Sep 21, 2016 - Uncategorized    No Comments

The Highest Calling

It’s simultaneously your greatest joy and your worst pain.

It’s your most blissful moment and your hottest tears.

It’s soul-swelling satisfaction and heart-rending defeat.

It’s motherhood.

When my kids were little, I adored hearing all of the experts and TV show hosts and even real-life commentators inform me that my work as a mother was The Highest Calling. It became fuel for my parenting fire. During the croup and the chickenpox, the breastfeeding and the bottle-cleaning, the playroom messes and potty training, that Calling sustained me. I could do this. I had to do this. It was The Thing I was born to do.

Now that my kids are older, I’ve begun to wonder if this lens through which we view motherhood is actually so helpful. Let’s start with the fact that, if motherhood isn’t part of your life, whether by choice or by circumstance, this Calling way of thinking pushes you to the side. It whispers that you don’t count. It builds a narrative in which you have already missed out on the best job, so you might as well just go ahead and settle for the leftovers. It pushes you out into the margins.

If you ARE a mother, there are the days when you’ve yelled at the children, wanted to jump into the minivan and drive away, lost your ever-loving mind over the fact that YOUR CABINETS WILL NEVER EVER EVER BE ORGANIZED FOR MORE THAN 6.2 MILLISECONDS….and all before 11:30 a.m. On these days, if you’ve already screwed up what is the Greatest Job On The Planet, it’s pretty dang tricky to bounce back from that perceived failure. You’ll spend the rest of the day swinging back and forth between 1. Berating yourself for yelling at your special snowflakes and 2. Convincing yourself that it’s ok, that all mothers make mistakes. And then it’s finally The Blessed and Hallowed Hour of Bedtime and you watch the slobber-streaked, chubby-cheeked faces of your little ones, and you’re sure that they’re dreaming of a house where the mama is sweet and zen-like and chants affirmations upon her cherubs’ heads and reads books over and over again even if they have TOO MANY WORDS, and you sigh and tell yourself you’ll do better tomorrow. Until you don’t.

If you are a mother and your kids are teenagers, the talks seem huge-r and the arguments tougher and the issues darker and the pain seems to grow faster than the kids do. Your challenges and theirs are too overwhelming, too big, too dangerous. As they grow into their own selves, their interests are things that confuse and befuddle you and you try your best to keep up, but you’re out of breath and exhausted. And so bedtime now means that you fall asleep way before they do, but you still wonder, as you hug them goodnight, if you can do better, if you can still connect with them. Surely you must. This is your Calling. You can’t fail at THIS.

Here’s the thing: I believe in motherhood. I’ve built my decisions around it, sacrificed for it, given it all of my body and heart and energy. I believe, when I die, that raising my kids will still be a great part of the legacy I want to leave behind.  I believe that there is inexpressible value in raising people to be good citizens, chasers of Truth, lovers of serving this planet and its people.

But in the midst of my believing, I have to leave room:

Room for grace, for myself and for other mothers.

Room for all women: The wonderful, wise, witty women who really don’t want to be parents, but who can and should be spiritual mothers to my children and yours, even if they have nothing to do with their actual births.

Room for failure and, in fact, for redefining failure. Because even if I have followed my heart and my gut and wise counsel from those I trust, my kids still will disappoint. They will still mess up, in big and in small ways. They will choose their own paths like the independent souls I say I want them to be. This does not mean I have not fulfilled my motherhood calling: In actuality, it means I have.

Room for reminding myself that the world doesn’t need a perfect mother to put on a pedestal. It just needs a mother who falls and fails and finds her way, who kicks the stupid pedestal over and gets down in the trenches with her people. Because that’s where they need us mothers, whether our trenches look like piles of Legos and dirty socks or like Internet safety and first heartbreaks.

See you in the trenches, mothers of all kinds. Bring your heart, bring your sense of humor, bring your forgiveness for yourself and for others, and bring your coffee. We’re here for the long haul and, best of all, we’re here together. And that, friends, is our calling.

fullsizerender-1

 

 

Sep 10, 2016 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Slow Down

img_6860

This is a story about my boy.

