There was a reason I decided to go
Paper map, back roads
Down to Saint Louis
Because I knew by the time I hit Route 71
With the windows down
The radio off
The field of my thoughts could finally unfold,
Stretch, unfurl, squeeze out
Beyond its wire-wrapped borders,
Freeing me to think poetically:
On the proper technique for eating peaches without a napkin
Regarding probable consequences of passing up the sweet corn stand
About retraining myself to breathe deeply
Of towns and their names: Norway, Ottawa, El Paso
Every image I see becomes imagery.
I cultivate phrases in my mind,
Hearing my words as they might be read aloud
Still all the while unsure if
When I hit the interstate
When I close the car windows
When I later sit alone,
My words will return, ready for harvest
Or whether they remain
Blurs through the window
As I go whizzing by.
There was a reason I decided to go
Word to the wise: don’t read on if you’re squeamish, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Last night I had a dream. Most of the time my dreams range from a replay of everyday life to other ordinary dream stuff: driving, flying, being places that are and yet are not real. And of course these dreams have some sorts of meaning to them. They all do.
But sometimes, my dreams are more than vivid. Sometimes, my dreams come at me with red flags waving and sirens blaring: PAY ATTENTION TO ME. THIS ONE IS IMPORTANT.
I was in my house (of course, it wasn’t my house, but it was – that’s how dreams go, right?). And I walked across the living room floor and it was infested with maggots. Everywhere. In my dream, I instantly began trying to think of my strategy for getting rid of the buggers. I went to another room and they were there, too. Again, everywhere. I brought the vacuum cleaner out to the first room. When I started it up, the maggots just dove down under the carpet so I couldn’t get them. My last thought before waking was wondering how deep I’d have to go before I got them all.
Now, you have to understand, I have a thing about maggots. Just even the word itself is enough to make my skin crawl. It probably has to do with the night I stepped barefoot into the garage only to find myself crunching down on those nasty creatures. Yes. Barefoot. For the next three hours, it was me, my old hiking boots, a flashlight, Clorox, Formula 409, a hose, and anything else I could get my hands on to try and eradicate every last one of them.
My initial, horrific revulsion of that first footstep was met with matching feelings of satisfaction as I sprayed, wiped and crunched. I was going to get every last one of them. At the same time, I couldn’t help but think that the whole process was a metaphor for finding what is disgusting and abhorrent, for rooting it out and seeking its end. I even considered possible poems on the theme. I knew it was a figurative struggle, even then.
And THAT’S why I knew I couldn’t ignore this dream. I already KNEW what it stood for, even before I woke up. And isn’t that the way it happens with our very most powerful dreams?
The hellishness was not just in some trash can somewhere. It wasn’t off in the garage. It was in my HOUSE. Literally. Figuratively. It had violated my borders and taken over. And I went to clear it away, only to discover the affliction had struck deep, deeper than I had imagined.
So in the way of dreams, I know, yet I don’t know. Is it a presence in my life that I need to examine? A problem I thought I’ve solved or moved past – but not really? An obstacle to my individual happiness?
Hopefully, some more time, thought and reflection will help shine the light. Maybe even another dream. Only maybe one not so gross this time.
How about you? What’s the last dream that you had where you woke up knowing it was brought to you with a message you needed to hear?
I’m a Nice Person. Which means I stick with that “kinder than necessary” adage. Which means I see it as my job to see other people’s feelings when I consider my own. Before I consider my own. Instead of considering my own.
Niceness, one would think, is a good thing. But I will tell you, and I’d imagine other Nice People out there will tell you, that it isn’t always a good thing. You see, Nice People don’t act out of anger. But we still get upset. You just don’t know it, because we won’t tell you. And if (but hopefully WHEN), you sense you did something wrong and apologize to a Nice Person, we’ll say, “Oh, that’s okay.”
Because Nice People? We MAKE it okay for ourselves. We tell ourselves that you meant well when you accepted our invitation, then forgot about it. That you were just being snappy with us because things aren’t going well for you in your life. We tell ourselves that you cut us off in line at the supermarket because you just weren’t thinking.
