What Really Matters

Years ago, I spent my junior year in college studying at Trinity College in Carmarthen, Wales. (It’s now known as University of Wales Trinity Saint David.) It was probably the single most important thing I did to become a better citizen of the world. No amount of traditional learning in any setting had as significant of an impact on my understanding of the “human experience” as my year of 1989-1990.

It was also a very difficult year for me. I was away from home, I missed my family, and I saw some horrific things. Car bombings, rioting, police brutality, starving kids, extreme wealth, hatred, ignorance, fear–I saw so many things in one short year. It was a year of contrasts in so many ways.

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Six and Seventy-Four and Joy

This is the season of lights; the season we light candles for so many reasons. The menorahs, the advent wreaths, the vigils and memorials. So many things to light candles for this year.

IMG_3894My family has an advent log. It was cut and drilled by my father-in-law and my children rolled the advent candles out of bee’s wax. Yesterday was the third Sunday of Advent – so far we’ve lit two purple candles for HOPE and PEACE and yesterday we lit the pink candle for JOY. Continue reading

A Day Too Dark

I had thought I’d be posting my annual Christmas greeting. But that will have to wait. For today is a day too dark for smiling.

Instead it is a day to be thoughtful, to be careful, to be mournful.

No matter who you are, or where you are, a day that includes children dying in their classroom is a day too dark.

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They Call Me A Breeder?

Today is the last Monday of the month of August. For ten years, the last Monday of the month of August meant only one thing: back to work. In the districts I worked, teachers report that day to prepare for another school year with students. Eight years ago, on August 30th, I woke up before my alarm. I opened my eyes and smiled, thinking about seeing my teaching friends again and visiting my classroom. And then I remembered. I didn’t have a classroom anymore. My teaching friends were thousands of miles away and I would not be joining them.

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Educating the Smart Kids…And Everybody Else

The other day I was chatting with a mom who was excited to share her family’s big news:  their kindergartner had been accepted into the “Challenge Program”.  I smiled and said all the right things but inside I groaned.  And I groaned because educating kids is a difficult thing and not some times without great cost.  And some times it is paid by the child struggling to find his/her place in the bell curve.

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Tales from Children’s Museum X

This is the first post in a five-part guest post series.

Wendy N. Wagner grew up in the same nutty family as Kristina Martin, and seems to be graying at the same rate. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies The Way of the Wizard and Rigor Amortis, and (forthcoming) in Beneath Ceaseless Skies magazine. Her first novel is being released by a small press in Fall 2011. She is also the Assistant Editor of Fantasy Magazine. For no known reason, her husband and daughter love her despite the neglect and the constant influx of germs. You can keep up with Wendy on http://operabuffo.blogspot.com.

Like most of the truly great writers, I have a dayjob to pay my bills. I’ve been working at an undisclosed location–we’ll call it Children’s Museum X to protect its identity–for five years now. That’s right. I’ve willingly continued to clock in three to four days a week (hey, it’s just part-time until I get that best-seller!) at a place where, annually, close to two hundred thousand children come to scream.

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Letting Go While Hanging On

There are many times in our lives when what feels right is actually the wrong thing to do in a particular situation.  Times when you let go when you should hold on, or hold on when you really ought to let go.  Yesterday was that kind of day for me.

I am preparing to take a trip with my husband and kids.  The amount of things a trip like this requires is maddening.  Just to ensure the house/dog/cat/fish sitter is prepared for any emergency is horrid.  Add to that preparing five people to travel overseas and you might as well start hankering for a padded cell.

I was standing in the produce isle, dithering between bananas and grapes for this week’s lunches when my heart started racing.  There I was, banana bunch in hand, having a full-on panic attack.  After I got my breathing back under control, I figured it was time to let go of some angst this trip is causing me.  Because heaven knows that a stressed out mom is a cranky mom.  And no one wants to travel with my particular version of Cranky Mom.

A few hours after that episode, I took my Oldest to his application interview for the arts magnet middle school.  There was my first baby, heading out to a “student only” 3 hour interview process for which I could offer no assistance.  On one hand, I am so excited for him to be heading into this next chapter of his life.  And on the other, all I want to do is grab him tight and hold on.

It is so hard to find that balance in our relationships between letting go and hanging on.  Giving enough space so that others can find themselves and yet keeping enough contact so that the connection isn’t broken.

It would be so much easier if it were more like fly fishing.  You bait your hook, cast your line, wait, and then carefully assess the nibbles and jerks on your line.  If you guess correctly, you’ve caught yourself a fish.  Guess incorrectly and all you must do is try again.

But as Yoda  told us, “Do or do not, there is no try.”

So I’m not going to try to let go of my fears and apprehensions nor am I going to try to hold on to my dear child.  Instead, I am going to work through those fears and ask that dear sweet boy on the cusp of teenhood if he will at least hold my hand when I stumble during our journey together.