You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2011.

Imagine my surprise, having thought I reached prompt #30 yesterday, to see a new prompt in my inbox this morning. Oh, I am silly I guess—I must have gotten off of my count somewhere this past month.

Prompt #30:

Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Mess up your hair. If you are wearing makeup – smudge it. If you have a pair of pants that dont really fit you – put them on. Put on a top that doesn’t go with those pants. Go to your sock drawer. Pull out two socks that don’t match. Different lengths, materials, colors, elasticity.

Now two shoes. You know the drill.

Need to add more? Ties? Hair clips? Stick your gut out? I trust you to go further.

Take a picture.

Get ready to post it online.

Are you feeling dread? Excitement? Is this not the image you have of yourself? Write about the fear or the thrill that this raises in you? Who do you need to look good for and what story does it tell about you? Or why don’t you care?

(Author: Matthew Stillman)

Response:

It is interesting how the quote from Emerson is talking about our internal world and our philosophies/values being misunderstood and how, in contrast, this prompt focuses solely on our outer appearances.

As far as that goes, I definitely care about my outer appearance…to a point. I want to look good for myself, and I view my clothing choices and hairstyles and use of make up as being an artistic expression. I am equally comfortable not having make-up on and just pulling my hair back. I just like to do whatever I feel like doing on any given day to feel and be as pretty as I can be. Sometimes that is embracing a sun-kissed golden face without make-up, and sometimes that means doing myself up completely. I like to feel good in my skin, and I like make-up. There is nothing wrong with make-up—it is supposed to be for fun, and it is. It’s like painting. Even if I am going minimalistic with my make-up, I usually always do my eyes. I actually like my eyes, and I like to make them stand out. I think using make-up is a way to accentuate the features of yourself that you enjoy. Having the choice to wear make-up and nail polish (I am particularly obsessed with polish on my toes and collect different colors) is part of why it is fun to be a girl.

I also liked getting dressed up in my teacher clothes and doing my hair and make-up for work. Those rituals helped me get more into the role of being an authority figure, especially since I was a young teacher. When I started staying home with the kiddos, those rituals of getting dressed, and doing hair and make-up, became a way for me to start my day, to make the line between night and day (especially pulling all nighters with newborns). Marking the shift from night to day with my dressing and grooming rituals really helped me over the post-partum hump. To me, those actions mean taking control over one’s body and one’s sense of time.

My husband, being the loving husband that he is, has expressed many times that he loves the way I look without make-up on. I actually believe him, and I know he is sincere. There are times when I like the way I look au naturale, too. I am not some hideous beast, or anything. However, I also like giving my husband novelty. I want to be desired, and I like the times when I dress up and look beautiful for him. I love Toastmasters days, because I usually always wear something nicer and take a little more time beautifying. I like for him to see me that way.

So why all this talk about make-up? Well, this prompt is all about how we present ourselves and perhaps sharing a picture that defies expectations. No kidding, I like to put the best visual images of myself forward—whether or not my hair and make-up are done. I am not sure I need to go out of my way to follow the directions of the prompt exactly—which is to try to make myself look hideous on purpose. More beautiful with make-up and hair done, or dressing up to be hideous on purpose—aren’t those both a form of costuming?

Therefore I think the best way to answer this prompt is just to share what I look like in my natural (no make-up on at all, hair not fancily styled) state:

October 2009, getting ready for Halloween with Katie (on the night we carved our pumpkins)

October 2010, cuddling with my two babies

May 2010, cuddling with my loves

January 2008, with Katie just a couple of months old (in her old room)

March 2008, a walk to the park and playing on the swings with Baby Kate

August 2010, in the yard with newborn Eric

December 2010, decorating Christmas cookies

There you have it, friends. This is what I look like much of the time, especially at night after I settle into my pajamas with freshly washed hair and all of my make-up removed. The prompt asks how I feel about posting these. I feel excited, because I like sharing who I am and special memories, and these pictures conjure up feelings of coziness for me. This is what I look like without adornment.

However, do I enjoy adorning? Oh yes! I am one of those girly-girl types in that sense. I have always loved doing tomboy things and girly things just about equally. Make-up, jewelry, experimenting with clothes—that is a form of play time for me!

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“If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.”

