Monthly Archives: June 2010

Not Today

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Tomorrow I will count all my blessings, not the few dollars I have in the bank.

Tomorrow I will try a new recipe and beam as my family showers me with praise.  I’m a natural gourmet chef in the kitchen!  I  just threw this together…

But not today.

Today I can’t get up off my knees.

Today my head is in my hands.

Today I’m arrogant enough to believe that I am the only one You have forgotten.

Yesterday I gave my husband a big ole wet sloppy kiss and made him feel like a teenager, if you know what I mean…

But not today.

Yesterday I had a camp out in the middle of the living room floor with my best girl.  We ate s’mores and sang every song to Cats…out of tune and off key.  We laughed at our silliness.  Even the dog seemed to enjoy it!

But not today.

Yesterday I knew that she knew that I got up a half hour early every day to tell the sun to shine.  I put the stars in the sky and hung the moon.

But not today.

Today the darkness came.  Don’t know how it came, but when it comes, it comes.

Tomorrow I will smile to my friends and coworkers and joke and make small talk….she wore what?!  He said that?!  I’ll be a hit at work with my wit and charm.

Tomorrow I’ll hold my head up and know the darkness didn’t matter. I won’t know how it went away.

But not today.

Tomorrow I will get up off my knees.

But not today.

©Mary Flanagan Taylor,  June 30,2010

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Campfire, canoeing…and commitment

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purple tennis shoes

As many of you know, I sent Kate to camp…or rather allowed her to go after two years of relentless begging, pleading, and slipping notes to me under the bathroom door.  I viewed camp not as a place for nurturing and fostering friendships and a sense of independence, but rather, a mosquito infested bedlam of ten year olds who eat junk food, swim without sunscreen, and don’t bathe because we just aren’t there to tell them to do so.  Nor did the thought of surrendering my only child  to the care of some kid in the throws of teenage angst appeal to me.

After much research, prayer, asking my husband a gazillion times for his opinion, and a few glasses of wine, I relented.  But she was going to go prepared.

I set out a couple of weeks before camp to procure the essential “camp gear.”  I got a sleeping bag, an extra pair of tennis shoes, an adorable swim suit, herbal bug repellent, 80 SPF sunscreen, cute PJs, tons of shorts and t shirts, little travel size toiletries(all sorts…she didn’t use most of this stuff at home, but this had no bearing on my purchasing frenzy), a pillow, a flashlight, sheets, throws, rain jacket, a laundry bag, paper, envelopes, stamps, pens, extra socks and wine (for me).  Two hours and ten grand later, my kid was ready for camp…or perhaps a year away from home in the Yukon.

Now, I’ve never been one of those moms who needs a “break” from my kid with camp being a logical and guilt free way of acquiring alone time to get reacquainted with my spouse or my sanity. I approached the camp idea with dread–this was a week without my kid I would never get back–her independence aside, I was selfish and didn’t want to be separated for a week.

As camp day grew closer, all that began to change.  I had a list spanning five note book pages of stuff I was going to accomplish during her retreat.  The thought of setting a cup of coffee down without fear of having it knocked over by a rambunctious kiddo was, no doubt, enticing.

As we drove through the Gasper River campgrounds, Brian and I were becharmed by the beauty of the place.  Trees, grass, hills, and a real, honest to God river(the cleanest one around, I was told) absolutely took my breath away.  What a far cry from our concrete cul de sac! The mere thought of Kate sitting around a campfire singing Kumbaya sent my heart soaring.  In the car, just before disembarking, Kate said, in a low and gravelly voice filled with abject fear (but what I mistook for the need for parental reassurance), “I’m kinda scared to go.”  “I know, honey, this is new to you, but give it a chance…all your friends are at the check in waitin’ for ya…it’ll be fun…look, there’s the pool!(as if she were some easily distracted golden retriever).  Think of all the late nights, singing, swimming…this is your vacation You’ll love it!”  Even I thought I was laying it on a little thick.

The week sans child was passing slowly…I missed her.  But, hey, I’m all about life lessons and I knew this was a serious step towards independence.  I had glorious visions of pick up day whereby I’d retrieve a suntanned, sweaty, exuberant, ten year old who, well, would probably smell…like a ten year old who’d been at camp for a week. I had a tough, independence craving kid who could spend a week away from home and return a wiser, stronger sixth grader.

