Thursday, March 23, 2017

Threshold

This happens every year. I wait and wait and wait for Spring Break.  Every year I think it will feel relaxing.  I expect to return to school feeling rejuvenated.  In my 12 years of teaching, that has yet to happen.  I'm not sure why I continue to expect it will.  In reality, I just trade one form of exhaustion  for another.

I've hit my threshold.  As much as I crave people and interaction, even for me, the often insatiable extrovert, I have a threshold.  My days -- all days -- are full of people.  And I love them.  I appreciate them. I value them.  But I've reached a point where I need (dare I say it?) alone time.  My classroom is an extension of me.  But this semester I'm privileged (incredibly privileged) to host a student teacher who is wonderful.  However, it means the space, the one space in my life that I have the ability to occupy alone for long stretches of time, is not empty.  It is shared.  All aspects of my life right now are shared -- the drive to work, my school day, the drive home, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, my bed, my trip to the bathroom (I love my children so much, but seriously.  Can I pee alone, just once? Can the story wait?).  It's all occupied.  And even on the rare occasion when I share companionable silence, it's still companionable, still shared.

So today I hit the threshold.  I can't hold any more.  And people all day have asked me what's wrong. It's hard to say.  I need alone time.  I'm grateful in moments like this that my husband is an introvert. He understands without me needing to explain.  I know I shouldn't feel guilty.  (I do.  I always do.).  I can say to him: I've hit it.  I've hit my threshold. I need alone time.  He's heard it so rarely -- maybe once a year or so -- that he knows how much I need it when I finally utter the extrovert's hardest words.  And he's there.  He takes over.

So tonight I came home from school earlier than usual, alone.  I folded laundry.  I sat in silence.  I drank a glass of wine slowly and without interruption.  I talked on the phone for a bit (an event which, though connected to another person, is surprisingly wonderful when you're not also putting out a thousand fires).

And tonight I'm taking myself to a movie.  Alone.  My favorite way to see a movie.  I'm trying to take care of myself tonight.  It isn't something that comes terribly naturally.  It's hard to give up the guilt. But I know that the few hours I give to myself will replenish.  I'll come back refreshed, recharged, and ready to be there for the ones I love.  I'll graciously and willingly share my spaces.  But tonight, just for a few hours, I'm going to be selfish.  I'm going to refill.  I'm going to enjoy the quiet.

Tomorrow.  Tomorrow will be for everyone else.  Tonight is for me. I'll savor it.  I'll be better for it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Things I've Said Today

I often don't think about the words I say in a day until I realize I have an audience.  This is life.  On the phone with my dear friend tonight, I was reminded of audience.  She was an unwitting observer of the chaos in which I live and the sheer amount of words I exchange with them in a day.  The oldest wasn't home yet.  He brings in a dynamic all his own.  This just encompasses the two littles.

For you, a window:

Sit your bottom down right now!
Levi Finn, do not touch that!
Consequences.  Consequences.
I love you, too, sweetheart.

Milo Augustus!  Do not throw that!
Why are you making a mess?
Don't eat that!
I'm sorry I yelled, sweet baby.

Do not feed that to the dog!
Levi Finn! Milo Augustus!
No wrestling!
Levi! Nice eyes!  Look at your brother with nice eyes!

Awww.  You guys are so sweet to each other.
Stop touching.  Stop touching right now!
Do you want to watch a cartoon?
Levi! Milo! Be nice boys!

Thank you for the picture, buddy.
Yes! I see you drew our family. I love it!
Yes! You wrote your name!
You're such a big boy!

Levi Finn!  1 ... 2... Do not make me say 3!
I know it was an accident, sweetheart.
Yes, baby, I still love you.
Yes, baby, I am so proud of you.

You two are the sweetest little boys.
Mommy loves you so much.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Patience

Patience is a virtue, just not one I possess.  I hate waiting.  My mind moves quickly. I'm eager to take action.  So the waiting period is always grueling for me.  And giving up control.  Uff.  That's the worst.

