"We're all just fragile threads, but what a tapestry we make." – Jerry Ellis

Archive for May, 2014

Where’s My Panda? Thoughts on Bamboo

Photo from dididado.org

Innocent looking enough, no?

If you were to drive down my street today you might not be able to tell, but I really enjoy working in the yard. Right now, we have a fledgling Crepe Myrtle in the front yard that doesn’t look like it made it through our cold and seemingly endless winter. However, my Asiatic Lily bulbs clustered around the base of it are about to bloom, so I don’t want to dig it out just yet. So we have a dead tree in the front. Surprisingly just today I got a flyer hung on my door for a tree service company. Go figure.

Digging in the dirt is something I have loved since we got our first house and I knew almost nothing about plants and landscaping. My mother-in-law taught me a lot about cutting back trees—especially not to be afraid of cutting back overgrowth. Every time I trim back bushes and trees I think of what she told me a long time ago when she compared it to raising kids. She said you have to prune back places hard sometimes, but that would allow the best parts to grow stronger. Isn’t that a great analogy to how kids grow? Like trees, the kids who are never given loving, shaping guidance to grow their best will eventually lose all form and become overgrown without direction.

Last weekend I definitely overcame my fear of trimming back hard when it came to some bamboo I planted about six years ago on the side of our house. For the past three to four years, I’ve been trying to get rid of it. It has proven to be very hard to get rid of. Originally, I planted it because I had this romantic notion from a story I read called The Fern and the Bamboo (posted below) and I loved the look of the wild bamboo that grew along the roadside on the winding roads through wine country in Missouri. The next summer after we’d moved in, I saw some wild bamboo on our way to take the kids to camp. When we went to pick them up, I brought a pot with a little dirt in it and a shovel, and we dug some up by a boat ramp. My Uncle Russell, who has an awesome green thumb, advised me to be careful about planting it. “It will take over and grow everywhere,” he told me. At the time I thought it’d be great, because it was the side of the house with the chimney and a slope that was a pain to mow. I would whack my head on the end of the chimney every time I’d mow that side. Every time. True story.

It looked nice for about a year. After that, it went bamboo crazy.

Those poor ferns—they never stood a chance. Bamboo has a root that reminds me of a dandelion. It grows straight down deep into the soil. Weed and lawn killer has little effect on killing the bamboo, in part because the root is so deep. So you have to dig it out—all the way out. I have worked on digging it out these past years and it comes back every year, albeit a little bit thinner. It went from about ten stalks of bamboo about 10 inches in diameter, to the entire side of the house in about three years. It has spread to my neighbor’s garden and in to the front of our house’s landscaping. It is determined—but then again, so am I!

Since there aren’t any Rent-A-Pandas around to loan me a panda to eat all of it, I continue to dig, pull and compost. And repeat. I’m almost there, with about 5 – 6 feet left in the little corner where it all started. It’s been a lesson learned in a most labor-intensive way. My advice? Never design your landscaping based on inspirational stories and listen to good gardeners’ advice. Oh, and stay away from the bamboo!


The Fern and the Bamboo

One day I decided to quit…I quit my job, my relationship, my spirituality…. I wanted to quit my life. I went to the woods to have one last talk with God.

“God”, I said. “Can you give me one good reason not to quit?”

His answer surprised me.

“Look around”, He said. “Do you see the fern and the bamboo?”

“Yes”, I replied.

“When I planted the fern and the bamboo seeds, I took very good care of them. I gave them light. I gave them water. The fern quickly grew from the earth. Its brilliant green covered the floor. Yet nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not quit on the bamboo.

In the second year the fern grew more vibrant and plentiful. And again, nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not quit on the bamboo.

“In year three there was still nothing from the bamboo seed. But I would not quit. The same in year four.

“Then in the fifth year, a tiny sprout emerged from the earth.

Compared to the fern, it was seemingly small and insignificant.

But just six months later, the bamboo rose to over 100 feet tall.

It had spent the five years growing roots. Those roots made it strong and gave it what it needed to survive. I would not give any of my creations a challenge it could not handle.

“Did you know, my child, that all this time you have been struggling, you have actually been growing roots? I would not quit on the bamboo.. I will never quit on you.

“Don’t compare yourself to others.” He said. “The bamboo had a different purpose than the fern. Yet they both make the forest beautiful.

“Your time will come”, God said to me. “You will rise high”

“How high should I rise?” I asked.

“How high will the bamboo rise?” He asked in return.

“As high as it can?” I questioned

“Yes.” He said, “Give me glory by rising as high as you can.”

