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“A Story Stuck in My Mouth”

 

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Blog Post #45

I have a sweet, precocious, six-year-old friend named Violet whose natural exuberance and keen mind often make it difficult for her to refrain from talking. While sitting next to her in church on Sunday, during the administration of the Sacrament when it is especially expedient that those in attendance are quiet and reverent, Violet continued to chatter away in a whisper I could almost comprehend, but not quite. I leaned over, put my arm around her small, but capable shoulders, and whispered for her to save what she wanted to tell me until later. At first, she nodded her head in assent, perfectly understanding the expectation. Then, after sitting quietly for perhaps fifteen seconds, she looked at me with that wonderful candor that children of her honest temperament possess, and quietly exclaimed, “I have a story stuck in my mouth!”

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And so she always does, and those wonderful stories easily glide from her articulate tongue to those with willing – and I suppose for some, not so willing – ears. I love Violet’s intelligence, I love Violet’s vivacity, and I love Violet’s stories.

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I find that, like Violet, I also have stories that are stuck, but not so much in my mouth as stuck in my brain. Being of a more taciturn nature, and with less ready wit than Violet has, I prefer to tap out my stories on a keyboard where, for me, thoughts flow more easily than they do when I must trip over the large, lumpy obstacle in my mouth.  (I am referring to my clumsy tongue, but I am forced to acknowledge that my foot is often just as great an impediment to articulate speech as is  my tongue).

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Just as it is difficult for Violet to rein-in the marvelous things that spill out of her mouth from her brilliant mind, it is equally difficult for me, without an easy gift of gab, or a particularly brilliant mind, to rein-in a desire to write. Each morning, I get up with a long list of to dos that I know I must attend to. While I’m scrubbing the toilet or picking up groceries, I feel an itchy sort of urgency to drop all of it and run with carefree abandon to my drafting table and begin typing away. Sometimes, that’s exactly what I do (even when the main feature playing on the screen of my mind is blank)! It doesn’t matter that I can say nothing in a million words. What matters is the need, the desire, the setting free of those things that are stuck within my mind and heart, begging for expression.

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Writing is a means of liberating those of my thoughts that haven’t the ability to take any kind of intelligible form in any other way. If I try to speak them, they come out in a terrible jumble. I am constantly apologizing for saying things wrong. Or I stand, mute, on the sidelines hoping silence will serve my companions and me better. Or I speak, and let the “fool” out.

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It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. – Mark Twain

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Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something. – Plato

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Stuck-y-ness may apply to other things, too. Instead of stories, perhaps songs and poetry are stuck within sore and bleeding hearts. Maybe movement, dance, or athletic prowess is stuck in petrified or disabled limbs. Maybe the desire to see the world is stuck in a nine-to-five workweek, or a tight pocketbook.  Maybe a love of numbers, technological wizardry, social awareness, education, or countless other interests become stuck inside hesitant spirits. Maybe a burgeoning desire to make lasting friendships is stuck in a heart that doesn’t recognize its own self-worth. Or maybe hope and faith are stuck deep within a fear of the unknown.

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Maybe you know what’s stuck inside you, and maybe you don’t. Maybe you think that when you un-stick what’s inside of you there won’t be anyone who will value your offering. Maybe you feel it’s too soon, or too late to try.

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I’ve always had a story stuck in my mind. I didn’t always know it, though. It wasn’t until about ten years ago that I woke up to the fact that I had always had stories begging to come out. At a young age, I made books. Lots of books. I wrote mysteries, children’s stories and poetry, and illustrated every page. (In fact, most of the artwork I’ve created during my life has been illustration work – telling stories with pictures.) As a teen, I continued to make books…hand-bound books filled with pictures, and an outpouring of the tender feelings I had for my family and friends. One would think the production of books, making hard-bound, cloth-covered bindings, sewing in the pages with needle and thread, and filling them with illustrated stories would be a big enough hint to realize that writing and stories were important to me.  Not so. It took half a century before I figured out that writing had always been, and still is, for me, the satisfying channel of expression connecting my secret harbor of thoughts to the open sea of communication with others.

97bb6635c0317d74ff72b7761d791047It amazes me that Violet, at the tender age of six, is already cognizant of the stories stuck in her mouth that she longs to express, and it further amazes me that she is eloquent enough to relate that desire to others.

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Certainly, it is important to learn appropriate times and places to give expression to one’s innate desires; a worship service is probably not the best time to tell one’s stories. It’s important for children, as well as adults, to learn socially acceptable behavior, courtesy, reverence, respect, and self-mastery. Even so, perhaps you may learn, as have I, a lesson from Violet. It is important to know in one’s heart, as Violet does, that one has a gift that aches for expression, to acknowledge that gift, and to discover how to set it free at such times and such places as will most benefit oneself and others.

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We may be profoundly instructed from “…the mouth of babes” (if we will only listen).

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This is Violet. I love Violet.

My dear little friend, Violet, please keep telling me your stories. I’m listening.

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End Piece

© November 1, 2016

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, dear friends, for reading.

*All of the beautiful pictures included in this post, save the one of Violet, are public domain images, most of which originated in, or are covers from children’s storybooks.

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Slow Asleep, OR The Lion Sleeps Tonight (but will I?)

Blog Post # 42 

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“Sleeping Nymph” by Richard Franklin

For me, bedtime has become a carefully choreographed series of contortionist moves and mind shutdown techniques (none of which work), attempting to find a brain- and body-calming remedy that will allow me to drift into that profound state of unconscious bliss called sleep.

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“The Gettysburg Address” – Abraham Lincoln

Repetitious “mind static” is a huge factor dictating if I sleep or lie awake. No matter how I tune the dial in my head, I invariably pick up brash, white noise that won’t leave me alone. It might be the same three lines from the theme song to “All in the Family,” a problem without a solution, or a repetitive rendition of the first paragraph of The Gettysburg Address, but whatever it is, I can’t seem to find a station in my brain that is able to either complete a thought, or tone down the volume. Sometimes, my mind is in such a hurricane of inventive, creative excitement, it’s impossible to find an eye of calm. The worst is the (fortunately infrequent) fretting that is easily pacified during daylight, but haunts like a host of demons the moment the moon smiles, mockingly, through the window.

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Princess and the Pea by Edmund Dulac  (1911)

Another factor, and lately, the more troublesome, is comfort. There’s nothing worse than a Mexican Standoff with your bed. In this regard, it’s fairly certain I am a very near relation to the royal with the hyper-sensitivity to a tiny legume. No matter how high her mattresses were stacked, she could feel that tiny irritating pea lurking beneath. And so it seems that no matter how many egg crates and memory foam mattress toppers my husband, Brad, stacks on our bed, I can still feel the tiny seam on my nightwear, or a slight wrinkle in the sheets digging into my side.

