Monday, August 31, 2009

perking along on a Monday

A very good and productive Monday morning to you, courtesy of several cups of strong coffee and a weekend spent reading Enough Already! by Peter Walsh . . . all about clearing out the mental clutter we accumulate in life, the emotional equivalent of the piles of unopened mail and overdue bills, the messy desk and unmade bed, the garage too crammed to fit a car, the overflowing attic and bursting-at-its-seams basement. It's really about prioritizing what matters most to you and working toward that with all you've got. Our mental and physical 'stuff' can actually tell us a lot about ourselves and where positive change is needed. This is good stuff. 

Friday, August 28, 2009

imagine that

We're born with a limitless supply of imagination, but so often it's dulled down and conformed away in the name of daily routines and test grades and stars on the conduct chart. You can't hold it in your hand, but you know it when you feel it. And it can't be taught, only fostered. Defined as the act or power of producing images in the mind of things not actually present to the senses, imagination is simply creative ability. Martin Luther King imagined a world in which all people were equal. And free. The Wright Brothers imagined a flying machine. Think of baseball, bicycles, brownies. How about the books in the library and every song on iTunes? All courtesy of someone's imagination. No telling what's waiting there in the deepest recesses of yours. Shine a little light on it. Give it some air. And, more than anything, the imagination loves exercise.   

Thursday, August 27, 2009

the color purple

Hoping your day unfolds in soft, lavender scented shades of purple, with at least a little while to linger in slippers. That you woke up grateful, maybe even enough to write about it over a cup of cappuccino with a frothy heart on top. That there's a twig chair stationed outside with your name carved in it, and that you can carve out some time just to sit, listen, breathe. And pie. A nice-sized wedge plump full of purple berries in a golden, buttery crust. With a scoop of vanilla on top. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Back-to-School Banana Bread

2 large, ripe bananas (mashed)
1 stick butter (melted and cooled)
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Beat egg and add butter, sugar, bananas.  Sift together flour, soda and salt and add to wet ingredients. Pour batter into a loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

back-to-school rituals

No matter how grown-up we are, a heartstring will probably forever be tugged at back-to-school time. Life is the ultimate classroom, but who wouldn't pine for Mrs. McLaughlin's second grade sanctuary with its juicy stacks of books, Mary Poppins mural and mid-morning orange juice break? I've found that adhering to a few simple rituals helps me - and maybe will help you - to stay in sync, engaged and enthusiastic as the big yellow bus rolls by and a 'new year' begins.  So cue the Charlie Brown music and make it a great day:

1. Read Crow Boy, a 1956 Caldecott Honor Book about Chibi, a shy mountain boy in Japan who walks miles at dawn each day to the village school and home again at dusk. Would that any of us had a teacher like Mr. Isobe. Aspire anew to be someone who brings out the best in others.

2. Give your desk a make-over with a place for everything and everything in its place. Indulge in a few new supplies. Create a seasonal bulletin/inspiration board.

3. Commit to studying something new: Italian, tai chi, calligraphy, auto mechanics.

4. Play outside before supper. Toss a ball to the dog. 

5. Sit down to the quintessential hearty dinner. Suggestions include meatballs in a vat of tomato sauce or the ubiquitous beefaroni casserole. Banana bread warm from the oven for dessert. Just like mom made it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

fabulous Friday

What could be better than school supply shopping, except maybe open house with the 7th grade teachers before heading to the first high school football game of the season? Or reading the brand new South of Broad by Pat Conroy and dreaming of Charleston? Maybe it would be emerging victorious from the DMV with a shiny new driver's license and a key to the family clunker. For two of us, it's counting the minutes to a hug from a sweet boy at college orientation. But nothing tops the anticipation of a certain 16-year-old meeting a certain one of the Jonas Brothers before tonight's concert. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

please look after this bear

As a child, I adored the Paddington series by Michael Bond, about the little bear from 'darkest Peru' who is found on a London train platform with a tag around his neck that says 'Please look after this bear. Thank you.' Benevolent Mr. and Mrs. Brown take him home and love him and all kinds of antics ensue, but things always seem to turn out well. It wasn't until I was a mother, though, and my brother brought us a plush Paddington back from a London trip, that it dawned on me how clever and brilliant (probably worried and desperate, too) it was for someone to have put such instructions 'out there' with the faith they'd be heeded. As my own children began venturing deeper into the world, I have silently offered up that little prayer time and again when delivering them to a new platform. Please look after this bear.  And it never fails that Someone has. Thank you.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