I practice yoga.  I practice meditation.  I utter the mantra: Be here. Be now.  I concentrate on breath. But I struggle.  Deeply. Here is hard.  There is where I want to be.  Accepting that many things are beyond me, that I can't move them by sheer will, is an unending battle, but one I'll lose every time.

I've taken a risk.  I hadn't even fully comprehended I wanted change, now I feel almost desperate for it.  Sometimes the universe connects us with others in ways we don't anticipate or understand.  I believe in that.  Maybe that's why I love Kurt Vonnegut so much -- I'm thinking of Cat's Cradle: "As it happened, as it was meant to happen."  So I don't have patience, but I'm trying hard to believe everything happens for the right reasons,  that everything will end up in it's right place.  But all of that requires me to give up control.  To trust.  To be patient.

I have to wait. And the waiting's hard.  The waiting's always hard.  And I've yet to reach the point where I can fully be here, be now.  Some lessons come harder than others. So I'll continue to concentrate on breath, on stillness, and hope I arrive at a  place of quiet calm, patiently waiting, willing to accept whatever's next.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Pretty Things

As I waited for 300 years while my child insisted on putting his shoes on himself, I caught myself looking at a print that hangs in our front entry way.  Obviously, I thought it was beautiful, which is why I bought it, but I realized this morning that I walk past it with little more than a cursory glance.  


Part of the beauty of a home is that you fill it with things you love, that bring you joy.  So I took a little walking tour of my home today with new eyes, looking at the things I've chosen to fill it with, the beautiful pieces that help make this space mine.
A gift from my sister-in-law, mixed media

I've often thought about what people would learn about me simply by walking through my house (aside from the fact that we are complete and total slobs).  

So here are a few of the things in my home I like quite a lot.

Story People.  I love these prints.  I babysat for the artist's kids, so they hold a special place for me.


New Valance: A Spring Break Creation
I love the way the light shines through the curta

Yes, this a hand towel.  I adore it.  It reminds me of my grandmother.


Jewelry Holder
A Growth Chart a friend made from recycled barn wood.



African Masks. Two were gifts. I've had them since I was 19.


An incredibly talented friend made this piece for me.

I love the vibrancy of the colors on wood.
Favorite Coffee Mug

Wedding Picture

This window is above our front door and it brings the most amazing light into our home.  I obviously didn't choose it, but I love it nonetheless.

I'm surrounded by beautiful things that bring me joy everyday.  I just need to remember to look at them, to appreciate the quiet beauty they bring.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Baptism

I'm pushing myself to work in a genre that feels a bit uncomfortable.











Baptism

And the Mississippi's mighty
But it starts in Minnesota
At a place that you could walk across
With five steps down.
-The Indigo Girls

You began as a puddle
Pooled after an early summer rain.
The world shimmered in droplets of jewels,
Fresh and green and hopeful.
You were new, perfectly collected,
Reflecting the placid sky, feathers masquerading as clouds, possibility.

Later you were a trickling cold-water spring,
An unexpected discovery, come forth
From limestone and lush ground covering.
The sound of you, both quiet and loud.
I dipped my fingers and toes,
Your chill unshakeable, a spark.

Soon you became a stream,
Peaceful, easy, clear.
Then quickly a river,
Current too strong to resist, rapids rough, flesh scraped against jagged rocks,
But then the curve of the riverbed
And again languid, comfortable, familiar.

Now you are an ocean,
Beautiful and dangerous in what you can reveal to me about myself.
I am buoyed and consumed by your depth.
The submersion promises life and threatens to drown.
I long both to submit and repel.
I am baptized, but not saved.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Your Child, Mine Too

On the one hand, I expected my children would be just like me.  I made them (with a little help, but you know).  But on the other, it's incredibly exciting to think about who and what they'll be in this world; they are their own people after all, not merely extensions of me.  I get so used to the bustle of daily life that sometimes I don't stop to take notice of who they are now, how they're changing. Extended time with them this week has provided those moments in spades.

Matt and I have a running line.  One of our kids says or does something neither of us want to claim and we turn to the other say, "Your child."  It's funny how eager we are to claim responsibility when it's a trait we like and approve of, but how quickly we attribute their annoying qualities to someone/something else.

