Challenges

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Today I am grateful for challenges.  But I’m probably not going to do them.  It seems every day a new “challenge” comes through on social media.

 

“Thirty-Day Plank Challenge”.  I thought someone wanted me to build a shed in thirty days.  Then I looked up what “planking” was and I couldn’t have done it if I had really wanted to because I was rolling on the floor laughing so hard that someone in this world or beyond would even imagine that I might consider this, whether or not I was chubby or not!  So, no thank you.  It’s like a squat-thrust gone wrong!

 

Then there’s the “no carb” challenge, the “no dairy” challenge, the “no sex” challenge. . .oh wait, I didn’t really get that one. . .and the “no wine stomped by Sherpas in the Himalayans” challenge.  I won’t do that one either.

 

I figure in my lifetime, during any given fad, the following would either be good for me or kill me.  Eggs, grapefruit, honey, Red Wine, sugar, beans, lemons, beer, nuts, avocados, pasta, potatoes, white bread, wheat bread, granola, popcorn. . .in other words every single food known to man. . .including bacon.  Okay, maybe bacon will kill me but what a way to go!

 

Then there is the exercise challenge, which I won’t even go into, but if my life depends on the elliptical. . .well. . .just know my affairs are in order!

 

I used to feel guilty, or less-than, when someone would offer a physical challenge, like ride the biggest roller coaster, or climb mount whatzit carrying your pregnant pack-mule, or for Godsake. . .PLANK. . .for 30 days!  ONE day would kill me.  (See above “affairs in order” section.)

 

I guess I’m not very competitive.  I also guess I really don’t give a rats-ass what someone else wants to do.  Knock yourself out.  Have a blast clutching the sides of a man made nightmare as it plunges you to your death.  Enjoy climbing those rocks and picking the gravel out of your butt as you slide down a stony cliff in Nepal.  I’ll wait for the pictures.  In National Geographic.

 

And you go ahead and plank yourself silly.  I’ll be planking from my computer chair, with my laptop, clicking away at how wonderful it is you are meeting your challenges. . .while I’m meeting mine!

 

 

Walking the Plank

Walking the Plank

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Mine for Gold

Me and Sony -1998

Monday, August 22, 2016

Today I am grateful to mine for gold, except gold wasn’t what I was after.  I was looking for a file I thought I had lost and in the process stumbled across a million things (poetry, stories, anecdotes, plays) I didn’t remember I had.   Apparently there is gold in my computer archives.  And with the gold are ghosts floating all around me.

 

I found the original file I was looking for a few days ago and also a terrific outline for some writing I wanted to complete.  But now I can’t find that outline.  I have no idea what the file was named or if it was in Mary’s Old Computer (1,2,3 or 4), Mary’s Briefcase, Mary’s Stuff, Mary’s Writing, Mary’s Thoughts (which was empty), or Mary’s Idiot Filing System!   It’s making me crazy.  I do crazy like no other person I know.  And, of course, I wrote down the file name, but now can’t find the paper on which I wrote it.

 

But in the process of digging through the dregs of my hard drive, I found tidbits of gold.

Back in the day, when I was first staring to write, I belonged to the North Penn Writer’s Group.  They have sadly disbanded, but I still hold precious the friendships I made and the encouragement I received through that group, some of whom are now gone.  Permanently.

 

Because we were all new to computers, we got into the habit of saving our writing on our each other’s computer.  I have found writing I didn’t know existed.  Brilliant writing.  The witty, rhyming poetry of long deceased Sonia Fries, who coined the phrase (which I have stolen from her). . .“organ recital” when talking about her physical ailments.  There were poems, stories, letters, plays and what-have-you from my friend and frequent writing partner, David Page.

 

And then this gem, a poem that sent me into throes of tears, written by my dear friend, Sondra Sykes, who died of Alzheimer’s over ten years ago.  What’s really funny is that I was just talking about her to a friend yesterday.  Sony was a great teacher and I believe she wrote this at the end of a school year, but boy does it speak to those of you packing kids off to college, too.

 

Also today, the question was asked, “Who gives you positive energy?”  Because there are so many people who feed my life, I couldn’t narrow down the list.  Until now.  Sony does.  Even from the grave.   Remember the old Girl Scout song?  “Make new friends, but keep the old.  One is silver and the other gold.”  Here is GOLD, from Sony.  I still miss her.