I left the forest, realizing that God will never give up on me. And He will never give up on you.

Never regret a day in your life.

Good days give you happiness; bad days give you experiences; both are essential to life.

Author Unknown

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Quality Mom/Daughter Time – Nailed It

A Little Mother/Daughter Bonding over Manicures and Starbucks

This past weekend, I decided to treat myself to a mani/pedi at the salon for my birthday. Erin and I have been talking about doing that for ages, so Sunday after church we went to a nearby nail salon. The difference in personalities between Emily (14) and Erin (12) is amazing. When I invited Emily to join us, she wrinkled her nose like I’d just suggested we go have our tonsils removed together. Not surprisingly, she opted out on our mini Girls’ Day.  (You can read about how to reach Emily’s heart in https://thelighthearteddragonfly.com/2014/05/09/bonding-and-doctor-who/ ).  Erin’s only qualm was some minor apprehension about a stranger touching her feet.

I’ve gotten quite a few manicures over the years, but I have never had a real pedicure. Before you think I’m some kind of Neanderthal, you have to know that I am pretty self-conscious about my feet. But I figured that the people who do pedicures have probably seen worse feet than mine. At least I hoped so. I did not want to be the customer whose feet were so unsightly the salon worker went home and told her family she needed to find a different job. It’s not that my feet are smelly or anything like that—they are clean and free of any toe jam—they are just rough, tired, old…well, you know—feet. They have calluses and funny-shaped toes with weird cracks in the nails. They’re not my best feature.

Erin and I ended up having a magnificent afternoon. We sat next to each other in the massage chairs with the foot baths in them and tried to hold in giggles when the women would work on our feet and it tickled.  The people watching in a nail salon is a lot of fun. We enjoyed listening to the employees as they bickered amongst themselves in a language we couldn’t understand. Erin’s face was priceless; I really wish I’d gotten to take a picture of her skinny body in that great big chair.

After our nails were done, we wanted to use the Starbucks gift card we had been meaning to spend. While we discovered she’s decidedly NOT a coffee drinker (yet)—the baked brownie was definitely more her speed—I was lucky enough to have that special one on one time with my third child. Time when we talk, just the two of us, about whatever comes up. It is in moments like these, unplanned and done on a whim, that I glimpse the woman she will one day become and know that I am truly blessed.

And that is the best birthday gift of all.

my pedicure

Ready for summer–my feet after their first pedicure.

A Silly Little Ditty Bout Grandma and Her Birds

It’s the Friday before a long weekend, and I’m finding it hard to write anything serious.  This poem is part biographical.  No the birds did not escape and come back, but my mom’s birds are mean and they do poop on everyone and dive-bomb the dogs.  Oh, and they DO sit on their feet.  Grandma’s name has been changed to protect the innocent.

 

These are NOT my mom's actual birds...there's no way they would pose like this.

These are NOT my mom’s actual birds…there’s no way they would pose like this.

 

Grandma Cecil had a lot of birds
When we would visit, you couldn’t hear our words
The birds were so loud, and sometimes they were mean
Especially the one whose feathers were green.

 The birds flapped their feathers
All around the bird cages
Grandma kept them locked up
When they flew into rages.

 They would drown out the TV
And poop on your shirt
They’d dive-bomb the dog
But he never got hurt.

 Then came the day
Grandpa left open the door
“Freedom at last-
We’re behind bars no more!”

 The birds couldn’t believe it,
Up and away they did fly,
They flew past the stars
All the way to the sky.

 They were pooped when they got there
Wanting something to snack,
But once they’d escaped,
There was no looking back.

 How they missed Grandma Cecil!
And those crazy old mutts.
They missed those fine days
When they just sat on their…uh, feet.

 God had mercy upon them.
An angel he sent
But they had to go back now
To be sorry and repent.

 To this day they still talk
‘Bout that day and the flight
But never again
Left the house out of sight.

The End of Ordinary Summer

In truth, life is anything but ordinary while raising kids. There are ordinary seasons in life, of course, (the potty training stages, the pre-school years, the middle school years, etc.) but the seasons string together in such a way that they fool me into believing they are a seamless stretch of time. Sometimes it’s not until something new starts up that I realize that something else has ended, having gone away quietly without a formal goodbye. School is the obvious exception—each year has a definite start and end.

I have school bus-shaped picture frames for Tyler, Emily and Erin that have places for every school year’s photo. In the fall when they return to school and get their yearbook picture taken, I dutifully put in their new photo in their School Years’ frames. Right now as the school year winds down for the kids I’m once again reminded that they are growing up with another grade under their belts.

