Things I Learned This Summer…and Fall?

Every few months, Emily P. Freeman encourages her readers to participate in an evaluation of the things they’ve learned over the past quarter. Every few months, I intend to participate. Every few months, I do not.

She had a round of posts on September 30th, and I really intended to participate. In fact, I started this post in October, and here it is…December…and she just posted another round and I still haven’t finished! 😂 I was just about ready to throw in the towel on my intention when I thought, Self, does it REALLY matter if you don’t get it done in proximity to the end of the quarter? Are you REALLY going to throw the baby out with the bathwater on this exercise?

As such, here I am on this fine Wednesday morning (wait…that was in October; I’m here on this snowy, blustery Saturday afternoon in December now), with a few spare minutes to sit in front of my computer screen and write, not giving up and not giving in to the tendency to avoid things I didn’t do juuuuuust right. We’ll see how long it lasts. Which is to say we’ll see how long I get to write before the kids start bickering again. 😉

{and cue about 3 minutes before the doorbell rang}

{and then 3 months went by…}

Things I Learned Over the Last Six-ish Months

one || I’m unlikely to die if I don’t sanitize my groceries || what a relief this one was! I felt like the general trend on coronavirus-cleaning was to quit more out of exhaustion than data. But after seeing eleventy-billion people explain why the study about coronaviruses lasting up to 3 days on surfaces probably doesn’t apply to general life, I’ve (cautiously) stopped washing. Most of the time. I still wash things my kids might touch (looking at you, Goldfish) because they get them themselves and can I really trust them to remember to wash their hands after they serve themselves a bowl? No, no I cannot.


two || After the early-pandemic-era shortage of flour, I expanded my search radius from local stores to online retailers. My flour of choice is King Arthur all-purpose, and it finally occurred to me that I might be able to go directly to the source…which I could–they do sell direct to consumers–but that’s not what I learned. What I learned was they have an amazing catalog that makes me excited to bake ever time it arrives, and their email newsletter is almost as great. They include oodles of recipes and they all look sooooo gooooooddd!!! If you enjoy baking, I highly recommend the King Arthur catalog and email list, things I don’t usually find myself recommending.

three || When you shelve the “what makes your soul come alive” activities in favor of “the things that neeeeeeeeed to get done” activities, you really do shrivel up. After a long stretch of not wanting to get out of bed most mornings, I talked to my counselor about this and she asked me to plan one thing each day to which I’d look forward. Usually they were little things, but they were absolutely transformational. And then, of course, I slipped back into my old ways of feeling overwhelmed by all there is to do and how much I’m not getting done and telling myself I don’t have time for the fun stuff. Wouldn’t you know it, and here I am again feeling shriveled up and dry. So again, I’m returning to the practice. What’s one little thing that would excite me today? Don’t laugh too hard, but it’s getting rid of the extra sheets in my linen closet. I have all these sheet set halves because one of the pieces ripped. But I keep saving the other halves for kid forts or for padding when we move or because…I don’t know…maybe there’ll be a fabric apocalypse and I’ll have to make all our own clothes? See? I told you. It’s leeeetle things sometimes. Mundane things, even. But if I clean it out, I know that every time I open the linen closet I’ll smile, and that’ll be worth it.

four || The most mind-blowing thing I learned…trees mother their tree babies. What???!?! I HAD NO CLUE! There’s a whole network of stuff that goes on under the surface of the earth, and one of those things is mama trees making space for, sending nourishment to, and sending messages to their tree babies. I don’t even have words! You can learn more about it at the article/video here.

five || Sometimes anxiety exists to inhibit other emotions. I’m a pro at numbing behaviors; doom-scrolling, eating my feelings, gathering information, naps, and Netflix are my drugs of choice. I’ve also had anxiety since toddlerhood. But I had never connected the two, and it never occurred to me that anxiety might also be one of my numbing strategies until I started reading this book. It didn’t take long for me to be convinced, and now, when I notice I’m anxious, I try to remember to ask myself, “What other feelings are you avoiding by feeling anxious?