 

KNOW

By S.C. Sykes

© 1978

It’s hard to say goodbye

But if I do not let you go

You will never leave the earth

To fly free of me

Soaring and dipping

To the music of the universe.

 

If I cannot free you to the wind

No one else will hear your song.

Be my seeds

As I was seed

Grow your garden in the world

And rainbow eternity.

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“The Art of Falling”, by Kathryn Craft

book and glasses

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Today I am grateful for “The Art of Falling”, a novel by Kathryn Craft.  That writer can tell a story and spin a plot, with characters that you really care about. . .even when you don’t want to.

 

Sometimes when Himself and I watch a movie of his choice, I need a cheat sheet to keep all of the characters straight.  They are all men, with short great hair, good bone structure, of average height and weight, wearing gray suits with light colored shirts and various ties.  I call them “Gray Suit Movies”.  Half are bad guys and half are good guys.  Which half I have no clue.  Where is a good ol’ Karl Malden or Telly Savalas when you need one?  Give me the white hat and black hat anyday.

 

I have found the same situation to be true in some novels. I hate it when I can’t tell them apart.  When their voices blend together or their actions aren’t clear.  I like different characters.  Using characters with foibles and flaws and beauty and ugliness sucks me into a good story and sweeps me away like water down the drain.  And what a vortex, “The Art of Falling” was.

 

This book reads like a dance. I met Kathryn Craft at the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference in June, so she does not know much about me and probably hasn’t read my blogs about my love of dancing.  I love how this story ebbs and flows with the same expression necessary for a successful performance with each of the characters dancers in their own way.

 

Kathryn does not shrink from dealing with heavy topics like anorexia/body image, mother/daughter issues, suicide and grave illness, yet this book is far too hopeful to keep you stuck in problems of the characters for long.

 

I confess, and this is a little embarrassing to admit, when I was nearing the ending I really took my time.  I was feeling resolve coming, but afraid the ending would let me down.  I really cared about Penny and finishing the book would mean a friend was leaving.  I wanted her to really shine, because if she did then I would.  My breath was in rhythm with hers.  My body, though far from a dancers, was poised for performance.

 

No spoilers here, but by the time I finished this book I WAS Penny. . .perched and ready to fly!  And what a flight it was.  Thank you, Kathryn Craft!

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Morning Conversations

a horse in water with girl

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Today I am grateful for morning conversations.  Himself and I were deciding which channel to record to capture what he doesn’t want to miss in the Olympics.  Here’s how it went.

 

Himself: Water polo is boring.

Me:  Not for the horse.

 

It took him a minute.  You’re welcome!

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Fishing

a ben & owen fish

Friday, August 19, 2016

Today I am grateful for fishing.  Notice it’s not called “catching”.  I had to steal this picture of one of my special buddies who was also there during our wonderful time at the little cabin in Northern Wisconsin.

 

Owen and his parents have rented the same cabin we had. . .except this time the fishing is pretty good.  I’m happy to know there really are fish in that lake, but Himself is having a bird.  “I’m a jinx!” he said, when I told him about all of the fish they are catching.  Imagine that.  A brilliant man really thinks that bad ju-ju has anything at all to do with it.

 

I bet it was a pretty big thrill when this jammie-shark-wearing, animal loving, great kid caught a fish of this size.  Even Himself would rather it be Owen’s than his own.  Almost.  If he had been with him he’d be taking that lure off, putting it on his own rod and giving Owen a “better” one!  Wrong?  Yup.  But also true.  There is no shame in catching. . . only in fishing!

 

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Problem Solving

a problem solving slogan

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Today I am grateful for problem solving.  There was a post on Facebook this morning that really affected me.  It was a sign that a principal put on the door of his school that said that if parents were dropping off a forgotten lunch, instrument, homework, etc. to stop, turn around and go back home because that day their child would learn how to problem solve.  Brilliant.  I love it.

 

When I was a building secretary at an elementary school there were some kids, even in sixth grade, who never even tried to be responsible for their lives because mom always came through anyway.  That’s not unconditional love, it’s irresponsible.  Children need to be accountable for themselves and it starts very young.