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To insure no outside noise disturbs our slumber, we have three separate fans going at once, none of which point directly at us. The white noise and wind tunnel effect breezing through our room at gale force readily allows paper airplanes to dart about, but for us, presents a unique set of problems. For one, when they were passing out eyelids, sadly for Brad, he got a set one size too small, preventing him from ever, fully closing his eyes. Like a plastic bag left slightly open, a blowing fan has the same effect on Brad’s poor eyes as air on a sandwich—they dry out. On the other hand, my sheets don’t know if they’re coming or going. One minute I’m roasting, and the next, I’m cold. My feet and shoulders like to feel cool air, but my middle likes warmth. Hence, the bedding goes up and down like a Roman blind all night long.  

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Recently, as my aging father’s needs changed, we found it necessary to check on him periodically during the night. We settled on a schedule that would allow each of us a chunk of sleep in between each check time, but that meant setting separate alarms to awaken us at our own scheduled times. I knew my old alarm clock’s irritating buzzing would awaken both of us, so I decided it best to experiment with several alarm tones on my phone, adjusting the volume, then tucking my phone into an open drawer next to my bed where I could hear it, but hopefully, Brad could not.

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I needed a tune that would both wake me up, and motivate me to get out of bed at an insane hour, without disturbing Brad. I thought a cello piece from “Master and Commander” would be both energetic and soothing, but the first few notes doused Brad awake, as if with seawater in the face. The theme song from “Pirates of the Caribbean” cast me over-bed, but was also too lively for Brad. It didn’t help matters that I invariably fell into a profound sleep moments before the alarm went off, blowing like a foghorn next to my ear. Groggily stumbling from bed, I’d heave-ho to the bathroom with the gait of a drunken sailor, before checking on my father.

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Rousing though they were, the nautically themed alarms walked the plank. Brad asked me to find something less alarming, and I was all for it, as well. It was only natural, then, that the next alarm I chose was Brahms’ Lullaby. Brad wasn’t disturbed in the least by this alarm, and sadly, neither was I—sleeping through its quiet lulling more than once. Obviously, it was living up to its reputation.

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Pavlov and dog

 

 

I was determined to find an alarm tone that would awaken me, but not Brad, while not making me sick of a tune I had once enjoyed, nor making me blunder about as if on sea legs. Like Pavlov’s dogs, I was developing a strong aversion to all of the aforementioned tunes because of the unpleasant association of rising from Davy Jones’ Locker each time the alarm sounded. Finally, I found a generic, nondescript, quiet tune that, even after having heard it dozens of times, has awaken me without lingering like the California Raisins jingle.

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The alarm tone finally settled, a much weightier problem still existed—that of pain. Certain bodily trials (nothing serious, just the nagging sort) have created a love/hate relationship with bed and bedtime. Aside from the problem with “the pea,” my body creates its own set of issues. The first, and lesser, evil that arises at times is hunger pangs. No, it isn’t a question of starvation, but we do like to eat dinner very early in the evening (usually between four and five), you might even say we’re eating “dunch” (or, if you prefer, “linner”)—a combination not unlike “brunch” but combining lunch and dinner. By the time 2 AM rolls around, if I’m awake, I’m hungry enough for breakfast. I’ve never been one to raid the fridge in the middle of the night, and I’m not about to start now, but if pain hadn’t awakened me, I wouldn’t have thought about hunger until a more reasonable hour of the morning.

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Climbing back into bed after only a minute or two of being up, pain begins, literally, rapping me on the shoulder, ordering me to, “Move over, roll over, put your leg here, stretch your neck there, put your arm on that side, lie on your tummy, lie on your back, sit up…oh, forget it—get up!” To alleviate the problems pain presents, I find myself trying a series of yoga-esque poses, all performed with great difficulty in a horizontal position, further complicated by nightgown and bed sheets wrapping around me in a mighty tangle, creating the illusion of a stalled tornado. During the twisting and turning, the tornado picks up two additional pillows in an attempt for skeletal alignment. This always results in a repetitive rotation through which said pillows are flung about by the tornado, first between knees, then under an arm, then under tummy, then under leg, and so on and on until at least one of the extra pillows is cast aside as debris. After unsuccessfully attempting to find comfort in every possible pose, the whole rigmarole begins anew, until, at last, I find my generic alarm tone startling me awake, and I must presume that, at least for a few moments, I really did manage to fall asleep.

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Sleep itself is always an adventure, of sorts, because, since expecting my first child forty years ago, I’ve had extraordinarily kooky dreams.  Here is a sampling:

  • Bicycle handles coming out of my stomach (which tummy, by the way, was completely transparent)
  • Standing positively still in a box-shaped room full of floating peas
  • Alligators hanging off the ends of my fingers
  • A tornado held up by little cartoonish feet, dancing around trying to balance the spinning cyclone they’re holding aloft
  • An insignificant (now forgotten) dream interrupted by a commercial break featuring an animated skunk named *Sally Rushkin rowing a leaf or nut-shaped boat (*I was so certain that Sally Rushkin was an actual cartoon character from 1950s TV, I did an internet search, which resulted with no hits. Such is the workings of the mind when dreaming.)
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Sketch made of “Sally Rushkin” just after waking from the dream

The list of kooky scenarios is unending. Nightmares also have a sense of kookiness, but not wishing to remember them, I don’t record them as I do many of my good cuckoo dreams. One son-in-law acts as my dream analyst, claiming he can read my dreams like a book, because they’re so symbolic. Symbolic or not, it’s a hoot to hear his interpretations of the eccentricities that fill my dreaming hours. It makes me feel that, Plato-like, I’m creatively philosophizing, working out real-life issues throughout the night—and doing it all in my stride, or more accurately, in my sleep.

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Plato

 

Our nighttime schedule has undergone many changes these past weeks, as we’ve experimented with different strategies for sleeping and rising throughout the night. Lately, we are sleeping more, and waking less, which is agreeable enough, if it all works out that way. Brad’s alarm has only roused me once, and I think he, at last, is numb to mine, as well. However, the standoff with the bed, my body, and my mind may never be resolved. I often feel sentimental about the words of the poet Robert Frost:

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“…And miles to go before I sleep,  

And miles to go before I sleep.”

Only a better rendering for me might be:

…And trials to go before I sleep,

And trials to go before I sleep.

And when sleep doesn’t come, I may be found following Henry David Thoreau’s practice:

“I put a piece of paper under my pillow, and when I could not sleep I wrote in the dark.”

