Monday, March 30, 2009

Treasure

It was a reading kind of day at my house. I nibbled at some Henry James, some F. Scott Fitzgerald, and some Elizabeth Barrett Browning poetry. Treasures, all.
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Books, books, books!
I had found the secret of a garret room
Piled high with cases in my father's name;
Piled high, packed large, where, creeping in and out
Among the giant fossils of my past,
Like some small nimble mouse between the ribs
Of a mastodon, I nibbled here and there
At this or that box, pulling through the gap,
In heats of terror, haste, victorious joy,
The first book first. And how I felt it beat
Under my pillow, in the morning's dark,
An hour before the sun would let me read!
My books! At last, because the time was ripe,
I chanced upon the poets.

~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Friday, March 27, 2009

Training Wheels

This week, Corban decided he was ready to ride his bike without training wheels. He was actually ready at the end of last summer, but we didn't rush him. There was a sense of security he felt with them attached. But when they came off on Sunday, he was elated. He was ready. With his dad running behind the bike and holding onto the seat, you could see in Corban’s face the moment he acknowledged and embraced the commitment, that point of no return. He dove into this new experience with glee!

I had tears in my eyes. I was so happy for him, so proud of this deliberate step of his. But this is the last of my children I’ll watch give up training wheels. There is a realization that certain things are behind me for good now, and that leaves me a little sad and joyful at the same time. As I contemplated my surprise tears on this occasion, I thought about things in my life I may be holding onto, my own training wheels, things that provide comfort and security like a safety net, allowing me to try things out without ever really committing, caught between the dream of action and fear of failure.

Could I dare to take off my training wheels? Could I do it with as much joy and excitement as Corban had? Passivity makes no demands of me. The world is full of endless possibilities there for the taking. That world is my stage, and I can chose to give the performance of a lifetime or sit in the audience. As I watch my son’s wild and exhilarating bike ride, I recommit to the ride of my life and launch forth gleefully on two wheels.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Heroes

Poetikat challenged me to compile a list of 25 of my literary heroes, those authors who made me realize the magic and power of literature and words, and who inspired me to write. Here is my list:

Youthful impressions: Beverly Cleary, EB White, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Mary Norton, and Mildred Wirt Benson (Carolyn Keene) awakened my mind's eye and developed my imaginative muscle.

The Conjurers: Madeleine L'Engle, Ray Bradbury, George Orwell, Margaret Atwood, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and CS Lewis introduced me to speculative fiction, alternative worlds, and mythopoeia.

The Bard: William Shakespeare taught me how delicious words can taste.

The Dame: Margaret Mitchell began my love affair with historical fiction.

The Songwriter: Carly Simon's confessional songwriting taught me that music is what feelings sound like.

The Poets: Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson and TS Eliot made me aware of something immense running through me, and forever rearranged the furniture of my heart.

The Naturalist: Henry David Thoreau helped develop my capacity for wonder, self-reliance and simplicity, and continues to send me out to chase the wind.

The Storytellers: Whether exploring the hidden motivations and psychology of human nature, creating unforgettable and rich locations through traditions and folklore, exploring themes of aspiration and lost innocence, or weaving threads of fate, hope and social observation into a literary tapestry, my most influential storytellers have been Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen), Mary Shelley, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Thomas Hardy, Leo Tolstoy, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.


I, in turn, offer this challenge to Colonel Brandon at Nature's Diary, Bee at Desk of Bee Drunken, and Carol at The Writer's Porch. Who have been your author influences?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Gratitude

The man strode toward me this morning—one in a long string of mornings. The energy and purpose in his stride was unmistakable. I felt myself tense. He is our neighborhood connoisseur of woe, the grandfather of one of the children at the bus stop. You can accurately predict the amount or depth of his woes merely by watching him walk toward you. The worse the complaints, the more energetic the walk and the longer the stride.

With little apparent drive and motivation to his life, he does have a mission. He is on a treadmill accumulating misery at every step, and he is intent on savoring and sharing every shred of it. It seems he stores up morsels of morose news to share, delighting in disgorging a mighty torrent of wretchedness that threatens to sweep away everyone/thing in his path in an assault of negative and angry words. He refuses to be diverted—working relentlessly to maintain his wet-blanket mode.

There are so many broken people in the world, infected with dark, brooding clouds over their lives blinding them to the good around them. Negative people not only harm themselves; they harm the world. They cease to make a contribution to it. Instead of helping, they spread gloom and doom everywhere, robbing themselves and others of happiness.

A sure cure for this condition is the Appreciation Diet. Every morning, write down on paper five things you’re happy about and five things you’re grateful for. This helps you focus on the positive things in life. At the end of each day, write down five things you did well that day. This forces you to appreciate your strengths and not to be so hard on yourself.

Thornton Wilder said, “We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” How true! Surely, if negativity cripples the human spirit, appreciation and gratitude give it wings.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Inheritance


It is not enough to prepare our children for the world;
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we must also prepare the world for our children.
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~Luis J. Rodriguez

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Wilma and Betty, Revisited

I'm recycling a post from last November in honor of my daughter, Lindsey, who is planning a trip to see her best friend. Separated by distance, they remain close. This picture is of Lindsey and Maria in costumes Lindsey made. Who knew she'd still like to play dress-up in her 20s?!