Puck, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare)

The season of flowers and growing gardens, the magical late summer twilight, and the celebration of the imagination are our inspirations for celebrating Midsummer’s Eve every year at Hummingbird House. Usually we celebrate it a day or two after the summer solstice, but we postponed our festivities at the last moment this year because our schedule was so bustling last week. One of these years I hope to turn it into a playdate event for Katie and Eric’s playmates and friends—but this requires getting my act together much more in advance than I normally do at this time of year! I think I will make it a goal for next year, because it would be so much fun to see all the little fairies and sparrowmen running around and eating fairy cakes together! Fortunately, I was able to get some ideas for crafts and such from the fairy festival we went to this year, so turning it into a craft-and-play-date with friends would be easier next year.

Getting ready to decorate the miniature fairy cakes. Legend has it that fairies come to eat the leftover cakes, so they need to be tiny…

Eric’s first Midsummer’s Eve (I have pixie dust in my hair, by the way)

Decorating the fairy cakes—Katie chose pink icing this year!

Fairy cakes

Drinking syllabub, the drink of the fairies. We make ours with sparkling apple-grape cider and heavy whipped cream. Delicious!

Fairy cakes, candles, syllabub, flowers, a fairy terrarium, and the fairy house we made…Come on, fairies, you know you want to stop by tonight to play here!

Celebrating summer…and imagination…and magic…

Katie sprinkled pixie dust (glitter) all over the yard. She LOVED that. We hope the pixie dust attracts the fairies to our house tonight when it glistens in the moonlight.

Katie made a fairy lake in the grass out of water, flowers, and pixie dust. If I were a fairy, I would SO want to play in there, wouldn’t you?

Eric loved the fairy cakes! We make ours with both vanilla and almond extracts, so they are taste like tiny almond cakes.

Syllabub nose!

Hula hooping fairy!

My mom

Bill and my dad

Katie decorates her hair with a flower

Pixie Katie

Fairy dust on the lemon tree

Happy Summer to ALL!

Prompt #30:

Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Imagine your future self, ie, you 10 years from now. If he/she were to send you a tweet or text message, 1) what would it say and 2) how would that transform your life or change something you’re doing, thinking, believing or saying today?

(Author: Tia Singh)

 

Text from my future self:

Go downstairs and play with your kiddos instead of taking time to respond to this prompt. It is time for your Midsummer Night’s Eve celebration, after all! Enjoy this time…

Prompt #29:

Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Write down a major life goal you have yet to achieve or even begin to take action on. For each goal, write down three uncertainties (read: fears) you have relating to each goal. Break it down further, and write down three reasons for each uncertainty. When you have three reasons for your fear, you’ll be able to start processing the change because you know where the fear stems from. Now you’ll be able to make a smaller changes that push you towards your larger goal. So begins the process of “trusting yourself.”

(Author: Sean Ogle)

Response:

This question seems to explore a familiar theme, and I feel as though I have addressed this for myself a few times already. So I am going to chart a new route through these waters.

One of my favorite literary characters Atticus Finch once explained that you have to have the courage to walk around in someone else’s skin, if you really want to understand her. I have been reminded of this the past few days, as Katie’s relationship with swimming continues to unfold. A couple of readers have asked for updates about how she is doing this week, and it just so happens that a conversation about “fear” is highly relevant here.

After a joyous day of swimming with Boppa and with me last week, Katie seemed to be her usual self in the pool. She still sat out all of her class last week, but I was content that her fear seemed to extend only to her class. Taking her swimming again this weekend, we were having fun together when all of the sudden—she seemed to panic, catching hold of the thought that I might drop her (AS IF!) and then, despite assurances that I wouldn’t ever drop her, she wanted out of the pool immediately. This was a difficult moment for me, because now it seemed as though we were regressing: not only did she not want to take her class to learn new skills, but now she was refusing to practice the skills (jumping off the wall, crab walking, etc) that we learned last year in our mommy and me class.

Bewildering. Never once has she been afraid of the water, the pool. She started swimming with me when she was nine months old in her Nana’s pool. I have often described her as fearless when it comes to the water, and now I see her trepidation growing.

I have had to take yet another step back from this and not worry about it, while at the same time I owe it to her to try to be inside of her skin and understand her fear. One thing I know for sure: it has grown bigger by sitting in her head. Her fear feels bigger than she is.

So it has been time to back up and change strategies. I haven’t made her go to class for the past two days. Of course I wonder if this is ethically the best decision—I was never a class cutter, myself. Yet it seems to me that, in the time that she has been sitting watching her class, perhaps the fear has had time to fester. She was begging not to go to class this morning. Maybe the thing I need to do in this case is just back off, let it recede from her immediate awareness. I feel like I am bungling this swimming gig with her left and right. I don’t know what to do…except, I know it begins with understanding her fear and finding empathy for it.