Oliver is my child in every way.  He's creative.  He's kind and empathetic.  He's sensitive and takes things to heart. His mind is always spinning.  He thinks about weird things. He talks. And talks. And talks. When asked to just sit silently for bit, he happily agrees.  Mere seconds pass. Then he talks again.

We had our first public mother-son fight at Target this week.  I've never seen Star Wars.  That's right. I've never seen Star Wars. And you know what?  It doesn't freakin' matter.  I'm fine.  I don't feel like I'm missing anything. I'm never going to watch it. Because I don't care about it.  I have the right to not care about it.  Oliver, on the other hand, has a wealth of knowledge on the subject. He's deeply bothered by this lapse in my cinematic experience.  He's also adopted this quirk of introducing each new thing he's about to share with, "Here's a fun fact for you."

So there we were in Target and I was about 7 "fun facts" deep in the Star Wars subject when I sort of lost it.  I didn't yell, but I was stern.  I said something to the effect of: "Buddy.  I don't care about Star Wars. You know I don't care about Star Wars.  It's really rude to continue to force "fun facts" on someone on a subject they don't care about.  I don't want to talk about Star Wars.  It's super annoying."  Oliver replied, "Well that wasn't very nice.  Everyone should have the right to talk about what they want." But he did shut up, for about a nanosecond.  Then he started in on "fun facts" about deforestation, his latest obsession.  He made sure to preface this list by saying he knows I care about deforestation because the Earth is home to all of us.  Well played, kid. Meanwhile, a woman overheard our conversation and made a point to come up to me at the checkout line to share that she thought the exchange was pure comedy and it made her laugh, which helped diminish the annoyance quotient a bit.

Levi.  We often refer to him simply as "the middle child."  It is a darn good thing that child is cute because he is full of attitude.  More attitude than any 3-year-old should possibly possess. He has these giant eyes that he uses to communicate as much as he does his voice, his tone, and his gestures.  He has this funny way of tilting his head and looking at you out the corners of his eyes.  He's my little snuggler, but he also has a speech pattern and cadence to his voice oddly reminiscent of Mr. T. Recently, he's adopted a gesture in which, head cocked, he pulls the flat of his hand down in front of his little face (like he's about to back hand you) and says sternly, "I told you!" Things he may have told us: don't do that, I'm hungry, I need a kiss, be nice, Milo's being naughty, he can do it himself, and on and on.  All of it, my little toe headed, blue-eyed Mr. T.

This morning I asked him to snuggle with me.  He begrudgingly agreed, but let me know he could only give me two minutes, two fat little digits held out for emphasis. He climbed into my bed and endured my snuggles and kisses for about 30 seconds, complaining all the time that I was snuggling him too tight, that he'd gotten too many kisses, that two minutes had passed already.  This is the same child who yells out the door in his aggressive Mr. T voice every single time I leave the house, "When you get home, I'm gonna snuggle you!"  Like a threat.  But he's so cute and so sweet beneath that intensity.

He's mine too. Matt tells me often.

And little Milo.  He's growing so fast.  His personality emerges more and more each day. He grins and runs around the house, mostly ignoring any redirection, but then races toward me full speed for the sweetest hugs you can imagine.  He goes all in.  I melt.

He's a mischievous one though, very quiet.  Not yet 2, he's a master climber.  If he wants to get in the top bunk without a ladder, not a problem.  Climb on the counter or table?  Well he'll just push that chair on over and climb on up. This week I've noticed how much he observes.  He loves his brothers so much and wants so badly to do what they do.  He loves his chores -- putting his coat in the closet, picking up clothes and putting them in the hamper, putting things away, getting his shoes before we leave.  To watch him take in the world and make his own way fills me with unimaginable joy.  He's my child too; he does it his own way.