I had to laugh recently when I heard someone say that the cartoon “The Flintstones” was really promoting Marxism, and that there were ideological messages about the individual’s place in society hidden within the cartoon. That sure wasn’t the message I got from watching “The Flintstones,” a staple in my Saturday morning lineup of cartoons while growing up.

I watched as Fred and Wilma and their neighbors, Barney and Betty, dealt with stone-age suburban problems, work issues, difficult bosses, friendships, crises, out-of-control pets and children, and their primitive versions of modern conveniences. They got caught up in the same things we do today: fads and crazes, celebrity idolization, dreaming of the ‘good life’. They struggled through mistakes and misunderstandings, bad decisions and anger. They laughed and cried, fought and made up with one another, always learning important lessons about life and relationships along the way.

But it was Wilma and Betty I admired most. They were the level-headed ones. They were strong female voices of reason. They served to check and balance the harebrained schemes Barney and Fred dreamt up. Most of all, they were best friends for more than 30 years. My very favorite Flintstone episode was when Wilma and Betty took Judo lessons to protect themselves from a neighborhood prowler. I loved their practical responses to things (most of the time!) and their mutual support. I still think they’re great role models for girls, teaching us the importance and endurance of friendship. It takes a long time to grow an old friend, and every minute is worth it. Yabba-Dabba Do, Lindsey and Maria!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Fever






"It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want—oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!"
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~ Mark Twain

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Mother's Lap

My seven-year-old is outgrowing some of his books, most of which we’ve had for over 20 years. One last time, I leaf through these wonderful and familiar books, read and loved by all three children. I remember the lovely hours spent with a child on my lap reading. We all acknowledge the power and benefits of reading to our children, but add in the lap component and magic happens. We’re donating some of the books to our local library, but there are some classics I’ll hang onto even when my last chick has left the nest, and Dr. Seuss is among them.

Earlier this month, schools across the country celebrated ‘Cat in the Hat Day’ in honor of Theodor Seuss Geisel, our beloved Dr. Seuss. As a child, he too was introduced to the love of reading and words on his mother’s lap. She read and recited rhymes to him; in fact, he credited her with his ability and desire to create his famous and well-known rhymes.

Brilliant and playful, Dr. Seuss changed the nature of children’s books and helped four generations of children learn to read. His stories march at a rhythmic pace, full of tongue-twisters, word play, inventive vocabulary, and imaginative hybrid beasts. Even after his death in 1991, Dr. Seuss continues to be the best-selling author of children's books in the world. I always enjoyed reading his stories as much as my children loved hearing them. I’ve heard reading his books described as an amusement park for your mouth! Isn’t it nice to know you’re never too old to read a Dr. Seuss book?

And now we’ve come full-circle. As Ted Geisel learned to love words and rhymes on his mother’s lap, I’m hoping to impart similar lessons to my children on my lap. Read-aloud time is always a special experience marked off from ordinary by a parent's lap and a Dr. Seuss book. Corban may be outgrowing some of his books, but with many stories to be told and lessons to be shared, even at seven, he still fits perfectly in my lap.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Idita-Walk

Along with a few family members, I’ve joined the 832 participants this year in the annual Idita-Walk. Created to coincide with the Iditarod, the 1,049-mile sled dog race between Anchorage and Nome, Alaska, completing the Idita-Walk requires walking 1,049 minutes between February 1 and March 31.

Although I don't have to brave the same harsh conditions as those indomitable sled dogs and their mushers, walking for 1,049 minutes in Michigan in February and early March is not for the fainthearted! In fact, I use ski poles for balance and stability while I log my miles. I can walk about four miles in an hour as I clomp along in my UGGs, the only boots I've ever owned that keep my feet warm.

After a long winter season of exercising indoors, how delicious it feels to pull that cold, fresh Michigan air, straight off the lake, into my lungs. And the walking trail that begins two blocks from my house is sublime. It’s lined with mature oaks, maples, cedars and pines that hold hands over my head to form a canopy; picturesque even in harsh conditions.

I’ll earn this snappy little lapel pin when, this next week, I complete the Idita-Walk. Now I’m off to hit the trail again. Mush!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Winter's End

Those who know me have heard me lament over the past months about how long our Winter season has been this year. We’ve had snow on the ground since the end of October, survived two bona fide blizzards, and dug out from under 110-plus inches of snow. With another four to six weeks of winter under our collective belts, we’re anxious for Spring in this neck of the woods.

In other parts of the world, and even here in the United States, people measure Spring’s proximity by various means. It is heralded by robins, budding leaves, crocuses and daffodils. However, here in these northern climes alongside Lake Michigan, we know Winter is almost over when we can see the deer wandering around!


Absentee Blogger


I've been away tending to some work-related projects that, as it turned out, required more of my time and energy than I'd anticipated.
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Having brought that area of my life back under relative control, I'm looking forward to getting back to blogging and visiting with my bloggy friends. Give me a few days and I'll catch up with everybody's blogs!