“Many people die with their music still in them. Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it time runs out.”
-Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
Do you know the feeling you get when you hear from a dad at back to school night that your child had invited his child to join him at lunch when he was sitting alone? Or when your 10 month old smiles up at you as you rub her down with a lavender oil lotion after her bath? What about when your nine year old bashfully presents you with a hand drawn Mother's Day card, promising to help you make dinner? Or when your six year old pleads with you to help the sad man holding the cardboard sign? How about when your best friend calls you in crisis and then ends the call saying that what you told her was exactly what she needed to hear? How about what happened to me yesterday: the blessed, tear-springing experience of dropping my oldest girl off at her dorm for the first time and knowing (though I can take no credit), with absolute certainty that she will be a benefit to EVERYONE who comes within her radar?
These moments let you and me know that the little violin obligato of our life is melding with the symphony that is humanity; that our presence just might be an improvement over our absence; that our brief turn on this earth, in fact means something. As a poster child for introverts, horrible at small talk, a perpetual failure at "thinking on my feet", but with a heart drawn out in a virtual hug big enough for the world, these are the kinds of moments I exist for. And these are the moments I long to create for you.
I want the book I wrote to be the one you reach for when you snuggle up with your kiddo at bedtime, and together you feast your senses on each rustling page of the exquisite illustrations, and the rhythmic verses and imagery roll off your tongue, and the healing truths interwoven in the magical story begin to warm your heart and moisten your eyes, and you feel that thrumming inner witness that you are not only nurturing your child, but feeding her very soul, and by extension yours, and that all the striving and straining and bum-wiping has been worth it. That is my dearest dream.
If you're one of the intrepid few who have subscribed here at the site, thank you so much. If you haven't yet, you also deserve warm thanks that you're still reading this. If you will signup and join with me in this exciting journey, I'll do everything in my power to ensure that those kind enough to come aboard when my books were only a twinkle in my eye, will get the earliest updates, and the sweetest deals and giveaways- and no spam. Thank you, friends.
Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better. – Albert Einstein
Logic will get you from A to B, imagination will take you everywhere. – Albert Einstein
Friends, Have you ever had a fire in you that died out? How do you lose that which once seemed inseparable from who you are?
Just as I did not know, going into this, that publishing a book would require me to become some kind of social media maharishi, I did not plan for this site to become quite so personal. Yet invariably, a person in the position of "selling oneself," is forced to take inventory of one's wares.
In another life, I was a granola mom; a Waldorf mom; a homemade mayonnaise mom; a "my kids will never be mindless screen addicts..." well, you get the idea. That's also when I began writing my children's books.
Then, following some events which shall not be here delineated, as a mom of 2, I entered the desolate world of single parenting.
Along came Daviekins (I love to make my teens gag!). Tall. GORGEOUS. Sings like Mandy Patinkin. Sings SHOWTUNES. TO ME. Fiercely intelligent. Self-evident honesty and LOYALTY more attractive to me than any pretense at lofty ideals. I swooned. He'd lost his incredible, angelic wife to cancer a year prior. SIX KIDS.
There was nothing for it but to jump in with both feet. Being big fans of kids, and even bigger fans of each other, along came 3 more in 3 years. I declare, here and now that I love and adore this tribe down to my bones, and would never change places with anyone. Yet...
I was out of my depth. The sheer volume of laundry was mind-altering. Keeping the house clean was an impracticable absurdity. I was a "hot mess". And my dear ones had a burden of grief. I tried to be present when each crisis erupted. Children continued to take refuge in the hand-held devices which had also held their world back from crumbling. Complete restriction was unthinkable, and systemic limitation was spotty and difficult to manage.
Our bunch of kids was incredibly smart, amazingly talented, and unquestioningly attached to screens. It was imbued in our family culture. TBH, it still is.
My two year old was bright-eyed, verbal and precocious. As I drove one morning, listening to Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point on audiobook, with its examination of the superior developmental appropriateness of Blue's Clues, I thought perhaps that my two year old could get something out of it, and I could have a moment of peace to get something done. He was smitten, along with his one year old brother. They stood stock still in fascination.
"Well... he's learning words like 'scurry' and 'ferocious'! He can tell us about the habitat of the giant anteater."
Then it was Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood- "Look, it's based on Mister Rogers. They're teaching my kids to be nice!"
Tumble Leaf- "Look how artistic and imaginative it is. It looks like a Waldorf show!"
Word World- "They're totally teaching my child to read! And look how well he's retaining it!"
My two adorable toddler boys were spellbound, and conveniently out of everyone else's hair.
"Oh look. Ammon's just fallen in love with Thomas and Friends. He's learning how to be trustworthy and really useful!"
I went from a mom who pretty much squelched all TV other than movies like "Heidi" prior to age 8, to a mom who, on a rare, strong, focused day, limits her two and three year olds to two shows in the morning and two more before bed. On not so strong days? The sucker's going live all day long.
A few days ago, with the big kids in school again, I took my little ones outside to play. We have a play structure with 3 swings, and I count any outside time as good for them. We recently moved to 15 acres of property, with fantasies of the kids bonding with nature, but ironically, as the wilds of the terrain require closer supervision, and there's a great deal of work to be done on the inside, outdoor time is still in short supply.
This time, instead of dutifully pushing them on the swings, I sat down at the picnic table to catch up on a project and told them I'd push them when the timer beeped. I then waited for their kid powers to kick in and spur them on to exploring the great outdoors. And waited...