Every day, he happily, innocently climbs into the car with his mom or dad or sibling, cheerfully heading out, never once considering whether or not we will reach our destination.  He simply trusts that he will be safe.

Except sometimes people aren’t.

For the second time in as many months, we have been sitting, waiting our turn at a light glowing red when our teeth were shaken and our nerves were rattled by a metallic crunch behind us. For the second time in as many months, we learned again that you can follow all of the rules and be so careful and still get hurt.

We were the lucky ones: No one in our vehicle or any other vehicle was seriously injured. Only metal was mangled. Only time and expense would be required to repair what was damaged. Only details were exchanged, apologies made for “not paying attention.”

The first time this happened, I was shaken up. But this time, I’m mad. Because if we don’t pay attention, we will pay a much higher cost, and I am not willing to pay that price. If we are guiding a multi-ton vehicle at top speeds down unforgivingly hard roads, what else could possibly deserve our focus, our brainpower?

I’ve been guilty of being distracted as well, worrying more about what song was playing than what stood or crossed or pulled out in front of me. I’ve reached my arms away from the wheel to throw more stale goldfish crackers at toddlers and to feel around the seats for missing pacifiers. But no more. And if it turns out that I’m no longer guilty of distraction but that I have failed to lay out the consequences to my teenage drivers and almost-drivers? I am just as at fault as the person behind the wheel.

Yesterday, the sweet teenage girl who hit us was shaking and couldn’t stop talking about her boyfriend and didn’t know what details to give us and didn’t know who to call and was so very, very grateful that she hadn’t hit a jerk who was going to yell at her. I can only hope she learned her lesson, but unless people tell her what that lesson is, she will cause damage again and maybe, next time,  it won’t just be to a piece of metal.

This is a story about my boy.

But really, he’s your boy, too. If you’re taking on the risk of driving, you are also taking on the responsibility to protect him and to protect all of our boys and girls while you do it.

Slow down.

Put it down…

The phone, the purse, the music, the to-do list. Be where you’re supposed to be. For my boy and for yours.

Sep 7, 2016 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Family

This is what a journey looks like.

Every family has its own. Ours has taken turns down roads of loss and grief, addiction and hurt, illness and brokenness. But we took those roads together.

We took turns being the strong one.

We took turns helping each other up steeper steps.

We took turns being wrong even when we knew we were right.

We took time…time to be together, to listen.

We took time to laugh, because laughter turns on the light and chases away the shadows, if only for a moment.

Families never look the way we imagine they will. Sometimes our families aren’t even composed of those we share blood with. Sometimes we need to gather a whole new tribe and call it our own. Sometimes we bring people into our group as we go, and we forget that they weren’t actually family to begin with.

Sometimes it seems like it would be simpler to go it alone, because Alone might avoid the hurt. It doesn’t. Hurt cannot be skirted around like a boulder on the path. Hurt must be climbed over eventually, and there is no gift greater than a hand to hold during that climb.

Whoever makes up your family today, wherever you are on your own journey, celebrate together, remembering that The Together is the walking stick, the safety net, the water along the way home.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

 

 

 

 

Aug 31, 2016 - Uncategorized    No Comments

What I Learned From My Lunchbox

Maybe you were one of the lucky ones. Maybe you were born under the right star. Maybe you trod the blessed path: You were one of the kids with a cool lunchbox.

Perhaps you got a new one every year. I mean, you really had to, because those metal things began to grow rust instantaneously if the humidity reached 74% or if your friend sneezed from across the lunchroom in the general direction of said box.

I myself was not so fortunate. I don’t mean to cast aspersions upon my sweet mother, but I just couldn’t understand her. She cared about silly things like “saving money” and “not wasting” and so I was never the recipient of a cool metal lunchbox. I never had Hans Solo or Princess Leah’s faces swinging from my third-grade hand. And Wonderwoman? She might as well have been a fantastic, lasso-laden dream. I was stuck with the 1970s burnt orange Tupperware behemoth, which pretty much told my classmates all they needed to know about me.

