Monday, July 28, 2008

If nothing ever changed there'd be no butterflies

As parents we know that our children are only 'ours' for a short time. Our job is to do our best to guide them through their childhood, helping them learn the skills they'll need to live satisfying, productive lives as adults.

Khalil Gibran says it best:

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts. For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

Two of my three children have grown beautiful butterfly wings and have fluttered off in recent days and months. I am extremely proud of them both. I am also excited for them both. Their futures are bright and shiny. What more could a parent wish for a child?

And yet... change is hard for the ones left behind. My girls' chairs are noticeably empty at the dinner table. The chatter and banter of 3 young people living under one roof has disappeared. Brian Kiely, in a long-ago Unitarian sermon on "Centering" said, "... change may be exciting, but it may not always be entirely welcome, even when the change is for the better..... In spiritual terms, this yearning for the familiar translates into a desire for centeredness. It has many names: balance, groundedness, a sense of place, a sense of self, a sense of purpose, an ability to cope. What these terms all try to describe in their inadequate and merely human language is a feeling of well being, that all is right with the world, that we will, with no question at all, come through the latest challenge alright. Change may be exciting, but I believe that in the face of an uncertain world, most of us long for certainty. In the raging of the whirlwind we wish for the calm of the storm's center."

Daughter #3 and I have brainstormed ideas to adapt to these changes. There is now even more room at our table for interesting guests. Eating at restaurants is more affordable with just the two of us. Being vegetarians, we no longer need to cook meat for the others and can put more energy into cooking creative vegetarian meals. We've talked about offering up the empty bedrooms to young people who may temporarily be without a home. Perhaps we will find a new home where we can start new routines, new family rituals. The missing family members will always be missed, but we will make the most of our new situation. In fact, we will try to make our new situation one that will be an enriching one for us as well.

Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights. ~Pauline R. Kezer

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Leslie says it's time to post...

...and from what I can tell, Leslie always gets what she wants. Trouble is, she may regret it this time for today's topic is the riveting one of Composting.

I can already hear Leslie yawning.

Okay Leslie, before you pass on reading this post, let me tell you that there is a very important lesson for writers hidden in the words, and you're a writer, whether you refer to yourself as one or not. So please, bear with me.

Once upon a time, in what seems like a previous life, my family was seriously into composting. By the time my children were preschoolers, they knew how to sort all our household recyclables, including compostable items. We took it so seriously that the girls, on their own initiative, brought home their apple cores and orange peels from kindergarten to put in the compost bin. They got as excited as I did about watching our kitchen scraps turn (magically) into beautiful soil. (Quit rolling your eyes, Leslie.)

But then we moved to a new community, one where bears, skunks, raccoons and yes, rats and mice frequented our backyard and I felt it was no longer wise to engage in backyard composting.
Well, last week I changed my mind. I miss composting. (Leslie, I said to quit rolling your eyes.) A little research convinced me that done properly, I could backyard compost without attracting the unwanted wildlife.

So, I brought home a compost bin made out of recycled plastic. Trouble is, it needed assembling and there were about 200 pieces. I asked my youngest daughter ~ the straight 'A' student ~ to build it for me as I have never been good at that sort of thing. She was indignant and asked why it was that her father and I always treat her like a boy, giving her the boy-type jobs. Clearly I've failed in my effort to raise a non-sexist daughter, but I swallowed and suggested we build it together. She agreed, reluctantly.

It was even harder than I imagined, but eventually we'd snapped all the plastic pieces together. All that was left to attach was the sliding door, but when we went to slide it into place we discovered that one of the very first pieces we'd assembled had been put in backwards, preventing the door from sliding shut. The entire thing had to be taken apart in order to correct the problem.

Well, disassembling the unit was even harder than assembling it, and very quickly my daughter bailed. I was left standing in the garden, gnashing my teeth, trying to pry apart the pieces, but they held fast. Daughter #1 made a surprise visit and found me there, cursing loudly as I tried to snap it apart. Building the composter had turned me into a monster. "Why can't anything be simple?" I wailed.

She advised me to take some deep breaths, and together, with a lot of effort, we disassembled and reassembled it. The composter was ready to start doing it's work.

Now to start retraining my daughters. Yesterday I found a banana skin in the garbage. THE GARBAGE! That delinquent daughter won't soon forget that we are now putting our compostables into a separate bucket.

Okay, Leslie, now that you've finished gagging, I'll tell you where the lesson for writers comes in. I'd like you to think of your brain as a compost bin. Hang on. It's not so bad. You see, just as our kitchen and yard scraps get thrown together on the heap, eventually turning into a beautiful rich garden material , so do all the random thoughts and ideas that we put into our brains turn into rich story material. One little idea alone does not turn into a beautiful, multi-layered story but the combination of ideas that we've been collecting for years do compost and turn into something new and fresh. When you begin to write your story, you don't need to worry about where the original ideas will come from because they've been composting in your brain for years, ready and waiting to nourish a new story.

So Leslie... pick up that pen and start writing.

With love,