Friday, March 29, 2013

Lesson 10- Celebrate spring

Last week I laundered my winter jacket and put it away. Three days later I wore it again. Spring was not quite here, even though the calendar indicated otherwise. It's not unusual for spring to come in teases, between the very cold and heavy blankets of winter.

But today spring is everywhere. You can see it; smell it and hear it. And it is heavenly. Spring is not my favorite season, but it's a good one. And when it arrives, I show it the respect it deserves.

Spring here lasts about an hour and a half. Then comes the long and hot, sole-blistering summer. Still, a spring day is like no other experience. I picked up my granddaughter (whose pen name is Valerie Fields, but today wishes to be called Flower) from school. We had ice cream on the patio of our favorite place. We came home to practice riding her bike, but it was too windy. So we grabbed the cat and went into the backyard. I sat in the sun and watched Flower climb a tree.

Is spring your favorite season? What is your first memory of it? I have vague visions of my little brothers wearing short pants and running through the yard. But what I remember most are the smells of clover and grass and the perfume of Paper white Narcissus from my grandmother's garden.

In one of Flower's Pinkalicious books, Fairy House  Pinkalicious says she loves spring because "the sky looks like cotton candy at sunset".

Flower came down out of the tree. She picked flowers from her garden and then planted them again next to the porch. It was the best day ever, she told me, as we went inside for dinner.

Tomorrow it will rain. And the next day, too. I will celebrate rain by working and maybe baking something to warm the house. But today belonged to spring. And we recognized that.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Lesson 9- Sing

Last year my son gave me an MP3 player for my birthday. Loaded with more music than I could ever listen to, that tiny electronic device changed my life. Every week when I clean house, I put in my ear buds and sing out loud to my heart's content.

Singing is good for us. It exercises abdominal muscles, stimulates circulation and makes full use of our lungs- not to mention self expression. "If you're happy and  you know it" releases more than endorphins. It sounds out your feelings.

In my house, I am never asked to sing. In fact, when my granddaughter (Valerie Fields) was only three, she politely asked me to stop singing to her at night. Not because she was too old for lullabies. But because when I sang, she explained, she could not sleep. Instead, she began singing to me at night. Fine, she has a lovely voice.

I try not to be insulted, but seriously I am the  only person in my family without a "will you sing that for me?" voice. My son and Valerie Fields' mother are both musically gifted. And listening to my husband whom I still call Biker Mike (though he no longer finds it funny) sing in the shower is one of the best reasons for living with him.
Don't misunderstand. My voice is not annoying. You just don't want to add a microphone or soundtrack to it. My hits are "Here kitty, kitty" and "Does anybody need anything from Target?".

But when I clean house, I wear that MP3 player and sing like Stevie Nicks. I exercise my vocal chords and my personal rights. I don't worry who might be listening. The combination of vacuum cleaner roar and ear phones is a tone-deaf rocker's karaoke.

What about you? Do you belt out ballads when no one is watching? Have you tried vacuum karaoke? Or do you still prefer the hair brush? What's your favorite tune to sing with abandon? Come on,  you know you've got one!

PS- There is one song Valerie Fields still lets me sing to her. She says it is my song. But that's another story. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Little Bits- the things they say!

Thinking on my feet

My three year old twins just found the baby monitor I have had in their room since they were babies. (I still need to know what's going on when I'm not there.)
They brought it to me shouting, "What IS this?".
Speaking the first thing that popped into my mind, I answered-
"It's the poison box that keeps monsters and roaches out of your room." 
They stared at me, blankly, so I quickly added-
"Have you ever SEEN monsters or roaches in your room?"
They both shook their heads "no".
"Then I suggest you go put it back and leave it alone."
Erin with Parker and Carter
They quickly did just that.
Erin, TX

Friday, March 15, 2013

Lesson 8- Keep a promise

I have never seen my granddaughter (whose pen name is Valerie Fields) so excited. All weekend long she told everyone the story of how she kept her promise.
Last week, she made a pinky promise (the kind that guarantees woe to anyone who breaks it) with her daddy that she would go all week without getting her folder signed at school. Getting your folder signed is not like getting your glove signed at a baseball game or your shirt signed at a concert. This signature comes from a parent. It proves to the teacher that your parent found out about your less than stellar behavior. Valerie goes days without needing her mom's signature. But a week? And the week before spring break, at that. Wow. I know what a commitment that was. And the effort it took on her part.
I asked Valerie Fields how she accomplished this huge goal. She told me:

"Well, I told myself I could do it. Then I just believed it."