You guys, we did it. We’ve almost made it. 2020 is almost over, and for as difficult as it has been, I hope you’ve also gleaned some nuggets of truth and self-revelation that will go with you into 2021 and make your year better and happier than it could have been without them.

Love Waiting in the time of Cholera Coronavirus

I don’t wait well.

You would think after 7 years of infertility–approximately 75 cycles of trying and failing and trying again–I might have mastered this art. But I didn’t. At most, I became relatively competent at looking like I was waiting well. But inside? I was a mess–of anxiety, of obsessing, of controlling, of perseverating over what I couldn’t control. I was often sleepless, disengaged, discouraged. And I definitely mastered the art of eating my feelings. 😉

These are the things I did while I waited, because waiting can be terribly painful, and sitting with pain is nothing short of hell.

I don’t know about you, but for me this quarantine experience has been all about waiting–waiting to see if the virus was going to come to North America, waiting to get deliveries of food and necessary supplies, waiting to see when we’ll be able to leave our house again. I’ve been passing the time haphazardly, sometimes managing my anxiety well so I can be productive and other times hiding in my room to cry because this all feels really overwhelming.

Like many church-going Americans, I attended a Palm Sunday church service online last weekend, and the pastor spoke on a question I hadn’t considered before. Usually, Palm Sunday revolves around celebration; we parade our children, palm branches waving high, around sanctuaries while we’re supposed to think about Jesus as king. Honestly, I’ve never really given Palm Sunday much more thought than that. I don’t come from a particularly liturgical background and have never had a lot of connection to events in the spring church calendar other than Easter. Practically speaking, as an adult Palm Sunday hasn’t registered much more than as a reminder to finish up the Easter basket shopping.

But last week the pastor asked something that made me curious. “Is it wrong to ‘celebrate’ Palm Sunday?”

Why would it be? I wondered. Jesus…coming into the city as king…people excited…where’s the problem?

The people in the passage were celebrating, the pastor explained, without knowing what would happen next. But we have the benefit of hindsight. We know what comes next in the story. We know that mere days later, the story isn’t one of celebration but of brutal torture and suffering, and eventually, of death. How can we celebrate when we know what’s coming?

I’ve been rolling this around in my head all week. The pastor went on to illustrate why he thinks it’s okay to hold both celebration and sadness in the same story, and I appreciated his perspective. I don’t fault the people of Jerusalem for celebrating; they just didn’t know. But the part I can’t stop thinking about is Jesus. Jesus knew. Jesus got on that donkey, rode into town, let the people have their exuberance and their triumph, all the while knowing that his time was coming.

Which reminded me of coronavirus, of these present times, and what the Surgeon General said last weekend on Chris Wallace. “…This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans lives, quite frankly. This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 911 moment.” He told us that the worst was coming, that the horizon held pain, suffering, and grieving hearts, and all we could do was wait for it to pass.

I wondered: what did Jesus do while he waited, all the while aware of the full scope of the suffering that lay in front of him? Maybe I, as a self-proclaimed despiser of waiting, could learn something from this. Maybe what Jesus did during the waiting offers some path through or comfort during this waiting part of the coronavirus journey.  I looked back through the various accounts of the time between the palms and the crucifixion and made a (not exhaustive) list.  Here are some of the things that jumped out at me:

Jesus had feelings. He didn’t keep them all numbed up with food or busyness or distraction. I’m guessing he maybe didn’t have a secret stash of peanut m&m’s hidden in his pantry that he ate surreptitiously when no one was watching. || “Jesus put together a whip out of strips of leather and chased them out of the Temple…He told the dove merchants, ‘Get your things out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a shopping mall!'” John 2:15-17

Jesus ate. I’m guessing not the quarantine levels of food some of us are currently eating? He ate what was available and nourishing (figs). || “As thy left Bethany the next day, he was hungry.” Mark 11:12