This is one of the best parts of parenting: the observations, the surprise, the awe. We make them.  We raise them.  We try to guide and point them in the right direction.  And they are extensions of us, but they're entirely themselves, too.  I'm grateful I've had this week to break free from the controlled and regimented chaos of the day-to-day.  I've had the time to observe my little men, to truly see them as the individuals they are. And my heart is so full.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Amy Krouse Rosenthal Has Died

I can't explain why this news has left me with such a sense of being punched in the gut. Because I love her?  Because she was a kindred spirit?  Because of her palpable passion for life, that she savored the tiny moments?  Because I'm as quirky as she is? Because she had such a gift for putting words on the page in a way that I could pick them up and cradle them -- they felt both familiar and surprising, like I knew them all along but just needed to hear them spoken to me?

I'm thinking about her, about the power of words and story and perspective.  And I'm thinking of something she lived by: Plan "Be," not Plan "B."  Today I will make a point to notice the small things.  To jot them down.  To be playful and passionate and poetic (well, I'll try at that last one).  I will celebrate the life I have, in honor of hers, cut short far too quickly.

Rest in Peace, you beautiful weaver of words, you splash of stardust, you whirling, magical wonder. I so deeply appreciate what you have given to the world, what you have given to me.

I'll leave you with these: two of my favorite excerpts from Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life (one of those sweet circumstances when a book landed in my lap at precisely the time I most needed it). Both speak to her intelligence, her way of seeing the world, her wit, her humor, and her poignancy.  I hope you read them and something resonates.  And that you smile.





Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Things I Keep Learning

In case you haven't gathered by now, in my free time I sew.  I mentioned this previously, but I rarely use a pattern -- the things I create are simply ideas conjured in my mind.  And I suck at math, so each project is invariably impacted by a math equation gone awry, usually addition, which is sad (but damn those 8s and 6s are hard!).  It feels strange to say that I'm passionate about sewing.  It doesn't seem like a thing one should be passionate about, but I am. There's the idea, the collecting of materials, building the blueprint, hitting a pitfall, discovering a solution, loading the damn bobbin again and again and again, seeing the thing take shape, and then appreciating the finished project.

Because the product is mine, it's easy to see the shortcomings -- the jumped stitch, the imperfect seam, the asymmetry.  Those aren't the things others see.  I know this.  And in so many ways, isn't this life? We always see our weaknesses, sure they are calling the most attention, when others see the creation, the perspective, the whole.

In so many ways, sewing is my teacher (please tell me you caught that little pun). It reminds me that I don't need a predestined path to take me where I want to go, merely the idea, the willingness to rip out a few seams, to snip a bit here or there, and to trust that my vision will be realized.  Sometimes it's a bit discouraging -- I spent 3 hours on this?!?  But other times it's wonderful.  People appreciate the gift, the thought, the labor, the love.  And it works, in the way it's supposed to!  It holds the groceries, it sparks imagination.

So I've taken on this enormous project.  I'm probably 40+ hours in at this point.  And my approach to it is a mirror.  I've never been to The Grotto, but I want to visit.  I feel like it's like that.  I could take a much simpler path, but I keep adorning.  I keep adding, envisioning the new direction it might go. And much as it is a strength, I wonder why it's so challenging for me to see what needs to be done and do merely that.  There's no special award given for the person who does the most.  And, to be clear, it's not about others at all.  It's about me.  Something within that refuses to settle, to be complacent, to accept.  Something insatiable.

Our hobbies can reveal these things about us.  I know I'll be proud of this project.  I truly think it will be the best thing I've made.  But I wonder, why so much?  Whose approval am I seeking?  It's mine. And why must I be such an incredibly unyielding critic?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Stitch by Stitch

I love to sew, but life happens and it's often one of the first things to go.  For the first time in my life, I have a sewing room.  It has a door, which I can close.  It provides a sense of peaceful solitude -- a place to create and imagine.  It also provides an opportunity for disaster.  Fabric is piled everywhere. Bobbins are scattered over the table.  Snipped threads snake and cling.  It's easy to let the mess of creation collect and grow.  But I finally have a room of my own.  


I've been thinking about my Grandma Jones a great deal lately.  I wrote a post about her handcrafted items a few days ago.  I think this desire for creation comes from her.  What a gift to see a piece of fabric and to imagine what it might become! And in many ways, I think this is how I try to approach life.  I see a swatch there, a torn patch there, and simply by stitching the two together, it becomes.  It takes on new life. I rarely use a pattern, it's just an idea that takes shape, stitch by stitch.