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 Which is precisely how this post came to be.

My First Blog Post EVER!

End Piece

© July 7, 2016

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, dear Friends, for reading.


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Drawing a Blank

Blog Post #30

A blank mind. A blank page. Both suggest one has nothing to say. While appearing to be intrinsically the same, I’m convinced that they are positively different.

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A BLANK MIND.

I’m especially dumb (as in the dictionary definition: unable to speak) when relying solely on my mouth to communicate. A monumental disconnect forms a gaping canyon along the neural route between the plethora of thoughts in my brain and my bumbling mouth. As articulate words attempt to cross the synaptic bridge of neurons spanning the chasm, they topple into oblivion, leaving me speechless—drawing a total blank. A blank mind. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t speak. Oh-ho-ho! No, indeed! I speak because it’s expected, and to fill the void, but a lot of nonsense often ensues. I must make a conscious and focused effort to say something of value. On one such rare occasion, a rather profound sentence–which has become my byword–emerged victorious: “I can say nothing in a million words.” And there you have it. My First Blog Post EVER! A blank mind isn’t always unwelcome. Frequent are the times I think without realizing I am thinking. It requires difficult and deliberate effort to focus my thoughts, but in general, thinking is an involuntary function. I’m grateful I don’t have to think to make my heart beat, or to breathe, that my brain is at work 24/7, whether I’m aware of it or not. The fact is I can’t seem to shut my thoughts off, even when I most want to. ill_pg_044_lg Two-thirty in the morning is the worst time for cognitive awareness—what I call the “twilight hours” of the brain. I am beyond counting the number of nights I have lain awake thinking. Sometimes, twilight thoughts merely annoy, distract, and burden with reminders of what I did or didn’t do that day, or what I need to remember to do the next. Other times, they plague me with an itchy pox of unanswered questions, or magnified views of my faults and failings in a relentless and irritating way. Thoughts often torment once I move from the vertical to the horizontal position, morphing innocuous, productive ideas into destructive, unsettling—sometimes frightening—nightmares. We all experience nightmares during sleep from time to time, but “awake-mares” can be even worse. There is a greater sense of credibility to these tormenting thoughts, as I lie wide awake when I should be fast asleep. When I’m startled awake by a nightmare, I can shake it off, saying it was only a bad dream, but when I’m awake in the dark of night and my thoughts shift from annoyance to torment, it’s difficult to separate what is true from what isn’t. I’m not sure why this happens, except, perhaps, that I am so tired, my mind can’t think rationally anymore.

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“The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters” by Goya

Twilight thinking occurs during a state of limbo between waking and sleeping, fluctuating between reality and fiction. It is at these times, I long to flip a switch in my brain and shut off thought altogether!  A blank mind would be a welcome relief. I have found prayer the only means of deliverance from this state—crawling out of bed during the wee hours to kneel by my bedside and ask for help turning off the incessant drone of faithless thoughts. Fear is nearly always tangled-up in twisted twilight thoughts, which is why faith in God is the necessary antidote. “Faith and fear cannot coexist in our hearts at the same time,” said Elder Neil L. Andersen. I’ve found this to be true. Once faith conquers fear, my mind is eased and I am able to drift into a sleep of blank-minded sweetness (only to discover I finally fell asleep a half-hour before my alarm was set to go off).

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A System of Elocution, with Special Reference to Gesture, to the Treatment of Stammering, and Defective Articulation (1846) by Andrew Comstock

A blank mind may occur at other times, too—times less welcome than in the middle of the night—namely, any other hour of the day. It is helpful to have intelligent, worthwhile thoughts when one is awake. These can lead to intelligent, worthwhile conversation and discourse. Having the thoughts is one thing, expressing them verbally is another. When it comes to speaking, I am a slow processor. It does not necessarily follow to believe that a person who is skilled in, and enjoys writing, is also adept as a spontaneous speaker. In most cases, impromptu speech comes clumsily to me. If I am expected to answer a question, make intelligent remarks, or add to a conversation with any degree of clarity, I often have to contend with a blankness equal, or exceeding, that of a king-sized, white bed sheet. My hands, almost by necessity, must be involved if I have anything at all to say. They fly about in direct proportion to the intensity and strength of my motivation, but they do not (I repeat: DO NOT) in any way, assist my mouth in fluency of speech. It is only when my hands themselves are directly related to the creation of the words that they wax eloquent. I suppose if my fingers shriveled up and fell off, I would essentially, be left speechless. This leads me to the other “blank,” that of the blank page. 433099854_39c0d130c9_o

A BLANK PAGE.

Many people consider a blank page daunting—the blankness prompting questions such as, “Where do I start?” or “What do I say?” Writer’s block, artist’s block, and other forms of blankness may cause anxiety, and delay progress. For many, a blank page is as unwelcome as a blank mind. A blank page may even trigger a blank mind, or vice versa. 2bcfc60e72daf7116600c0b6ee6aebad To me, a blank page stands in direct contrast to a blank mind. A blank page flashes with opportunity, freedom, articulation, and countless other possibilities. A blank page shouts, “Just start, and see where it takes you!” My First Blog Post EVER! A physically blank page usually requires some type of physical contact by a hand-held medium—the use of paints, or a ballpoint pen. (A virtual blank page, such as a computer screen, may allow for voice activated commands, but that places me right back at square one with blank-mindedness.) When my hands become involved with the blank page—touching a keyboard, or holding a pencil—my neural network kicks into gear, bypassing my dysfunctional mouth, getting right to work. Suddenly, I am able to make coherent statements, and clear analogies. My hands, instinctively, know how to transmit and translate a madcap assortment of thoughts into a form that makes sense, sorting the superfluous from the necessary, the ridiculous from the practical, and the idiotic from the profound. download Sometimes, my hands begin typing and I’m surprised to see what they will say! I’m not kidding. As each sentence unfolds, I discover things I didn’t know I knew, or find new insights I had not consciously thought about before. Somehow, the connection flowing between mind and hands engages my spirit, causing a discernible ink of language to appear on what was, moments before, the blank, white bed sheet of my mind. I learn when I write. Words I didn’t know that I knew appear on the page. After checking with the dictionary, I am surprised and delighted to find I had used them correctly and in context. Sometimes, I discover what I really think about things, I find reaffirmations of my beliefs, and resurrected knowledge appearing before my eyes.  I find joy in the written word. Language is a gift and is beautiful—I’m speaking of virtuous, uplifting, worthy language. Sure, a commonplace, counterfeit, vulgar variety of language is always out there, but I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about elevated intelligence flowing into one’s spirit, enlightening and filling with joy. notebook-paper-pencil-drawing-sketch-bird-draw Language isn’t the only way to fill a blank page. My heart takes wing when drawing, sketching and creating beautiful images with pencil and paint. Swirling hues and tints in a kaleidoscopic rainbow of color add to the joy, and heighten expression. Sometimes, black and white and subtle shades of gray are required to express truth. Equally worthy to spreading joy and hope, is the expression of truth, virtue, and beauty. These form the epitome of worthy expression. Filling a blank page with things that drag down and depress may express truth, but do little to fill someone’s cup, and elevate their soul. images The same is true of a blank sheet of music manuscript paper, a silent musical instrument, an empty stage, or other worthy possibilities of expression. 2d434d834dc0b979b8c5546482e18757vk7gF Blankness is paradoxical. On the one hand, a blank page, or a blank mind, signifies muteness, while on the other hand, the same signifies an opportunity for expression. Blankness signifies an impediment, as well as a doorway to possibility. Blankness also signifies a source of anxiety, and a path to peace. This morning, I sat down to a blank page with my mind blank as to what would fill it. I let my fingers touch the keys, and watched what unfolded. It’s always exciting to see what the blank page will teach me. muscari-114577_640

