I Love You For Sentimental Reasons

I am a saver. On the border of a hoarder, but still safely on the saver side. Regardless, it’s clear some culling needs to be done. It’s best to have someone stern and unattached help you with this project because there’s nothing more clarifying than having that somebody snatch the third identical teapot from your gooey grip and slap you upside the head.

But I collect them! I complain.

Try collecting common sense. You’re giving them away, says the indifferent voice dishing sage advice.

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Harsh, but true. And harsh is what’s needed when trying to part with things you’ve imprinted memories and value onto. Every morning, as I rummage around in my drawer for something to wear, I lay eyes on my “Polish Princess” t-shirt from eighth grade. I remember wearing that top to school as a thirteen-year old, catching the eye of my science teacher whose ancestry was Bohemian, and starting a two year Slavic supremacy war with the man—each of us determined to ethnically best one another. I therefore became wholly determined to prove my people’s intellectual preeminence and studied like a madman. Without that shirt I would likely never have received such stellar grades in his class. That shirt was a foundation of who I was. How could I give it away?

Then wear it, I hear my unsympathetic cleansing cohort say.

What, are you kidding? It’s so tacky. Never.

There are other things. Like one rolodex card holder and four old address books all clinging to the whereabouts of people from my past. My brain has rationally argued that it is wholly likely most of these folks have moved at least two or three times since we originally exchanged info twenty or thirty years ago. True, it might be filled with outdated home and telephone data, but my childhood dentist PROMISED he would be here for me if anything should go wrong with that thirty-five year old filling and I needed to come back to see him.

It may require the assistance of a séance, but I bet he wouldn’t be the slightest bit miffed to rise for the occasion. Dr. Fenske was dedicated soul. Or maybe is a dedicated soul.

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And how about the big tubs that hold my high school homework, exams and term papers? Or the shoeboxes full of Valentine’s Day cards I received while in my elementary years? Plus the hundreds of blurry photos my kids took from their first disposable cameras? Is the Voldemort of fun expecting me to shuffle those off into the recycling heap?

YES!

But—

YES!

We form piles: Giveaway. Sell. Burn. Keep.

The giveaway mound is mammoth and growing, as if it’s being fed by some underwater vitamin filled stream.

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The sell stack is so beautiful, all shiny and new and incredibly useful—surely we can keep just this—ow! Fine, fine, I’ll put it back! The burn heap could be fun if we had marshmallows and hot dogs. And invited the local fire department to keep it under control. But the keep pile? These items are deemed useful. Not sexy or chic, charming or covetable. Just useful. They feed you, clothe you, bathe you or rest you. They are practical objects with nearly no maudlin attachments.

I glower and envision putting my assistant onto the burn pile.

And then there is the no one needs to know about this pile pile. And fairly soon this secret mass has swollen to the dimensions of a mid-sized village and somebody is growing suspicious as to my frequent sojourns down the hallway with the sudden admittance to owning an M&M sized bladder. But it seems my years of developing the fine skills of thriftiness might have benefited from a few minutes spent practicing the art of deception. I am found out.

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Take a picture, the old grump insists.

And how does one take pictures of eighteen years worth of Food & Wine cooking magazines, huh? I NEED those magazines because one day I may NEED to make a dish of reindeer jerky drizzled with seaweed syrup lying atop a bed of Isle of Skye moss covered with a sprinkling of powdered blowfish fins. Then where do I go?

To a psychiatrist.

The old grouch must go, but she stays firm. One hundred percent cruel and uncaring. Her rule for my future is thus: if you cannot read it, eat it, or drink it—do not buy it.

I point out to her that technically my nearly two decades’ worth of Food & Wine fall under all three categories. She points out to me that technically I should be on medication.

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It is a long and grueling week of cleansing, hours upon hours of arguments, tug of wars, and failed smuggling. But I am glad of it in the end. It was worth all the angst and effort.

The front hall coat closet looks amazing.

~Shelley

 

September Gotta Have a Gott 

In January, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. See the cartoons in competition and to cast your vote.

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles

Getting a Peace of My Mind

Over the last few years, one of the big differences I noticed between myself and my kids was the way we worked. And by work I mean inviting and finding success with brain function, not our skill level with bow and arrow, or our ability to use a circular saw.

Those rougher, physical arts I still claim top spot in, but our intake and processing of information is apples to oranges. Or maybe even apples to orangutans. Not even remotely close.