labor pains

What a blessed physical relief it is when the labor pains quit wracking your body to kingdom come, the pushing ends and a little bundle of love is placed in your arms. But what nobody gathered 'round in those blissful, difficult first days ever dares tell you - not the skilled obstetrician, the kindly nurses, dear friends who reached motherhood ahead of you, your sister with four beautiful children or even your very own mother, for gosh sakes - is that the labor pains will return again and again throughout the process of raising this child, every time you're forced to push him out again. 

The trip to college is one such juncture and we will take it today. I didn't sleep much last night, tossing and turning with contractions of worry and grief every few minutes apart. My overnight bag is packed and ready, alongside the contents of a dorm room which we've been assembling for weeks. I'm scared as heck, but I know that women have been doing this since time began and all somehow survive.  I just need to muster the same blind faith I had 18 years ago, that the pushing and pain is exactly as it should be. And what's on the other side is yet another miracle. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

starry starry nights

July fireworks get most of the glory, but August has its own version. Step outside after dark for another night or two and you might catch the tail of the Perseid meteor shower, a rite of dwindling summer for the last two thousand years. Somewhere I read that one way to enjoy life more is to bookend each day with a few minutes outdoors in the morning and again before bedtime. Even if it's just lingering awhile when you walk out to get the newspaper before breakfast or take out the trash in the evening. When I make a concerted effort to do this, I am always rewarded and you will be, too:  with a white owl perched on a branch of the pine tree, a faint change in the weather signaling a new season and, on a clear August night, lucky stars.   

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it - because it does. 
                                                     (1 Corinthians 14:1)

Monday, August 10, 2009

on the path

Life certainly can get complicated and overwhelming. Maybe this isn't a  time that you can chuck it all and go live in the woods, or even want to. But living a simpler, uncluttered existence sure has its appeal and probably tremendous benefits. I'm taking off in this direction this morning, emotionally anyway, and am glad for your company. Monday morning inspiration courtesy of Henry David Thoreau. 

Saturday, August 8, 2009

the not-to-do list

Somewhere I read that Jim Collins, author of business bestseller Good To Great, discovered early in his career that making a 'Not-to-do' list was as important to his success as making a 'To-do' list. On it were all of the things that took him away from his goals and dreams instead of closer to them. Never a devotee of the traditional to-do list, I can sense the wisdom in culling the deadening no-to-dos from life. Mine might include worrying about the 99% in life that I can't control, being negative and watching mindless tv. Check things off of this list and you've truly accomplished something.  

Thursday, August 6, 2009

hard at play

It happens.  One day you're lugging laundry down to the basement, subtracting numbers from your checkbook register or numbly pushing your cart through the produce department and it occurs to you that you've become peevish, dull, monochromatic. That your gears are stuck on automatic. That you no longer have fun or, quite frankly, really remember how. This isn't the time to throw in a towel (they're all in the laundry anyway). It's time to throw a little rubber ball in the air, instead, and sweep us as many jacks as you can from the checkered linoleum floor of your grandmother's kitchen. It's time to turn your closet into a fort and listen to Mystery Theatre on the transistor radio way past lights out. Then wake up, have a bowl of Cocoa Krispies and call your best friend to map out the shiny new day. A day completely void of stress and drudgery and negativity. Just imagine what that might be like. And then make it happen.   

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

August already

Summer's swan song. August is pop-up thunderstorms, relatives popping in, a tub of popcorn shared at a movie matinee. It's afternoon rest time at Camp Whippoorwill, reading Nancy Drew and writing homesick letters home. It's Old Maid, Authors, Go Fish and jigsaw puzzles that are missing a piece. It's buckets of gladiolas at the farm stand, homemade peach preserves and a tomato sandwich for lunch just about every day.  

August is a lobster shack, an ice cream stand, an old man selling watermelon from a pickup truck on the side of the road. It's fiddler crabs, a full moon pulling out the tide and the Perseid meteor shower cascading across the sky. It's rows of sweet corn yet to be shucked and aisles of school supplies soon to be plucked. August won't last forever, but luckily the memories will.