Except this summer is different. It is the last ordinary summer. Tyler’s picture frame will be full next fall.

One could argue that last summer, the first summer Tyler had his driver’s license and got his first job, was our first non-ordinary summer. After all, it was the first time that we had to consider his employment when we made our annual vacation to the lake. But to me, last summer doesn’t count. His part time job at the golf course didn’t interfere with our family’s plans, and his boss was very accommodating with letting him have time off, so it wasn’t an issue. He was still home sleeping in his bedroom almost every night, like he will be this summer. But he’s a Junior in high school now, so I know that next summer will be different. He will have graduated high school and be preparing to go to college in the fall. Thus, the end of the era and life as we now know it.

For the last fourteen years, every fall began a new school year, whether it be in pre-school, elementary, middle or high school. And while each beginning brought new friends, interests and classes, as expected, there was a continuity with kids being in school in the fall. It’s been our way of life as a family almost as long as we’ve been a family. The kids can’t remember anything else, and life PK (pre-kids) seems so very long ago it’s like it was lived by someone else.

While I don’t mean it to sound so gloomy and melancholy, it does make me stop and think—and appreciate—all this summer as a family will be. I know that I probably am a little overly sentimental about my kids growing up. I thought I’d gotten better than I used to be about it. When they were little I put off going through their closets to weed out outgrown clothing because all I could hear in my head the whole time I did was the song Puff the Magic Dragon. Those too short pants and shirts were a physically tangible sign that my babies were moving on and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I tortured myself with dwelling on that fact—masochistic, I know.

As a parent, I want my kids to grow up to be healthy and independent, so it’s rather hypocritical of me to be sad when they do exactly that. After all, if Tyler was 30 and still lived at home with us I’d be upset then, too. Ironically, Darrell and I have been encouraging him to go away somewhere for college. I lived at home when I went to college, and although I joined a sorority and enjoyed my college days, I never felt like I had the same type of college experience as my friends who went away to school. I want my son to have the opportunity to be semi-independent in the way that only being a college kid away from home allows. But that requires me to accept that he is growing up and is no longer a little kid. And I will, because I never want to hold him back from being the person he was meant to be.

Time with our kids—these short seasons—shouldn’t be taken for granted anyway, but this summer I plan to especially cherish the time we spend together as a family. It may be the last ordinary summer as we now know it, but it can also be the first summer of a new season and a new chapter in our family’s history. Long live summer!

The Achievable Poem

Happy Friday!  Today I was going through old computer files to clear some electronic “clutter” when I found an old poem I’d written for a class taught by Eva Shaw called Writerrific: Creativity Training for Writers.  It’s been at least five years ago, and I couldn’t remember much about what was going on in my head when I wrote it.  What made me laugh was that my writing style is still…ME.  Some things never change.

Here it is, including the prompt that started it.

Okay, Amy. I have a special nudge for you. I want you to write a poem of possibilities that you can achieve.

The poem should begin with:

Writing comes easy. I’m such a nut
When glued to the typing chair with my petite, pretty butt.

Okay, now that you’ve fallen off your chair…seriously I want you to finish the poem and post it. No excuses.

 

Writing comes easy. I’m such a nut

When glued to the typing chair with my petite, pretty butt.

I ponder exchanges between characters cross

And when the protagonist cries, I lament her sad loss.

 

She is such a dear friend, unfolding her story

In my ear she whispers with details—all the gory.

The antagonist, she bellows inside my head.

“She’ll get under your skin,” her past lover has said.

 

Of course, this is chapter 3

There’s much more to the tale

I’ve only just finished where she’s first drunk on ale.

It’s funny, endearing, and so fun to write.

To finish this section, I’ll be up half the night.

 

Oh the words how they tumble

From somewhere deep in my soul

They flow from my fingertips,

Like the ultimate goal.

 

“What a delicious day writing!” I marvel aloud.

I finish my piece and walk away on a cloud.

 

Family Sands of Time

In the writing course I’m taking right now, we are encouraged to open ourselves to writing in genres we might not have previously considered. The lesson was on writing for the non-fiction market, which I have never given much thought to doing. I’m much better at coming up with a fictional story with made up people than actually researching a subject enough to become an expert in the field. I love stories about people, their personalities and relationships, so telling a story that happened with some creative embellishments is more my forte. But the assignment got me thinking.