And what do I fear? I fear that her life will be bound in by fear. I worry that this will keep her from living her life to the most passionate, most curious extent. I fear that she will miss out, that she won’t let herself feel it all. I worry that she will limit herself, will not experience the true joy of utter abandonment to life’s simplest pleasures. I worry that this is a trend, and not a phase. I worry that I am an inadequate guide for her. I worry that I will not know how to help her… How do I guide her to peace within herself?

So I did today what all mother’s do when faced with these challenges: I pulled up on my bootstraps, and started anew. Katie asked me to stay home from Toastmasters today, and so I did. We made a yogurt pops (ice, strawberry Greek yogurt, lowfat milk, bananas, and strawberries) and froze them in our popsicle maker tray. I got out the wading pool and filled it up to let the sun warm it, and by the afternoon, we were all playing in it happily and eating our treats. Katie was jumping, somersaulting in the water, floating on her back. We cheered for her and I told her, “You were created for the water! You are my water girl.” She shouted both of these ideas at the top of her merry lungs. She was happy and not fearful at all. Maybe she just needs to feel the absence of any pressure, class included.

We also painted items for Boppa’s birthday (on Friday), and she helped me to sew some more pennants for Eric’s birthday bunting while he slept. We read a little, and just enjoyed our day. It is feeling so much like a magical summer to me. Bare feet…the scent of sunblock…fresh fruit…afternoon light…bathing suits…frozen treats… Lovely.

 

 

Prompt #28:

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. If we follow the truth, it will bring us out safe at last. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

When did you feel most alive recently? Where were you? What did you smell? What sights and sounds did you experience? Capture that moment on paper and recall that feeling. Then, when it’s time to create something, read your own words to reclaim a sense of being to motivate you to complete a task at hand.

(Author: Sam Davidson)

Response:

Opening the car windows as we roll across the bridge connecting Newport Beach and Balboa Island, we suddenly inhale the fresh ocean air, feel its softness on our hair, the salt just slightly tingling the nose and tongue. We hear the call of boats, the swish of the ferry, the pleasant chatter of pedestrians, the thwunk thwunk of the flag on the flagpole in the wind, the raspy voice of the seagulls.

Although I have been to Newport Beach many times to see Grandpa Yoder, I have not been to Balboa Island for three years—in all the time that has passed since my Grandpa Don died. Bill and I enjoyed many summer days in Grandpa Don’s apartment, overlooking the bay: I took walks while pregnant with Katie there, and I remember ordering her rug on the phone from one of the recliners as I planned her nursery. Even after Katie was born, we took her once, and a month later we said goodbye to Grandpa Don. I have not been since then, at first because it was too painful, and eventually because my dad and his siblings let the apartment to another renter. Now another space in the Matics-Lambert-Horne building has opened up, and the MLH family has been turning that into the new island set-up.

I felt alive today, connecting with my family history, and connecting that history to the present of my children. I felt alive soaring as high as the birds while on the Ferris wheel on the pier with Katie. I felt invigorated breathing the salt air, savoring the golden glint of the sun on the bay, watching the sailboats and kayaks go by. It was beautiful to be there again. I haven’t realized how much I had missed it.

Looking out from the rooftop of the Matics-Lambert-Horne building, 500 S. Bayfront, I looked over in the direction of Grandpa Yoder’s house in Newport Beach. Not very far away, as the crow flies. I thought about both of my grandfathers, and how this space represents both of them, and how they are no longer here. I felt something beyond sadness, but not pain or grief. It was almost surreal, but I felt like part of them were both alive with me in that moment; there was a true connection to my family history in that moment.

Memorable moments today included taking the kiddos on the ferry across the bay. My dad used to captain the ferry several decades ago, and I got to tell Katie and Eric all about that. Both children were enchanted with the ferry, and Eric in particular was excited, earnest in his studying of it, and captivated by the waves and the seagulls and everything he saw. I felt like the Island must be in his blood a little. Of course his red hair makes me think of Grandpa Don often, who was called Big Red in high school for his bright red hair.

Katie and I went on the Ferris wheel and the merry-go-round on the pier. She loved both, especially the Ferris wheel. The view is spectacular, and I felt like we were flying. I thought about how much happiness we have in our lives right now, how much to enjoy in the moment and also to look forward to (my mom booked our family Hawaii trip yesterday), and how we have only to claim these magical experiences that are just waiting out there for us. Katie enjoyed a corn dog (pier food is a must), and the children and I shared a swirled ice cream.

