Post It Quotes

I’m always trying to think of new ways to communicate successfully with our young adult children. Many of our conversations are fly-by. They’re so busy walking over that threshold into adulthood – off to work, off to play golf, off to school – there’s not many chances for us to talk anymore.

And I want to know what they’re thinking about. Do they worry? Plan? Dream? And I want them to know I’m still thinking about them. Still ready to teach, to parent, and to listen whenever they need me.

This Monday, I started leaving post-it note quotes on the fridge.  Inspired by R.J. Palacio’s 365 Days of Wonder, I flipped to the quote for July 20, and stuck it right there on the fridge.

(If you know anything about 20-ish boys, you know that’s a late-night hot spot.)

I said nothing. Expected nothing. But gave my sons a little bit of late-night love right there on a neon 3×3 note.

July 20 … If you want to learn about the world go out in it. – Mae

July 21 … You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. – Wayne Gretsky

By day two, I got my first comment.

“I don’t think Wayne Gretsky said that. I’ve read the same quote from Michael Jordan.”

This from one of the middle sons … the Sports Management major.

July 22 … Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end. – Scott Adams

On Wednesday morning the youngest –  who’s got a few goals he’s working hard on this summer – said, “Loving the quotes. Keep ’em coming.”  And by Thursday morning, an orange post-it stuck on the fridge sometime during the night proclaimed in bold, black Sharpie: “I LOVE THE QUOTES. THANK YOU!”

I  knew I was onto something.

I stopped following R.J. Palacio’s book chronologically, but still use it as a resource for quotes. I knew I could pick quotes with messages I wanted one, or another, or all of them to hear. I had their attention. By some stroke of good fortune or a summer miracle, they seemed ready to listen … and I had found a way to speak.

July 23 … Believe you can and you’re halfway there. – Theodore Roosevelt

This morning I found another orange post-it scrawled out and stuck on the fridge sometime in the middle of the night:

When the body is tired, exercise your mind. -Anonymous

A whole new brand of back-talk — born in our family this week.

And a few days of Wonder too.

Thank you R.J. Palacio.

Think of all the places we can spread a little Wonder in our lives.  Classrooms. Staff rooms. Bulletin boards in City Hall. The possibilities are endless, and there’s plenty of post-its to go around.

July 24 … What you do every day matters more than what you do once in awhile. – Unknown

Where will you stick your first post-it and what will it say?

More Space

DSC_1177I live in well-defined spaces and travel predictable paths between them all. Home. Work. Sometimes (maybe) the gym. And back around again to all the next day. These are the physical spaces of my life, but each and every one has some mental and emotional real-estate too. Boundaries. Habits. Expectations.

Summer’s freedom widens me and my personal space. We travel a bit. We journey off to our June, July, and August traditions and find a moment or two to contemplate one or two new adventures.

In summer, I have more room, more time, more empty pages in my notebook, more open air to breathe, and more space —  to be me.

Except.

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Except maybe I’ve still got the day-to-day boundaries set and all the fences marked off around the space I’ve defined as me. Maybe I’ve limited my opportunities for growth and new experiences because my well-worn patterns of living and thinking and being are more automatic than they are inspired or spontaneous or authentic.

Maybe I don’t even think about such things anymore. Even though I want to. Maybe I just don’t get around to it because my groove is deep– and that’s the one I walk.

Because. Because I am  a wife. A mother. A daughter. A sister. A friend. A teacher. Spaces I live in. Rooms in my house.

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Except.

Well … lately I’ve taken on a twist. Somewhere back there, I took a left when usually I make a right. Later on, down the road, I see how right works just fine and gets me where I’m going, but all the while, I’m glancing over my shoulder and see some other road I should have driven.

But not this time.

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You see, I’m writing. I’m taking pictures. There’s a new addition to my house. More space. Some creativity. Fresh possibility. Yes, and even hope.

It’s possible this blog space will be mine and mine alone. Maybe no other person will ever read or feel or understand what I write here. And my pictures will only be viewed by a loving few.

Regardless.

My space is bigger.

And I grew.

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I’m connecting to #wholemama at Esther’s amazing space. Drop by. You’ll like it there.

1 – 2 – 3 – 4 Cake

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My husband says his mother never chose what she baked by ease of recipe. If anything, he said, she picked recipes that were almost intentionally difficult.

And the woman knew how to dirty a dish.

The recipe for 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 cake isn’t all that difficult, especially if you prepare a few ingredients in advance, but it is multi-stepped and you will dirty some dishes. The dishes I used to bake this cake reads like a list of ingredients:

  • 5 mixing bowls (6 if you count the one I sprinkled with flour by accident)
  • 4 beater blades
  • 3 spatulas
  • 2 measuring cups
  • 1 set of measuring spoons
  • 1 whisk
  • 1 sifter
  • 2 wooden spoons
  • and, of course, a cake pan

My friends, that’s just for the cake and does not include the frosting.

