feel that way.  Even when the world is falling apart.

On the phone that night, January 17, 2013, I asked her if she wanted me to come on to the hospital so she could go home.  She hadn’t planned on them admitting Mama when she left her home, but it certainly looked like that was what was going to happen then.  We talked about options, and she finally said, “No, I’m fine.  Even if we stay the night, I’ll be okay.  You stay there with the children tonight.  In the morning will be soon enough, and I’ll head on home when you can get here.  Get some sleep tonight.  We don’t know how long it will be before you can again.”

What wasn’t said.  That.

I love her so much for that conversation right there.  For two reasons.

She knew I needed my sleep, and she gave me the gift of one more night at home in my bed.  Neither of us were to know it, but the next night I would spend sitting up in a brightly lit ICU waiting room with the TV blaring TNT “car chase” movies, getting exactly twenty minutes of shut-eye.  I am thankful for that gift.

But even more so, I am thankful that it just went without saying that we, none of us, would be leaving Mama by herself.  There was no discussion to be had.  It was an assumption, and I love her for that.  She stayed until I arrived the next morning, having gotten things in some semblance of order (such as it is around here) at my house and having packed a bag.  Just in case.  A good thing, it turns out.

One year ago tonight, my Wesleyan Pirate began her journey towards attending Wesleyan.  And we began the journey of–well, how do I phrase that–“losing Mama?” No I know where she is.  She’s still very much with me.  “Letting go?”  We didn’t.  I hung on tooth and nail, worrying every doctor I knew in that hospital right up until one finally said, “It’s time.”  I don’t know what that night began except that I can tell folks that it was as close to hell as I ever want to be.  It was hard.  And for now that’s enough said about that.

I’m trying to make the point of remembering over the next few weeks to be one of redemption, of finding what I can be thankful for in the middle of all of this.  Each night that I sent out an update from the hospital last year, I tried to end with “Tonight I am thankful for…..”

I think Mama would have liked that.  I also wrote things I wanted to remember to share with her, things I thought she’d laugh at.  Like the time she was still sedated but bit the doctor when he put his finger in her mouth.  After letting her be shocked and feel bad for a minute, I was going to tell her that he deserved it. (He did.) Oh, and the story about one nurse’s little baby and how I took her a copy of Mama’s favorite book from the trunk of the car (where she kept extras) for the baby.  Mess Cat and I were going to share a veggie burger with her from the cafeteria–it was so delicious!  So many stories not shared or told.

After Daddy died, Mama told me something that was hard for me to hear.

“Tara,” she said, on the phone late one night. “If you call over here and you don’t get an answer, and you find that I’ve left this world in my sleep one night, I don’t want you worrying over it.  I’ve had a good life.  And I’ll be okay.”

“Mama it sounds like you want to go.  I don’t want to talk about this.”

“No, I don’t.  I’ve got a lot of things left to do.  But if I go, I just want you to know that I’m at peace. And I want you to be too.  You got that?”  For a person of such diminutive stature, she could sound quite forceful at times.

She did have things that she still wanted to do.  She told her pastor and sweet friend the afternoon after she was admitted, “I have to get well.  I want to come work in the food pantry at the church as soon as I get out of here.”  She had plans to go see her new grandson after he was born.  As they wheeled her down to surgery, she told her nurse who was assuring her everything would be okay, “It has to be.  I’ve got a new grandson coming any day now.”  And she smiled a big ol’ beautiful smile through all that pain and discomfort and fear.

And that’s what I want to do.  Throughout the next few weeks, through the pain of remembering and grief, I want to find and remember something to be thankful for in our days and weeks on the journey, some form of joy to be found.  I don’t want to just plant a smile on my face, I want it to radiate from my whole being.

Because Mama told me she would be at peace, and I think she’s telling me it’s time I found myself at peace too.

Tonight I’m thankful to be the Mama of a Wesleyanne.  When I was a student there, just yesterday I think it was, I never imagined the joy it would give me to be a part of the traditions with my own daughter.  I give thanks for my Aunt who has been with us every step of the way ever since we were little.  And that she still lets me walk with her today, that I can pick up a phone, just as I used to reach up my hand on our walks, and find her there.  I’m thankful for the gift of being on the journey with my Mama, for the gift of seeing that smile and hearing the hope she had.  I don’t understand, but that’s where that peace that Mama talked about, the peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7) comes in.  As I journey through the memories of the past and press forward to the future, that’s what I seek and hope to find.  Peace.

Love to all.

Mama and the Drug Dealer

Last August when Mama was in the hospital, she had a really rough time.  She had been admitted with a temp registering over 105.  I don’t know if I’ve ever been more frightened in my life.  They took her back immediately and left me to do the intake…..and worry what was happening back there.  She was dehydrated, her blood levels were off–it wasn’t good at all.