If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft, and from thy slender store Two loaves alone to thee are left, Sell one, and with the dole Buy Hyacinths to feed thy Soul.

– Muslihuddin Sadi,  13th Century Persian Poet

© July 15, 2015

© July 15, 2015

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, dear friends, for reading.


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To Hurry or Not to Hurry…?

Blog Post #18
 

The White Rabbit from
Alice in Wonderland: “I’m late!”


To my knowledge, there is no specific word in the English language for a person who is usually two steps behind and, therefore, always hurrying, nor is there a word for an extremely “put together” efficient person.  For lack of better words on both counts, I’ll refer to the former as a “Hurry-er,” and the latter as an “Efficienteer.” (I made up these words just for you.)

Some people might think of a person who is always hurrying as efficient, but as I see it, that couldn’t be further from the truth. A hurry-er, by nature, is anything but efficient. In fact, hurry-ers are anything but hurry-ers. Moving quickly goes against their nature.  Hurry-ers are often sloppy, redundant, and ineffectual. They only hurry because it has become the last resort for their inaction. They hurry because they are always running late. They procrastinate when action would put them “on top of the game.” Perhaps they are just lazy.  Personal interests may be so absorbing to a hurry-er, that the he or she will let slide other aspects of life until forced to face them, responding to all the pulls and tugs nudging them from “the outside” (meaning the outside of their heads) only when it becomes imperative that they do respond. While dawdling over an ant on the windowsill, they ignore the rat rummaging through their kitchen. When the rat makes for the door with the cheese, at once frenzied, they follow in a mad dash to catch it, tripping on the piles of toys and junky things littering the house, barely recognizing their frazzled  image in the mirror hanging slightly askew as they pass, and finding they still have on their pajamas once they’re out the door. They must return inside, searching every nook and cranny to find their car keys, before they can even think of the pursuit. The rat has long escaped and the hurry-er hopelessly left behind and in a muddle.
 

Illustration from “The Tale of Samuel Whiskers” 
by Beatrix Potter


The hurry-er lives in a constant state of disarray. A domino effect of woebegone activities is set in motion by an initial choice that leads the hurry-er down the path to a Never Never Land of never never getting caught up. Neglecting rudimentary routines and necessities causes a pile-up of “have-tos” that soon form obstacles to freedom. Just one little choice can lead to captivity for the hurry-er. For example, a hurry-er I’ll call “Flakey” hears the alarm go off at 6am. She pushes the snooze button. At 7:30, Flakey is still in bed. The children got up while Flakey continued to push snooze. The kids were hungry, and decided to prepare their own breakfast—which would be fine, except they’re three and four years old. Cereal scatters all over the floors and counters. Milk spills. Dishes break. The three-year-old falls off a chair pushed up to the countertop in order to reach some forbidden cookies. Crying ensues. Hearing this, Flakey rouses herself from the stupor she feels from having overslept and hurries into the kitchen. She gets angry at the four-year-old for the mess, while simultaneously scolding and comforting the crying three-year-old who is covered in a sticky layer of crunchy crumbs. She bemoans her situation, wondering aloud, “Why me?” This is just how the day begins. A series of similarly neglectful events pile up one on top of the other throughout the day until Flakey is at her wit’s end. She might have enjoyed a different outcome had she chosen differently at the onset.
To be fair, there is a time and place for hurrying. Crossing a busy street, answering the call of someone in need, and escaping a burning building are all good reasons to hurry. It’s also a good idea to hurry when a pot of jam boils over, or a when a baby’s diaper explodes.



Whereas a hurry-er is constantly reacting to things, an efficient person, an Efficienteer, is into prevention, and planning—focused on acting rather than reacting. An efficienteer’s aim is to avoid muddles, not just respond to them. An efficienteer prevents pots from boiling over. (“And what about exploding diapers?” you ask smugly. Well, let’s face it—even though an exploding diaper announces its arrival with a sound not unlike a recently unplugged drainpipe, they are hard to anticipate—even for an efficienteer. Some things are outside the realm of even the most efficient.)


An ounce of prevention…


Still, efficienteers don’t wait for a problem to present itself, they think ahead, planning and preparing for the inevitable. Where a hurry-er might scramble all over the house, like a mouse in a maze, hurrying this way and that to find wipes, ointment, and clean diapers, an efficient person would have all necessary items gathered into one spot in advance, so when the blast occurs, they can immediately attend to the eruption with the confidence of a NICU nurse.


Think and plan ahead


Sometimes, efficienteers are designated as “multitaskers.” I disagree with this status. I  suspect the term “multitasker” was created by a hurry-er who was a wannabe efficienteer. What I’ve seen of multitasking doesn’t equate with efficiency. It just means a person has a short attention span and can’t stick with one thing for more than a few minutes, choosing distraction by various forms of simultaneous stimulation. Studies in neuroscience indicate that not only does multitasking slow you down, it also causes you to make more errors, and changes the way your brain works, dividing its functions, and reducing its ability to perform. 


A true efficienteer has the ability to focus. To tune out the unnecessary. When multiple tasks are in need of attention, the efficienteer knows how to prioritize. If other tasks are called into play while focused on something truly important, the efficienteer is well equipped to assess whether or not the interruption is worthy of her time and immediate attention. Once assessed, the urgent squeaky wheel is handled with alacrity by the efficienteer in one of three ways :  (1) she takes care of it quickly, (2) she relegates her attention to it at a time equal to its true importance, or, if she deems necessary, (3) she dismisses it altogether, returning to the needful and important with the same attention and resolve as before.