Somewhere along the way from infancy to young adulthood, their gray matter grew partitions and looks somewhat like the inside of a fifty story office building with each floor holding hundreds of worker bee cubicles. They all function independently separate and together. Those little parts work for the giant godhead of global function. It is a hive of ongoing mental stimulation.

My brain is more like a gelatinous fish egg sack someone hauls over the side and onto the floor of a boat. It’s filled with potential, and it’s interesting enough to have folks peer at it with wonder, but no one really wants to go near it.

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My attention cannot be divided from the one project I assign it. One brain, no partitions, solitary job. Biologically, that’s as far as it goes. I’ve attempted multitasking before, but without the necessary hardware—the partitions—it’s like trying to build a concrete foundation with black strap molasses and prop it up with toothpicks.

Brain wandering is a specialty of mine, but I’ve spent years developing that talent because it’s a necessary skill in writing fiction. And if you’ve read or watched any version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, you’ll have the barebones structure of how I go about my business. Multiple times a day, I see a waving hand before my face, or hear the repeated snapping of impatient fingers trying to get my attention.

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Thus, I’ve found that sharing the same air space with either one of my progeny while attempting to accomplish anything cerebral is wasted effort. Well, let me rephrase that. They can work just fine. I cannot organize enough thought energy to remember how one is supposed to write sentences, or calculate figures, or blink. I am annoyingly DISTRACTED.

I am sidetracked by their music—which usually has a tempo that calls out a challenge to my heartbeat. Sadly, this pace is one that most physicians would use after they’ve placed you on a treadmill for a stress test and are trying to ascertain the uppermost level of strain they can place upon your blood pumping internal organ before you pass out and break your nose on the handlebars.

My attention is diverted by the pinging of all their technological devices, the vibrating of their phones, the trips to the fridge, the video chatting with their friends, and the clinking of ice in their glasses.

Hell, there are even times when I lose focus because I heard someone swallow. And although I can bark at them to turn down their music or shut off their phones, I can’t ask them to stop any involuntary muscle movement. Well, I can, and I have, but I don’t think they’re really trying.

So I’ve decided to do something about it. I’m going all Jedi on my bodhi. Well, maybe it’s more like going rodeo on my consciousness. I’m learning how to reclaim it and reel it in when it starts leaking out my ears.

And I’m doing this by practicing a little bit of simple meditation every day.

I discovered a few good apps and narrowed it down to two that I found would work with my temperament and schedule. I started with an iTunes search that churned up an oceanic pot full of them, but then I cut out all the ones that didn’t require a credit card or ask that you rise at three a.m. for optimal results. Free and do it when you please fit my criteria.

A prerequisite for finding success when you’re first starting off on the meditation merry go round is a QUIET PLACE. This obviously means a place where neither of my kids has a physical presence. I go to my bedroom, and shut the door. But in my house, a closed door is like a magnet for knocking hands.

“Mom? What are you doing?”

“Go away.”

“When’s dinner?”

“Go away.”

“There’s no water coming out of the faucets.”

Three a.m. is looking more attractive every minute.

Even if I’m alone in the house, I’m not alone in the house. My fur-faced affiliates see me on the floor as part invitation, part challenge.

There is a lap, and I belong in it.

There is a lap, a ball belongs in it.

The minute I close my eyes and “focus on my breath,” I become uncomfortably aware of the fact that two others are focusing on my face. I can feel their breath on my face as they stare at it and mentally converse with one another, asking why I’m attempting to sleep sitting up. Then I hear the beginnings of a beleaguering brawl: a grand event ending in a fierce game of “If you do that again I will make hashtags on your eyeballs.” After tossing them both out the bedroom and closing the door, they become lab partners and endeavor to regain access. But their engineering feats lack imagination, skill, and opposable thumbs. Their efforts would bring about the same amount of praise as hiring an architect to build you a house out of triply ply toilet paper.

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Nothing these two do makes sense.

The constant pawing at the door. The constant pawing beneath the door.  The constant pausing I must do in order to open the door, shout and close the door again.

It is a process, this finding a quiet space in order to quiet my mind. It is also apparent that I must first train my family before I can begin training me.

I’m pretty sure the only way I will find success at this point is to secure a little help by my side. So now when I sit down to meditate, I make sure I have my bow and arrow on one side, and the circular saw on the other.

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With this minor adjustment, all great minds think alike.