As happens they needed to “get a vein” on Mama quite often during that ten day HospitalStay.  Putting in an IV was especially tricky.  Mama did not, for whatever reason, have what could be deemed “good veins.”  I watched her in pain as nurse after nurse tried to find a way to get it set up.  Eventually they did, but each time Mama was left more exhausted than before.  And unfortunately, the vein would give out I guess or she would be in great pain, and they’d have to move it again.

Between me, my Aunt, and my siblings we stayed with Mama pretty much around the clock.  I spent the nights with her.  Though you could still hear voices in the hall and the lights were as bright as ever out there, there was a hush that came over the hospital after dark.  People who came in the room talked in low tones, and were more deliberate in their movements.  Often I dozed through the comings and goings.  One of the symptoms of Mama’s newly diagnosed syndrome was that she could run a fever and then sweat so profusely the bedclothes would need changing.  The staff was very good about helping her and sometimes changing the linens twice in one night.  They understood.  I’m so thankful for that.  And Mama, who had been to nursing school, kept a keen eye out for which ones had those special bedmaking skills.  Before she was discharged, I knew what was considered the right way, and who the best bedmakers were on our floor.

One night I had been sleeping for a couple of hours when I awoke to voices talking quietly, almost a whisper.  I sat up and Mama said, “Oh Tara, you have to hear the story that Sonya* just told me.  She’s the best at setting up IV’s.”  I smiled and rubbed my eyes.  Mama was beaming.  Sonya was finishing up connecting the IV, but it was in, and Mama wasn’t hurting.  Oh so thankful.  “I’d like to hear it.”

pic of drug needles

Sonya had been in nursing school in Virginia I think.  Mama liked that because her baby boy and his family live there, and it was a connection for her.  Eventually, Sonya wound up in New York doing some training.  Late one night she was having a hard time getting a vein on a patient.  One of the more experienced nurses told her to go up on the ninth floor to see Harold*.  He could help her with accessing veins.  Sonya went up and found Harold, an older gentleman patient diagnosed with AIDS.  He was a former drug dealer.  One of the aspects of his business was showing new folks how to get a vein, in the hopes that they’d get hooked on the drugs I suppose.  He was very, very good.  Maybe at selling drugs too, I really don’t know.  But eventually he wanted out of it.  He quit dealing, turned his life around and was involved in many good programs helping people before AIDS put him in that hospital.  On the ninth floor.  Where he taught Sonya–very well–how to “get a vein.”

The next morning as we sat, like you do in a hospital room, I thought about Sonya’s story.  “Hey, Mama, did you ever think you’d be thankful for a drug dealer and his skills?”  I don’t remember her answer.  She might have been sleeping.  All I know is I was and still am thankful for him.  And for Sonya who took the time to learn from someone others might have overlooked, something that all of her patients from then on would benefit from.

A few weeks ago I wrote about all the shades of gray in our world.  And remembering this brings it home for me.  So often in the past couple of weeks I have said to my Aunt or my friend or to my oldest–and yes, in frustration quite honestly–“See, no one can be put in a ‘white’ or ‘black’ box.  We are all a mixture of good and bad, light and dark, and we all go in the ‘GRAY’ box.”  *sigh*  So often I wish I could just write off someone who has upset me or disappointed me because there was nothing redemptive about him or her.  But it’s just not that easy.  There’s no all the way on anything or anyone.  It’s always a mix.

And that’s why I love this story.  The story of how my Mama, a feisty but sweet Mama of four, volunteer, Winnie the Pooh lover, great cook, reader, artist, and writer was touched and blessed by a drug dealer from New York City.  Because that part of his life did not ultimately define him.  Just as no one part of Mama’s life defined hers.  We are all these amazing stories whose lives intersect in the most fascinating and ordinary of ways and at the most interesting times.  And when they do, isn’t it breathtaking the stuff that can come of it?  When I think about the ripples, all the lives touched in a good way by Harold because he was a part of helping programs, because he was willing to share his skills with nurses, I am blown away.  Just as there’s no way of counting the lives that Sonya touched and still touches as she goes about caring for patients and helping people heal and be comfortable.  Or how many little lives my Mama touched all those years she read to children in classrooms at Byron Elementary.  I think that’s one of the coolest things ever.  How our stories travel far and wide to places we’ve never even been.  My Mama and a drug dealer’s lives connected?  That’s the most beautiful shade of gray I’ve ever seen.  Light in the darkness.  I love it.

*not their real names

Lessons in Legos

pic of legos

Today we went to what my littles call “Lego Building School.”  It is put on by the local franchise of Bricks4Kidz, and my crew all love it.  It is a combination of free play building with all sorts of Legos and a mini-class, where they learn about something and then build a model according to the directions they are given.  In the past we have built mechanized spiders, a dragster, and a windmill.  Like most things, it is the people who run it who make it the most fun.  They love what they do, and they take the time to get to know the children there.