Jesus taught, which was his regular gig. || “From then on he taught each day in the Temple.” John 19:47 and a host of other stories (see Matthew 21-23 for examples)

Jesus told others to respect the very government that was about to torture him. || “Give Caesar what is his, and give God what is his.” March 12:17

Jesus served others. || “[Jesus] got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with his apron.” John 13:4-5

Jesus comforted his disciples before they even knew they’d need the comfort. || “I’ve taken my place among you as the one who serves. And you’ve stuck with me through thick and thin. Now I confer on you the royal authority my Father conferred on me so you can eat and drink at my table in y kingdom and be strengthened as you take up responsibilities among the congregations of God’s people.” Luke 22:27-30

Jesus instituted communion and established a memorial touchpoint. || “When it was time, he sat down, all the apostles with him, and said, ‘You’ve no idea how much I have looked forward to eating this Passover meal with you before I enter my time of suffering. It’s the last one I’ll eat until we ll eat it together in the kingdom of God.” Luke 22:14-16

Jesus withdrew to pray. || “They came to an area called Gethsemane. Jesus told his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.'” He took Peter, James, and John with him. He plunged into a sinkhole of dreadful agony. He told them, ‘I feel bad enough right now to die. Stay here and keep vigil with me.’ Going a little ahead, he fell to the ground and prayed for a way out: ‘Papa, Father, you can–can’t you?–get me out of this. Take this cup away from me.” Mark 14:32-35

Jesus remembered history and celebrated the cultural feast of the time. || “The Day of Unleavened Bread came, the day the Passover lamb was butchered. Jesus sent Peter and John off, saying, ‘Go prepare the Passover for us so we can eat it together.'” Luke 22:7-8

Jesus pleaded for relief. || “He pulled away from the about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, ‘Father, remove this cup from me. But please, not what I want. What do you want?’ At once an angel from heaven was at his side, strengthening him. He pryed on all the harder. Sweat, wring from him like drops of blood, poured off his face.” Luke 22:41-44

And then Jesus suffered and died.

Of course, there’s more to the Easter story than that, just like I have confidence Coronavirus isn’t going to end with the complete and utter destruction of humanity. But that doesn’t change how hard it is to wait, how many varied and real worries we all carry, how we take feeble steps toward the future not knowing if we’re making the best choices to protect the people we love.

And this, in some respects, is the “easy” waiting. Sometimes I feel guilty for being stressed because my situation is arguably one of the esy ones. There are thousands of people sitting in quarantine this minute after a potential exposure, waiting to see if they fall ill and–if they do–if they’ll survive. There are loved ones waiting desperately for a phone call in which an exhausted nurse provides an update on their sick parent/sibling/child/friend. There are bone-weary medical professionals longing for the day they can simply go home and hug their family without fear or having to undertake drastic decontamination procedures. And there are grievers waiting for the red tape to be managed and the personnel to be available so they can lay their deceased loved one to rest.

There is so much waiting.

But I decided that it might be a worthwhile exercise for me to try to model my waiting a little more like Jesus handled his. Granted, I’m under no illusions that I’m going to achieve “God of the Universe” levels of crisis management, but could I, perhaps, stay more present? Jesus did his regular things in his regular life. He ate. He taught. He spent time with his friends. (Maybe we don’t do that one yet…#stayathome) Rather than letting my mind run a constant loop on the hamster wheel of worst-case scenarios, could I simply be where I am? With whom I with? Doing the next right thing in front of me?

Or maybe I can work toward accepting my feelings, the good ones AND the bad. Jesus was mad, excited, and full of dread at different times while he waited. He didn’t shy away from his feelings. I often find myself numbing uncomfortable feelings. In counseling, I’ve been working on just letting them BE. They’re part of me. They serve a purpose and bear a message. And like Brene Brown says, “We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.” When the time comes, I want to be ready to celebrate and hug and rejoice with my whole heart, and part of being able to do that means I won’t have numbed and ignored all the difficult feelings I have right now.