The fabric store is one of my very favorite places because it's filled with so many beautiful things, arranged by color and type.  And all you have to do is pick one (or 10), take it to the cutting counter, and you're on your way.  And how magical that hundreds of people pass the bolts of fabric, that a few are drawn to the same pattern, but the ways in which each person uses that material will take a thousand forms?

But there's one piece I simply cannot begin.  My grandmother was mid-quilt when the cancer took hold.  She was a frugal woman.  The flowers are made from remnants of old clothes or remnants from another project.  None of the items in this quilt were purchased for the sake of making a quilt. They were found items from her home.  My aunt gifted me this unfinished quilt -- sewn by my grandmother's hand, thread and needle and time -- and urged me to finish it.  I want to.  I want to pick up where she left off.  But how?  I'm self-taught.  What if I mess it up, if her pieces fray because of my inexperience? And how do I finish it?  Where do my pieces come from?  Where do I find them?

I'll have the courage to begin it one day.  And when I do, I know she'll be with me.  Even if my stitches aren't straight, if the seams aren't perfect, it will be an extension -- however imperfect -- of her.  And it will be enough.  

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Do the Verb to Be the Noun

I'm really good at talking about what we should be doing to grow as writers. I frequently return to my mentors -- Kelly Gallagher, Penny Kittle, the Donalds (Murray and Graves), Peter Elbow even -- but there is a bit of a hitch in the transition from knowing and believing to doing. I struggle to put it into practice myself.

I suppose it's fear, largely.  If I merely open the tap and let words and ideas spill forth, then it is what it is.  But if I want to see myself as a writer, I think it needs to be more than that.  I'm writing everyday, which has proven to be more challenging than I expected.  In that aspect, I'm stretching my writing muscles.  It reminds me of when I started running a few years ago.  At first the distances I could cover were short and laborious.  But over time, a little practice each day, the distance wasn't so difficult to cover.  I built stamina and strength until suddenly I didn't.  I regressed almost.  Where 3 miles was manageable before, I began to peter out at 2.5.  And I guess that's what this writing thing feels like.  I've never been an athlete, so I don't benefit from the first-hand knowledge of what a coach provides in whole, but I think that's how I need to think about my mentors.  If I merely read their words, but don't apply them, it's the equivalent of a coach offering perspective and direction, but not heeding their advice, right?  Little growth can come from that.

I'm revisiting Stephen King's On Writing and Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. Both have powerful, easy advice, and it's time I put it into practice.  Some of my favorites:

"If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write."
-King

"I'm convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing." -King

"You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons are the ones you teach yourself." -King

"If something inside of you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work.  Write straight into the emotional center of things.  Write toward vulnerability.  Risk being unliked.  Tell the truth, as you understand it." -Lammot

"Try looking at your mind as a wayward puppy that you are trying to paper train.  You don't drop-kick a puppy into the neighbor's yard every time it piddles on the floor.  You just keep bringing it back to the newspaper." -Lammot

"I don't think you have time waste not writing because you are afraid you won't be good at it."
-Lammot

At the ICTE conference in the fall, Sara Kajder urged: "You have to do the verb to be the noun." If I aspire to see myself as a writer, I must do the messy work of writing -- without fear, without a need for perfectionism, without question.  It might not often be pretty, but it's a stepping stone to something that might be.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Beginning

Spring Break is a welcome reprieve from the rat race of the school day.  I do love to travel, but with three boys (7, 3, and 1), travel is often more burdensome than enjoyable.  And the sheer amount of stuff we have to bring along.  Uff.  No.  I'd much prefer to hang around town, enjoy a slower pace, and take care of things I've put off too long. There are plenty of things to do and the boys love "home days," as they call them.

