The Weight of Small Things

The view out of my window at the moment is lovely – a nice fall morning. A glance at my BBC news app or Google reminds me that not everyone’s morning is going as well.

Hurricanes are brewing and blowing in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans – the Philippines and the Carolinas are both being battered by winds and rains and surging waters.

Fascists are raising their voices and fists in slurs, salutes, and symbols throughout the world.

The economies of the globe are poised in delicate balancing acts as the wealthy find unimaginable riches and the poor become generationally trapped in poverty.

All four primary agencies measuring global temperatures (NASA, NOAA, the Japan Meteorological Agency, and the Met Office Hadley Centre) show global temperatures are the highest ever since 1880 when data collection began.

Dozens of species of plants and/or animals become extinct every day.

These are the things that make these days terrifying. They terrify because most are not things that happen in one-fell terrifying swoop. Instead, they are tiny things, adding up until the weight is too much to bear.

I just erased so many examples that I know in just my community because you have your own lists that are just as valid – families torn apart over politics or war, lives lost because of disease or accidents or untreated mental health issues, communities fractured over differences of opinion or skin tones. So much pain. And so much of that pain begins with a small thing, a tiny thing that is easily overlooked or ignored.

But like the raindrops that add up to a 12 foot tidal surge, small things do add up to become something too large to ignore.

The bad stuff adds up until it weighs so damn much.

But so does the good stuff.

Smiles.

Hugs.

Holding the door for the person behind you.

Doing one tiny, absolutely unimportant thing can absolutely change the world for someone else.

11734305-50B6-4586-8BFC-640C0444D40AThe weight of good small things is immense. But instead of breaking a soul, crushing a spirit, those tiny things rebuild, shore up, change the course of a tide. Added up, even a penny is worth something of value.

So today, do some small thing for good.

It just might be you who feels the most unburdened by the weight of small good things.

 

 

Advertisements

Going His Own Way

The new routine around here gets us up and ready for work and school way too dang early (!) but also at staggered times. A bit over an hour after Mister Soandso and Middlest leave to get her to high school, I stand at the window and watch Littlest walk to the bus stop.

It’s our first week of school and already he’s got a system: eat breakfast, get showered and dressed, and head out the door all with limited interaction with me. He’s never been a super chatty morning person, but even for him it’s a bit muted. Not in a rude sort of way, but more in line with how he interacts with the pets – sort of a quick acknowledgement and then a “bye! Love you!” thrown over his shoulder as he head out the door.

Sounds like I’ve got a middle schooler on my hands, 100%.

After the door lock clicks, I refill my coffee cup and the dog and I head into my bedroom where the window affords me the best view. It takes a while for him to come into view, and then, after a short walk up the hill, he disappears. At no point does he look back over his shoulder – why would he? His destination and friends are ahead of him. And he knows how to get back home when it’s time to do so.

Eli first day of kinderThis photo of Littlest popped up on my FB feed this morning. Seven years ago Mister Soandso and I walked him to his first day of kindergarten.

He didn’t look behind much even then. He knew where we were… right behind him should he need us. Plus, he knew he had free reign until he got to the corner where’d he need to wait for us and the crossing guard. He knew how to do this trip.

After all, his dear sister was back there with his dad and I, and he’d made this trip with her too many times to count in his life.

Seven years and now that little boy is gone. That too big backpack wore out years ago, he’s favorite tee shirt has long been outgrown. And those tiny running shoes he was so excited to get have been traded in for 8.5s in adult size!!!

The young man I watched walk to the bus stop resembles this tiny boy so much, and yet very little. His voice proves adulthood is around the corner even more than those big shoes do. And his fierce independence seems to demonstrate how grown up he is as well. Except it doesn’t.

Instead, it reminds me that he has always known where to find his dad and I – behind him, watching his back while giving him the space he needs to become the person he will be. And g-d knows, we love that person so much.

Welcoming a child into your life is always a scary thing – and Littlest’s entrance to our world was not without drama. Oy. But in the big picture, journeying with this young man has been such smooth sailing. Or, maybe the joys have just so outnumbered the challenges that I rarely think about the scary stuff nowadays.

A friend’s baby came early this past week – his little boy was born at 24 weeks 5 days and weighed only 1.9 pounds. So far, little Will is doing well. Every photo his parents share is a reminder of just how precious and tenuous life is. And how very lucky Mister Soandso and I were to have three full-term babies.

Our babies start out so very vulnerable and need so much. And then in a blink of a proverbial eye, they put on their backpacks and head off to kindergarten.

Yep, the days are long but the years are so very short. And then they are off, going their own way.

Circles and Straight Lines

I got up this morning and made banana bread muffins.

This is certainly not out of the ordinary. After all, I’ve been getting up and making banana bread muffins for years now. (When one eats as many bananas as I do while having a very small “perfect banana” definition, there is a much larger banana bread window than banana eating window at chez moi.)

But one thing was different today. After I put the muffin pan in precisely the center of the center rack and set the timer, I texted Biggest.

“Making banana bread muffins and missing you.” Continue reading

Standing in the Shadow, part 2

When Biggest was about 2 or so, he got frustrated by my “multi-tasking” during breakfast and reached across the table, over the paper I was grading, and put his little hands on either side of my face. “Pay attention to me,” he said while he pulled my face towards his. He didn’t stop until his forehead was against mine, staring into my eyes to ensure I really was paying attention to him.

Sometimes, our world requires us to pay attention.

And sometimes, we’d really rather be distracted by anything but that which is reaching out and grabbing our attention. Continue reading

Standing In the Shadow, part 1

Next week we take Biggest to college. I can’t believe I’m typing those words, but my lack of belief doesn’t change reality. Biggest is off to college.