Gideon, my three year old halfheartedly went down the slide. Once. Then sat down next to me and whined. Ammon continued to stand in front of the swing and whine. For a full forty-five minutes. It seemed that my poor little ones had forgotten how to play outside. And it was my own darn fault. I despaired and declared a moratorium on shows until their imaginations come back. Until they could manage to exist for an hour outside without someone pushing them on the swings. What have I done? How can I undo this damage? Can I find a local Forest Preschool?
(Images of other moms tossing their rosemary and bergamot scented hair and smiling at me condescendingly as my child whines about going home and playing on someone's Kindle ensue- crushing my resolve.)
I love this quote by Albert Einstein:
Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.
"Imagination" has been tossed about so much, it seems to amount to nothing but a bit of fluff. What is imagination anyway? Dictionary.com defines it as the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.
It kind of cracks me up when TV stations spout off about building kids' imaginations. If the most engaging content hitting their brains is fully formatted external objects present to their senses, courtesy of Nick Jr., what practice of actually holding and manipulating pictures and ideas in the mind by their own power is taking place? None. What patience are they building for the process? Even less.
Did you know that part of Einstein's journey toward his formulation of the theory of relativity was imagining himself chasing a beam of light?
That is some intricate imagining. Can you conceive of the elegant trajectory of his thoughts? No, Summer, I'm not Einstein. The silent, elegant mental puzzlings? The persistence through countless unwieldy layers of intrepid, unprecedented logic? I can't either.
And the sad truth is, my kids would consider it too boring to be worth the effort.
As I type this post with my right hand, I'm pushing my kids on the swing with my left. But we've gone for a couple of days with no shows now. I don't know how long I'll hold out, but I do know that writing is beginning to spark an inner fire again, and I have no foolish notions that watching Little Einsteins will nurture an Einstein style inner space.
What are your thoughts? Talk to me!
Friends, I'm a certified hot mess. The genuine article- and not only because I have roughly the amount of children as Baskin-Robbins has flavors. There are other, general reasons. Reasons that you and I could well have in common. Let's share.
BUT FIRST, would you believe that 19th century philosopher Henry David Thoreau saw it coming? He knew that I'd be a hot mess before General Custer knew he was surrounded.
And how did he know? Observe. As soon as plans were made to run a telegraph from Maine to Texas, his vigilant mind predicted the following: that maybe Maine and Texas have nothing important to communicate.
"We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the old world some weeks nearer to the new; but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad flapping American ear will be that Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough."
-Henry David Thoreau
I'm sure Princess Adelaide had her good points, and we wish her well, but Thoreau's meaning was that this news was not likely pertinent to the lives and work of its recipients. That perhaps life's most important truths would one day be "drowned in a sea of irrelevance (Neil Postman)".
SOUND FAMILIAR, FRIENDS?
That brings us to the first vital step to becoming a hot mess...
STEP 1. TURN ON NOTIFICATIONS
All of them! Let the buttons, badges, alerts, chimes, beacons and whistles resound in a frightful, untempered, unremitting torrent through your harried and agitated existence. This way, when you’re having a walk in the cool morning air, learning about your spouse’s day, or contemplating the next frontier of your career path…
PLONK! Steve commented “What a hottie!” on your photo
BUZZ! Lorraine reacted to your post ❤️
WOOT! Muggle35 started following you.
And that, friends, was when my sanity began to plot its daring escape.
Did you know Thoreau also said "Men have become the tools of their tools"? How eerily prophetic was that? Was his cabin on Walden Pond actually a TARDIS?
So how can we approach social media on the offense rather than the defense, and grab it by the horns instead of getting sucked into its gripping vortex?
Check this tip from superheroyou.com:
"Set a timer.
It’s fine to go on Facebook every once in a while. The problem comes when you get sucked into the rabbit hole and suddenly realize you’ve spent 2 hours stalking friends of friends of friends. Avoid this by setting a timer to remind you when it’s time to log off – 15 minutes is a good start. If you can’t follow the timer, get an app that will force you off like SelfControl."
Keeping these things in mind will assist us in our quest for focus. Get wise with me, dear readers. Please comment with your experiences around this issue.
Thoreau had yet more knowledge to dispense, which we are at liberty to disregard:
"...if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."
The enemy to "advancing confidently" is our own discouraging thoughts. Thus we find the next maneuver in our aspirations to hot mess...ness:
STEP 2. BELIEVE YOUR ANTs
This does not refer to your Aunt Becky, although in some cases that advice may still hold. "ANT" is an acronym for Automatic Negative Thoughts attributed to the eminent Dr. Daniel Amen.
Thoughts that pop up such as "I'll never make that happen," or "I just don't have the talent," or "life sucks", are even more pestilential than an insect infestation. Listen and accept them, and you're on your way to hot mess...hood(?) just like me.
Will you join me in stepping on these ANTs? If we can hone the aforementioned focus, we can get better at catching them instead of letting them crawl past, wreaking their havoc unobserved.
When you are lucky enough to catch one in the light, talk back to it:
"I'm capable! I got this!"
"I'm getting better at this all the time".
"I'm grateful for every chance to learn. I am blessed."
"I choose happiness and confidence."
Dear readers, I would love to hear about how you put down your personal ANT invasion. Let's work on staying encouraged together.
A final thought from Thoreau:
"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."
STEP 3: STAY QUIET AND DESPERATE.
In other words, keep floating passively downstream, procrastinating and failing to take action on what matters.
Gerda Audagnotti was inspired to arrange permanent homes for African orphans.
Willy the Plumber started a scholarship for the children of inmates.
Yesterday I almost gave my little ones a bath.
What are you up to?
I sincerely hope you'll join the conversation! As wisdom seekers, let's find focus, encouragement and action together!