I think the USA shines when it comes to helping others in times of crisis–look at all the people donating PPE, sewing masks, sharing food with neighbors, spreading rainbows. It’s a no-brainer to help others while we wait. But I was especially interested one of the examples in the passages I read when Jesus preemptively created a “memorial stone” experience for his disciples with the first communion. “Do this in remembrance of me.”  Did they even understand? I’m guessing no since a few minutes later they appeared to be squabbling with each other like my children in quarantine. But maybe there are some purposeful things I can establish now that will help my children (or even my family and loved ones) in years to come–traditions, frameworks of understanding, etc. I’m thinking a lot on this because there’s nothing like a global pandemic to remind you that time is fleeting and life is fragile and you shouldn’t let the important things go undone or unsaid.

I also love the example Jesus set of taking care of ourselves. Jesus, for instance, withdrew into the garden to pray. It reminds me that even withdrawing to the van in my garage for a moment of silence (and chocolate?) can be a good and holy thing.

I’m hoping these things help me wait with more ease. Maybe something here will spark an idea in you, too. How are you moving through this season of waiting? Happy Easter, friends! And countless prayers for all the workers on the front lines, as well as those fighting the ultimate battle against the virus. <3

Peaceful Pandemic Parenting Survival Strategies (because alliteration makes everything more fun) – Books!

Bar none, the #1 thing people say to me when they find out we homeschool is, “I could never do that!” as though I have some sort of superpower, being able to spend all-day-every-day with my kids. I don’t take offense to this. Truthfully, it was one of my top fears, too, when we were deciding to homeschool. Could I hack it? Would the days seem interminable, a torturous loop of Groundhog Days in which I barely endured?

There was a learning curve, to be sure, but we had some time to ease into it. Unfortunately, with the rapidly advancing COVID-19 virus situation, I know a lot of families are being suddenly thrust into a de facto “homeschooling” environment because schools are canceling for the immediate forseeable future.

So from one mama to another, let me tell you–YOU CAN DO IT! I thought I might take the next few days to share some of the things that make our days fun. Not just endurable, but truly fun! And maybe a little educational, too! 😉

Hands down, if you’re facing a stretch of time at home with your kids and you’re not sure how to fill the days, I’d recommend finding a good read-aloud. Stocking up on a read-aloud or two is probably far more important than hoarding toilet paper. 😉

Today, I’m sharing some of our family’s favorites. These books are truly wonderful–my kids have enjoyed them, but I have enjoyed them as well, and for me that’s KEY in maintaining a positive energy during our days. If you find something you can enjoy, it makes time pass that much more pleasantly!

For reference, we started reading these types of books aloud when my kids were in range of 2, 4, and 11. I wouldn’t hesitate to read any of these again right now and my kids are 6, 8, and 15. Use your judgment, but don’t be afraid to let littles hear more advanced stories or to read younger books to big kids. Both experiences have their own sort of charm.

First up, the series books, which are nice because if you expect to be facing an extended time at home, you have a ready-made world to dive into, and the characters become so rich as the series unfolds:

  1. Harry Potter – because is any list like this complete without it? But I’m sure you’re familiar enough with the story, so we’ll move along to some of our lesser-known favorites. I promise the rest of this list isn’t so obvious.
  2. Penderwicks – a new find for us, we are loving it. I can’t overstate enough how much of a hit The Penderwicks have been with my kids. They are drawing about it and building Lego models of the family. It’s a series about 4 sisters and their adventures and mischief. I thought it might connect better with Isla than Jude because the main characters are girls, but that hasn’t seemed to matter at all. We finished the first book and immediately started the second. I’m only reading it with my littles right now, but Gabe read one from the series when he was in public school and loved it, too.
  3. Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place – a series about three children, formerly raised by wolves, who have been found and rescued by Lord Ashton and are being nannies by Miss Lumley. It is an absolute delight on audio. The narrator makes it come alive with her voices and howling, which sounds a little painful, but I promise it’s not! It has some moments that are a little bit more intense/scary, but we haven’t found it to be overwhelmingly so.
  4. The Mysterious Benedict Society – in the interest of full disclosure, only Gabe and I have read these. But I’m so excited to read these aloud to my littles. They’re at a stage where I think they’ll love them! This was one of the first series Gabe and I read after we read Harry Potter; we were both feeling the letdown of leaving beloved characters and an enchanted world behind. This series isn’t really anything like Harry Potter, but it filled the void perfectly. It’s quirky and interesting and kept us guessing. I find this series especially good for a child who sometimes feels different from others, but I think any child would love it, so that’s not a necessary qualifier.
  5. Tumtum and Nutmeg – this is a delightfully sweet series about a mouse couple and the children from the house in which they live and I love every bit of it! The mice act as fairies to the motherless children, and they get into all sorts of little capers trying to make the children’s lives better. This series may be better for the younger end. I’ve read it to my littles but I don’t think Gabe would connect to it as much as he has some of the others.
  6. The Green Ember – in the interest of full disclosure, my children objected to this series, but I loved it and I know it is adored by many homeschool families, so I thought I’d include it because it’s different than anything else on the list. A colony of rabbits finds themselves defending their home and wolves against a pack of evil wolves. It’s in the style of a mythical epic, a traditional battle of good versus evil. Be aware that there are some battle scenes that could be intense for some, and some loved characters experience losses/death, so it might be too much for a sensitive youngster.

And now for some of our favorite stand-alone books:

  1. Mandy by Julie Andrews – when we finished this book, my littles cheered, exclaiming that this was their favorite book they’d ever read. It also provided some great opportunities for discussions about making good choices and about what motivates people to make less-than-smart choices.
  2. Matilda by Roald Dahl – this might be my children’s most beloved read-aloud of all time. We listened to it on audio; Kate Winslet is the narrator and the book on Audible is absolutely not just a narration, but a masterful performance. We’ve read and enjoyed a number of Roald Dahl books, but Matilda rises far above the rest–the perfect amount of charm, suspense, and resolution.
  3. By The Great Horn Spoon – I think this was the first family read-aloud we did when we started homeschooling? I was entirely unsure how it would go since Jude wasn’t quite three when we started. I’m not sure how much of the story he understood, but he listened without interruption while the older kids truly enjoyed the story. This is a historical novel set in the time of the California Gold Rush about a boy and his butler who escape their family life in Boston to go on a grand adventure to strike it rich.
  4. Beyond the Pawpaw Trees – Anna Lavinia embarks on a magical journey to solve a mystery about her missing father. It’s entirely different, but something about it–maybe the journey?–reminded me a bit of The Phantom Tollbooth, a book my family collectively hated. We found this book much less tedious than that, and it’s shorter, too, making it a nice, readable length. The story is full of magic and fun.
  5. Tuesdays at the Castle – a magical castle and the royal children work together to save their family’s kingdom, and it is a truly enjoyable story. It’s actually a series, but I didn’t put it in the series list because we only read the first one. It worked fine as a stand-alone. We did this one on Audible, but I don’t think the narration was that integral; it would have been just as good no matter who read it.
  6. The Railway Children by E. Nesbit – my children were split on this one, but I loved it. It’s an older story, and when we first started reading aloud I found older stories intimidating because I believed them to be dull and written with tricky language. This book showed me that I was so wrong! The story is so richly layered and I didn’t want the world to end when it concluded. We listened to it on audio and I adored the narrator’s British accent.

Also, a note–I let my kids do other things when they read. Sometimes they draw, sometimes they play with Legos, sometimes I’m so engrossed in the story I don’t even realize what they’re doing. So long as they’re quiet and mostly paying attention, I don’t care. I think this goes a long way toward making read-aloud time successful. Don’t feel guilty if yours aren’t completely engrossed, especially if reading chapter books aloud/as a family is a new thing for you.