I’ve (mostly) forgiven my mother for the embarrassment of those long years. Probably because now, as a mother myself, I too care about silly things like “saving money.” It’s funny, that whole change-of-focus life works out in you. It’s like when my third-grade self went to pick up my first pair of glasses (I was probably carrying along my Tupperware Delight) and suddenly saw that trees weren’t just blurry blobs of green. They had beautiful tiny, detailed things called LEAVES. I kept putting the glasses on and off, on and off, amazed by what I could SEE, what I never knew existed. The lenses gave me something valuable. Something called perspective.

Perspective: When that boy or girl broke up with you and you were sure you’d never love again. And yet, here you are, loving, risking, still opening up your heart, still keeping the tender places soft and willing.

Perspective: When the endless days and nights of early mommy-hood make you sure you will never, ever get out of your pajamas and walk into the hallowed halls of Target looking like a semi-human again. And your body? It will never, ever recover. But you will, and it will. Ok, ok, well not completely. From this day forward you will still get startled when glimpsing your belly. It will make you feel as though you’re seeing the stomach of a stranger in your bathroom mirror. But that’s fine. Get thee some new clothes at Target.  And a slurpee.

Perspective: When the dark fogginess of depression makes lies out of truths and makes steep climbs out of every single thing you have before you that day. Speaking out loud your need for a hand to hold and maybe some medication or some therapy to ease the climb starts to put depression in its place, starts to bring the leaves of your hours and days into clarity.

Perspective: When the adult version of the cool lunchbox makes you feel like your life is The. Worst. When you’re convinced that everyone has a more fabulously-decorated home and a cleaner car and a sweeter spouse and a fuller bank account and a more glamorous trip planned than you do. Perspective reminds you that those cool lunch boxes will rust and hey, your Tupperware geekware actually does keep that PB&J soft, and those carrots crisp (I mean, not that it matters…those carrots are totally going into the lunchroom trash anyway).

Perspective: When we need to remind ourselves that our lunchbox, our lot in life, is not what we think it is. It does NOT mean that we deny the bad things that happen or that we feel we cannot grieve what is hurting us. Pain is pain, in whatever form it comes. We own the pain, we accept its realness. But perspective helps us remember that we will survive this, too, that someday we might even see it differently. We may still grieve and we may still even weep over what hurts, but our hearts, those resilient and powerful hearts of ours, will have shifted and moved the focus of our eyes.

I’m sure that ugly orange Tupperware square is still hanging around a landfill somewhere, clunky handles and all. Perspective means I can look back at it fondly. Perspective keeps it in its place.

But let’s be honest: I still hold out hope for Princess Leah in my life. A girl can dream.

450ab37192d39e441585c1960a17139d

 

Photo credit: Pinterest

Aug 27, 2016 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Broken is Beautiful

There’s nothing like the Olympics to give us a little shot of patriotic pride.

There’s nothing like the Olympics to give us an appreciation for grueling work and perseverance.

There’s nothing like the Olympics to amaze us with the twists and flips and speeds the human body can perform.

I used to watch and admire the sculpted, hardened, gorgeous artwork that the Olympic bodies are: The evidence of a life devoted to a singular pursuit. I still watch and admire the athletes and their superhuman perfection, but the older I get, the more I realize that my heroes, the people I am most amazed by and want to emulate are not the powerful champions and the physically strong:

They are the broken and the weak.

They are the bodies who’ve been wrecked by pain and continue to be, each day, every day, all day. And still they push on, push forward. Not outwardly strong, but inwardly fierce champions over what life has given them.

They are the souls who have lost more than anyone should. And still they run: Always forward, always farther, not in perfection but in grace.

I know that if we could get a glimpse inside of them, we would see that they are Olympians of another sort,  their souls sculpted and strong and masterpieces of stunning art.