Suddenly in the midst of my camp Hiawatha fantasies, a needle screeches across vinyl and I have a serious reality check.  I get The Phone Call.  I answer the phone and “Ben” identifies himself as one of the Gasper River counselors, and upon hearing my dread soaked salutation, responds with, “Kate is fine…she’s had a great week…but…she’s crying and a bit homesick…can you talk to her?” Of course.  Kate, sobbing and incoherent, wants me to come get her.  I establish that she is not being hurt, ostracized, bullied, or otherwise mistreated. I tried to joke with her, to no avail. Speaking from experience, once the ugly cry is unleashed, it’s hard to reign it in.  I couldn’t even elicit a giggle.  Finally, I pulled the mean mom card.  “You have to stay. You made a commitment and you have to see it through,” I calmly explain.  She’s taken aback.  She didn’t expect this. She had a day and half left of camp and she never had to do it again, but I wasn’t about to let her just quit. After a lengthy conversation, I hung up, my face in my hands, convinced my kid would be scarred for life by the mom who wouldn’t drop everything and come get her.

Enter uninvited life lesson.  Keep your commitments.  Trust that you can see it through and gain insight and strength just from toughing it out. It’s easy to quit midstream, cut your losses and just go to the house.  How many times have we given up on a job, a spouse, a project, God, a wayward kid, or a dream because either it was too hard, uncomfortable, or we just didn’t see the desired results soon enough?  I’m absolutely guilty.  I know Kate will break commitments to herself and to others on her life’s journey.  If she’s anything like her hot-headed, ill tempered mother, she may even walk off a job…or two.  But it is my parental responsibility to lay the groundwork for her, and sometimes it’s hard.  I wasn’t sure I had done the right thing.

Ben called a few hours later and told me Kate was having a great time.  They tend to dote a bit more on the ones who get homesick and for that I was grateful.  He thanked me for trusting she was in good hands. Hey, I know I won’t always be around.  I like to think I will, in many ways, always be her “center.” But as she grows older, that circle will widen and she’ll have to depend on herself and allow the kindness of others to help her along the way.

Camp week ended and I felt I was moving in slow motion as the parents assembled to be reunited with our kids. I met Ben before the kids came in.  He was a large bear of a man, standing over six feet tall.  I felt small (yeah, me!) as his large hand engulfed and shook mine.  After a brief conversation, I felt a bond had been forged between parent and counselor. Brian and I waited in the dining hall for the kids to come in and like an Emperor penguin that can recognize its mate by the sound of its voice in a throng of identical penguins, I identified my own offspring in a sea of blonde, sunkissed, four footers.  She was smiling( a good sign), and she smelled like sweat and sunscreen.  I drank it in as I held her tight, both of us having seen through a decision.

She mentioned on the way home that she wanted to come back next year. Fabulous.

©Mary Flanagan Taylor June 6, 2010

gasper river

Gasper River

Happy Father’s Day!

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He spends the entire year, day in and day, out making sure dogs are walked, lawns are mowed, and mysterious night time noises are investigated.  He makes sure my hands never touch a bag of trash and makes a quick pass through the house each night, making sure all the doors and windows are locked. He still sings a song to his daughter each night and prays with her. He can clean a bathroom, change a tire, grill a steak, and help make a volcano for a fourth grade science project–all in one day.  He listens attentively to a fifth grade girl’s monologues on whatever she’s into this week. Although he loves the minute or two of attention his one day a year affords him(and really, isn’t that about all we give ’em?)…this is EXACTLY how he wants to spend Father’s Day!brian in a reclinerEnjoy your day, honey…

What is your standard of living?

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I drive a nine year old car(that’s considered an old car according to the standards of many of the people I know).  My husband’s car is 16 years old. Imagine that!  My home covers about 1000 square feet, but it’s easy to heat and cool and we have a garden out back.  I lament the fact that our standard of living in this country is solely based on how much money we make and the things we possess.  My standard of living is solely based on my deep seated convictions and morals and my contentment(not fleeting happiness based on my mood, how my day went, or my dwindling bank account).  I know my daughter doesn’t care how much money I make or if I wear make up, or if my clothes are new. She cares when I listen without judging her when she speaks.  She cares when we make dinner together.  She cares when we spend the day in our PJ’s reading books.  She, too, has a standard of living, and it’s not based on economics.   She is the exception–and it didn’t happen by chance.  We made a conscious decision to live the way we do and to teach our daughter by example.