The efficienteer plans for distractions. When a casual phone call interrupts the efficienteer’s routine, the efficienteer has at the ready a list of mindless tasks to perform that nevertheless need doing—such as ironing, sewing on a button, or folding clothes—while talking via speakerphone.
 

“Woman Ironing” by Degas


An efficienteer’s motto might be “Semper Paratus,” since being always at the ready is her forte.  A hurry-er’s motto may run more along the lines of “Videbimus,” meaning “We Shall See….” 
Semper Paratus = Always Ready

Videbimus = We Shall See

I have functioned on both sides of the hurry-er/efficienteer fence at different times in my life, although I must admit, as the years have rolled by, my fence has increasingly leaned a little more toward the efficienteer’s obsessive side. Prone to efficienteerism, I would doubtless find a support beam to prop the leaning fence up. I think it’s possible to switch off between being a hurry-er and an efficienteer depending on circumstances, but I think, generally speaking, people gravitate toward one or the other most of the time.

It’s a simple difference in viewpoint and energy. Surely being an efficienteer isn’t always what it cracks up to be. For example, if carried to an extreme, efficienteers may be accused of fanaticism, or obsession. They must own the burden of this accusation because—feign to deny it—it is more than likely true.
On the other hand, hurry-ers, being frequently caught off-guard, may find themselves declared  indifferent,  self-absorbed, or oblivious, when the real issue is distraction. The hurry-er’s distractedness can be remedied by practice. Writing lists, and following simple schedules are good places for a hurry-er to begin pushing their fence toward the efficient side, provided they are able to follow-through. Which is the whole problem in the first place.

Distractions


As young wives, my sister and I both read the book, “The Art of Homemaking” by Daryl Hoole (1962, Publishers Press). We admired her organizational expertise, the emphasis she put on creating a home and reigning over it as a queen in her realm, (instead of being a common housewife), and the humorous way she made her points. We discussed at length how we hoped to integrate her suggestions into our households, and set to work doing so. It became a quest: organized shelves, de-junked, uncluttered, and harmonious homes all underscored by a woman who understood that creating a home was a rare and beautiful art form worthy of creative and enterprising minds. These were the shining beacons we sought after.

“The Art of Homemaking” by Daryl Hoole

My Uncle Albert used to say, “Wantin’ aint-a gettin’.” That applies to quests for organization and efficiency—especially if you are of the hurry-er mindset. At least, it takes longer “to get” if you are a hurry-er. (It sounds contradictory, but a distracted hurry-er reaches for what they want while moving rapidly at a standstill in the opposite direction.) One may incorporate many of the trappings of an organized household, but still lack the mental efficiency required for upkeep. Again, it’s about following through.

Page from “The Art of Homemaking” by Daryl Hoole
This was not my problem, however. I had the mental capacity, but I had to be creative with how to go about getting what I was seeking, lacking space and funds to organize and create with flair the kind of home environment I envisioned. In its humble way, my home reflected many of Mrs. Hoole’s suggestions and genius. Back in those forward-looking days of budding enthusiasm for all things domestic, I was oblivious to the development of an overly efficienteer mindset which she described in her book, but I failed to recognize as a real possibility.

She told of a homemaker who went on a date to the movies with her husband. No sooner had the woman sat down she pulled out a dust cloth and began dusting the theater seating.  She had become so obsessed with efficiency and cleanliness she couldn’t relax and enjoy freedom from this responsibility. Karen and I laughed at this story and I remember thinking that I could never relate to that kind of behavior or mindset! 

After all five of our children were sprouting into capable individuals—our youngest child, just three at the time—my husband and I decided it was time to host my entire side of the family for Thanksgiving dinner. A feat we had never thought to undertake until that time. For the first time, we were in that blissful state called “Pride of Home Ownership.” The house was still bare bones clean and uncluttered, and we thought it time we christen it while relieving my dear mother from the yearly bombardment of the hungry and thundering herds.

Painting by Norman Rockwell


A little worried about how things would turn out, and to insure everything was ready on time, I made a list for the week outlining the dishes that could be made in advance, when to clean the house, and indicating the timing of every task down to the moment we sat down to eat. Things did go smoothly. Our children were enlisted to help with various responsibilities. I even had time to relax in front of a cozy, toasty fireplace prior to our guests’ arrival. It was a turning point for me. I had walked the wobbly line between hurrying and efficiency for many years. I saw that I could be efficient and effective in a relaxed, unhurried way. That began my descent into obsession—into learning that women who carry dust cloths into the movies may be more than just a funny story. It just might be true—of me.

Now, over twenty years after that fateful Thanksgiving Day when I had begun to master the fine art of efficiency, I’m often accused, and rightly so, of clearing away the plates and cups of those who aren’t finished using them. I like to wipe up spills as they happen—but before they happen would suit me even better. 

When an efficienteer teeters on this imbalanced line of unnecessary efficiency they cross into the gray matter of superfluousity. In effect, they are no less effective than the hurry-er.  Their efforts are counterproductive as they waste precious minutes they could be doing something of greater worth, instead of keeping on top of the knit picky, infinite demands of the mundane. Spinning wheels may appear to be working hard, but if the vehicle they are attached to is up on a lift, of what use is all that expenditure of energy? Their effort is in vain. So it is with a superfluous efficienteer. (Try saying that fast three times in a row!)


Now, as I strive to resist my superfluous efficienteer tendencies, I’ve learned some simple truths:
  • You can hear the dishes and laundry snicker at you from their fresh places in the cupboard and closets if you inadvertently let them hear you say, “There! All done!”
  • Organization is only as good as one’s memory.
  • Wantin’ aint-a gettin’. Things worth having require effort, practice, and may eventually—if carried too far—need, to a degree, be unlearned.
  • A freshly cleaned house sends out vibes to friends and family urging them to pay a random visit. Almost without fail, they are accompanied by small children who delight in playing in the sandbox, and when nature calls, scurry through the entire length of the house with a truckload of sand sifting through their clothing and shoes onto the carpets, only to deposit the remainder of the load onto the bathroom floor. This is the time for the penitent superfluous efficienteer to sit back and enjoy the visit. Leave the cleaning-up for when your wonderful guests have gone, and count your blessings that people still want to visit someone like you–who entertains with a dust cloth in her hand.
  • An exploding diaper is an inevitability.
  • Sometimes it’s nice to press snooze—come what may.
© September 20, 2014


9/24/14 – ADDENDUM:  I’ve decided to add an addendum to this post in order to avoid confusion. I feel I should note that being an efficienteer doesn’t necessarily mean that one has all one’s ducks in a row all of the time. It doesn’t mean one’s house is always immaculate. The distinction is simply a matter of prioritizing time and funneling energy. 