Sometimes, Nice People get brave. Which means that we really are angry and frustrated, but we’ll try and let you know in our Nice way. We’ll communicate that we’re not totally happy about things, but we’ll try and make sure you feel okay about yourself too.
The problem is, Nice People expect that same treatment in return. And when we don’t get that same treatment, it surprises us. Shocks us. Saddens us. And yes, angers us.
The other day, I got angry. I mean really angry. I mean, I-can’t-believe-I’m-this-upset-and-are-my-hands-actually-shaking?-angry.
Well, I figured it was about time to really BE angry. I figured, I’ve borne the brunt of so many other people’s feelings, insecurities and misgivings. Isn’t it my turn to let somebody else carry that weight? Time to share the wealth.
So I responded in anger. To tell you the truth, if I read the transcript of what I said, it probably wasn’t all that venomous. It’s like the do-gooder who thinks she’s swearing when she says “underwear.” I used my “I-feel” statements. There was no profanity, no name-calling. And it was a sentiment whose time, truly, had come.
Yet I had a pit in my stomach all day long. It felt completely out of character for me, and felt incredibly wrong. If bad behavior from others shocks me, bad behavior from myself shocks me even more.
Here’s the catch. Who’s to say I behaved badly? Who’s to say I was doing anything more than being honest? And who’s to say I’m better off absorbing all that anger and pretending things were still okay?
A Nice Person would apologize. And believe me, I thought about it. After all, I’m a Nice Person. I’m supposed to make things better. Problem is, I’ve BEEN making it better, and I’ve been making it better at a cost to my own well-being.
So guess what? This time, I won’t apologize for airing my feelings, even if things get messy. Even if, in this situation, I don’t feel Nice.
As scary as it sounds, maybe it’s time to redefine Nice.
Are there other Nice People out there always making things okay, but not really? Other Nice People who have found a balance between consideration for others and kindness to self? Any Not-So-Nice, or Mostly-Nice People who see things differently? Have you learned something today, as I have? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.
Yeah…that would be Nice.
This weekend, Thing 1 and I made two big batches of cookies – snickerdoodles and chocolate chip pumpkin cookies (OK, so I left out the pumpkin, but the cookies were surprisingly tasty). Most of them went towards a charity bake sale at school, and the others went to the kids’ Sunday school teachers this morning. As we were walking in, I thought to myself that I should have brought in more cookies: for the school administrator and office staff. For the crossing guard who braves the cold every week. For the custodial staff who really keep the place running. For the police officer who directs traffic on Tuesdays. For the clergy.
And then I thought, holy cow. I have a lot of people to bake cookies for:
-My neighbors, who make where we live a real, true NEIGHBORHOOD
-Our family doctors and dentists, who keep us healthy (yes, I do see the irony in sending them cookies, but c’mon – everybody loves cookies).
-The storytelling friends I have, who offer support, friendship, and the occasional kick in the pants to get creative.
-My kids’ school teachers.
-The art teacher. The music teacher. The computer lab specialist. The PE teacher (again, dripping with irony. I get it). The office staff. The amazing custodial staff. The before / after care staff.
-The kids’ instrumental music teachers (who, after listening to beginning players play with the patience they do, can skip the cookies and go for the rum balls).
-My colleagues: the neighbors who check on me in my hobbit-hole. The office staff. The custodial staff. (see a pattern here?)
-My students, who work so hard every day and make it worth getting out of bed each morning.
-The coaches who work with the kids in swimming and hockey.
-The team parents, who are so great to get along with and feel like extended family.
-My local friends and family, who could always benefit from a spare rum ball.
-My not-so-local friends and family, who continually offer kind words and a chuckle right when I’m needing them.
and and and and.
I’m realizing that’s a lot of cookies. Even if I were conservative and went 6 cookies a pop, that’s still more dozens of cookies than I care to count. I’m realizing that I’d be up a lot of nights with a lot of cookie dough and rum balls. I’m not so sure that I will make it. Even though the rum ball thing is tempting.
So, it will just have to suffice that I’ll bake what I can, and do what’s in my power to make sure all of you in my life know how grateful I am to have you, in whatever role or purpose you serve.