You know whose promise I wish I could believe in? Spring. No offense, Ground Hog, but I don't think I'm the only one confused. There have been signs everywhere in my yard that spring is coming. Little green shoots of fern and vines peering from brown leaves. Last week a rogue bloom on my gardenia. Like these over-anxious volunteers, I am so ready for winter to be over. And yet, in the same week the gardenia bloomed, I rescued the morning newspaper from frost. My mother had a sign in her garden for years that read,
"To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow."
The unknown factors in gardening are just as critical to harvest as water and soil condition. There are things the gardener controls and things she just has to believe.
Believing, without really knowing it will happen. That's the hardest part of any promise.
Just ask Valerie Fields. She'll show you her folder.

my mother in her garden-where she always believed

Sunday, March 10, 2013

One of Valerie Fields' early hair styles. Much product used.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Lesson 7- Have the last laugh

They say the best laugh is the last one. In our house the person who does the most laughing is my husband. He laughs at jokes. He laughs at pets, kids and people. He even laughs at his own shortcomings.
Just last week our granddaughter (who now chooses to be known by her pen name, Valerie Fields) presented Biker Mike with an award for his sense of humor.
The person in our house who will not win an award for her sense of humor is, of course, me. How fitting that the day I won my first writing competition, I missed the call because I was in a tent in my bedroom. As the contest director left me a voice message, I was watching World's Greatest Roller coasters on TV while Valerie Fields styled my hair. She was using lots of product to get my hair to cooperate. I was horrified when I found out 'product' to a six  year old stylist was spit. I sat very still, so none spilled on the carpet.
I left the tent to show off my hairdo and make lunch. I checked my e-mail. There it was. Congratulations, it read. I made Biker Mike read it, in case product was affecting my vision.
I cried a second as he read it aloud. The piece, "Last Kiss", was the story of my mother's last year. Conceived in pain, it was a blueprint of the most profound chapter of my life. After months of shaping and sculpting, an essay emerged. One that made me prouder to have known my mother than sad to have lost her. Its success was no lottery thrill or blind surprise, but a feeling of satisfaction at the end of very hard work. My mother would have been proud. And she would have applauded the timing. Not taking oneself seriously was one of her most popular pieces of advice. She worked hard and played even harder. That my 15 minutes of fame came in the company of such silliness would have made her happy. Even now I can hear her having the last laugh. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Lesson 6 - Take another look

On Saturday, my granddaughter Oreo got her new glasses. The rest of us were humbled to mistiness. Vision problems in children often go undiagnosed. But Oreo's mother has been on the lookout for this one-since she wore glasses as a child, too.

All weekend Oreo entertained us, taking her glasses on and off and squealing in delight at the way things "really" looked. This made the rest of us uncomfortably conscious of the things we see, but don't "really" notice. Like the furniture in your house. If a piece were missing in the morning, when would you notice?

I'm that way about Biker Mike's mustache. Most of our marriage he has worn one. But a couple times each year, he shaves it off. It can take me a week to notice. I'm not kidding. I'm not at all proud of it. I often miss things staring me in the face. I can manage 85 things at once. But I cannot accurately describe the face of the person sitting next to me. I am very familiar with my husband's appearance. His height, his stature. His hair color. The baritone of his voice. I have all but memorized the contents of his closet, so I can almost predict what he will wear on any given day. Pick a topic and I can tell you how he feels about it. But the mustache; that's trickier.

When we look at something so many times, we begin to see it only for its relationship to us. Not for what it really is. I hope that next week I can notice more of the things around me, the way Oreo does. Like whether or not Biker Mike is sporting a mustache when he uses his "I told you so" smile.