A reminder to all (myself included): The dust cloth will always be there waiting, and so will the dust. Loved ones, family, friends, children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, will not….


As always, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading my little blog. I feel honored you would do so.

Tempus Fugit


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A Wonderful Life (or, When the Best Laid Plans Take a Detour)

Blog Post # 16

George Bailey (James Stewart) “It’s a Wonderful Life”


Sometimes, I feel a little like George Bailey, the main character in the 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life. George had big dreams for his future, but a series of life events and personal choices thwarted his well-laid plans time after time. The comparison between George Bailey and my life ends there. I have never considered jumping off a bridge, nor have I had an angel step in to show me what life would be like without me. But I can relate to the detours he experienced.

When I was a little girl, I had a long list of professional aspirations that I rattled off mechanically when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up: ballerina, artist, pianist, singer, cartoonist, seamstress, interior decorator/home designer, and more. I had no qualms about pursuing all of these careers at the same time; wasn’t that normal?
“Harmony” by Bessie Pease Gutman
Somewhere, in the more secure alcoves of my heart, I also knew I would be a homemaker: a wife and mother. I never thought to include marriage in my perfunctory list. I took for granted the idea that home and family would always be a part of my life, so I thought about it as much as I thought about my heart beating. It never occurred to me that there might be detours.
“Love is Blind” by Bessie Pease Gutman

Years passed. School days flew by. One by one, I discarded some of my former career choices, relegating them to mere hobbies and interests—even disinterests. I zeroed in on an artistic target. This made sense, and felt right since almost every waking moment of my youth and young adulthood was spent with a pencil in hand. Drawing was akin to breathing—an almost involuntary reflex of life.


“A Girl Writing” by Henriette Brown

During elementary and junior high school, I loved  everything Charlie Brown and Peanuts. I even wrote a personal letter to Peanuts creator Charles M. Schultz, feeling honored to receive a personal letter of encouragement in return. I narrowed my view to becoming a cartoonist, and set to work creating comic strips. At last, after acknowledging that I wasn’t the least bit funny, I discarded the idea of becoming the next Charles Schultz.

Growing into my high school years, my interest reached to include Walt Disney, a man I had always admired, and whose imagination and creativity I revered. Reading biographies of his life, studying books on The Art of Animation, and creating an animated film for a high school project, I settled on a career as an animator. When the time came, I was hard-pressed to find a college offering courses in animation. (Today, there are many schools well equipped to prepare future animators, but when I was college age, they were rare and expensive.) With youthful energy and optimism, I did the next best thing: I started working toward an art major, figuring I could work my way up from the bottom rungs of the professional animation ladder.
Again, plans changed when I met Mr. Right  (Brad), and married after completing my second year of college. Suddenly, the career that had always stood in the wings took front and center stage: I became a wife and after a year of work, a mother. (I worked that year in a hospital of all places! Off the charts when it came to where I wanted to be).
Over a period of ten years, we accumulated five little chicks in our brood. Mother Hen was now nestled into her coop and happy to be there. Difficult as it might be for a hen to hold a pencil in her feathers, hold a pencil I did! I kept drawing and imagining I might have a career as an illustrator on the side. Anyone who has been a full-time mother of five little ones knows it requires every minute of a 24-hour day.  I was content to draw pictures for my family and for church responsibilities. I made home school materials, games, toys, posters, flyers, programs, and a multitude of greeting cards and drawings that were routinely given away.


When my husband was recovering from a serious neck injury, I found part-time work from home illustrating a children’s phonetic reading series that included illustrations for over seventy-two individual books! At last, I thought, I am fulfilling my career goal as an illustrator. At first, the work was fun. The creative juices flowed freely and I spent the wee hours of the morning drawing and inking book after book while my children slept and my husband worked the night shift. It wasn’t long before the work became repetitious and tedious. The small paycheck I garnered did little to alleviate the monotony of the job. There was a sense of satisfaction in helping our little family financially, and I was doing what I thought I wanted to do—a combination of illustration and cartooning.
 

A few of the Phonetic Readers I illustrated in the early 1990s

Hindsight truly brings clarity, and with that illustration work, I realized how monotonous working as an animator—the Old-School kind, repeatedly drawing by hand the same images over and over with only small increments of change—would have been. I was grateful I had not become an animator, for I certainly would have been on the low rungs of perpetual boredom and the professional ladder.    
Teaching a cartooning class 

With some of my students

When our children grew older, I took a job at an elementary school working with special needs children. Bringing to the school setting the knowledge I had gleaned through homeschooling, and work as an associate of an educational consultant, I found multiple opportunities to use my pencil to create art. Part of my time at school was spent working one-on-one with students. The remainder was spent writing curriculum, visually modifying materials, turning our classroom into The Big Woods, or a time machine, making theme-related costumes for the kids in our class, creating large wall murals and props, teaching an extra-curricular cartooning art class, and making the library across the hall into a magical castle. It wasn’t exactly what I had dreamed of, but I did manage to serve as an artist, seamstress, interior decorator, and, oddly enough, even as a writer, all rolled into one.

My granddaughter visited our class as Laura Ingalls 

Wall in our classroom

Adjacent schoolroom wall
Education, curriculum development and writing had never once entered my mind when I was planning my list of careers as a child, yet they became the trifold center of my semi-professional life. Like George Bailey, a series of life events and personal choices dropped me into those waters, and I swam with the current.
George Bailey taking on his father’s Building and Loan Business


Sometimes, the things we think we want are completely inconsistent with our true inner compass. The choices we make, even when they appear to be thrust upon us, are still our own choices. As difficult as it was, George Bailey made the decision to take over his father’s position at the Building and Loan office. While I had touted becoming an animator for a decade, there was certainly no coercion involved when I chose to get married instead. I chose to have children, to home school, and to take a job at the elementary school. As I seized these new opportunities, I always found ways to assert my personal gifts, and develop my interests.  I didn’t abandon the things I loved and wanted to do, I just adjusted the hats I wore when doing them, and added new interests, new horizons, new understanding, and potential skills along the way.

Through these detours, I learned I was capable of new, enjoyable and interesting things; things that were true to my inner compass. Things I had never before considered. One of the things I discovered as a result was how much I loved to write.

