Old Lesson for a New Year

 

I feel like I should write some awe-inspiring, thought-provoking, poetic post that recaps my past year or invites my new year.

I’m going to go ahead and not do that.

I don’t need that kind of pressure. And, honestly, I just don’t want to. But here’s something I would like to share.

I’ve had a lot of ups and downs this year. I’ve had wonderful days. I’ve had horrible days. *yawn* Who hasn’t? I’ve also learned a lot from my experiences throughout the year.

Of all the things I’ve learned, however, the greatest was unintentional. That’s my favorite kind.

My 8-yr-old son, who is beautiful and kind, thoughtful and sensitive, smart and funny, is also a bit quirky. He struggles. He has difficulties. Still, he is all of those things I mentioned. He is also strong. Not physically. It’s his inner strength that amazes me. And, somehow, he doesn’t use that strength to shield himself or block out the world.

To others, he may seem weak or unsure or odd or insecure but he is not. He is the strongest person I know.

I will go into the New Year holding a picture in my mind and attempting to keep its message with me. Because, at forty-one years old, I needed to be taught by my 8-yr-old son.

This shirt is the lesson. The fact that my son picked this out himself when he was seven is the lesson. That he wears it with confidence is the lesson. He is my lesson.

 

I am who I am tshirt

 

 

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Family Photos: What’s Happening Here?

 

Flipping through our phones, my husband and I look at pictures. There are soccer games, piano recitals, and little boys bundled up in winter jackets building a snowman together. There are adoring parents (that would be us) smiling at the camera. ThoughtBubble

“Aww, how cute! The one of the kids at that holiday festival.”

“Look! I love this one of us at The Nutcracker.”

“Oh, yeah,” we cringe. “That was the time when…”

We have our arms around each other. All of us are smiling. I am beaming. I will not excuse my clichéd word choice here because I am simply beaming, people. My happiness is bursting through the pixels.

Yet I know that I had just barked at one of my boys after he had a meltdown and turned Hulk on the other one after he wandered away from us into a crowd of people (again). And yet there I am all smiles.

Especially during the holidays, when we’re snapping pictures more often, I’m reminded of this.

Sometimes, what we see in a photograph is the honest, beautiful truth. But other times, it is a lucky snapshot of a moment we wish were true.

That’s life – beauty and bullshit.

 

The reality of the family behind the picture isn’t always pretty. Then again, sometimes it’s beautiful.

 

Snowman

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

 

Winter Solstice: The Longest Night

 

Today is the shortest day of the year. Each day that follows will bring more light into our lives.

Seemingly, we’re headed into the “dark” half of the year when the weather is cold and we prefer to stay inside. Sledding and building snow forts are fun but it’s a joy to step into our warm home and curl up with a cup of tea or hot chocolate. We watch more movies this time of year, snuggled on the couch with caramel popcorn.

The first day of winter is officially here. Yet we focus on the warmth and light that the solstice brings. We burn candles and celebrate the return of the sun because, gradually, the darkness is leaving.

We think about the darkness we have created or let into our lives. It’s a wonderful time of year to reflect and rid ourselves of negativity, allowing positive light in.

Let the light in.

 

Winter Solstice Sun

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

 

Questions for Writers

 

One of the blogs I always look forward to reading is Kristen’s Little Lodestar. Last week, she posted a series of questions: Nine Things I Wonder About Other Writers. Q&A time:

  1. Do you share your work with your partner or spouse? Does it matter if it’s been published yet?

My husband reads everything I write. In fact, he’s read this. I share my blog posts, essays, columns, flash fiction—before and after publication. Huh. Now that I’m writing this, I’m thinking how annoying that must be since he has limited time, too. Food for thought. He is an incredible support system, cheerleader, and proofreader when my eyes are glossed over at 1am and I’ve missed word. [“a” word] Isn’t he great?

  1. How much of your family and/or closest “friends in real life first” read your stuff…let alone give you feedback about it?

This is complicated. Family is always complicated. I’m curious to read other answers to this. As far as I know, very few family members and friends read my work. Well, you now know my husband reads my writing. One of my friends occasionally (I’m honestly not sure how often) reads my blog posts. My parents and grandmother read my Lifestyle columns. (My grandmother has a little scrapbook of my newspaper clips—love her!) However, my biggest fan, and editor, is my 8-yr-old son.

  1. What do you do with the pieces that continually get rejected–post on your blog? Trash? When do you know it’s time to let it go?

If I like a piece and it gets rejected, I won’t trash it. I keep it for a possible future opportunity or post it on my blog. I don’t submit as much as I probably should so, oftentimes, pieces sit on my computer. Waiting. Taunting me…

  1. Are there pieces you write for one very specific place that, once rejected, you just let go of, or do you rework into something else?