 

One mom, having brought her kids lunch every day for a week, said, “I don’t know what to do?  He keeps forgetting it.”  Duh!  I asked her if she wanted my opinion and she said she did.  “Don’t bring it,” I said.  That woman looked at me like I had rocks in my head.  “But it’s his lunch!” she said, incredulous.  “Yes, it is.  And he probably had breakfast and you can’t starve between breakfast and dinner and besides, they will give him something. . .a small sandwich or cereal. . . from the cafeteria.  If you keep bringing it he will never learn to remember it himself.”

 

When I encounter some young people these days, not all, of course, but some, the thing I notice the most is that they don’t know how to figure it out when something doesn’t go as planned. They either throw up their hands in the air and give up entirely or they call mom or dad for a solution.  Mom and/or dad are great resources, but they will not be there forever.  What then?

 

There are many, many of you who are sending your kids off to school for the first time to kindergarten. . .or the last time as they enter college.  Both can be traumatic.  If you are sending your five-year-old out the door, be sure he/she understands their responsibility in school, even if you have to make a chart or list.  Don’t take their responsibilities as your own.  Don’t accept blame if they forget something.  Yes, even if they are only five!  Help them remember things, but if they don’t, let it be on them.  I’m not saying abandon them entirely. . .just back off a little.

 

The same goes for school projects.  Help a little, maybe, but don’t make it YOUR project.  Their successes will be so much sweeter when they know they came by them alone and not with the safety net of mom or dad.  Ask my very, very successful youngest grown son about this one.  When he was in high school he informed me on a Sunday night that he needed to turn in a mounted bug collection the next day.  “Really?  You’ve got a problem then, don’t you?” I said.  “Mom you gotta take me out to get poster board and stuff.”  No I didn’t.  It wasn’t my poor planning.  I did nothing.  He cleaned off a pizza box cardboard and ran through the yard with a flashlight trying to collect last-minute bugs.   Did I mention he is extremely successful?  It’s not a parents job to keep kids happy every minute, but rather to prepare them to live in the real world.

 

If you are sending a teen off to college for the first time, the inclination will be to check-in by texting, calling, or skyping with them every day, or asking that they do the same with you.  I’ve noticed that especially some girls, call mom three times a day.  Why?  A far better way would be to have them try and figure something out themselves first and if they get stuck, call for advice. . .but be careful how much you give them at this age.

 

They want it but they don’t want it.  On the big things they still need it because contrary to their opinion, they are not quite done cooking.  But they’re getting close so back off as much as possible. . .even if it is difficult.  Let them fail a little bit sometimes and the times they win will be that much sweeter.  I used to tell my kids I do not want to be responsible for your failures, nor take credit for your successes.  Both are yours alone.

 

I think when kids go to college they should be at least two hours away from home.  That means it’s not a quick trip for laundry, meals, etc. for parents and kids.  I also don’t think that they should come home until Thanksgiving.  Seriously.  They need the complete break to adjust and so do you.  Go to see them once, on Parent’s Day and then back off.  Now is the time in their lives when you not only don’t need to know everything they are up to. . .you don’t want to know.  You’ll find out soon enough. Trust me on this one.

 

Children cannot learn to problem solve if no one ever lets them.  Give them that gift and they will thank you for it later.  I promise.  Mine have.

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Hummingbirds

a hummingbird

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Today I am grateful for hummingbirds.  I must have had a gazillion hummingbird feeders in my lifetime and the only thing that they attracted was bees.  Somehow they’re not the same with bees.

 

I’ve read what flowers to plant, what climates they like, what their relatives make for Thanksgiving and how many puppies they produce.  I’ve planted and watered and sown and filled and cleaned and waited and waited and waited.  None!  Until now.

 

Apparently the word is out.  The goldfinches must have passed it on to the hummingbirds that the Mooney’s have some pretty tasty zinnias this year.  A veritable buffet of nectar.  So today, Himself and I stood right there in our kitchen window, watching them for twenty minutes,  like Audubon researching a new book.

 

Get a life?  Don’t have to.  Got one.  And it’s pretty damned awesome!  I have hummingbirds to prove it.

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