Hindsight is a great crystal ball. Reflecting on my past, I have been astounded at all the overlooked, misunderstood indicators in my life that pointed to writing as something I would enjoy! As a child, I spent part of my summer writing a newspaper that included crossword puzzles, recipes and stories. Over the years, I wrote, illustrated and bound many small books with hand-stitched pages for fun, and as gifts for  family members. When ten years old or so, I wrote little chapter books we now drag out every decade or two for a good laugh. One was a Nancy Drew knock-off, the others original inventions. I took copious notes all through school, and enjoyed writing poetry, and creative writing assignments. I wielded my pencil without connecting the dots that writing was as enjoyable and important to me as drawing. Strange, how I could be so blind to my own preferences.  
 

A few childhood attempts at writing

And the point of writing all this is…..? The truth is, I didn’t set out to write any of this. I sat down in front of a blank page and gave my hands permission to start typing–just for fun. And they did. For me, writing presents those rare moments when I don’t feel I have to meticulously plan everything out. 



I seldom know exactly what I’m going to write about. It’s often a surprise–full of detours. Often, topics I’ve dutifully outlined in advance struggle for a permanent position on the page. Instead of flowing, they almost immediately clog in a P-trap of muddied, stale, over-ripe thoughts and ideas. But those times when words flow out like pure waters from a pristine spring—fresh, clear, and illuminating–make writing an adventure and a joy! I discover things about myself, and things about others. I discover things I know, and things I didn’t know I knew. I discover hidden things, too—metaphors and analogies about life that develop word by word, like Polaroid snapshots.  
 

Polaroid camera and undeveloped picture


It’s good to have a plan. It’s good to aspire to worthy goals.  I believe these principles and try to live by them. It can also be good to allow for a change of plans—to see opportunities, tendencies, and desires less rigidly. Sticking to Plan A may just turn out to be a dead end, where Plan B, or C may lead to multiple doors opening to broader growth, unforeseen talents, and increased joy. Sometimes those doors are thrust upon us, and sometimes we can’t see where the door will lead. Some doors we may bolt shut because we’re too proud to admit that a door that’s different from the one of our choosing might be better. There’s always a choice involved. That choice may be as small as opening the door and walking through it, which brings us back to George Bailey.
George Bailey’s plans


George Bailey had plans—big plans! He also had choices. Compassion drove his decisions, the consequences of which sometimes caused him frustration and even despair.  But the detours he encountered also further developed and refined the goodness of his character, leading to a bevy of faithful family and friends. An illuminating door was opened—to see life without him in it—and with that epiphany, every door that led to life–regardless of pitfalls and setbacks, no matter how far from his plans—looked good to him.
 

The angel Clarence gives George a chance to see life without him in it

Like George Bailey, I began early on making plans. Big plans. My life has been full of twists and turns, and like George Bailey, around every corner there have been choices—hard choices. I have to say that, although I’m not at all where I once thought I would be, I’m so glad I’m where I am. I suspect the plans I have—that we have (Brad and I)—may detour again—in fact, we’re riding a detour right now that has brought countless joys and blessings.
Thanks, George Bailey, for reminding us that though life may not turn out as we planned, it really is a wonderful life.
© August 16, 2014


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A Beautiful Mess

Blog Post #8


Enchanted trees…. 

That’s how I think of Jacarandas. They sprinkle fairy dust underneath their canopied branches of lavender blossoms. On streets lined with Jacaranda, rivers of purple flood the curbs reflecting the swaying limbs above. I love Jacarandas! I look forward to each May and June, when they’re at the height of their enchanting color, their exquisite beauty, and their—what was that? Did I hear someone say, “Mess?”
More than one person who has a Jacaranda tree has told me how much they hate them and the mess they make. But they’re so beautiful, I protest. These people are beyond enjoying their beauty. All they can see is the mess that follows the delicate display of their lithe, trumpet-like flowers. Lavender petals that fade and dry and moosh and get tracked onto the carpet and make it hard to clean up the yard. Pretty soon, I’m told, they wither and even become ugly.


Here’s a truth: messes and beauty go together; they walk hand-in-hand—opposites that not only attract, but also cooperate. Beauty is almost dependent on a mess. Before I have a beautiful jar of peach preserves, I have a kitchen full of bottles, pots and ladles, sugar granules on countertops, paring knives, bowls of pits and slimy peels, and sticky stuff just about everywhere. A real mess. But have you ever stopped to admire a jar (better yet, a dozen jars) of freshly bottled peaches? Beauty. Simple beauty. I make a practice of leaving jars of freshly preserved jams and fruit sitting in neatly ordered ranks and files on the table for  a day or two where I can admire them each time I pass by. They make me happy. They radiate beauty born of months of growth, harvest, honest toil, and…a mess.


So many messy situations culminate in beauty: creating a work of art, reorganizing a closet, sewing a new dress, preparing for and planting a garden, a haircut, making a Thanksgiving feast. Probably the most rewarding of messy situations are labor pains.
I can’t think of anything more beautiful than a baby.  But even a brand new baby has to be cleaned up at birth—and frequently thereafter; one continuous series of messes coming out of every end. Not to mention the state of the house as the baby grows. Constant upheaval and disarray. Stacks of laundry. Piles of dishes. Toys. Books. Pots and pans. All pulled from their places and scattered abroad like seaweed on the beach.

As children grow, they become expert at making messes: grimy fingerprints on mirrors, windows, doors and walls; bedrooms that look like a Goodwill drop-off; sand and dirt on freshly mopped floors; backpacks and shoes cluttering the entryway; and socks—endless smelly socks—emerging from every nook and cranny you didn’t know existed.

It’s all worth the beauty that attends the mess: crayoned pictures laden with hearts—drawn and given by the stacks; hugs and wet kisses; holding a tiny, trusting hand; the words “I love you, Mom” scraped into the dirt on the hill in the backyard….there’s nothing like it for the price of a mess. Nothing.  
My mother appreciated a good mess. She understood that messes were companions to creative beauty. She urged us to make messes and praised the beauty—or attempts at beauty—we created. She gave us (almost) free range of the house in which to make our messes.  She also taught us to clean, and somehow managed to have a clean house underneath the messes we made.


