Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tribes



Several days ago, my hubby and I ran into another couple whose children are out of the house. In the salad dressing aisle, we discussed how life changes as our kids grow and spread their wings. The mom advised us to cherish this time of running around after the kids doing sports and activities on evenings and weekends, that it “goes fast.” The dad then commented that when the kids are gone, “You go pick apples and then go to the grocery store on a Saturday.” That comment resonated with me as did they compassion in their eyes. They “got” what we were feeling.
Recently, I read a Young Adult novel entitled Posted by John David Larson. In it, the protagonist talks about how we assemble tribes of like-minded people who share our interests. As one whose kids are growing up, I am struggling with the life change. Our tribe is clear when our kiddos are little, are immediate families, our extended families, and perhaps some coworkers. You don’t really have time or energy for much else. As your kids grown and present you with new challenges, you begin to realize the value of speaking with other parents, perhaps joining a club like Mom’s Club. We do this to establish connections with similar people who understand the rthym and chaos of our lives and may have some wisdom to offer us.
As we change over time, so does the makeup of our tribes, but they continue to be about tapping into the shared human experience. Recently a dear friend of mine posted the following comment on Facebook, “Friends this morning was a hard morning as a mom. It hit me hard that my baby is growing up and I can't control everything. There were tears...lots of them. I am so thankful for the mom friends in my life who boosted me up and helped me feel better.” This is the power of the tribe, to alleviate pain through sharing it. Life is hard and we all need tribes to help understand and navigate it.
I have found the collective wisdom of my tribe particularly helpful in dealing with the physical changes of age. For example, when out with a group of women of a “certain age” two topics inevitably arise, insomnia and irrational mood changes. I am completely convinced that the woman who sleeps between the hours of three and five am is as rare as a unicorn. But somehow knowing that there are others like you out there makes it easier to focus on breathing, to let go of stress and worry, and to eventually fall back asleep. How many women can relate to breaking into tears at a Sam’s Club when your husband and kids didn’t order you an ice cream because they didn’t know what flavor you wanted. Perimenopause can make you bonkers. As I age, the kinship and wisdom of my tribe of women friends is proving critical. When I thanked a friend for a recent kindness, she replied that she “was not sure... [her advice was] always wise, but it’s definitely REAL.” That’s what tribes do, they allow us to connect with each other and so better understand ourselves.

I am learning to accept the reality that one of our chicks has flown the coop. I am proud of him for this accomplishment. I want him to soar, but I will admit to feeling chagrined that I don’t hear from him as much as I would like. Another wise companion pointed out that this is the natural order of life, that we should want our children to be confident enough to stand on their feet and face their own challenges. I truly want that for him, but it’s not easy to let go. This is another strength of the tribe, to allow us the perspective to get past our own selfish desires to  see the greater good.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Spirit of Halloween


            Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. It’s about pure, good spirited fun, without the exhausting commercialism of Christmas or the sheer culinary effort of Thanksgiving. I like the idea that veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is worn and frayed during the autumnal holiday, that perhaps our ancestors are a little more present. It is also my favorite holiday because the expectations on parents are so much lower. You buy a few bags of candy, carve some pumpkins, pop on your house lights, and you’ve satisfied familial expectations for holiday bliss. Parents can even shirk responsibility for the whole costume thing. As your children get older, it can be more about their imagination and vision. When we were kids, a large part of the fun of Halloween was assembling a costume from miscellaneous items in the attic. One reason I choose to be the candy-giver-outer is because I love seeing homemade costumes, the plastic bag jellyfish and the cardboard box Minecraft guys. Some moms truly step up their games.
            While Halloween is my favorite holiday, I struggle with the scary aspects of it. Horror movies are big this time of year, and I close my eyes during their commercials. I am a huge Stephen King fan, but the whole “It” thing has thoroughly ruined red balloons and clowns for me. Every haunted house has a “clown room.” Several years ago, I took my then preteen kids to a local haunted house. That cool, windy, October night, I subjected myself to a cardiac stress test and exited the attraction with suspiciously warm and wet leggings all in the name of Halloween fun. Later that night, I recall lying on my bed, unable to sleep, exhausted but exhilarated. After that, I don’t think I went down into the basement at night until the New Year.
            Adults get to participate in Halloween mischief and mayhem more than in other holidays.  We can be young at Halloween in a way that you can’t on the other holidays with their attendant responsibilities. Adults and college students can dress up and escape their identities for a little while. All of us have had those suspiciously tall trick-or-treaters who have real facial hair. I say more power to them, for they are truly grabbing hold of the magic of this liminal holiday. But it is the parents of the youngest kids whose eyes are brightest with excitement. Their wee ones may only make it around a block or two before wanting to go home to inventory their candy, but those parents will want to hit every porch until all of the houses go dark and their offspring are completely cranky and exhausted. Now, my kids are too old to want to trick or treat and my husband and I carve the pumpkins alone. But I will admit my heart beats a little faster when I wrap that enormous black widow spider’s legs around the porch rails and put out the green graveyard ghost sign that reads “I’m a goner.” Strobe lights from the Dollar Store add a certain je ne sais quoi to our holiday display.
            You can’t really mess up Halloween, though recently we came close. That year, my sister was staying with us for the holiday. We had gone out and purchased a metric ton of candy. We had the lights on early, creepy music playing, the strobes, flashing. We were ready, or at least we seemed to be. I made the mistake of having my kids hand out candy without proper instruction. Encouraged by my husband, my son and daughter handed out fistfuls. I may be chintzy on the candy hand out, but as the one who keeps a running tally of the number of trick-or-treaters on a given Halloween eve, I am acutely aware of the potential for disaster. My children didn’t know that our new neighborhood is some sort of Halloween hub. My theory is that kids are being bussed in. At six thirty, we ran out of candy. THE HORROR. My sister was appalled. My kids were aghast. We were officially “unhalloweeny.” Quickly, I turned out the lights and instructed my crew to hide, so the remaining parades of holiday revelers out in our neighborhood wouldn’t see us. I called my eldest, who was not yet home, to make a run over to a nearby hardware store and procure whatever candy might remain on the shelves. But we forgot the strobes. I still remember that wet armpit, heart pounding feeling as the doorbell continued to ring. I am not sure it helped that when my son got home shortly thereafter with several bags of candy, I ran down the sidewalk in costume waving my arms and calling for the kids and parents to come back. At school the next day, after several of my students mentioned being chased by a “giant green M&M,” I chose not to reply when asked what my costume had been the night before.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Recent Article in Volume One magazine

Life is about change, but I struggle with it. Please check out my recent article in Volume One magazine: Saying Goodbye to SwingSets and Campers
Please share any comments or reflections you have on letting go of seminal objects.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Review of Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder



I read this entire story as an extended metaphor about a young girl's transition to adulthood. I was fascinated by the magic of the island as Jinny introduces it to her Care. I loved the winds that support the children when they jump into them, how the snakes never bite, and how the children know how to dry out fruit to make a sort of candy. As the story unfolded, I wanted to know who sent these children here, who created the rules, and why do they have to leave at a certain time? When Jinny refuses to follow the rules, the island seems to "break." I want to know what happens next. Does Jinny succeed in saving Loo? Is the island forever ruined for the children? I salute the artistry of the story but I found the ending super frustrating. I was left with too many questions. I wanted the island to be a fully thought out world, but Snyder leaves her readers at sea with Jinny.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Thanks to LE Phillips Public Library for the Shout Out

https://www.ecpubliclibrary.info/local-authors-are-the-best/

Review of Dream a Little Dream by Kerstin Gier

This is a delicious YA novel that juxtaposes the real world with the dream world and leaves readers wondering which is "real" after all. Gier's novel has a gothic flare and includes creative concepts like a hallway of dreams in which each person has a uniquely decorated or protected door that leads into an individualized dream world. Liv Silver is the true delight of this story. She is most definitely not a victim who needs saving, but, instead, a level headed, sarcastic skeptic.