Maybe you know one of these champions. Maybe you know someone who has been given what seems to be far more than his or her share of physical pain or emotional devastation. Maybe you know someone who has been knocked to the mat and yet cannot be kept down: Someone who rises up and rises strong and rises on, even when tapping out would seem a relief.

Their race is often a very lonely one. There are few people who are willing to run alongside for the long, sweaty, bone-battering journey these champions are on. There are few people who are willing to remind these soul-athletes that they are not alone.

So honor the broken today: The broken of body or of heart or of mind. They may never stand on pedestals and receive gold while the world admires, but their battles forward in the midst of agony are worth gold to those who take notice.

“You are so brave and quiet I forget you are suffering.” Ernest Hemingway

IMG_7758

Aug 23, 2016 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

The Earrings

It all started with a silly little pair of earrings. Well, let’s be honest. The opposite of little. Perhaps I should explain.

There are different types of jewelry-wearers in the world. Some like it big and bold and don rings on all 18 fingers. Some hold to the style mantra that less is more. Some don’t even bother. I’m more of a Forgetful Jewelry-er myself. Approximately 82 percent of the time, I don’t remember to wear any rings. I don’t own huge necklaces. I keep the same fake diamond studs in my ears for days. I know, I know. They’re supposed to be called “faux.” But these are too cheap for such a fancy French word. They’re just fake.

However, during the span of a few months, I had been admiring some lovely earrings I’d seen on various people’s Instagram posts. They were huge and feathery and pretty and statement-y. And they absolutely were not for me. But a little, tiny part of me wished that they were.

A couple of days ago, I was visiting my sister in Ohio, and we got the chance to spend the weekend hearing some incredible female voices, both in song and in spoken word. And it just so happened that many of these rockstar females wore the Big Earrings. They were a thing. They were gorgeous. They were even for sale after the event. I wanted them. I wanted to be the kind of girl who could pull them off. But I wasn’t.

I went home the first night of the event in raw emotion after all that the music had stirred up in me. I stayed up way past my exhausted-adult-bedtime pondering that I had lived most of my 43 years as an incredibly fearful person. I mean, I could just ask any of my people who have had to drive carrying me as a Very Helpful Warning-Giving Passenger. Or my kids who’ve been required to sit through (and pretend to listen to) my multiple warnings about sharks and bike accidents and ticks and splinters and everything they never imagined could be remotely harmful. It’s ridiculous. It’s exhausting. I don’t want to be that person anymore.

I am afraid, but I don’t want to be.

I’m afraid that my kids won’t “turn out right.” Maybe they won’t. It’s actually neither up to me nor defined by me or by anyone else, for that matter.

I’m afraid my heart will be shattered. It has been. It will again. But I will not live a life without passion in it. It’s not the way any of our hearts were crafted to live.

I’m afraid I will not have enough money. I’ve been there. I might be again. But I will not put my security in money’s transient hands.

I’m afraid of losing someone I love. I have. And I will. But my heart will learn to love in a new, brokenly beautiful way.

I’m afraid of my body giving out on me. It has lately. But it has also given me the breathtaking gifts of my children and of so many years of taken-for-granted health. And so I will fight to keep it strong: Not a fight to be the skinniest or the sexiest,  but a battle to be as strong and as healthy as I can be.

I’m afraid. We all are. But we are doing it anyway. We are doing it afraid and doing it together.

The day after my wonderings, my sister bought me those huge earrings. I wore them today to my umpteenth doctor’s appointment, and I knew. I knew they were just a thing. They didn’t possess magical powers, but I took a silly selfie anyway and sent it to my sweet sis and thanked her for what I’m now calling my “Brave Earrings.” Because, some days, all I can do is start with putting on something that makes me feel bold and brave and brash and beautiful. I can put it on my physical self and my heart and my spirit will follow. I WILL be brave. I WILL kick fear in the face until its teeth fall out and it WILL NOT grip me in its rotten vise any longer. I WILL beg God to give me the bravery I know I’ve never possessed on my own.