Oh–a second tip! Did you know you can purchase audio books on Amazon even if you’re not an Audible member? I didn’t know this until I read it on another blog. Audiobooks had confused me! But you can purchase the audiobooks straight out and they’ll be yours to keep forever even if you never sign up for an Audible membership.

If you have any books you’d recommend to me, I’m all ears! I’m always looking for a new book to drop into my Amazon cart. 😉

Happy reading!

The Light Gets In

I kid you not—this is a different picture from the one on the last post. And I promise I’ll try to take more interesting/less repetitive pictures than this. But if you’ll indulge me, I there’s this one more…

We live in a sweet little home built in 1927, complete with original windows that are high on charm and low on energy efficiency. Every winter, I can tell how close we are to polar-vortex-like weather by the amount of frost on our windows. So far this year, the frost is still mostly on the upstairs windows, which is good. It means it’s cold enough to make the back door creak but not cold enough to give me frostbite on a quick run to the trash bin.

If the frost reaches the downstairs windows, though, look out. It’s a whole different story!

Sitting on the corner of the bed to get ready for the day, I glanced up at just the right moment to see this, little ferns of ice swirling their way across my bedroom window. Looks cold out there, I thought as I leaned forward to put some lotion on my winter-dried legs, only to glance up again from a different angle and find the ice looked completely different, more like a filmy opaqueness of dirt and dust. Certainly nothing that glinted in the sunlight.

It amazed me how such a small change in perspective could produce such a vastly different view–sparkles from one angle, dirt from the other.

The profound nature of this was probably somewhat heightened by my January funk, but I haven’t stopped thinking about that window since then.

About ten years ago, I decided I wanted to learn photography. I read about composition and experimented with backgrounds, but eventually I realized if I wanted to up my photography skills, I needed to learn how to use the manual settings on my camera. To do that, I had to become a student of light.

I began by focusing on amount of light–was there enough light to capture a clear, focused image? If not, how could I play with the settings to capture more light? It sounded simple at the outset–Get More Light–but when I realized that there are at least three settings that control the amount of light captured in any image and that adjusting one affects the others, I started understanding more of the intricacies of images and I began to see images and settings differently.

Eventually I learned to ask myself more nuanced questions. How quickly is my subject moving? How intense is the light? Where is the light not falling? What color is the light? How does the lighting make me feel? I’m by no means an expert photographer or an authority on the manipulation of light, but photography grew my ability to see, and to understand what I see and how it makes me feel.

After my third miscarriage, I fell into a pit of deep grief. The sadness nearly smothered me into giving up, into giving into a lifetime of despair. It was only through the outpouring of love and care, some from near strangers, that I had enough clarity to commit to pursue joy again.

Around the same time, Elizabeth Edwards published a book–Resilience–and not much later, passed away from breast cancer. I’d been no more than mildly interested in John Edwards’ political career, but I found Elizabeth Edwards’ story intriguing–wife of a man with a failed presidential bid, diagnosed with cancer several times, and victim of a complicated and public spousal infidelity scandal. During the press coverage surrounding her book and death, someone explained her life’s anthem, which she had identified as a quote from a Leonard Cohen song:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

That’s what I want, I thought. If a dying woman can choose to live, and even to use her pain to shine brighter, surely I can find my way out of this sorrow eventually? I set it as my email signature, a daily reminder of the healing and light and beauty that is available to those who choose to continue ringing the bell.

When light encompasses us and brightens our day-to-day surroundings, it looks like…light. We get used to it. Maybe we even resent it when it illuminates our dirt or imperfections. Certainly, we notice its presence far less than its absence.

But when light passes through things–prisms, water, tunnels, cracks, even frosty windows–it looks like magic.

I think it’s that way, too, with the soul. When we live in the light, we get used to the light. But when the light shines through people–

through their kindnesses…

through their acts of service…

through their tears…

through their mistakes…

through their broken hearts…

that light makes magic.

It takes our breath away. It mesmerizes. It holds us spellbound.