~Shelley

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles

Diabesities: Our Young Brood’s Battle with the Bulge.

Everybody loves surprises, right?

Well, I suppose it depends upon the kind of surprise. The Hey, you just won a year’s worth of dental hygiene! could be nice. A Mom, I passed physics! is pretty worthy. And Your book is going to be made into a movie! is a phone call I am so hoping will come one day.

The surprises many of us would rather not face down the pike are:

Yep, see that there crack, ma’am? Looks like you’re gonna need a whole new foundation.

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Or: What? You’re pregnant with triplets … again?

 

And of course: Hey, honey. My mother is moving in with us. Surprise!

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Obviously these bombshell examples aren’t things we regularly have to get used to, but I’d like to make you aware of a few eye-popping truths that have become the new standard for normal around our planet.

1.) 43 million children under 5 are overweight or obese.

2.) 1/3 of kids born after the year 2000 will develop diabetes.

3.) The number one source of calories in the United States is from high fructose corn syrup.

4.)  43% of pilots admit to falling asleep during their flight. 33% of them wake to find that their co-pilot is out cold as well.

Yes, folks, the numbers are rising, just like those of the Earth’s temperature and most countries’ national debt. The stats I’m focusing on today are strictly numbers 1-3. Number 4 was thrown in simply for your armchair amusement, and your in-flight horror.

The bad news is that today’s generation of children will be the first to have a shorter lifespan that that of their parents.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way.

The great news is that it’s super easy to flip these numbers because the only thing standing in the way of our children’s health is our children.

Oh, and the media.

Oops, and their friends.

Yeah … and the school cafeterias.

Alright, maybe we ought to back up to the statement that simply reveals the good news bit, because once we realize what it is we’re up against, the odds for growing healthy human beings seems nearly insurmountable.

How do one or two parents launch an effective campaign for their children’s health that can stand up to billions of dollars in marketing, peer pressure and the common sense of legislation that states lunchroom pizza can be considered a vegetable because it has tomato sauce on it?

Go figure.

The food industry spends over two billion dollars a year with advertisements that target kids alone. TWO BILLION WITH A “B!”

And 98% of those ads are for foods that are high in fat, sugar and sodium—and fat, sugar and sodium are hugely addictive. They become things you can’t live without, like air and water and Facebook.

But unlike air and water and social media, those products of the food industry are nearly nutrition-less and only benefit drug companies who develop insulin related medications, Weight Watchers, and clothing manufacturers who charge by the square inch.

For those of you who are in command of stocking the fridge, I’m sure you’re familiar with the rule of thumb that one should never go grocery shopping while hungry. For those of you with children, there’s the extra add-on that one should never go grocery shopping with anyone who has learned to point and speak. With pointing and speaking comes nagging, and marketers have done studies to determine that it takes an average of “nine nags” for the typical child to convince a parent to give in and give over. Nine.

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That’s one above parental patience—where one disciplines while maintaining a princess Disney voice—and one below that combustible threshold I learned about in my daughter’s science project. Kaboom.

So while my kids were growing up, I found it was safer if they stayed home. A win win for all of us. They didn’t see the blazing, tantalizing come-hither advertisements placed directly at their eyeball level, and I didn’t get escorted out of the supermarket for hijacking the public address system, begging that anyone with a Xanax for me and duct tape for my kids would please come to aisle five for some serious cleanup.

Yep. Win win.

But this only lasts so long, because sooner than you know, the cat is out of the bag and your kids are off to school. This is where all the forces of good are overwhelmed by evil and your children declare you to be Satan.

They come home one day, slam the front door while tossing their tiny book bags to the floor and shout:

“Nobody else plants their own food!”

“None of the other kids have gone on monthly fieldtrips to local farms in order to watch dinner be chosen, slaughtered and butchered!”

“And not a one of them were told that they must study the stupid French technique of making duck confit because that helps with riding a bike!”

Oh? I say. And did you also crush their belief in all things sacred by telling them that chicken actually has bones?

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I have grown immune to their evil glares, but I refuse to ignore what’s happening to our kids and their declining health. It can be easy to shrug and wave the white flag of surrender, but I for one look awful in white and refuse to do so. I will continue to fight this worthy battle. And I’m doing it with my words.