Maybe it’s time to get yourself some Brave Earrings. Put them on. Own them. Wear them and the courage will come. Not because of a piece of metal or leather or plastic or stone. But because they remind you that, through the love greater than all of us, we can do things we once never believed we could.  We can hurt and then we can heal. We can forgive and then forge a new forward. We can love and lose and then learn to laugh in the middle of it. We can break and then build and rebuild.

“So long status quo, I think I just let go…The way it always was is no longer good enough. You make me want to be brave.” Nichole Nordeman

image

Aug 17, 2016 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

Hands

I sat in the coffee shop, clattering away at my computer. Head down, ears full of music, sending out a clear, “Do Not Disturb” message.

And then I looked up. And happened to see the father and son in front of me. The son had the fresh, unlined face of a seventeen-year-old. The dad seemed worn, his cup of coffee un-lidded and ready to be gulped down. But then the dad looked across the table at his son and, reaching his hands out in a gesture of such tenderness, began adjusting the boy’s crooked necktie, helping him straighten the knot and smooth out the collar. And my eyes began to sting.

I thought of our Parenting Hands and how they change throughout the years.

My hands held you for the first time when you were fresh-born. They were hands so full of love, full of promise, but with such great space for fear. My hands cradled you, sure they would break you or drop you, sure I would fail you. And I did. And I will again. But there was love and grace enough for both of us.

My hands were there to hold you up as you began your first stumbling steps into the big, bold world. There was still room for you to fall. And you would. And you did. But there was love and a kiss to soothe the hurt.

My hands held yours as you traced your first inscriptions on the pages and opened a bright new world of letters and words and the magic that began when you went through the wardrobe into the Land of Readers. There was still room for both of us to get frustrated. And we would. And we did. But there was love and a laugh to follow the tears. And, at the end, a book to make everything better.

My hands held yours as we opened the door to loving a new pet. There was joy. And there was heartbreak. And we took the sweetness and the pain. But again there was love and companionship. There was a hand to grasp and a friend to cry with and comfort.

My hands gave you the tools to begin your journey away from me: The keys, the keyboards, the phones and the freedom. There is so much room for fear. That you will get hurt, in so many possible ways. And you have. And you will. And my hands will be there to reach out and make things right when I can. And to be still when I can’t or shouldn’t.

There will be days that you can’t stand me.

There will be times that you think I’m too strict.

There will be times that you are sure I am being too easy on others.

There will be days coming quickly, oh much, much too quickly where I won’t be around to get that goodnight hug. Where I won’t even know WHAT YOU’RE EATING FOR DINNER AND DID YOU GET ANY VEGGIES TODAY?

There will be days when you’ll make decisions I won’t agree with. And it will be ok as long as you can know and remember that those choices won’t change my love for you one single, tiny bit.

There will be days when you’ll want my advice. And I’ll be honored to give it, even if you don’t follow it.

The beautiful irony is that, all your life, I’ve thought I held you when, in truth, you’ve held my heart in your hands.

It’s considered a dangerous thing in this brutal world to allow someone such power over your heart. I know that. I have experienced it. I know the shattering a heart can feel. But there is no going back. There is no lessening the love. There is no guarding the gate. Thank you that, while I taught you, you have taught me so much more: How to be weak and strong at the same time, how to be open when I want to shut the door tight, how to hold my hands open: Not merely to let you fly away but also to receive back the soul-changing gifts you have given me.

I am grateful for the exquisite, hard, beautiful journey. This is the destination we’ve been heading toward all along. But I am grateful your hands are mine to hold for a little while longer and that my heart is yours to hold for always.

IMG_6900

 

 

Aug 16, 2016 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Life According To Plan

Does anyone’s life go exactly according to the plan he or she laid out in 12th grade?

If you can answer yes to that question, I just can’t speak to you right now. Or maybe ever. Oh, I sort of jest.