I work a job that eliminates the need for my true, innate abilities–that of nurturer and caretaker.  It requires not an ounce of my creative abilities.  It requires me to repeatedly lift boxes, move stuff from here to there, and to count someone else’s money.  I see the faces of my bosses and coworkers on a daily basis–faces filled with misery and absolute abhorance of a retail job for a faceless corporation that is stealing our very souls. The merchandise, the store, the land itself, does not belong to us, yet some have chosen to give the best years of their lives to sustain it.  I work this job because I have to. I jumped on the corporate bandwagon in my mid twenties and quickly jumped off, only to be dragged behind it–for years. It is not where I want to stay, but until I reach my goal of being self sustaining, we all still have to eat.  How many of you can probably say the same thing about your own jobs?  We’ve become indentured servants to our mortgages, our car payments, and our kate facing sunshine overall economic standard of living. We live in a country where paid maternity leave must be earned.  Am I the only one who sees something wrong with that?  We are the richest nation, but misery, depression, isolation, drug addictions, and loneliness have permeated our society like a fast spreading cancer.  I want a different path–one I cannot purchase, that I don’t have to wait to get promoted to, and one I won’t retire from only to live out my last days too old and broken to enjoy.  ©Mary Flanagan Taylor June 19, 2010

“Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.”
Wendell Berry, brilliant Kentuckian

American Idle

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Are you feeling sluggish, tired, and stressed out?  Are you bored with your nightly routine?  Do you have trouble falling asleep because your brain is on information overload? Do you have trouble losing weight? Is it hard for you to keep up with all the new technology? Are you tired of talking heads telling you the world is coming to an end? Are you tired of being told that you need to go on a vacation or to buy something to alleviate your unhappiness?  Are you tired of being misled?  Is your brain turning to MUSH??? Maybe you should try turning off your TV.

Side effects of turning off your TV may include:  Spending more time talking to your spouse, playing in the yard with your kids, less headaches, the ability to think for yourself, a keener sense of what really makes youpicture of an old TV happy,  less stress to keep up with what everyone else has, weight loss, enough sleep and downright peace and serenity.

Talk to your doctor to see if turning off the TV is right for you.

©Mary Flanagan Taylor June 16, 2010

I married a non-conformist ax murderer.

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Brian...in his natural habitat

Ok, so he’s not really an ax murderer…I tend to have a flair for the dramatic.  Ask anybody.  But I did marry the King of Non-Conformity and Eccentricity, and he certainly wears the royal honor with pride. His kingdom is a small organic garden out back.  Most afternoons in the spring and summer will find him surveying his kingdom wearing normal gardening attire….complete with a boonie cap and desert boots from his 18 month all expenses paid vacation to the Middle East five years ago.  He may be hovering over his rabbit ravaged edamame or his flourishing garlic. Or clipping lavender for our tea later.

“Honey,” he says, giving his spectacles a quick adjustment, as he is wont to do when he is giving something serious thought. “You know what I really want to do?”  I look up from writing the next Great American novel…ok, my facebooking.  “Sweep me off my feet and take me on a European vacation?”  “No,” and he doesn’t miss a beat here…He looks up from reading his favorite online magazine, Mother Earth News.  “I want to buy ten acres of land and build a house on it…ourselves.”  I wait…I know he ain’t done.  “….out of mud….”  huh?  “….with solar panels and a wood burning stove… maybe a cistern, rain water collection..or maybe a well..” He’s losin’ me.  “…we’d be self sustaining with bio intensive mini farming….” fadin’ fast…. “…and goats for meat and milk and…” Wait! What? Goats?!  Now, I’m starting to panic and  have visions of dirty hair and a white trash stigma that a yard full of goats and rain barrels will certainly provide.

Before he downloads a recipe for making our own toothpaste or how to sew our own clothes out of hemp, we need to have a come-to-Jesus meeting…post haste.  I’ll concede to buying most of our consumables at the farmer’s market.  I enjoy supporting the local economy; shaking my fist at big, faceless corporations, eating cleaner, and recycling my cardboard and aluminum.   You could definitely talk me into buying a hybrid car. But a mud house and grazing goats.  I draw the green line there, Al Gore.

I recently saw an episode of Oprah with Ed Begley, Jr– Hollywood’s trailblazing environmentalist.  Ed’s sitting on his deck, peddling a stationary bike to produce enough energy to toast bread. His wife is only partially on board with his bohemian lifestyle; I feel her pain.

I love my husband. I do, I do.  For better or worse.  However, I don’t remember agreeing before God, family, and friends to suffer through bouts of complete insanity in our wedding vows–I may have found a loophole here.  On the bright side, at least he’s not asking me to live in a glass house.  “Of course not…a glass house wouldn’t be energy efficient,” he says. Sigh… So we are at an impasse.  He with his need to have zero utility bills and live “off the grid” in a mud hut and I with my need to bathe regularly in a goat free environment.  Wait…didn’t I read recently that Leonardo DiCaprio wants to build a house out of mud…?

©Mary Flanagan Taylor June 13, 2010