Words are pretty powerful things. They move us, convince us, enrage us, and enlighten us. I’ve become so determined to help in the growing campaign for kids’ health that I wrote a book to tackle the subject, by tickling kids’ funny bones. I’m not sure if it will have an impact, but my fingers are crossed it will touch at least one or two folks. And if it helps one or two, that might have a ripple effect elsewhere.

But just to be clear, no one needs a book to make an impact. You just need to know you have a vote.

Folks are often surprised to remember their voice actually counts. The simplest way to do that is by deciding where your dollars, pounds and shekels will go.

And I bet the food industry will be pretty surprised to find a growing chunk of folks are fed up with the baloney they’re trying to feed our families.

It’s hard to initiate change—especially when you feel it’s a case of Muhammad and the mountain. But as I always say, if you’re going to eat an elephant, you’ve got to take it one bite at a time. And bringing better health to our kids is a battle I’d bet most of us are willing to fight.

That should come as no surprise.

~Shelley

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Get Found by Losing Your Way.

Orientation is a concept I spent a lot of time thinking about this last weekend as I helped move my daughter into her new digs at university. From the moment I put the key into the ignition and the car into drive until I parked my automobile snugly into the garage returning home, I was in a constant state of getting my bearings.

As a writer, one is schooled to continually practice the art of noticing.

The teenager sitting beside me rarely noticed anything that wasn’t coming into view on the flat screen of her smart phone.

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There is a vast difference between us. We orient ourselves in completely different ways.

We both learn about the world using our eyes, but mine make grand sweeping gestures east to west and north to south, taking in trees and buildings, street signs and faces, while hers make a minuscule movement barely left and right of center—just enough to absorb the bazillion articles on Reddit that tell everyone reading what’s happening in the world today.

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But at least we know what’s unfolding around us.

We both use our ears to scope out sound. As we sit in a lecture hall, in front of a panel of teachers, advisors, administrators and staff, I soak up the voices and what they say: the chief of campus police—serious and dour, the dean of students—confident and erudite, the chair of the physics department—stumped by all the befuddled faces, the university healthcare representative—thoroughly weary from repeatedly answering the same question, just posed in a different accent.  The incoming freshman I’ve placed in the seat next to mine has used her ears as a holder for two pieces of electronics and plastic in order to block out the ambient voices and welcome in somebody else’s streaming from iTunes.

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I look at the distance we need to maneuver from one end of campus to the other and pull out a map; she hears the phrase lovely walk and clicks on an app to hail a cab.

We pass by groups of kids and I scan the clusters of faces from all ends of the earth and say, “It’s going to be wonderful getting to know so many new people from places you’ve never been.” She replies, “I already know most of them. We’ve all met on Facebook.”

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The list of activities–the get to know you parties–are poles apart from what would ease me into my new surroundings had I been the newcomer on campus.

Come build a rollercoaster!

Edible LEGO bricks. Let’s eat our architecture!

100 somewhat illegal uses for all your tech gadgets—shhh.

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Yeah, my university mixers were more of the sort that announced: We’re having a pizza party in the Student Union. Come meet your mascot.

I watched a kid zoom by on a ten speed bike powered by a chain saw. I heard music coming out of a speaker that looked like a small Oreo. I saw someone typing words onto a screen, which would have been fine apart from the fact that there was no keyboard beneath her fingers.

I was now completely disoriented.

By the end of the day I had amassed a file full of papers—everything from phone numbers to calendars, lecture notes to course requirements. I turned to my teen, “I’ve got spares for you too because I noticed you weren’t taking any.”

She waved her phone at me. “Got it all right here.”

Smart phone. A helluva lot smarter than me.

We bring the last of her gear up to her dorm room. “Do you want me to remind you how to do your laundry?”

“Nope. I’ll YouTube it.”

“Shall I walk you to the university’s clinic and campus police?”

“Already Google-Mapped it, Mother.”

“How bout I—”

Smart phone is waved in my face.

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It is clear I have been replaced by an app. By copper and wiring and eye tracking and satellites. This is her world not mine. It is fast, it is immediate, it is clever and it is made for a group of brains that do not see the world as I see it.

I collected my things and we walked to my car. I looked at my daughter and thought about our positions in the universe, how I would find my way back home, how I would go back to what was familiar and well-worn, and how I’d be recalibrating life and adjusting to the “new normal.”

So much of the weekend was, in truth, an orientation meant for me. I watched this young woman and all her peers around us utilize unfamiliar signs, and oftentimes unreadable directions, leading them confidently down their new path.