Here’s the thing. When I was 18 years old, graduating from high school with my 90’s spiral-perm and my “don’t light a match near me” hairsprayed-to-the-ceiling bangs, I had a lovely plan for my life. It looked something like this: Don’t get married young. Or maybe ever. Begin a lucrative career in journalism. If you ever consider having a kid or four, certainly enroll them in the best private schools and never, ever be one of those weirdo granola homeschoolers. Pay cash for your house and car, retire early, and never ever go into debt.

I just have to stop for a minute and sigh at the preciousness of it all.

I am no quitter though. Oh no. The planning gene runs scary-deep in my blood. Lists and charts and calendars and highlighters make me giddy with nerdy joy. Knowing what is ahead of me for the day, the week, the decade? That’s the fast-track to pure happiness right there. So of course while the past school year was still relentlessly grinding us all into dust, I began to formulate my grand and luxurious plan for this summer, a plan that involved multiple book-reading poolside days, weekly laugh-filled board game nights with the kids, and a plethora of sun-dappled bike rides and tasty hot dog roasts. Until my body decided not to cooperate, and the past month became a string of medical tests and many days where I was sure I Just. Could. Not. Do. It. So much for the Instagram-perfection of my plans.

It’s not earth-rattling news to announce that life doesn’t follow the trajectory we think it will.  TODAY hasn’t even gone as I’d hoped, and it’s not even 8:00 am. I would actually prefer to quite justifiably sulk about it, wallow in it, stew in the ways people let me down and hurt me and the ways I failed myself and lost my grasping attempt at plans. And let me be shamelessly honest: Some days, that’s exactly the very mature choice I make. But if I’ve learned a tiny thing or two about goals and ideas and dreams, it is this: It’s still good to have them. It’s sort of like (and this is the anal-retentive English teacher in me coming out) having a thesis sentence for your essay. Like I tell my students, it’s important to know where your paper…or, in this case…where your LIFE is going. Aim that way. Strive that way. Dream that way. Steer that way. And then be open to the detour.

The profound truth that I couldn’t see in my Bon-Jovi-listening-scrunchie-loving youth was that the best gifts in my life often turned out to be BECAUSE of those detours. The change-in-my-plan choice of having a family before taking my turn to have a career? It became the ultimate crucible of killing my selfishness, of humbling my pride, of learning to see my own fault when it was the last thing I wanted to own up to. There is nothing that has brought me to the most heart-achingly-beautiful highs and the most pain-wracked, humbled-upon-my-face lows like parenting and family life. And approximately .00000021 percent of it has gone according to my plan.

I’m still planning. But perhaps, when I’m 60, I’ll look back at my 43 year old self and sigh and shake my head and laugh at the goals and dreams I’m dreaming now. Maybe I’ll find myself naive and silly and simplistic. Yet life is a dry, withered husk without dreams and plans and wishes, so I have to keep choosing not to be afraid of what will happen if those dreams take a sharp left, as they have this summer and over and over again. I hold tight hands with hope, counting on there being a reason…not some nebulous, overly-simplistically-spiritualized reason….but a real, flesh-on, living, actual reason why I will be required to change my direction, change my path. Sometimes it will be up to me, and sometimes I will have nothing to do with it.  I know that the end result will be not necessarily better than my dreams, because I have embarrassingly-slowly learned that my definition of “better” is oh-so-transitive. But it can be richer and deeper only if I allow it to push my roots more richly and deeply into the things that I know to be truth, the truth that yes, it is good to write my thesis statement, to have plans, to have wishes but that, when they don’t happen as I had hoped, to learn the art of acceptance: Not a cynical resignation but a surrender paired with peace.

There’s a line from an ancient Celtic prayer that has become my new mantra these days: “I hold no cherished outcome.”

I hold no cherished outcome. I can plan for one, hope for one, but when it doesn’t happen as I’d wished? I can let go. I can find another way through or around or over.

I am still enjoying my cool new fancy-pants planner though. And I’m buying extra markers for good measure.