Last month the assigned project was a Venus Flytrap.  Thanks to the lesson about them, my two became interested in these fascinating plants again, and we are on the lookout for one.  We had my nephew with us that day, as my sister was in China and we asked my brother-in-law to let him join us.  My little man paired up with his Daddy to build the Venus Flytrap model.  My poor nephew was stuck with me.   It was a complicated model, complete with friction bushings and gears that had to meet just so.  Oh let’s face it, I was totally inadequate when it came to helping my sister’s baby boy with this.  In the end, he gave up on me and wandered off to test the one the teacher had built.  Correctly. Mine never would snap just right when triggered.  One of the instructors tried to correct whatever it was that I done incorrectly, bless her.  It was not salvageable.  I left with my head down, feeling like I had let my nephew down.  Though I don’t think he was much upset.  He still got his mini-fig that he built to take home and a lunch of pizza after.  I’m pretty sure he has let it go.

I only wish I could.

Today we arrived to find that we would be building two projects.  As my two were the only ones there (whoo hoo!), they handed my husband a kit.  One of the instructors asked if I would like one too.  The shame from last month overshadowing me, I said rather meekly, “Oh no, I don’t think so.”

However the other instructor, Mr. Tom, did not hear me.  He brought me a kit and a manual and told us we could start on our projects–a paper crimper.  Okay.  Sure.  I was very hesitant as I pulled out the 1 by 12 tech plates and bushings and so on.  But my confidence gained when my gears were moving together.  Could it be I was on the right track?  The Venus Flytrap in my mind whispered and giggled, “As if!”  Oh my.

But there it was.  The last step.  I was finished, and I was ready to attach the battery.  As I was the first one done, I had no idea exactly what it was supposed to look like.  I gave the switch a flip and voila!  It was running.  I was handed a pile of 1/4″ wide paper strips.  I ran one through.  Coolest. Thing.  Ever.  (or at least this morning)  So cool.  It came out all crimped up like those fancy strips you can buy to put in gift baskets or bags.  Awesome!  Win.  Soon all four of us were whirring paper through and laughing triumphantly.

Our Princess with her Lego paper crimper running smoothly

Our Princess with her Lego paper crimper running smoothly

Time to take it apart and build the second project–which was a stand for spiral art.  It spun a plate in circles while you held a marker in place.  Really cool art resulted.

As I was attempting to put the pieces back in their correct spot in the kit, I noticed a “Key to Difficulty” on the last page of the directions.  Wow, I thought.  I wonder how hard this one I just did was.  I was probably a little full of myself at this point, I have to admit.  I felt redeemed after last month’s failure.  I just wish my nephew had been there to see me.

I turned to the front cover.  A green dot.  What did that stand for?  I looked back.  Green dot.  Green dot.  Green.  Dot.  Oh my.  Easy.  (Facile)  Sigh.  My spirits sank.  I think I may heard the Venus Fly Trap snicker.  I tried to let that go, and I put the Spiral Art Stand together.  Again, no problem, and it was so much fun making the picture.  I did not even look at its level of difficulty.  I have a feeling I know.  And there is the looming feeling that perhaps my failure last month is the reason for this month’s projects’ levels of difficulty?

It was this evening when a couple of things came to mind.

If I had let last month’s failure keep me from participating this month, I would have missed out on an awful lot of joy this time around.  I mean, it was really, really fun.  Lesson #1.  As Mama and Daddy said, “Try, try again.”  (Or “When you fall off the horse, you have to get back on.” Literally, in my case.)  Pretty obvious, that one.  But for some reason I have to keep learning it.

When I saw the level of difficulty, I let some of the joy escape for a minute or two.  In a sense I was comparing myself to the “others” who set the skill level.  Daddy often said in his later years, “When you compare, you lose.”  Every.  Single.  Time.  Errahday.  Thank you, Daddy, for that reminder.  Lesson #2.

When we have failures, no matter how little, it is hard to get back in the game.  We tend to compare ourselves to how so-and-so or the generic “they” would have done it.   But I’m thinking tonight we should give ourselves grace in these situations.  Steps, even if they are baby ones, are still steps.  Some days that’s just as good as it can get.  And if we find joy in the “easy” or “simple,” so be it.  We should embrace that.  If it brings you joy, and it ain’t hurting anybody, don’t let anyone, especially not an old Venus Flytrap, tell you it’s not worth doing a jig over.  Take that joy and hold it close.  Joy don’t grow on trees, so when you do find some, treasure it.  Even if it’s VERY FACILE.

Joy and beauty with Legos.

Joy and beauty with Legos.