There really was nothing left to do apart from stand aside and lovingly snip the last threads of that invisible umbilical cord between us. I let her go … wireless.

~Shelley

August Gotta Have a Gott winner

In January, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. Jump on over to see the cartoon winner for August!

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles

Bug Off!

Three nights ago something crawled into my bed that did not belong there. It was invisible and had fangs. Well, it felt like fangs, but because they were invisible teeth, I couldn’t be sure.

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Half a dozen times I flipped back the covers, flicked on the lights and scoured the bed.

The cat gazed at me like a therapist stares at his patient—the kind of assessment that lets you know they’re actually going through the latest chapters of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in their head to see where you fit in.

The dog raised his head and blinked at me, continually wondering if it was time for breakfast.

“Something is biting me,” I explained to them both, “and since neither one of you are within teeth reach, it must be beneath the duvet.”

I looked at my skin: my stomach, my legs, my arms—nothing. I must have been dreaming. I squinted hard at the mattress and the sheets. Empty.

Just to be on the safe side, I rootled around in one of the bathroom cupboards and came up with some mosquito repellant. This would be like camping, I told myself.

Now smelling like I’d accidentally fallen into a vat of DEET, I crawled back into bed and flipped the light switch. But with each passing hour, my eyes flew open immediately after I felt a pinprick of pain. I leapt up and repeated the same tiresome routine until exhausted from trying to get some sleep, I gave up and got up.

It wasn’t until that afternoon that I noticed I was beginning to itch—absentmindedly at first. And then, because I was in a meeting with other people who were over the age of four and would notice one of us lifting up her shirt to scratch uncontrollably at an itch that refused to be satisfied, I had to be surreptitious. Except that it’s hard to be sly when you are desperate to rip off your clothes and tear off your skin. That takes stealth. Or a room full of blind people.

It was not a good night. After showering, I noticed that it looked like my entire torso had sprouted polka dots. I looked like an early Jackson Pollock painting—like really early—probably the time period when he was still in a highchair and figured out how to whip cranberry sauce from his spoon to splatter onto the kitchen wall—that early. Nothing artistic about it. And I highly doubt any of his artwork requested he give it a good solid scratch in a hard to reach place.

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I covered myself in outdated hydrocortisone cream and crawled wearily into bed after first checking to make sure that the clean sheets hadn’t somehow become infested with last night’s fang festival fellows. I saw nothing.

But I felt creepy crawly.

It was as if something was under my skin.

I slept with the covers off. Okay, I lied. The covers were off, but there was no sleeping. Just noticing of the constant urge to itch.

Chicken pox? Nope – I felt fine.

Poison ivy? Nuh uh – the spots were too spaced out, and not in the right places.

Fleas? Bed bugs? Chiggers? Small as those fellas are, you can still see them, and I found NOTHING.

We were back to invisible fangs.

The next day I worked, sat, walked, talked and drove about, but all I thought about was how badly I wanted to scratch. And the problem with scratching in one place is that it stirs up the histamine response to activate all the other parts of your body that up until then were somewhat silent, and encouraged them to scream, “ME TOO, ME TOO!”

Since we don’t live close to town, and I’m stubbornly stoic, I was thrilled to hear my daughter was heading out to pick up a few things and would I like her to stop at the pharmacy? Would I? Oh boy, I would.

I sent her in with a list of everything known to man and medicine that might alleviate the desire to make a crosshatch of scars over my body. She came back with soaps, and creams, ointments and oils—even the words to a magic mantra one has to chant that she purchased from the local health food store. She had come at just the right time. These bites were rising to a fevered pitch of a frenzy.

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Every hour I showered, dried off and tried something that came out of the magic pharmacy bag. Relief was subtle, but even subtle was a miracle. Looking in the mirror, I reminded myself of a Dr. Seuss character, but I’m fairly certain that I’d frighten even pint-sized fans of The Cat in the Hat if I showed up at a public beach. Swim suit season was over for me. Well, truth be told, I never held a parade for the opening day either, so it was no real loss.

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This, the third day of purgatory, has me looking back over the last seventy-two hours and attempting to tally up the total amount of water used in boiling all sheets, clothing and any furniture I could stuff into the washing machine. Then I computed the amount of money I handed over to the pharmacist for each promised cure. And lastly, I added up how much it’s going to cost for a full torso skin graft. I’m working out a deal with a plastic surgeon tomorrow. I may have to sell a few things. Like any extra internal organs not pulling their weight.