Just maybe, this time, the kind that come with an eraser.

image

 

 

Aug 15, 2016 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Required Reading

Maybe you dread them. Maybe they are your joy and delight. Perhaps you’re scared to death of them. Either way, you can’t outrun them. They’re here: The Back to School Days.

In honor of these auspicious moments, I’d like to do my part to further the education of our nation by presenting my list. No, it doesn’t detail how many #2 pencils or which gluten-free Kleenex boxes or what dangerous finger-pinching three ring binders you need to buy. This is a grouping of a different sort. I like to call it my Required Reading Summary List.

Here’s the thing: I graduated from a smallish university many years ago. The name of said university isn’t worth a mention, because when your school symbol is a nautilus? Let’s just say school spirit was not flying high. During my sojourn there, I cheered on my nautilus team for a grand total of zero sporting events. I digress. The point I am meandering toward is that I did happen to score a degree known as a B.A. in English. Future college students of the world, this is also known by the less-commonly used title of A Degree Which Will Cost You Far More Than It Will Ever Earn You. Like, ever (footnote: T Swift).

However, these wasted years (and by wasted, I mean I spent every spare minute studying. Hi, Mom and Dad!) were not a complete loss, because they did give me the lovely opportunity to read every book ever written and then to write exhaustive papers on said books in such great detail that the authors themselves would have been bored to death, if they weren’t already dead. Perhaps, if you’re of a certain age, you have read some of these tomes and now the space they once took up in your brain has been replaced by more valuable details such as your Facebook password or your offspring’s birthdates or your ever-running grocery list. Maybe you have children who are about to embark upon this quest of reading the classics. By the way, the word “classic” comes from the Latin for “someone 246 years ago enjoyed this book and then became appointed as school headmaster and now YOU have to read this book and we can’t, any of us, even remember why anymore.” Whether you are now being introduced or reintroduced to these books again yourself, I hope my university-funded summaries are helpful for you. Here we go:

  1. Wuthering Heights: This novel is for you if you adore reading about locales where it is constantly dreary and gloomy and where the main character is also constantly dreary and gloomy. I myself became completely annoyed with Heathcliff within the first five minutes of meeting him. Yes, yes, yes, we get it. You didn’t end up with Catherine. That’s so sad. But now you’re destroying everyone in ridiculously complex ways which, frankly, are going to take far too long to accomplish and you’ll probably die first. Which, spoiler, you kind of do. Here’s hoping you’re happy in the afterlife with your creepy ghost love. And maybe the sun will actually shine at some point. The end.
  2. The Old Man and the Sea: I do love me some Hemingway. His descriptions of Paris in A Moveable Feast are delicious and delightful. However, this book is simply too much description. I suppose an old man floating about on a skiff is unlikely to engage in a great deal of scintillating dialogue, but for the love of all things, I do not need to know such meticulous detail about the water and the sharks and the sun and the water again. If I were his English teacher, I would cut out great chunks of paragraphs with wild abandon. Also, he uses the phrase (and I quote): ” ‘You think too much, old man.’ ” Ummmm, you said it yourself there, Ernest. Let’s work on that.
  3. The Scarlet Letter: Oooooh, the high school book all about scandal! No, it’s not an unauthorized reality star biography. It’s a novel set in 17th century Boston, and it details the woes of poor Hester Prynne. In summary,  girl meets wrong boy (the preacher) near the wrong people (those picky Puritans) at the wrong time (when her hubby was away on a business trip). It’s all as sad and tragic as you’d expect, but in well-written prose, if that matters to you which, if you’re just trying to pass high school English, probably doesn’t. But mention that prose thing in your papers. English teachers totally dig that stuff.
  4. Romeo and Juliet: Shakespeare should have subtitled this one: How Teenagers Make Bad Life Choices and Don’t Live to Tell About It. But he didn’t ask my opinion. I’ll give it anyway: This tale has been acted out and movied-up and retold to death (pun intended). One of its greatest legacies is that it contains phrases we still use in today’s conversation. Ever refer to a “wild goose chase?” You can thank Will for that one, found in Romeo and Juliet’s second act.
  5. And finally, a little dystopia, as represented by 1984: This story makes the 2016 election look like…well, no, the 2016 election is pretty much the stuff of fiction, so scratch that simile. Anyway. It paints a frightening picture of “Big Brother” (just like Shakespeare, Orwell has provided us with terminology we use daily…who knew it wasn’t just the name of a TV show?). Like all good novels, it describes love and betrayal and fear and loyalty. It’s not only still relevant today, it is so relevant that it’s downright eerie.

