Saturday, April 19, 2014

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring Cleaning Musings

I'm being very generous with myself by calling the vague de-cluttering that I'm doing in my much neglected bedroom "Spring Cleaning".

But it's the first day of spring (THANK YOU GOD!!) and I'm cleaning, so...

The above, one of my favorite things in the world (a sketch my oldest son drew as he watched me do some tutoring), was found in said bedroom today. Amidst several receipts (Note to Self: Become a Better Record Keeper), notes for articles (from the Don Draper School of Scribble on What You Have Handy), and some knitting patterns which, along with several skeins of brightly colored yarn, stand as dusty little testaments to my boundless optimism, which continues to feed the belief that one day the crafter inside of me will burst forth, fully grown, like Athena from Zeus' head, and actually complete a project.

Another great find: an old chore list, printed out a few years back, which served as a great reminder that no matter how much things change--kids grow into adults and go off to college, get jobs, babies become older children responsible enough to walk the dog--some things stay painfully unaltered.

A word for word transcript of the saddest part of that chore list...

"...after these things are done, vacuum the floor. The entire floor. The floor under the table, and the surrounding areas of floor. Do not leave any of the kitchen floor unvacuumed."

I read this and I am looking back through time, at a younger Crib Chick, an idealistic, less cynical Crib Chick. A Crib Chick who still believes that one day, the children will follow her directions and vacuum all of the floor.

If only I, or Dr. Who, or someone with the technology, could travel back in time and tell that younger, more hopeful Crib Chick to just forget it, and focus her hopes and dreams on a more likely goal. Embrace the dust.

That's my advice to you, this spring. Yes, cleaning is important, yes, training children to do thorough work is important, but some battles will just never be won. (Somewhere an archeologist is excavating a centuries-old tablet and deciphering it..."...Neglect thou not the floor in thy sweeping...Yea, even the baseboards...")

So don't take it too seriously.

Happy Spring!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Connubial Conversations

Crib Chick: "Man, it is a wonderful day for a run."

Mr. Crib Chick: "It's an Ultimate Grand Supreme day for a run."

(If you've never watched Toddlers and Tiaras, or you aren't familiar with the rampant superlative abuse in child beauty pageants, then this won't be very funny.)

Sunday, February 09, 2014

What Happens When You Change?

A little something happened recently that made me stop and think.

(Yeah, I know. That's huge, isn't it?)

Many of you know that I write other things, in addition to this blog. Part-time freelance copywriting and some journalism. I've done this for quite a while now (with breaks here and there), and so every so often, I come across something I wrote in the distant past.

Most of the time, I chuckle to myself and think, "What a card. I crack myself up." (Sorry. It's true.)

But a few days ago, I had a much different experience; my blast from the past left me a little embarrassed.

I got an email alert about a piece I wrote for a publication which was recycled into an online article, originally based on a blog post from 2005. Now, the alert had to do with someone else's article--mine was just referenced and linked, hence the cyber heads-up--but just for kicks, I clicked through and read the piece again.

And I realized as I read that it was something I would never write now.

We can talk about the subject matter, if that interests anyone (it was modesty), and we can also talk about what I did (left the article, but took down the blog post with the idea of editing and republishing later) but immediate response to the single issue aside, a bigger one loomed over me after I was done reading and realizing; that may not be the only subject I change my mind about.

So, what do you do as a person, if you find yourself changing? What do you do as a writer, if you have stuff out there, floating around, that represents you in your earlier form?

I won't lie; I could very easily fall into berating myself for writing before I'm fully cooked. (Even though I know, as I keep telling the teens that I teach on Sunday, that I'm not even close to being fully cooked, at 43 years old, and if what I'm understanding the Bible to say is correct, I'll never be a finished project.) And I was on the way to doing that....before I realized that I'm not alone.

And more than that; I'm in good company.

Leo Tolstoy is the first example that comes to mind when I think of "Writers Who Changed". (No, I'm not comparing myself to Tolstoy as a writer. I would never do that. My blog posts about the antics of my children and the messes they make are not at all comparable to War and Peace.)

Did you know that Tolstoy changed his mind about some really significant things later in life? Well, he did. (Here's a brief sketch of his life that describes some of them. And here's another. And another.) To put his life changes in a nutshell, Tolstoy had a religious experience, found new beliefs about marriage, government and peace (just to name a few things), and basically turned his life upside down, all in pursuit of...truth.

Truth, and a life lived in accordance with the principles he believed to be true and right.

On my good days, that's all I'm trying to do, too. Figure out what's right, and live it out. Maybe write about it, a little.