Thank you for supporting me.
Thank you for grounding me.
Thank you for inspiring me.
Thank you for keeping me healthy: physically, spiritually, emotionally.
Thank you for helping my children see their talents and strengths.
Thank you for asking me how I’m feeling and meaning it.
Thank you for giving my kids rides when I can’t clone myself.
Thank you for making the places I have to be, places I want to be.
Thank you for the unique gifts you bring, to me and to the world.
Today has been a surprisingly productive day.
I have NO papers in my “work to grade” pile.
I was an even better teacher than I expected to be, for the Monday after Thanksgiving.
I cleared my inbox from over 1,000 to 7. Yeah. S-e-v-e-n.
I caught up on my favorite mindless TV show.
I finished a book I was reading.
One would think I’d let myself go to bed satisfied.
That was until I started reading back over my blog entries. And you know what? I’m actually pretty proud of some of my writing. And you know what else? I’m scratching my head as to why I’m not doing it more.
I know I’ve blogged before about why baking is an easy creative outlet for myself. Still, I’d have to think that writing is a touch healthier, perhaps. So here goes. It’s time for me to dust off my keyboard and get back in there. Stay tuned.
Thing 1: Holly’s a Dooshka. That’s Spanish for a dog.
Me: Actually, the Spanish word for dog is “perro.”
Thing 1: Not a female dog.
Thing 2: Ben almost said a swear word!
Thing 1: What!?
Thing 2: Yeah, without the K-A.
Thing 1: What are you talking about?
Thing 2: Don’t you remember? Dad said it, and then he told us we’d be in big trouble if we said it around Mom.
Me: OK, I think it’s time to stop now.
Thing 1: So wouldn’t that be weird if you cracked an egg and a chick came out? I bet that’s happened to someone before.
Me: I’m not really sure if it has. People who live where we do get eggs that don’t really have a chance of having chicks. And people who are farmers, I’m guessing, can feel the difference between a regular egg and one that’s got a full-grown chick inside.
Thing 2: How come there aren’t any chicks in the eggs we get?
Me (shifting in my seat): Well, because hens make eggs all the time. It’s just what their bodies do. But in order for there to be a chick, there has to be a rooster.
Thing 2: Oh, because the rooster comes and sprinkles fertilizer on the eggs.
Thing 1 (rolling his eyes): The rooster doesn’t SPRINKLE fertilizer on the eggs, he…
Me: Go to your room.
Thing 1 (in righteous indignation): What did I do!?!?
All right kids. Here’s the deal. Quite frankly, you do stuff in public that embarrasses me. That’s including (but not limited to):
If this behavior does not immediately cease and desist, I will inevitably be forced to do stuff in public that embarrasses you. That’s including (but not limited to):
Showing people pictures of you
Calling you sweet names
Consider yourself warned.
It’s 9:20 pm. Thing 2 and I are snuggled down in his bed. I like bedtime. Sometimes we talk about little stuff, like the favorite things we ate at dinnertime. Sometimes we pretend we’re going fishing underneath the blankets.
Sometimes big questions come up from little talks.
Thing 2: Where do babies come from?
Me: From a mom and a dad.
Thing 2: Well how do they get there?
Me: Well, there’s a boy part and a girl part.
Thing 2: What parts?
Me: Well…(oh, #$**! He’s eight! How much do I need to share!?)…the boy part is a sperm and the girl part is called an egg.
Thing 2: So I got born when you laid an egg?
Me: No. Remember when I talked about you growing in my uterus? That’s how I had you.
Thing 2: So how did the parts come together?
Thing 2: Is it disgusting?
Thing 2: OK.
1. My kids have an interest in fishing.
2. The park district loans out fishing rods at the nearby pond.
3. For free.
4. Free fishing rods, especially those used by kids who seem to have about as much respect for stuff as mine do, are worth what you pay for them.
5. It’s harder to go to a store and find fishing equipment than you think.
6. My children have somehow acquired a case of the “MamacanIhaves,” a particularly nasty case that has been building up over time. Any home remedies would be greatly welcomed in the comment section.