He was an 8 year old, third grader when I started this blog. Back then, my role in his life (and apparently mine as well) was to have all the answers to all his questions. (See my inaugural post for a refresher of how well that went for me.)  These days as a whopping 18 year old, he prefers me to keep my obviously lacking “opinions” to myself and just drive the car in silence, thank you very much. Continue reading

My Slow Fall Into Love With Summer

Falling in love with Summer caught me so unaware that now my heart aches with need. A need to be connected – a need so great that I find myself nearly willing to lose myself. I know this makes no sense.

How is it that me, a middle aged woman not known for spontaneity or reckless behavior now feels like making a public declaration of my love for Summer? I think because when I woke up today, my arm snaking out from under my covers to find the snooze button, my first thought was that it is Friday. And this Friday is the last Friday of this Summer. More to the point, it is the last Friday of Summer as I have come to know and love.

This is the last Friday of Summer.

When I was a kid I hated summer. Summer was the three interminable months between when school got out and when I could escape my childhood and go back to school. Summer was the enemy that meant no fun, no full-belly-laughter, no being a silly kid. Instead, summer was getting up and working all day in the sun-bleached heat of Eastern Washington and trying to hide from the angry voices that demanded absolute obedience.

Things slowly changed when I left the farm. Later, I left home and summer became something more than a season to survive. It became tolerable, even ignorable. Summer happened, but it was just a waiting period until my favorite season started. Hatred had somehow transformed into indifference.

However, yesterday I realized that I somehow fell in love with Summer.

It’s my husband’s fault. He mastered the slipping out of bed as his alarm goes off, closing doors before turning on lights or the shower, dressing in the dark. He’s mastered the gentle kiss on my forehead and quiet goodbye as I hold a cup of coffee, not yet quite awake. He’s embraced sleeplessness as we cajole him into staying up late to watch movies and play games, or moonlit philosophical soaks in the hot tub. He’s been our family’s primary breadwinner so I could spend the summers fully immersed in mothering our three children. Falling in love with summer is an extension of having been given permission to love other people so fully and completely that all I want to do is do nothing with them.

I suppose my slow love affair with summer is like an appreciation of summer’s bountiful impermanence. While experiencing it, summer feels as full a garden plot with one too many zucchini plants. But that feeling is fleeting. One day there is too much and then next there is only withered and empty vines. 

This summer has been filled to bursting with time together. Next summer, Biggest will be marking the days before leaving for college. His weeks between graduation and college will be more about his friends and peers than Netflix and popcorn in the family room with his siblings and Mister Soandso and I crowded on the couch.

Thank you Summer for all you’ve given me. All these years of moments with Biggest (and Middlest and Littlest) and the memories of both the days filled with more “nothing specials” than “big events” but that add up to such a powerful thing that I don’t know what I’m going to do when Summer makes way for Autumn. Because when that happens, there will be no way to ignore that the next time I meet Summer, everything will be different. It may have taken me a long time to fall in love with Summer, but now that I have, all I want is Summer…days and days and days of Summer. But that won’t happen.

Because today is the last Friday of Summer.

 

Friendship, Words, and Reading

One of the best parts of living on the outskirts of the writing community is that I have been able to meet many writers over the years. Even better is the fact that I am lucky to call a handful or so “friend” and mean it in more than the “I interact with them on social media” fashion. One of those wonderful writer friends is Kerry Schafer. Kerry recently shared with me a digital copy of her latest novel and I thought that my first blog post in nearly a year would be a good place to talk about friendship, Kerry, and her books.

518edz1m7el-_sx322_bo1204203200_I have been reading Kerry’s words since her first book, Between, came out in 2013. I devoured Between while camping that summer. While I’m not typically a huge fan of the fantasy genre, Kerry is a good storyteller so she hooked me – to the extent that all three of the Between series sits on my bookshelf.

That storytelling skill continues with her latest series, The Shadow Valley Manor with Dead Before Dying and now World Tree Girl

Technically, World Tree Girl is a stand alone novel, but I feel like some of the story is helped by having already met Maureen Keslyn and her fellow “ghost hunters”. I suppose that’s a bit misleading – you really don’t need to read the first book, but you really should. By the way, they aren’t ghost hunters per se- but like the blurb on the front cover says, there is a very X-File vibe to the work that Maureen does…rather than risk spoilers, let me just describe her as a ghost-like hunter and you can come up with your own description after you’ve read it.

I think my favorite thing that Kerry has done in this book is to create a great protagonist who is as atypical as her job. She’s not a gorgeous, nubile 20-something-year-old. Instead, she’s a bit broken, a bit rough around the edges, a bit like how you’d expect a woman to be with a resume strong enough to hunt “ghosts”.

I think that is why I adore Kerry and her writing. She writes fierce women who are like women you know. Women who have stayed up all night – perhaps watching over a sick child, or waiting for a teenager to creep in hours after curfew, or enjoying the touch of a lover. Real women we all know and probably are when we need to be – it’s just that Kerry’s real women also know all about ghosts, monsters, and dragons.

When I read Kerry’s books, I get to hold a little bit of Kerry in my hands – because she’s fierce and caring and loving…just like her characters.

Thank you my friend, for letting me know you more by knowing your characters. World Tree Girl is a beautiful continuation of your way with words.

ps. this is my first post in almost a year. Wow. I was just telling a friend that it feels like my well of words has run dry. She gently suggested that perhaps this is just my time of laying fallow in order for more fertile writing in the future. I’m not sure about that. I’m not sure about much these days aside from needing to find my way through these days. I am so thankful for the friends in my life who have stayed beside me all this time.