While the break is welcome, it also provides long stretches of time to think without any pressing agenda to which to return, which can be both a good thing and a bad thing.  My mind never really shuts off.  I'm not a good sleeper.  Most nights, I wake around 2 or so and lie awake for hours.  I think about the growing list of things I'd like to check off.  It takes me a long time to think about some things before I'm able to bring myself to begin them.  Then break arrives and I can't fall back on the easy excuse of being busy.  And much like the way I've allowed the laundry to collect in various hampers and baskets, so too have I allowed unaddressed ideas and issues to collect.  Nothing's scattered all over the metaphorical floor of my mind -- it's all contained -- but it's not sorted, it's not organized, and it's not been addressed, merely stored (albeit in a precarious pile that's threatening to spill over).

So that's a goal for break.  To begin.  And to be okay with the fact that sorting through those waiting containers will be a bit messy, but just as with the hamper, I'm sure to find the equivalent of a favorite shirt I forgot about. It's easier to move forward when we know what we're dealing with and when it feels like everything is in it's right place.

Cheers to beginning.

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Praise for Introverts: An Extrovert's Rant

If you're an introvert, you should probably quit reading now, because you're not going to like what I'm about to say.  In recent years, I've noticed a dramatic trend in the glorification of the introverted personality type.  They're made out to be a marginalized group who society and extroverts (ahem, me) have bullied and demeaned and attempted to change into outgoing little fireflies of energy and enthusiasm.  Well, introverts, I. Am. Over. It.


I'm outgoing and extroverted by nature.  I thrive on talk and connection.  I have a large swath of friends.  There is not a single extrovert among them.  So hopefully, reader, you can understand why I've about had it with this notion of the oppressed introvert.  It's time we debunked some of myths out there about extroverts.

The World is a Challenging Place to Be for the Introvert; He/She Needs to Recharge in a Way that Extroverts Just Can't Understand

I'm sorry, you delicate little snowflakes, but has it occurred to you that perhaps extroverts also need to recharge?  It's a complicated notion, I know.  So while I fully understand your need to recharge, when your extroverted friend reaches out and wants to exchange a million words about something on her mind, it might behoove you to recognize that maybe that friend of yours isn't the energy sucking pariah you perceive her to be, but that she is trying to recharge through connection, which is what extroverts need.  An extrovert alone with her thoughts for too long a period of time is not  a pleasant thing.  This is not to say that introverts aren't deserving of the right to a solitary hunkering down to recharge, but in friendship, I think it's important to think about our actions.  Friendship is about balance, about give and take.  And often, introverts, you can come across as a little selfish -- it can feel like you believe your need to recharge is more important that ours.

Introverts are More Complicated and Sensitive than Extroverts
So much of the literature out there posits introverts as complex, emotional, insightful, and philosophical beings who need to be alone with their thoughts as a result.  So extroverts -- those who need to feel a sense of connection with greater frequency -- are shallow floozies?  We're more simplistic?  Because here's the thing: when I seek out others, I value depth not surface.  I'm not satiated by small talk.  I strike up conversation with others because I love stories and value perspective.  Because I seek a common thread.   Because I believe that each person has something to offer.  I'm not on a quest to merely fill a dance card.  People are important to me; the relationships I strive to build are not superficial or trivial.  Yes, extroverts easily connect with new people, but don't assume we're in it for the small talk.

Extroverts are Naturally Cheerful and Buoyant While Introverts are Sensitive
This is where my frustration really comes to a head.  In Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, she offers this little ditty: "[Introverts] tend to listen, [extroverts] to talk; [introverts are] sensitive to beauty, but also to slings and arrows, while [the extrovert] barrels cheerfully through his days; one pays the bills and the other arranges the children's play dates."

Maybe I'm being overly sensitive (but probably not, since apparently extroverts aren't capable of real emotion), but isn't this the entire issue argued in literature about introverts?  That they're forced to adapt to roles that don't feel comfortable or natural?  Look at what Cain just did.  She stereotyped extroverts in an incredibly limited and narrow scope.  I certainly don't "barrel cheerfully." Ever. Why is an extrovert cast in the role of the happy-go-lucky-puppy?  Extroverts are made out to be superficial, void of depth, just flitting from one person or group to another, in it merely for the social element.  That simply is not true.  In the same ways that introverts enjoy meaningful conversation and exchange with an intimate audience, so too do extroverts.  It's that talk extroverts need -- the perspective, the ability to bounce ideas off the other -- which leads me to my next point of contention.