I might THINK I know something, and share it, but now I know (through experience, unfortunately) that I may in fact, change my mind. I may learn things, or experience things that shift my ideas.

So...what do you do? Not write until you have it all figure out?

No, I don't think that's it. Tolstoy wrote in every stage of life, and he wrote with his heart, and all the information and understanding he had at the moment. I believe if you do the same as a writer, your thoughts will always be important, and even helpful, despite inaccuracy/readjustment. Another thought might be to keep a humble tone, just in case you do in fact, change your mind later (incomplete data or understanding might be explainable, but smugness is a lot more difficult--and embarrassing--to undo) and to keep it logical. Writing that contains good reasoning, in addition to humility, is still valuable as an exercise in thought, even if you change your mind about the subject matter. (I think I kept it mild in the aforementioned post/article; at its worst, it just seemed a little judge-y, and I'm sincerely hoping it wasn't hurtful to anyone.)

It's a big deal for a novelist to get critical acclaim for one novel, but to have two of them regarded as some of the most important fiction ever written is huge.

The fact that the author later rejected both of them as not being representative of reality is even more profound, though, to me.

If it can happen to Leo Tolstoy, it can certainly happen to you, or me.

So don't quit, don't overthink it (don't underthink it either, though), just keep writing (or speaking, or whatever) with your heart and your head, and a good dose of love and humility. Be ready to be honest with your readers or listeners when you change your mind.

And it should be okay.

(P.S. If you're looking for a good, thought-provoking movie, check out The Last Station , the fictionalized account of the last days of Tolstoy. And don't forget, I'm an Amazon affiliate, so you help to finance my rock star lifestyle when you click and shop.)

Friday, January 24, 2014

"I'm sorry, did you say something?"

For everyone who can't understand child scrawl, the above message (found on a wall when we recently dismantled our boys' bunk beds) says, "MOMY DUZNOT LESUN".

The displeased marker face next to it is a clear indicator that the artist was quite unhappy with MOMY when the incident that led to this memorialization occurred.

Why am I showing you this, Internets? Why am I exposing the fact that I indeed, sometimes, am guilty of NOT LESUNing?

For two reasons.

First of all, I know I'm not alone. I know for a fact that women across the globe, conscientious Mommys who want to foster good communication and open dialogue with their kiddos, are experiencing failure in that area on a pretty regular basis. How do I know? Well, some of them tell me, and I know too well that even the best of intentions sometimes are defenseless against the constant prattle of children. The overwhelming bigness of their daily needs. The feeling of being painted into a corner by your legion of responsibilities.

Sometimes you don't listen. Sometimes it's for understandable reasons, but it still causes pain not to be heard. And if you're a good Mom, it hurts you to realize you've messed up. But it's fixable.

Just apologize.

Seriously, I can't say enough about how this is probably one of the most under-utilized parenting tools. Just say you're sorry when you mess up. (And if you don't mess up--or you don't think you do--well, then good for you! Carry on! Or ask your kids if they have a different perspective.) I mean, yes, you have to change the behavior (or at least lessen it), but acknowledging that there has been legitimate wrong done goes a long way. It shows your kids that you need forgiveness, just like everyone else, and it teaches them that everyone messes up, and needs grace from time to time. If it's an issue that you feel like needs more than a simple apology, then I'll go to my second reason for sharing this...

Sometimes an alternative means of communication is a good idea.

No, the writing on the wall isn't the best example of getting your point across. (Although it is an attention-getter). But I have done something similar with my younger kids by giving them two way journals; notebooks that we can pass back and forth. (Obviously I should have started sooner with the graffiti artist).

It may be that because I'm a writer, and my kids tend to like to express themselves that way that this has become our method. Kids who find it difficult to write could use a recorder, or draw pictures, but I really do believe that having a second "line" of communication can be very helpful. There are moments when it's just hard to share something face to face, no matter how close the relationship, and I know that we've had the opportunity to address things brought up in our journals that might not have been talked about, otherwise. Sometimes it's been used as a tactful way to tattle (even on one's self), sometimes it's a method of bringing up something that a child might be timid about--"I know you're watching Downton Abbey and I know we're not supposed to get out of bed unless we're on fire, but you said before dinner that we could have cookies and then you forgot"--and as kids get older it can be used for topics that might be too embarrassing to broach for the first time in person. (I do think that as much as possible this should be a bridge to face to face conversations, not a replacement.)

I have one child that is not as verbal as the rest, and this has been INVALUABLE in reaching her. Most people who have children with communication issues have already discovered that alternate forms of communicating are important, but kids and parents without organic issues can benefit from this, too, I believe.

Most of us need a little help in the LESUNing department.

Me, more than anyone.