So there you have it. A brief, quite opinionated, completely subjective look at a few classic tales. Here’s to your 2016-2017 School Required Reading List: May it be short. May it be entertaining. May your research papers be few and your Spark Notes readings fewer. And when you finish a novel and you don’t really care for it? You may wish it, “good riddance!” (William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, Act II, Scene I).

IMG_7817

Aug 6, 2016 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

Here’s To All the Boys and Girls

It’s been a good summer for girls. Really good.

This summer, all of our daughters and nieces and girlfriends and mothers learned that they could save the world (or at least NYC) from ghosts. They could become a presidential nominee. They just now…could. “Could” has blasted the gates wide open, and they aren’t going to close us in again.

All of these progressions have been a long time coming. Far too long. Too many women have waited and worked and absolutely suffered and struggled for these chances. This summer, we took time to stop and happy dance and Girl Power high-five all around for an incredibly overdue celebration.

But in the midst of all the new, encouraging progress happening, I was recently reminded of how things can still remain unchanged. I was doing what moms do approximately 82,000 times a week…driving my kids to an activity…and I pulled over to wait my turn at a stoplight. In front of me, a youngish man in an SUV was also waiting his turn. But while my turn involved sitting, chatting with my kids, picking the next song to play, and staring at the red light, his turn involved sitting, and staring. At me. For a long time. A very long time. The light stayed red and his eyes stayed on me, his face filling his side mirror and his stare and creepy grin never wavering. At first, I was annoyed, trying to figure out how to look anywhere but at him, trying to not let him know That. I. Knew. But as he continued to watch me, my mild annoyance turned into anxiety and anger. I had kids in the car. Couldn’t he see them? Didn’t he care? My heart started to beat uncomfortably fast and my anger grew. How dare he. This was rude. This was unacceptable. This was not some sort of twisted compliment.

After he finally broke his gaze and drove away, I stewed. And fumed. Silently, because as any mom will tell you, we are pretty ninja at pretending everything is fine when little eyes and ears are watching. Inwardly, I went to a place of, “Men are gross, men are perverts, men are blah blah blah.” But later, the moment got me thinking, and, in a strange twist, it got me appreciating.

The contrast between that guy and other men I know became chasm-like, because the truth is not found in that place of exaggeration and blame. The truth is, there happen to be some very, very good men in all of our lives. Men who are trying to get it right.

Men who aren’t perfect and who screw it up just like we women do, but men who keep fighting for us and alongside of us.

Men who celebrate the smart, savvy women in their lives, who aren’t threatened by the success that those women have earned.

Men who scrub the showers and play with the kids and walk the dogs and ask how they can help, not because they’re nagged to, but because they want to.

Men who can happily admit it when the women in their lives are just as clever as they are, just as capable, and sometimes even more so.

Men who love even when it hurts and who don’t leave when it hurts more.

Men who may not be biological dads but who invest in other people’s kids, because they understand that the earth is just one big neighborhood and that we all need each other.

Men who are humble and gentle but who aren’t afraid to crank open a can of whoop-ass when it’s required.

Here’s to you, good men. Thank you for cheering us on as we all run together, not in competition but in teamwork. The battle of the sexes is meant to be fought, not face-to-face, but side-by-side against the injustices and sicknessess of the world. So let’s join hands instead of joining sides. Our sons and our daughters and our nieces and our nephews and all the world’s children will be better for it.

But just for fun, I’ll still race you to the finish line. Bet I can beat you.

IMG_7735

 

Pages:1234567»