I’ve had pieces published after they’ve been turned down elsewhere but if I’ve written something very specific, I find it difficult to submit it to a different publication without a massive revision. I don’t like massive revision. I’ve tried it a few times but the piece loses much of what I loved about it to begin with if I try to make it more “humorous” or more “literary” or more “whatever-this-publication-wants”. It’s not genuine—it’s revised just to get published. I prefer genuine.

  1. What is your main source of reading-based inspiration (especially you essayists)? Blogs? Magazines? Journals? Anthologies? Book of essays by one writer?

Wow. This is like when someone asks me my favorite book or favorite wine. I just stand there. Like I’m doing now. Books. Just that. Generally, books. Also, blogs are a wonderful source of inspiration.

  1. What tends to spark ideas more for you: what you see/hear in daily life or what you read?

Definitely what I see and hear in daily life. I walk around this world writing in my head. I do. It’s weird. But there is so much out there that begs to be written about. The good, the bad, and the ugly—it’s all being recorded in my mind and I often write blog posts about what I’ve experienced. That being said, other blogs often spark an idea or memory that gets me thinking (and sometimes writing).

  1. Who have you read in the past year or two that you feel is completely brilliant but so underappreciated?

Oh, joy! *climbs up on soapbox* Young Adult, Middle Grade, and Children’s Lit. are so underappreciated by grown-ups and I don’t know why. There is some amazing writing out there in these genres. Go forth and grab a book not written for your age group. It’s fun.

  1. Without listing anything written by Dani Shapiro, Anne Lamott, Lee Gutkind, or Natalie Goldberg, what craft books are “must haves”?

Okay, so (“Bird by Bird”!) Stephen King’s “On Writing”. Austin Kleon, author of “Steal Like an Artist”, has a wonderful, little book chock full of awesomeness: “Show Your Work”. Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi have written “The Emotion Thesaurus” among others. “Wrede on Writing” by Patricia C. Wrede is one I haven’t read yet but I adore her writing and expect this book is fabulous—it’s in my TBR pile.

  1. Have you ever regretted having something published? Was it because of the content or the actual writing style/syntax?

You let us off the hook for our “cringeworthy” pieces for which I am grateful because this post is getting a bit long. Style/syntax…yes. Is there someone who said “no” to this? I want to be meet that person. I’m an online bartender so I don’t have many pieces I regret writing in the sense that I’ve changed my opinion or have offended someone. (Plus, let’s face it, we can offend someone by wearing bright red lipstick so I don’t worry about that too much. As an aside, I don’t wear bright red lipstick.) I do regret the pieces I’ve written that are a bit too personal—either about me or about my children.

 

I love these questions (and answers—both in the comment section at Little Lodestar and on other blogs, such as Nina Badzin, Lindsey Mead, and Lara Anderson).

 

Okay, readers of Lemon Shark, writers of anything and everything, what are your answers? Share them here, on the original post, or on your own blog. I look forward to reading them.

 

Refusing to Help My Children

 

I write a lot about pushing my kids—about when to step back and let them do things for themselves.

That’s because I am either pushing them, feel like I should push them, wonder if I should have pushed them, or regret pushing them. It’s dizzying, I know.

This is one of the worst parts of parenting. Should I give in and make things easier for my child or should I push him past his comfort zone? I must decide. And I don’t often have a lot of time in these situations. In the moment, I just want to help him. When do I stop “helping”?

I have to make these decisions too often.

It hurts me. It doesn’t always work. I feel like a horrible mother.

Sometimes, though, it hurts me, it does work, and I feel like a horrible mother.

A horrible mother who did some minor thing right. This time. Some minor thing that may or may not help my child in the future.

I was struggling to write this post when I found something online. I remember seeing this but I had forgotten how powerful it was. I cannot bring enough words together in the right way to describe this. Everything I would have said, could possibly have written, to help you understand, is in this clip.

And so, I will go and leave you to watch this poignant performance.

 

Insomnia and Putting Your Finger Up Your Nose

 

Did I say “up”? I meant “on”. Shameful trickery. ThoughtBubble

I have insomnia. I’ve tried everything. And although I (rightfully) complain when I have a cold, I am secretly happy at the end of the day because I get to take NyQuil, which helps me fall asleep.

This time of year can be extra joyful and stressful. So here’s a tip I’m thrilled to share with my fellow insomniacs and stressed-out peeps. Are you ready?

Breathe.

I’m not being cheeky—it’s special breathing.