My husband called this cake a “family standard” when he was growing up and I baked it for his birthday yesterday upon his request. I think we all get a little hungry for tradition from time to time, and the recipe for 1-2-3-4 cake comes from grandma.  When you look over the list of ingredients, the reasoning behind its name will be immediately apparent.  The cake is rich and dense … so if anything, it’ll be better if slightly under cooked.

And the sentimental value of this cake was worth every dish.

Here’s the recipe:

One Two Three Four Cake

  • one cup shortening
  • two cups sugar
  • three cups cake flour, sifted before measuring
  • four eggs, separated
  • one quarter teaspoon salt
  • three teaspoons baking powder
  • one cup milk
  • one teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour a 13 x 9 baking pan.*  Cream shortening, sugar, and salt together until light and fluffy. Add beaten egg yolks and blend until smooth. Sift flour and baking powder together and add to first mixture, alternating with the milk and vanilla. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40 – 45 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

*If using eight or nine inch round cake pans, bake for 35 – 40 minutes and cool on wire racks for ten minutes after baking. Remove from pans and cool completely before frosting.

Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Frosting

  • one half cup butter, softened
  • two thirds cup Hershey’s baking cocoa
  • three cups confectionery sugar
  • one third cup milk
  • one teaspoon vanilla

Beat cocoa into softened butter. Alternately add confectionery sugar with milk. Add vanilla and beat to desired consistency. Add more milk or sugar if necessary.

Some of the People I Used to Be

DSC_1016I walked along the dirt path next to the fishermen’s shacks yesterday and listened to waves roll in and crash, roll in and crash. Steady. And soothing.  I soaked in every ray of sun, not only understanding the gift of the day but also knowing of its impermanence.  No such day lasts forever, and it belongs to everyone who’s blessed to be living in its temporary perfection.DSC_1021

And I was there – with some of the people I used to be.

I met myself there on the beach – maybe ten and awkward – in every wave worth jumping over and in every bucket of sand I could fill. I saw me shivering and goose-bumped on a sandy towel, arms clenched close to my sides. I played handball with my uncle, restaurant with my sister, and looked for starfish with my cousin.

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Every summer when I was a kid, my Nana told and retold the stories she knew about the summer “cottages” just up the hill overlooking a cliff with a rocky view of the Atlantic below. We called them the mansions. I was as awed by their size and romantic grandeur yesterday as I was when I was a girl.

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Sitting there on the beach yesterday, I missed my Nana – gone just a year now – and I remembered her love of the ocean. She loved those islands just out there on the horizon,  so close that on a clear day, I could reach out and pluck one of them from the ocean – just for her.

When she tucked me in at night – under stiff bleached sheets and scratchy pink woolen blankets, Nana told me about the ocean she loved. She told me about lighthouses and undertows and tides. Foghorns sound lonely, she said, but they save sailors from crashing into the rocks. She said buoys in the harbor are colored to name the fisherman they belong to.

I loved her.DSC_1055

I walked the beach yesterday with the younger mother in me. We gathered periwinkles and broken clam shells and smooth grey rocks. We searched endlessly for a glint of sea glass and remembered the days we spent running after fast and free toddlers on open stretches of sand.

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I watched other parents laugh with their children and struggle with their children and build the most amazing sand castle – ever – with their children. Those parents shook sand out of towels, rinsed buckets and tiny toes, and gathered the whole family up for an end-of-day ice cream cone. The best ice cream cones come at the end of a perfect beach day.

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Yesterday, I was alone with some of the people I used to be. We got along well because we knew each other and, a little surprisingly, liked each other just fine. We’re comfortable with each other – knowing as we do – all of each other’s secrets, dreams, and memories. The mistakes we made don’t matter much anymore and we’ve all forgiven, loved, lost, learned, and hoped so much and so hard over the years – that what matters most – is today.

I’m not the person I was when I was them, but I am the person I’ve become because of them. I know them, and they know me. They helped shape the me I am but also make sure I remember the sand I threw at my brothers, the kites I flew with my college friends, and the Tonka trucks I pushed around at low tide with my sons.

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I sat there in the almost luxurious solitude of me, watching the waves shimmer and the gulls dance in the foam. And I was at peace.

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Messing with Perfection

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Life gets messy. (Is that a line from a Bounty commercial?)

Think about the number of human interactions we have in a day.  All those feelings. Opinions. Preferences. Memories. Points of view. All those people and all those ideas mixing it up all day, every day.  There’s bound to be a mess or two, a misunderstanding, some hurt feelings, and maybe even an entire box of Cheerios splayed out across the kitchen floor.

If we’re human. We make messes.

(That should be a line from a Bounty commercial.)

Many messes are brief and circumstantial. I’ve made more than one through lack of attention or tripping over my own feet and dropping all the balls I juggle. There are situational messes too, usually caused by me saying some sort of wrong thing. In a party situation, for example, I’m an untidy small-talker, awkward and uncomfortable. Nerves do the talking for me, and nerves are anything but neat.

I don’t think I ever really understood the true meaning of mess, however, until I had children. I’ve always felt and believed that my mess is not your mess, and your mess is not mine – until I had children and suddenly realized their messes are indeed mine, too.  It’s hard to disassociate yourself from them, as heart-wrapped as you are in all the hopes and dreams and love you have. Loving so much sometimes makes a mess too.