In the later afternoon before dinner, we took a walk down the bayfront, enjoying the houses and their gardens and the fading light on the water. I remember SO vividly taking that same walk while pregnant with Katie; it reminds me so much of her. I also remember a bike ride that my dad and I took down that path once.

The kiddos and I also made sure to sit right on Grandpa Don’s spot on the sea wall outside of the Island Grill and the Island Market—the spot he used to sit in every day to eat his lunch. Although my family still owns that whole building, MLH no longer owns the business of the market and the business of the grill. I still feel connected to each, though. I remember being a little girl in that market, helping Grandpa Don. My dad and Uncle George took over much of the business in the 1980s. I helped my dad get the oranges for the fresh orange juice, and I remember well their butcher counter (which no longer exists). My dad made decisions of true quality in that store, and it is not the same going in there now. I remember going to work with him in the Island Grill, too, when I was 9 and 10 years old. I worked a full day with him in there—once my Great-Grandparent Matics’ cafe—and loved it. I have two of my great-grandparents’ cafe menus framed and hung in my kitchen.

We have, of course, so many pictures from our day! It was magical!

Prompt #27:

I do not wish to expiate, but to live. My life is for itself and not for a spectacle. I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain, so it be genuine and equal, than that it should be glittering and unsteady. I wish it to be sound and sweet, and not to need diet and bleeding. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Think about the type of person you’d NEVER want to be 5 years from now. Write out your own personal recipe to prevent this from happening and commit to following it. “Thought is the seed of action.”

(Prompt Author: Harley Schreiber)

 

Response:

 

Sarah’s Magic Heart Sauce

2 cups ocean tide at twilight

1/2 cup of the sound of kisses, in liquid form (available at specialty stores)

4 Tb stardust

2 Tb squelchy mud

1 t  crushed marigold

1 t baby shampoo

1 t  pure maple syrup

1 t first rain

1/2 t fresh rosemary

1/2 t finely minced candy canes

A sprinkle of moonlight and rose petals to taste

Directions: Combine the squelchy mud and the stardust over medium low heat to make a roux. Cook, stirring constantly, for a few minutes, until the stardust no longer tastes raw. Slowly pour in the ocean tide, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Continue whisking, and add the liquid kisses. Stir with a wooden spoon over medium heat until mixture begins to coat the back of the spoon. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until thickened.

Happy birthday to my Oneness!

We celebrated with Bill’s brothers and sisters-in-law. There are always track meets on at this time of year, and Bill and his brothers are big track and field fans. So we set up the party for the family room, so that we could have today’s meet on. Katie helped me to hang the “Happy Birthday” banner on the fireplace, and we had an easy lunch of sandwiches, potato salad, grapes, and chips. Bill, who is doing so well on his weight loss quest, requested a lighter dessert of an angel food cake with fresh strawberries, a touch of whipped cream, and a drizzling of chocolate.

 

Eric and Uncle Pat

Katie showed Uncle Chet all of her favorite toys

Katie adores her Uncle Chet. She has talked about seeing him and has counted down the days to Bill’s party. He was all she could talk about this morning, and she watched the window for their car. They played together almost all day…she wanted to sit by him for every part of the meal, they read together, she showed him the shed in the backyard, took him to her room, wanted to serve him his cake. I see such a sweet love between the two of them. I am hoping we get to go birding with him soon—that is an area of expertise for him—and Katie has been asking since he left when we will get to see him again.

A present: The Beginning of Infinity!

Katie’s present to Daddy: she drew a grey sun in the middle and planets orbiting around it. She came up with that idea on her own. She loves outer space. The writing in green is meant to say, “Happy birthday Daddy. I love you.”

Making a wish!

Opening presents

Eric really laughed and smiled at Uncle Seth. They did quite a bit of drumming together.

Drumming with Uncle Seth

Opening presents

Showing Uncle Chet her cake hands

Festivities

Bill opens more presents

What a fun time with family this afternoon! Love you guys!

Prompt #26:

The secret of fortune is joy in our hands. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

What if today, right now, no jokes at all, you were actually in charge, the boss, the Head Honcho. Write the “call to arms” note you’re sending to everyone (staff, customers, suppliers, Board) charting the path ahead for the next 12 months and the next 5 years. Now take this manifesto, print it out somewhere you can see, preferably in big letters you can read from your chair.