Extroverts are Confident; Introverts are Self-Questioning
Facade.  Misinterpretation.  While extroverts may exude something that looks like confidence, hasn't it occurred to those waving the sad blue flag of the questioning introvert that perhaps extroverts are -- dare I say? -- even more insecure than you?  We don't trust ourselves.  We need the reassurance and validation of others.  That's why being alone is so challenging for us.  We confront all those insecurities in a way that cannot be absolved because we can't read the body language of others that comfort us that we're okay, people like us.  We spiral, riddled with deep anxieties, consumed in the seas of our flaws that don't abate until we are again bolstered by the love of our friends.  So, All Mighty Insightful and Sensitive Ones, the next time your extroverted friend begs you to talk to her, to go for a walk, perhaps you might call this point to mind: maybe your friend is in an anxious place and is reaching out to you to provide reassurance, even if she doesn't say that's what she needs.  And when you rebuke her because you just need alone time, the anxious somersaults are accentuated for your friend, because now she's questioning her value and destructive self-talk reigns supreme.



I'm not here to argue that one personality type is better or worse than the other.  It shouldn't be polarizing.  And yet (you may have missed this point as I was so incredibly subtle about my feelings), the trends in the way we talk about introversion vs. extroversion seem to argue that the quiet isolator is superior to the outgoing communicator.  We need each other.  But we also need to understand one another.  When we use blanket statements and categorize too broadly, we miss opportunities to connect and celebrate what each individual has to offer.  I acknowledge that I too have painted with a wide brush here. There are a host of issues at the heart of these personalities we could hash out; this is merely a starting point.

So this is me,  an extrovert alone with her thoughts (a bit wounded that no one wants to hang out, a little bruised by recent suggestions that I want and need too much from people, that I don't give them enough space) putting myself out there. Here I am, striving to recharge, complicated, sensitive, and insecure, reaching out across the divide.  Maybe we could go for a walk.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Title's Still Mine

On A days, a few boys always arrive to class early. I have a little basketball hoop in my classroom and kids love nothing more than to challenge me. 

Let me be clear, I am not an athlete in any sense of the word.  My form is abysmal.  However, my aim is pretty good.  So, while I may look ridiculous (figure-skateresque, my students would say) when the ball finally flies, I often make the basket.  And I'm not a quiet celebrant.

This morning-- the final day before Spring Break-- Cade wandered around the room swooping and dancing and singing along (terribly) to his music while Dalton and I challenged one another to see who could make the most shots.  Arnes watched on, periodically offering observations.  Several snapchats were sent out into the universe. I looked like a total baller.

I am highly competitive by nature and trash talk is my second tongue.  I never anticipated that my days would begin with a game of hoops and competition with a student, but I'm grateful that it so frequently does.  The content is important, but so is being human to one another.  My kids know I love them, but I'll trash talk with the best of them.  They can aim high, aspire, but I'm not too humble to boast that the hoop title is still mine.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Things I Take for Granted

I was thinking today about the things I take for granted.

-the exuberant squeal of my three boys when I walk in the door and they come running to give hugs and talk a million miles a minute about their day

-that I know how to replace the toner in the copy machine without help

-my students ask me to write them letters of recommendation, which allows me to celebrate all they've achieved

-a hundred hellos in the hallway

-I can finally buy groceries and splurge on fruit without worrying about my bank account balance

-I have time to read

-that I need nothing more than an idea to create something beautiful

-a life rich with kind, wonderful people who love me unconditionally

-sunrises

-buds bursting open on trees

-new friends with whom I immediately click

-all-enveloping hugs

-tomorrow

Monday, March 6, 2017

Through the Eyes of a Child

My grandmother loved to create. If I'm being honest, sometimes the things she created weren't terribly beautiful.  Sometimes they were downright hideous.  For Christmas one year, she gave me her handmade version of a Cabbage Patch doll.  I remember distinctly it's unfortunate face -- the stitching of the mouth rising at an angle a bit more drastic than intended.  When my dad saw it, he asked,  "Why'd you give her a stroke baby?"  It's been a running family joke ever since.

