What will YOU dare to do? A guide, from A to Z….

I took the girls to the craft store yesterday. I needed to get supplies for Ellie’s First Communion banner, and knew the others would like to tag along (we love craft stores!). Mitzi used a gift card to buy some new watercolors, brushes and paper — and she got this poster. She didn’t show me until she’d hung it on her closet door last night. I love it! I’ve decided that every day I need to go in her room and read it, to remind myself that every day is filled with chances to dare.

Turns out, both of us liked letter F the best. What about you? What letter is your favorite? What will YOU dare to do today?


inspirational poster -- Dare to...

Ode to Wednesday

I think everyone has a favorite day of the week. Some people like Fridays, the end of the work week, a chance to have a few beers and some pizza in front of the TV, maybe, or just because on Friday, you know you don’t have to wake up the next morning before the sun. Others like Sundays, for the slower pace and fat newspapers and an afternoon of football or taking the kids some place fun.

My favorite day is Wednesday. I know, it’s Thursday today, and a fantastic one at that — it’s a quintessential Massachusetts fall day today, with bright sunshine and a cool breeze that makes the leaves swirl off the trees and the Halloween decorations dance from front porches. Fall is my season, and a day like today is my perfect.

But it still is Thursday, which means my beloved Wednesday is over.

The midweek day is a respite for me, a break in the chaos of the other six. By Wednesday, we all have ourselves organized and settled into the daily routine, and our mornings are not rushed as they are on Mondays. The day is also the only one that no one has any sports or activities, which it’s a great chance for the kids to have after-school fun with their friends, unfettered by anything other than homework (which makes them happy, and happy kids means less bickering among them, which makes a happy Mom). It means we can eat dinner at a reasonable hour. We can relax after and read stories or play games or draw pages of pictures. It’s a day that lets us re-energize for all the others.

Today is a glorious one, and I’m charging up my iPod, ever optimistic that I’ll find some time for a walk in the woods. My mood is positive; I am hopeful. And I’m holding the peace of Wednesday in a safe spot in my mind, so when the crazy returns (football practice from 6-7:30, basketball tryouts at 6, mounds of homework and projects and chores), I’ll have the touchstone to remind me that, yes, peace can always be found.



Take a shower — you’ll feel better

We parents are a bossy lot.  It’s not our fault — we have to be, from the time these tiny beings accompany us home from the hospital.  In the beginning, our bossiness is all about safety and telling our kids what not to do so they don’t get hurt.  Do NOT touch the stove top.  Do NOT eat lawn fertilizer.  Do NOT hit your sister over the head with that plastic race car.

Later, we add in some positives, words that intend to be encouraging but are in fact equally as bossy.  DO clean up your toys.  DO  say please and thank you.  DO flush and wash your hands.

Around the time kids start school, we throw in advice to the mix.  It’s a more subtle form of bossiness, but we’re really still telling them what to do.  Try working on one subject first, take a break, then tackle the next assignment.  Tell your brother how you feel instead of yelling at him.  I always feel better after going to bed on time, really, why not give it a try?

This is the time that kids start ignoring parents, whose voices have suddenly turned into the wordless drone captured so aptly in the Peanuts movies: wah wah, wah wah, wah wah.

Come on, you know it’s true.  How much can you remember of what your parents told you before you grew up and, as Mark Twain famously put it, your parents got a whole lot smarter?

Yeah, me neither.

But I do remember one thing my dad used to say all the time.  “Take a shower.  You’ll feel better.”  

He said it when I was in middle school and feeling uninspired to go to school that day (maybe some of those times I was actually, really sick, too).  He said it when I was in high school, feeling sad over something that had happened.  He said it so much over the years, it became more hilarious than irritating.

The thing is, he was right.  There is something about taking a shower that revives you — getting clean, washing away the dirt (both real and metaphorical), starting fresh.

Getting time in the shower can be tough for at-home parents. Obviously, when you are a parent who works elsewhere, it’s in everybody’s best interest that when you arrive at the office your teeth are brushed and your body clean. But for those of us who don’t *have* to make ourselves presentable first thing in the morning, getting bathroom time quickly falls on the morning to-do list. Plus, especially if you have a baby or toddler, chances are your efforts will be rendered meaningless after a bout of spit-up or a scrambled-egg food fight.

When the kids got older, I chose sleep over showering in the wee hours of the morning. But, lately, I’m getting tired of mucking around in yoga pants, which are, honestly, a half-stitch away from my pajama pants. In fact, the kids seem to think they’re one and the same — “Geez, Mom, are you gonna get dressed today?”  Me: “Why should I? I never see anyone but you people!” Har-dee-har-har.

The past year has been a tough one. Lots has been out of my control. There has been frustration and anxiety and depression. And somehow my laissez-faire approach to my appearance hasn’t done much for my state of mind. And so I remember my father’s words, and even though snuggling with my husband for a few more minutes seems much more appealing than waking up in the darkness, I get out of bed, have a cup of coffee, and take a shower.

If nothing else, I am clean and smell good, and if, god forbid, if someone happens to drop by unannounced, I won’t scare them away. But it’s more than that. When I was young, lazing about in sweatpants was the supreme act of comfort. Now that I am old(er), it’s just the opposite. The comfort now comes from taking care of myself, showing my best self to the world, even when things feel like they’re falling apart. Somehow that single act of taking a shower becomes one of hope, of optimism.

Dad, you were right. But don’t let it go to your head.

Easter brings new beginnings, big and small

Sure, I was an English major in college.  Sure, I write fiction and read a few books a week.  It’s not hard for me to see symbols and metaphors and allegories in the text before me.  But in the real world?  Sometimes I’m a little too skeptical and pessimistic about the mystical quality of the universe.

Most of the time.

Then I have experiences like my lost-and-found engagement diamond, where you have to wonder if finding the small stone in a house full of floor cracks and crevices was more than luck.

Other things are more subtle, less dramatic or laden with emotional weight.  A few weeks ago, a package came in the mail for Mitzi — six tiny caterpillars that we got so our budding scientist could watch them morph into butterflies some day.  And they did their thing, finally housed in dangling chrysalides, which we transferred to the butterfly house.  And we waited.

The first two butterflies emerged last Saturday, shortly after we’d finished coloring our Easter eggs.  We were thrilled, not only by the actual happening, but the timing.  What could be more special than new life on Easter?

But they weren’t through.  By the next morning, Easter Sunday,  another three had found their way out.  We marveled and ooh-ed and aah-ed  and hustled out the door for the rest of the day.  Number six was still hanging, and I was a little worried.  Mitzi would be very sad if something went wrong. Which of course, it didn’t, and as I was sitting at my computer that night, catching up on emails and Facebook status updates, I heard a crackling coming from the window sill where the mesh container sat.

Butterfly number six had broken free, wings wet and useless, clinging to the shell that helped it change so drastically, resting, waiting to fly.

I know that six painted lady butterflies, with their 3-week life span, are not going to make a difference to the big, wide world.  But in our little universe, in our little family, those six butterflies, rebirthed on Easter, have reminded us that change is always possible, that new beginnings can happen any time, and this is just the season to get started.