I think I’ve always been a little afraid I would mess this mothering thing up. Still afraid – 26 years and 3 months into it. Afraid that I would fail. That I would mess them up. If ever a need to be perfect flowed through my blood to my heart and brain – it was to be a perfect mom. Not Pinterest perfect, but heart perfect. To teach the right things and model the right things and say just the right words and … to love perfectly … exactly how each of my children needed to be loved.

The width, depth, and breadth of children’s mess-making moves with them across their lives.  There’s literal mess and graphic splendor in the abstract art of Lego scattered from one end of the room to the other. And there’s emotional mess in tantrums and bickering and the heartache of a break-up. We live it all as our children do. We feel it all with them, and wish – deeply – they didn’t have to feel it at all.

It’s so important to me that I continue to parent my children, convinced as I am that even young adults still need guidance from their mother. Many days, though, I feel uncertain and spin myself round in circles of don’t know what to do or say, not sure who or how to be, and what for the love … am I supposed to do now? My mother confidence is a lot less than it used to be and honestly, I feel like I’m making a mess of  the whole thing.

Here’s where faith comes in. And a whole lot of it. Sometimes just the word FAITH is a mantra for my day … and especially my nights.  I try to remember there’s beauty in mess. Mistakes make learners of us all.

Because messes will come – to be messy is human, to be perfect is divine – and so I know I will never be perfect, but faith guarantees me I’ll be guided through it all.

Linking up today with Esther Emery and #wholemama Week 4. Visit with other moms who’re discussing #wholemama ideas of mess.  Bring some Bounty!

Seeing in Words

It’s sultry hot today. The sun’s in – or out – and the sky’s a little moody, so the light keeps changing. It’s a perfect day for taking pictures.

DSC_0868Our country road is quiet and familiar. I watch seasons change walking this road. My point of view changes too whenever I bring my camera along. I see the unexpected right alongside the regular. I notice what’s new and different right there next to all I’ve taken for granted.

My everyday and ordinary is suddenly beautiful.

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Small details like this find their just right moment as though they’ve been waiting patiently to be seen by someone. Might as well be me.
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Some leaves begin and end their lives an entirely different color than the green they live with day after day all summer long.

I’m sure I knew that, didn’t I? Or did I just remember I knew it because the idea came into view?DSC_0901

Writing’s like that, I think. New ideas suddenly come into focus so clearly I think I must have thought them before. And so often, the road my words walk ends up at an entirely different destination than the one I anticipated.

There’s a freedom out there on that road with my camera that I need to find in here with my writing. DSC_0910

Like photography, good writing comes from skill, chance, hard work, and good fortune. A change of lense might lead to a whole new way with words.  I can move a little closer or back away to alter my perspective. I can write what I know but see what’s just beyond the ordinary.

The tiniest seed of a thought may grow into something much larger, and the unexpected is probably waiting for me right there in plain view.

DSC_0951I tend to overthink almost every aspect of my writing – sometimes almost paralyzing me or silencing my voice as a result.

My walk today taught me to see in words.  It’s time for me to point – shoot – and let the writing emerge on its own.

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Quiet

We moved to our smaller, quieter town from another bigger small town almost three years ago. The first thing I noticed was how quiet it is here. Our last home was on a much busier road, and I could tell the time of day by the amount of traffic driving by. Now, we count more runners and bikers on our road than we do cars.

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It’s nature-loving quiet here. Who knew there were so many different ways the wind dances with leaves? So many melodies of rainfall? So many blends of bird calls? At night, barred owls banter back and forth throughout the middling hours of my sleeplessness. Because it’s so still and the whole world’s on pause, I hear them so clearly – and they keep me company.

Because I’m almost always awake.  The quiet’s out there and it’s the deepest silence I’ve ever heard, punctuated only by owl calls and the conversation going on in my head. My thoughts have stayed up too late – again.

As my heart waits for my three 20-something sons to come home, it feels like the peace our quiet road offers me at other waking hours, mocks me at midnight when I wait for the sound of cars – their cars – making their way back where I know they’re safe.  Middle-of-the-night mothering ebbs – but always endures.

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My thoughts cycle around and about and back again. There’s a long-playing list of things to do tomorrow, and my greatest resolve to do better, be better, live better, and love better always comes in the middle of the night. As I wait for their return, I’m also waiting and hoping and praying for faith to find me. All mothers need faith – especially in the stillness and shadows of the night.

One by one, the boys pull into our driveway, and I can rest a little easier, parking the anxiety roadside by the recycling and the trash. My thoughts sometimes spin awhile longer though because there’s tuition to pay for and plans to make and an endless number of details to remember and count like the stars lingering overhead.

But eventually even the owls move on and away, and so my troubles will soon too. Faith tells me tomorrow will find me – quieted and a little weary, but at peace – ready.

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I’m linking to #wholemama 

Visit with Esther Emery and all the other mamas writing about quiet this week!