I recall the day I discovered that we did indeed make messes. (Frankly, before that day, I hadn’t noticed.) That day of enlightenment came when I was only about….oh, fourteen. (Not kidding.) My mother had a calligraphy project going at her drafting table at one end of the family room. I was busily mass-producing pictures to sell that required tedious cutting of burlap, fabric scraps and construction paper, as well as gluing and the use of markers at a card table set up on the other end of the family room. My sister was also occupied with a project of her own in the same room. (Heaven only knows where Craig was at the time. Probably making an entirely private mess of his own in his room.)
The doorbell rang. A friend was at the door. My friend. What’s worse, the friend happened to be a boy I liked. Someone I never expected to come to our house….ever! When I first opened the door, I was oblivious to the mess. When my friend walked in, I saw THE MESS in all Its Terribleness. I tried to stand in front of the card table to block, at the very least, my mess from view, but to no avail. My small frame was no match for the sheer quantity of MESS splattered across every square inch of that room screaming the words “Look at me!” like a flashing neon sign.
It turned out OK in the end. The friend left after a brief and, for my part, extremely uncomfortable few minutes. He surely had an eyeful of what went on in our house. But we continued to make messes, and we enjoyed the beauty we created. The real beauty, however, was in the time we spent, and the love that grew from making the messes together.


The beauty of Jacaranda trees comes before the mess they make, but the order really doesn’t matter. Shedding their flowers is so important to the production of fruit, seeds, and growth. It’s a necessary step toward an encore display of their magical fairy dust in years that follow. As I see it, what does matter is that they first give something splendidly beautiful to the world before casting their refuse on the ground, (which, by the way, still looks magical when it first falls). It is part of an important cycle. They make the most of their few moments to sparkle, knowing what will come.


Maybe that’s why messes are important to life: to help us better appreciate and recognize the beauty in special moments. Messes also help us see order in creation and throughout life. A mess can have elements of order to it, it can be part of a greater plan—as with the peach preserves. It may look a mess to the untrained eye, but there is order in the kitchen chaos working toward a planned goal. I always clean up after (sometimes during) a messy situation: an important lesson accompanying messes. The “cleaning up” lesson, if never learned, creates its own mess!


Surely, the cycle of mess and beauty is true of people. Our lives may seem a mess at times, but as we work through the chaos, we become more complete, strong and beautiful people—beautiful as to character, opposed to looks—better able to cast aside the refuse—those things that hold us back—and move forward, producing seeds of growth that contribute to a fulfilling and joyful future.


So, here’s to messes! And may our messes create as much beauty as the Jacaranda!


© Copyright June 7, 2014




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My First Blog Post EVER!

This is my first attempt at a blog.

I feel  anticipation–if not a little nervousness–about posting, but here goes!

Blog Post #1: Quiet and Creativity

Have you ever noticed that most of your best ideas come while doing something like taking a shower, drifting off to sleep, or driving alone in your car? In the shower, and that twilight time when I’m between wakefulness and sleep, are the best for me, probably because there are no distractions. In the quiet, or the white noise of the water flowing, my mind becomes a flutter of thoughts and ideas that I must quickly snatch out of the air and pocket before they flit off, never to be thought of again. 

Of necessity, I keep paper and pencil at my bedside and in the bathroom.  In spite of the electronic gadgets that are causing paper clutter to become obsolete, I have sticky notes stacked like pancakes, decorating every flat surface, all over the house. Sticky notes on the mirror. Stickies on my desk. Stickies on my laptop. Stickies on my purse. Stickies on the cover of my Galaxy Note.  Stickies on stickies. It’s ridiculous. Why the stickies? Because these are my best ideas! There’s something of inspiration in some of them. If I don’t write things down, and put them in plain sight, I’ll forget. I don’t want to forget, hoping they’ll bear some rare and precious creative fruit at some future time. 

For me, ideas flow better in quiet times, so I’ve learned to tune out noise. As a mother of five, it was a natural extension of the quest for serenity in a busy life, especially since I home schooled our kids–a creative bunch in their own right. Anyone who has adventuresome kids with many creative outlets, knows that noise is often a natural byproduct of unleashed creativity. 

But kid noise doesn’t compare with adult noise, which may be more difficult to regulate. Ball games, power tools and machines, car radios, hammering, pounding, drilling, and the most invasive: TV noise. We had to find a cure for the perpetual TV racket when we moved in with my virtually deaf ninety-one year-old father. The TV volume had two settings: “off” and “fire engine siren.” You can guess which volume the TV operated at day and night. My father has no real waking and sleeping schedule. Like a baby, he is often wide awake until three, and napping in the middle of the day–the TV (his constant companion) set on “siren.” 

Our family likes to gather at the old “homestead;” when my family is here, we’re twenty-four strong, (not a small group, and not a big house). Being Italian, we know how to make our voices heard one over another, all at the same time. In those first months we were living here, the cacophony of voices had to overtake the sound of the TV for anyone to be heard above the din, so the volume increased until one or the other topped-out at a fever pitch. 

To converse one-on-one with my father is also challenging, since you must repeatedly yell for him to hear you say, “Hood Sue spike the skinner?” Hood Sue spike the skinner?” “HOOD SUE SPIKE THE SKINNER?!” (Translation: Would you like some dinner?He’d follow-up with “Who’s Sue? I don’t know who Sue is.” 

Then! We discovered the invention of the century! Wireless TV headphones! Now, when Daddy dons his headset, he correctly understands what everyone in TV-land is saying. To his ears, however, we still speak a garbled version of English. Especially since he won’t take the headset off to hear what we’re trying to say. I’m still yelling: “DADDY, TISSUE SET A SNUFF?” (Translation: Did you get enough?) We’ve come to grips with never being understood the first time around. Or the second. Or the third. 


But I have to say, those headsets changed my life! The first few days, post head-set purchase, my husband, Brad, and I walked around the house in a stupor of quiet–hearing birdsong outside, and real fire engine sirens blaring on the boulevard a few blocks away. When family members came over, a look of bewilderment immediately registered on their faces. What was this new experience so uncharacteristic of Grandpa’s house? They found a new pastime: making up their own dialog for what was happening on the now mute TV. Much funnier. Much more entertaining. Just as noisy as the siren.

I love being with the family. I love the chatter, the laughter, the sound of children at play, and adults engaged in stimulating conversation. But I also cherish quiet. Being an introverted person, I need quiet from time to time. I purposely turn off the music in the car, mute the volume on the TV (a given), and go for walks without a bluetooth in my ear. I love quiet. I treasure it.

In quiet moments, I have become more keenly aware of the sounds of nature. More importantly, over time, I have learned to fine-tune my thoughts and heart to listen to the whisperings of the spirit–my own, and the Spirit of God, whose voice is a “still voice of perfect mildness.” (Helaman 5:30) It has made all the difference. 


Now, when creative energy surfaces at odd and sundry times–most of which are quiet–I grab my pencil and sticky notes, and clutter up my work space until, one by one, each precious thought and word is recorded for future reflection and use. 

Then, I can finally fall asleep.


© Copyright March 31, 2014