This, I think, is the antidote to my wearying journey toward idealism and perfectionism. Reality, of course, is full of cracks. Trying to change that is an exercise in futility. But perhaps the path toward joy is less in fixing or preventing and more in awakening to the beauty found when the light shines through the fullness of all of our messy, frustrated, fractured selves.

Side Eye and Some Feelings

I didn’t even have to see his face to know the extraordinary amount of side eye aimed my direction. That’s what being married for 20 years does for you–you can finish each other’s sentences and feel facial expressions without even looking. (Also–20 years! Squee!!)

You see, it’s January. Every January, I tumble into some degree of a slump, and every January, Tahd is worried about me in said slump and how long it’s going to last/how bad it’s going to be/how far down I’m going to go/etc. So every year, we have varying versions of a conversation that involves Tahd being worried about me and me responding to his concerns and him asking how he can help me and me promising that I’m really fine and he doesn’t need to worry.

That was the conversation we were having just before he gave me said side eye, the conversation in which he said, “I’m worried about you. You don’t seem well.”

And I explained that yes, in fact, I was okay and I just wanted to fold myself into a cocoon and have a long winter’s nap but that I’d be back, I batted my eyes as I pinky promised, and could I just be alone for a few minutes now, please, and I’d be down to make dinner in a moment.

And that’s when the aforementioned side eye made its appearance. Because he knows. He’s heard it before. Especially on the dinner thing. 😉

My counselor has been helping me to focus on feelings and how I don’t really feel mine so much as deny or manage them. Since I had an appointment with her a few days later, I brought up this exchange with her.

“I just want to fold in on myself,” I explained to her. “I want to hide. I just want to BE winter–be slow and at rest and regenerative, and wake up later, eventually, when it’s brighter again. But I don’t know…am I depressed? Is something in me broken? Should I trust this feeling?”

I’m leaving a lot unsaid, but she sent me home from that appointment with a short-term assignment, a prescription if you will: two hours of creative efforts every day.

Two hours!

The idea felt positively indulgent to me, but she explained that she suspected my soul didn’t so much need to hide or sleep as much as it needed to engage in—and be energized by—something different. So I agreed I would give it my best attempt and report back on what I learned.

I woke up on Monday practically giddy. It’s the first time in years I remember being that excited to begin the day. Knowing our schedule, though, I knew it would be more realistic to start smaller. So I did—the kids and I set things up for some independent work and I set a time timer for about a half hour and told them they’d get a candy cane if they let me write uninterrupted for the entire time.

Which they did, and it was GLORIOUS and I was thrilled at the thought of expanding things the next day, which also happened to be Isla’s 8th birthday.

And then the 8th birthday started, and…so did the stomach flu. I kid you not, the birthday girl got the stomach flu, poor lovey! Thankfully it wasn’t terrible, but it definitely changed the trajectory of the day, which led to changing the trajectory of the week because the axiom “Where one person vomits, OTHER PEOPLE VOMIT” held true for our household. So the rest of the week was spent more on vomit than creativity, an exchange which I can assure you was less than renewing to my soul.

I woke up one day this week—I can’t even remember which one because they all ran together—and saw my bedroom window covered in ice patterns and thought I’d better snap a quick picture of it because it might be my most creative opportunity for the day. I was right. It was—both the only opportunity and also an exercise in creative seeing, the frigid crystals simultaneously existing as infinitely normal and startlingly beautiful.

What amazing creativity emerges naturally from ordinary things like water and cold! I wonder how much of it I miss because my eyes aren’t conditioned to look.

It is now the second week of my three-week experiment, and I am starting again, this time with a hint of a rumbly tummy that I hope is really all in my head but I can’t be sure because of THE AXIOM. But after this long, I really hope I’ve earned some immunity.

And hopefully, too, I find that it’s not so tricky to remember again how to see beauty and dabble in beauty and be energized by creative endeavors.

I have to be honest, though. If the choice is between creativity/beauty and no more vomit, I will choose “no more vomit” every time! 😉

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