But each thing she made for me was a labor of love.  It may not have been attractive, but I adored it.

One of my most favorite gifts she made for me was a card table tent (because let's just get it out there -- labor of love or not, that stroke baby was hideous and terrifying). She sewed curtains in the windows.  My name was stitched on the front door, closed with velcro.  I played for hours on end in that house.  It provided a quiet oasis when I needed one most -- a refuge.  A place of my own.

So I suppose it comes as no surprise that I love to create things that may be a touch outside the box. I love to see the world through the eyes of a child.  As a mother of three sweet boys, there is no shortage of inspiration.  When my kids were in their dinosaur stage, I sewed them dinosaur tails. When they needed solace, I made them a tent.  When my oldest son was obsessed with octopuses, I set out to make him an octopus. (Do you know how annoying it is to sew and stuff 8 legs?!?  It's a damn good thing I love him.)

My friend's son just turned 2.  He loves the alphabet.  I'm making him a card table tent.  It may be silly or strange, but I'm making him an alphabet tree.  One panel of the tent is a tree with each letter snapped to it.  He can pull them apart as he practices his letters.  He can spell his name. Yes, an alphabet tree may be out of the box, but when I'm envisioning the world through a child's eyes, it's just about perfect.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Stirring Up Silt

I spent the weekend with my tribe, my field of marigolds who help me to be more and reassure me that I am enough. I facilitated my first writing retreat for English teachers across my state.  It was an important milestone for me, one that taught me many things about myself.

What I heard echoed again and again in that group of teachers is doubt.  Doubt and time.  We doubt ourselves as writers and we fail to make time to write.  But I also heard the reverberating notion that when we do carve the time to write, everything else makes more sense.

We read and discussed a chapter from The Teacher Writer: Creating Writing Groups for Personal and Professional Growth. In it, Dawson emphasizes the value of the experience of writing, rather than the writing itself.  I didn't produce much writing I was proud of, but the experience of spending the day writing and sharing among teacher writers is where the value lies.


The whole weekend was full of experiential knowledge.  We talk like extroverts are dominant in our culture, but I don't count a single extrovert among my friends.  I spent last evening in a cabin in the woods alone. For hours.  Without distraction.  No music.  No one else.  No wifi. That would have brought tremendous peace and tranquility for some.  For me, it provided a breeding ground for anxiety.  And hear me, I love nature.  I need alone time.  When I choose it.  But the day had already kicked up settled silt.  It brought into the light things I need to explore but had forced into dormancy. So in the evening when the sun went down and I was alone, I had to confront some demons.  An extrovert in isolation with her thoughts is not a pretty thing. Why can I feel filled and accepted and enough in the presence of others, but be full of doubt and uncertainty the moment I'm alone?

I'm not good at trusting myself.  I rely too much on the approval and validation of others.  It's a shortcoming.  And while the evening was not relaxing or comforting  --I paced for awhile, people-- the sun rose and I was okay.  I acknowledged some things I hadn't wanted to before.  I know that we can't grow if we aren't willing to look into some of those dark crevices, shine some light there to see what we're working with, and strive to patch the gap.

The path forward is messier than before, but it's more truthful. I'm learning, slowly, to trust myself. And my beautiful tribe is planting marigolds that will strengthen me along the way.



Saturday, March 4, 2017

Life, Amplified

Quiet.  It’s been years since I’ve truly experienced this deep, uninterrupted stretch of quiet.  Having grown so unaccustomed to it, initially, a sense of panic sort of set in.  I’m alone.  There are no distractions.  I’m surrounded by beauty and nature.  A quieting solitude. 

Feeling on edge, I took a walk.  There my lungs filled with fresh air.  The shadows of twilight danced between the stalks of tall pines.  The wind rustled the leaves, nature’s wind chimes.  I could hear the sound of the water gulp as the geese waded into the pond.  It was as if everything was amplified.


But it is no different than any other time.  The only thing that has changed is that I’m noticing it.