Yeah, I know, call me crazy.

But it’s okay, the cat already does.

~Shelley

August Gotta Have a Gott 

In January, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. See the cartoons in competition and to cast your vote.

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles

The story of your life.

As you read this, I want you to envision how I would probably appear if I were standing in front of you, holding out a cup of tea and offering up an appreciative smile for having the courage to come back after the massive five part series adventure of last month.

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I am probably bleary-eyed, brain-fogged, and dressed in the same war-torn, weed-hacking, stiff with mosquito repellant clothes I’ve been throwing on for the last four days simply because I’ve no time to take the extra few steps into my closet and find something fresh to wear. Time is ticking exponentially faster with each glance I make at the clock, and I can’t seem to stop it.

These are the last few days I’m helping to prepare (read—preparing) my daughter for her shove off from home and toward the land of her personal Edutopia.

University looms in front of us.

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Hitching a ride with the rising buildings of academia are the rising fears of what lies beneath the phrases I’ve been shouting lately:

Have you finished your orientation registration forms?

Did you fax your immunization records to the Health Screening Office on campus?

What are all these boxes of clothes for? You’re moving into a dorm room the size of large broom closet. All you need are pajamas and a lab coat!

Yeah, there’s fear here. And excitement, and panic, and tenderness and uncertainty. Volumes of emotional exposure.

But these chapters are what make up life. The living part of life—not the hiding from it.

When I look back at the last few years of raising my children—no, these two young adults who still occasionally come to me for food, money, transportation and every once in a blue moon advice–I clearly see the one thing I wanted both of them to become:

Mistake-ridden.

This is a description I’ve encouraged them to develop for as many years as they’ve been drawing breath. I do not want a safe life for either one of them—nor for myself. I want them to acknowledge their fears, discover their weaknesses, and expose their raw and shatterable insecurities. I want them to stumble, to fall and to fail. And I want them to do this wholeheartedly with an openness to adventure and a liability for results.

And then I want them to repeat this process until they draw their very last breath.

For only by doing so will they touch upon the magnificence of courage.

I don’t want to see these two people standing on the sidelines. I want them inside the game. Sitting at the table. Winning and losing, losing and winning. I want them to show up, knees knocking with nerves, a heart hammering with upheaval and a stomach fluttering with butterflies. I want them to be brave enough to know that even though they may be rejected, they will never look back with ruefulness and self-reproach because timidity held them back.

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Another year of school begins for both of them next week. My messages have been steady and repetitive:

Be hungry, but feed others.

Listen and lead.

Don’t hide, unmask yourself and try.

Get up, get up, GET UP.

I know it’s a lot to ask. I know it’s fraught with embarrassment and pain and mounting self-doubt. It’s an accumulation of scabs and scars and long-healing wounds. But the alternative is bland. It will never leave them breathless. It has a bitter aftertaste. It is an all-encompassing folding in and shriveling up. It is effortless—and my coaching has been all about living an effortful life.

The world is a series of doors waiting not for a tentative knock, but for a hand that tries the latch. It is a succession of thresholds—those moments where you are on the brink of something, but only if you make the necessary, scary steps toward the edge of the precipice. Life is a giant leap of trust into a glistening pool of risk. It is cold and brutal, shocking and raw—yes, but it is also triumphant.

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And what do our children truly need to accomplish these directives? This chalk talk for the game of life? These instructions that promise them a life profoundly lived?

Nothing more than vulnerability and curiosity.

Nothing more than pajamas and a lab coat.

~Shelley

PS. As shortly I shall be neck deep in all things dorm room and parent orientation related, and as Robin has worked his pencils down to the barest of nubs and is in search of replacements, the show will go dark next week. But we will return the following weekend, full of stories and full of life. Fully written and illustrated for YOU.

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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Rockets and a lot of Red Glares (part 5)

This is it. The concluding chapter. The final phase of this fantastic tale Hopefully Not a Waste in Space. This is where our hero’s outcome and the outcome of her heroic journey are finally unveiled.

And in my attempt to liken this to a finely structured story, it’s broken down into bite-sized bits for ease of mastication.

We have had the Big Goal: This is where our protagonist—sweet child ‘o mine—launches her balloon—SkyHAB (sky high altitude balloon, carrying what I swear is nothing more than a giant cloud urinal) 100,000 feet upward, with fingers crossed, to capture space data – Episode One.