This special kind of breathing, Pranayama, has been around for thousands of years. I’ve known about it for at least ten years and have used it for calming and de-stressing but I’ve only just started using it at night to fall asleep.

Clearly, I’m not sitting with a straight spine and smiling like you’re supposed to—slumped on my pillow with an I-can’t-sleep frown—and yet, magic! It still works.

No need for special gear (or talent, for that matter). It’s wicked easy. And free. All you need is a nose and fingers. And lungs.

Try it. You won’t be sorry.

The Art of Living

Yoga in Daily Life

Yoga Outlet

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

 

I’m in High School…Blog Style

 

There are many reasons I started a blog. Not one of them was because I completely loved the idea of writing a blog. But I do have some good reasons or I wouldn’t be here.

Now that I am here and have been for over a year (What? You have?) and can actually write reasonably well (What? You can?), I realize I’ve done something wrong by being me. Not that I have any plans to change me. I don’t. And I have no desire to be the next big thing or a “Top 10” this or a “Best Of” that. I don’t.

So, high school. Right. When I was ten twenty years younger, I found myself in a similar situation. Without the hashtags. I had a little in common with the popular kids and the nerds and the trouble-makers (or whatever you called them at your school) but I didn’t fit neatly into any of those groups. I was kind of like all the Breakfast Club kids rolled into one. (Except the athlete—I won’t even pretend.)

I fit in a bit with some online groups but not fully with any specific group. I’m floundering and writing and sharing and commenting but it’s not enough. My writing is not enough. My observations, experiences, and opinions—they are not enough. I am not enough.

It was a risk, I knew that going in, to write with my true voice. There was nowhere for me to connect. But I wasn’t going to silence myself for the online world. So I took the risk.

Time is precious and, although we all have the same number of hours in each day (unless you have a Time-Turner and, oh, please share!), our time is used for different things and in different ways. I understand that. Why waste it on something that doesn’t interest you? I really understand that.

So, here I am. A girl. Standing in front of a screen, tapping on my keyboard. I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil and will write until I die. With or without a clique. Just like high school, I’ll survive.

 

Late Night Snack

 

My husband and I are enjoying a late-night snack—relaxing after the kids go to bed. He is happily crunching on his healthy cereal as I’m munching on a leftover spring roll, drowning it in soy sauce. (No comments from the peanut gallery. Comment section below is for non-judgy-food friends only.)

ThoughtBubble

As I was saying, we were enjoying some quiet time and snacking before bed. One of the few joys we have left as parents. I’m kidding. Not really. I take a bite of my forbidden fruit, all salty and spring rolly and yummy then casually ask:

“Do you really think he should go to school tomorrow?” Munch.

“If he doesn’t have a temperature.” Crunch.

“I don’t think he’s better.” Munch.

“Well, he’s not a hundred percent better but he’s been home three days so, if there’s no temp…” Crunch.

“You know what?” Munch. “Doesn’t matter. He has to be temp-free for a day before you can send him back to school.” Munch, munch.

“Really?” Crunch. “I thought it was vomit-free for a day.”

“Nope.” Munch. “Temp. Or is it diarrhea?”

“Oh, right.” Crunch. “Could be…”

So this is our life. It is.

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

 

Brain Breaks and Books

 

I recently wrote an essay about my children’s desire to take a break from their regularly scheduled reading and pick up a picture book. In the middle of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, my 8-yr-old will read Bedtime for Bear or a Step Into Reading book. My 10-yr-old will put down his 600-page The Lost Hero and read The Adventures of Captain Underpants or an early chapter book.

I asked them why they do this. “It’s fun,” they said. But they read for fun every day. They love reading. And they certainly can read at a much higher level than these books.

My 8-yr-old explained that it was a different kind of fun.

“A brain break.”

He didn’t have to concentrate on the unfolding plot and could simply giggle at the antics of Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie.

Then I looked at the in-the-middle-of-reading / to-be-read pile next to my bed. Huh. I have Amy Tan and Gregory Maguire alongside a stack of YA novels and Patricia Wrede’s Dealing with Dragons (that would be a children’s book in case you were wondering). Also, Sense and Sensibility is hanging out right underneath Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall.

Sometimes you need a break from thought-provoking literature, heart-wrenching memoirs, historical fiction, and textbooks. Sometimes you just want to grab a book, curl up with a cup of tea and let your mind wander into magical worlds filled with wonderful stories. And, when that happens, don’t let anything (or anyone) stop you from putting the kettle on and picking up Peter Pan, Dr. Seuss, or Winnie the Pooh.

 

Sarah B Elephant and Piggie

Happy Reading!