Tuesday, February 18, 2014

the muffin man

A dear friend of mine recently told a story about her dad - an elderly man we'll call Charlie. Charlie has brain injuries, and dementia - a combination which could mean many things , but in his case, it's left him sweet & stubborn. He's in a long-term care home, as his needs are too high for my friend, or any one person, to manage on her own. The stories she tells us about Charlie are always full of quirky charm, and love for her father. He mixes his words a lot, but prays with fervency; he even wished the Lord a Happy New Year. A few autumns ago, he filled his room up with leaves (boxes and drawers and corners), because he was so excited about each and every one. This time, though, for this story, there is trouble in my friend's voice. "He's taking too many muffins," she says. "The staff are concerned."

Every morning with his coffee, Charlie likes a bran muffin. Not just a bran muffin. Eight. Eight or more. All of the muffins from the small cafe basket usually end up on Charlie's table. He pays for them with his own money, mind you, and because Charlie likes to share he usually offers some of the muffins to whomever might be standing around. But, bran muffins are his favorite, so you wouldn't expect him to part with too many, or pass over any that might be left available for purchase.

"He's buying us out!" The staff are upset with him. They try every morning to reason with Charlie. They tell him how unacceptable it is for him to buy all of the muffins. They try to convince him to only buy one, or at least, less than eight. They get angry.When that doesn't work, they phone my friend. "You must do something about your dad," they say, frustration lingering. "What he's doing is unreasonable."

It's unreasonable.
And isn't this the way.

photo source: link

How often do the smallest actions of others become our martyr's cause? There needs to be room in our hearts for those who act how we wouldn't, those who aren't careful enough, or too careful, and those who don't stay inside the same lines we do. But often, there's not room at all, is there? We react with a scoff, puff our chests, force our linear hand. We confuse the simple, and the good, with bad behavior*. We, like one friend said, make "mountains out of molehills, or, rather, out of muffins."

For Charlie, the story continues. The staff have been convinced to tolerate his high-count-purchasing, "for now." So, he will keep his routine. He'll delight in the simple things, and cause grief to tense onlookers by doing so.

Next time you're the onlooker, take pause and consider: am I upset about something that matters? Think of Charlie. Think of how much joy it brings a man to have his favorite food on a plate. See if you can't find something simple to delight over, too. I bet your anger would subside a little; I bet your mountain of stress might crumble into something a little smaller, a little more manageable. I bet you, too, will see you were arguing over muffins.

*A huge thank you to my friend for letting me tell this story. Her patient observations (in this case: confusing the simple & the good), her kind heart, and her contagious outlook on life, inspire me to observe & live in the same ways.

Monday, February 17, 2014

dreams come true

If you're ever wondering what it feels like to have your childhood dreams come true, imagine this:

You are five, learning to read. You are six, gazing at picture books and stories. You are seven; you can write; you make up stories; you dream of writing something good, something Munsch-like. All the while, you watch Heaven paint pictures through your mom's hands and bury within your heart a secret seed: I want to write children's books and I want my mom to illustrate them.

Fast forward. You are 30 years old. Your dreams are all pent up, but still in there. You've written some silly things. It took some time, but now, mom's been illustrating. Three decades of hope now sit on the page in moving, whimsical color. The illustrations for the project make you squeal with glee. You have a meeting with a publisher next week.

DON'T PANIC, people. It's not getting published. The meeting is preliminary, a tentative approach to what is proving to be a vast and overwhelming world: Books and the Book-Making-Process. But anyway, the point is that she's illustrating. She's illustrating for me. Cue: Happy music.

If you're ever wondering what it feels like to have your dreams come true, it feels exactly as good as you think it might, only better.

Lissy Laricchia  on flickr                  

Monday, February 3, 2014

how to pretend that your heart's not got the feels

I had, here in this spot, a lengthy thing-of-a-poem, filled with honesty, some angst, and a little hope sprinkled throughout. After a few re-reads, I canned it. It's somewhere else now, and I'm sure I'll pull it out later, have another look. I'll turn it over and see how it feels, with a bit of distance between me & the markings. Really, this is life at current: I have to hide things. I've got this step-mom thing going on, and much of this requires the ability to mask myself from time to time. Despite my efforts to the contrary, she's all I want to write about. But it's not fair to her, while I'm still navigating, to make her the subject of my public meanders. So, I digress, and try to write about something else.

Kids are all consuming. People with kids told me this before, but I turned up my nose to the idea. Surely, I can still maintain my independence. Surely, I'll still think about other things. And I do. But I think about them in spurts - in the quiet moment between waking up and waking her up, or for an hour past my own bedtime so I, for the love of God, have just a little time to have some independent thoughts. Even then, I'm mulling over the stuff of her life, our relationship, what she learned today, what I hope she learned today. I'm reading a book now - the brilliant and devastating A Thousand Splendid Suns - it makes me feel learned, socially conscious, grateful. But even when I put it down I'm thinking about the book in our context, mine and hers: how we fit, where we'll be in ten years, how lucky she is, and doesn't she know how lucky she is? No she doesn't, and I can't really tell her the extent of it, because she is still innocent and I'm trying to keep her that way.

So there you have it - even my attempts at maintaining a bit of emotional polarity aren't working. And as much as I appreciate all those mommy blogs and those few step-mommy blogs (seriously, where are the rest of them!?), I do not want to become one. I'm not entirely sure why; perhaps I feel completely useless in the parenting arena. Perhaps the snobbiness from my single days still lingers. But now, I have a kid and she's awesome and interesting, and I want to write about her. And don't even get me started on my wonder of a man; I could go on for pages and pages, and pages, and then you'd all barf, or think I was stealing lines from Nicolas Sparks but I'm telling you, his wonder is not fictional. Until I'm fascinated with something else as much as I am these people, I'm sorry, but it's got to leak through from time to time. But not too much, because reasons.

Back and forth we go.

Anyway, I saved the poem, may post it on some other date when the conversations aren't as fresh, when I've figured out how not to make a mess of this thing I'm trying to build - wherein I have intresting things to say that aren't all about one subject (no matter how captivating).


and then there's this.