Next we came upon The Crisis: SkyHAB launched, but the GPS landlubbered. The balloon was untethered and unaccounted for. We petitioned the US Government for a reimbursement of paid taxes that went toward defective global spyware and are awaiting our refund which should arrive any day after the twelfth of Dream On – Episode Two.

Following that was the Recommitment to the Goal: WE LOCATED SKYHAB!  … sort of – Episode Three.

At last we came to The Climax: The hunt for SkyHAB was filled with deadly peril. It ended with a heart-palpitating car chase and potential capture by Lizzie Borden’s grandson. Was this the end for the balloon and our young scientist with behemothic book smarts but space cadet street smarts? – Episode Four.

And finally, The Dénouement or The Reveal: I’d spill the beans, but then you may never read further then the end of this sentence.

So much tension you could practically string this story between two toothpicks and walk across it.

Ah, the makings of a tale that falls a few levels below Dreamworks, but a notch above your average 9th grade history newsreel. And one we can wrap up tout de suite. Because I’m sure many of you are wondering whether or not my child is still alive.

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I was too.

For twenty minutes I sat staring at the phone willing it to ring, wondering and panicking at the thought that my daughter had been nabbed by a child snatcher who was following her as she attempted to recover her balloon, parachute and THE PAYLOAD in the middle of no-cell-hell. And every three minutes I phoned her with nothing but her snarky voicemail message to taunt me.

Hi, you’ve reached Chloe. Leave me your details and I’ll call you back … if I like you.

I paced. Did deep breathing exercises. Stared at Google Earth and its wretchedly slow updates. I made an award winning sculpture of the Hubble telescope with nothing more than plastic spoons and recycled tin foil.

Twenty-two minutes after loss of contact the phone rang.

“Hey,” Chloe said.

“HEY???” I echoed. “Hey? I was about to phone 911! What happened?”

“Oh, him? Yeah, he was weird. We may need a sizeable back up team. No worries. I’m on my way. What’s for dinner? I’m starvin’ Marvin.”

*face palm*

Two days later was the big senior project seminar. My daughter had to give a couple of presentations to explain her adventures and unveil her results. Well … no balloon equals no data, as all the data was in THE PAYLOAD. And THE PAYLOAD was somewhere in the Sandy River Reservoir. Camera footage, statistical calculations, motherboard bits and pieces that tell you the secrets of the universe were all gone. There go your hopes and dreams. Science shakes its head at you, tsking.

Still, the presentations were stellar. A lot of telling, but no showing–yet somehow still stellar.

THEN …

The next day I received a phone call from some wild woman screaming. I finally recognized the dulcet tones of my child and asked her to pull it down a few decibels.

Someone found the balloon!

And not just someone. She said his name was Papa Smurf.

My mind immediately envisioned a small pack of blue forest creatures that lived near the reservoir where SkyHAB went down, and somehow, purely in the interest of furthering science, they managed to break their cardinal rule of no contact with humans and phoned the Department of Natural Resources to report a spacecraft landing.

Not really.

Actually, Papa Smurf, aka, “Big Mike” is a Virginia fisherman who, in the middle of doing a little afternoon big mouth bass hunting, landed himself something a little less delicious but definitely fishy.

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The writing on the side of THE PAYLOAD was smeared, but our last name was visible. Enter Facebook.

The rest of the story goes a little like this: My daughter ignores friend request – stranger danger – and Papa Smurf/Big Mike must get creative.

Facebook says my daughter interns at the university’s aerospace research lab.

Papa/Mike hunts down a professor.

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Describes to professor the reeled in riches. Our professor texts his industrious intern. His intern explodes with exultation.

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His intern calls her mother and begs for bakery goods to reward the fisherman with multiple monikers in exchange for THE PRECIOUS PAYLOAD. The trade is made. Strawberry pie is swapped for a lunch box full of cryptic clues to the cosmos and a few bits of water weed.

We are thrilled.

It is finished.

I am exhausted.

She is planning her next mission: Definitely Not a Waste in Space! Where one young scientist attempts to discover if Silly Putty can be used as insulation on homemade sub-orbital spacecraft.

Me? I might just back out of this next one quietly. I think it’s pretty clear that I ain’t no rocket surgeon.

~Shelley Big Mike (450x800)

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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