Part of the assignment, if we’d even ever vaguely toyed with the idea of non-fiction, was to share what would we write about it, and what kind of marketing plan we would use for our idea. Lighthearted Dragonfly Readers who know me personally know that I grew up in a family that owned and operated a sand business on the Missouri River, so I started doing the “bubble method” technique of brainstorming to try to come up with enough ideas about sand that would sell a book. Sand alone doesn’t seem that interesting to me, but the story of how my grandfather got into the sand business is. Again, like my blog, it’s not something I could make a living with writing, but the fun I would have! I would love meeting with my uncles and cousins for lunch and recording the family history. We’re not the Busch family of Bitter Brew (thank goodness!) so this would lack the drama of a family tell-all, but what a great heirloom it could be for future generations.

My Grandpa, with only an eighth grade education, had a very good head for business. It was right after World War II and construction in St. Louis was booming. My favorite tale that I remember hearing was about how he borrowed money from my grandmother’s relative. The uncle was very suspicious of banks, so he kept all his money—cash, mind you—in cow manure piles on his property. My grandmother was embarrassed to go to the bank with the cash because it smelled, or so I’m told. From what I know about that relative, he would have his own chapter—he was really a character.

So I have yet another idea bubbling around in my brain that loves churning out ideas, but lacks the time to devote to another unpaid hobby.  (Insert sigh here.) What about you? How do you balance your love of writing or another interest with a limited amount of time and energy? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Bonding and Doctor Who

David Tennant and Matt Smith as the Doctor

David Tennant and Matt Smith as the Doctor

 

Today I was in a blog reading mood and found myself reading a lot of Freshly Pressed material on WordPress. It’s something I only recommend if you have a chunk of time because it’s easy to get lost reading essays and articles with greatly varying topics. It always amazes me to see the polarization of thought on topics that on the surface seem non-controversial. But maybe that’s because I love reading the comments, which tend to be favored by argumentative types.

One of the blogs I was reading had an essay about how Disney, specifically their programming geared towards tweens, was ruining today’s youth. The writer discussed how her daughter started acting like a sassy Disney character and the trouble it caused. It was very well-written, and the comments ranged from the “you’re-absolutely-right” variety to “quit-letting-the-tv-babysit-your-kids” scoldings. Thankfully my kids are beyond the Disney and Nickelodeon show ages, although I have to admit I still laugh at Spongebob cartoons and I liked several of the shows my kids watched when they were younger. (Disclaimer: Some were horrible!)

My family enjoys watching television together, and thanks to Netflix, we breeze through entire seasons in a few weeks. Well, the kids do anyway—while I’m at work they watch episodes without me so I miss too many to know what’s going on after a while. We’ve had the summer of Supernatural, where we all watched Sam and Dean battle Lucifer and all sorts of other demon bad guys. Then there was Lost, where I was literally lost in a few short days because I didn’t get to see several episodes and just gave up. We all enjoy a good laugh together at the antics of Sean and Gus on Psych, Jeremy, Richard and James on Top Gear (the UK version—not the US one) and Darrell and I like getting caught up on Castle episodes. All of these series are mindless fiction, I suppose, but our family has bonded over these silly shows. It’s not a substitute for other family bonding moments, like taking the dogs for a walk in the park or sharing a meal together, but with teenagers you sometimes take what you can get. And I refuse to feel guilty about it.

Emily is in eighth grade and has come into an age where I think I drive her crazy. To be honest, sometimes that feeling is mutual. Not that we don’t get along, we do, but most of the time things I try to talk to her about she tunes out simply because they are coming from me.  Over the past year, Emily has come to love the new (2005) Doctor Who series and basically all things British. Knowing that I probably shouldn’t be wasting any more of my time watching television, I started watching Doctor Who with her, beginning with the first episode with Christopher Eccleston as Doctor Who. It began because I had wanted to see what she was spending so much time and her Amazon gift cards watching. Halfway through David Tennant’s Doctor Who (with a few Matt Smith/Karen Gillan episodes watched out of order) I’ve become a fan in no small part just because Emily loves it so much. My daughter and I have actual conversations about Dalaks, the Tardis and these creepy weeping angel statues.

Do we still have typical teenage girl/Mom arguments and attitudes? Yes, we do. We also have this neutral ground that seems to balance some of the negative. And when it’s just the two of us home for the evening, we’ll have Doctor Who marathons over chocolate chip pancakes. I love listening to her bubble over about something in an episode or some random trivia she’s found about a character. Gone is the moody teen, replaced with the carefree Emily I know is in there still underneath the stress of homework and all things middle school. In the big picture, it’s a small thing, I know. I suppose it would be great to be bonding over world peace instead of something as trivial as a television show. But for now, for just an hour or two, pass the chocolate chip pancakes and the remote. We’ve got a date with the Doctor.

 

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