You’re just written your own job description. You know what you have to do. Go!

(bonus: send it to the CEO with the title “The things we absolutely have to get right – nothing else matters.”)

(Author: Sasha Dichter)

Response:

I am the CEO of the McGaugh Household. And my call to arms is simple:

Live with passion, play with joy, and work with an earnest heart. Have a heart of service to each other. Make the most of time with family, because it will go too quickly. Learn what you can, how you can, when you can—every day.

Prompt #25:

Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

We are our most potent at our most ordinary. And yet most of us discount our “ordinary” because it is, well, ordinary. Or so we believe. But my ordinary is not yours. Three things block us from putting down our clever and picking up our ordinary: false comparisons with others (I’m not as good a writer as _____), false expectations of ourselves (I should be on the NYTimes best seller list or not write at all), and false investments in a story (it’s all been written before, I shouldn’t bother). What are your false comparisons? What are your false expectations? What are your false investments in a story? List them. Each keep you from that internal knowing about which Emerson writes. Each keeps you from making your strong offer to the world. Put down your clever, and pick up your ordinary.

(Prompt Author: Patti Digh)

I am not totally following parts of this prompt well, but it seems in part to be talking about going toward our authentic selves and letting our charisma develop from embracing our ordinariness. I am not sure, quite, how Digh is defining “ordinary” here, but I think she might be hinting that it is our “everyday selves.” Anyway, it is too late at night for me to probe that aspect of the question as much as I should.

In fact, I am not going to get around to answering this prompt fully tonight. I will say that I don’t believe in comparing myself to others, have spent years trying to train my mind to view life differently than that, and I get uncomfortable when I sense a person comparing himself to me. Sure, possibly the human instinct is to compare, but whenever I notice myself having such a thought, I try not to sit inside of that mindset very long at all. I don’t think it is healthy for me. I decided in high school that the only person I can compare myself to is myself. I know when I am doing my best, and when I am lacking. Comparing oneself to others leads either to arrogance or to envy, neither of which are healthy or appealing. We are all equally great at being ourselves, and we really don’t need to try to be anything else. I believe that other people can serve as inspiration, but that requires us to see their accomplishments through a lens of appreciation for the beauty of those accomplishments, not a lens of jealousy. Envy is far, far from inspiring; it is a prison of our own making even when we can’t see the bars. What can we really accomplish if we are overcome with such darkness? Least of all, a position of constant comparison with others means that we really cannot work well with anyone else. If we think we can beat someone in value, are we really seeing that person as a whole, authentic, lovely self? Or as just a pawn? If we see someone as a whole person, and if we see ourselves as a whole person, how can we make a valid comparison at all? Comparisons are only possible if we refuse to see the whole beauty of a fellow human being. If we see the whole beauty, then we know that comparisons are pointless because each person is unique.

And that’s as far as I am going for now. Good night!

This afternoon we drove out to our friend Sana’s house for a playdate with her friendly and welcoming children Cameron, Ella, and Quentin. Katie had so much fun playing with Ella in their art room, and Eric and I enjoyed a dip in the pool. Sana served a lunch that tasted totally of summer: a cilantro, onion, and tomato salad dressed with oil, lemon, and salt; rice and beans; goat cheese; orange iced tea with honey; a hearty wheat baguette; and fruit GALORE! Plus yogurt and fruit popsicles for the kiddos… I love cilantro but have never had it that way, and I loved it! Maybe now the cilantro in my garden will get more use. It is wonderful—one of life’s true pleasures—to feed and nourish the body in the right way.

What a pleasant way to relish the afternoon. Who doesn’t love, and thrive on, good friendship, conversation, laughter, sunlight, and a tasty lunch? It inspires me to want to reach out and nurture other budding friendships with some of the people I’ve been lucky to meet since Katie was born. Those connections are such gifts; friendships give life such joy.

Here are a few other happy moments recently:

Eric’s first time in a pool!

Happy Katie after her swim the other day

In the pool with Mommy

Happy splashing boy!

Eric plays in the pool with Boppa.

A few days ago we were getting dressed in the morning, and I came across Katie playing in the bathroom. She had gotten out the baby tub and was filling it up with water the way I used to do for Eric. She was pretending to be a mommy to her favorite stuffed animal, and she was mimicking what she has seen me do. Cuteness!

Filling the tub…

Then she plunked Lisa into the bath, full submersion. Well, that’s what dryers are for, right?

On her own, she decided to clean out Lisa’s ears with a baby q-tip. She is a great mommy!