When Your Comfort is Less Important Than Someone Else’s

There are certain things that I absolutely do not like to do.  Singing in front of people ranks high on the list.  Especially if it involves hand motions or dancing.  And forget it if I’m not familiar with the song.

It’s amazing how circumstances can affect what you offer to do.

Last night I was the group leader for the 4th and 5th grader group at Vacation Bible School.  Being the last night of VBS, all the groups were getting up one at a time to perform the songs they had been practicing all week in music class.  I was not the group leader the other four nights.  Just the last night.  No problem, though, the group leaders weren’t joining their kids in the theatrics so it didn’t matter that I didn’t know the songs.

My group was the smallest.  With several kids missing, we were down to only four kids: 3 boys and a girl.  A very self-conscious girl.  A very self-conscious girl who was getting more and more anxious about singing in front of the group.

I feel your pain, sister, I thought.  I wouldn’t want to get up there either.

As the oldest group, we were last.  By the time the group before us was heading to the front, a thought came to me.  I didn’t like the thought, but it came and it was right and it was good.

“Would you feel more comfortable if I went up there and sang with you?” I asked.  “Then you wouldn’t be the only girl.  Nor the only person who feels silly.”

“Yes, that would be a lot better,” she said.  I began to share her anxiety.

I looked around the room and reminded myself that it didn’t matter if any of those people thought I looked silly.  The girl would feel less silly and that made it worth it.  I’m forty – she’s ten.  One of our egos is more important to protect than the other’s and it ain’t mine.

And so I joined my little group on the stage, having no clue what songs we were about to sing.  The song leader announced a song that I knew and I breathed a small sigh of relief.  And then my precious angels corrected her – that wasn’t the right song.  I vaguely knew the new one and hung in there well enough.

The second song was from the curriculum so the words and a video of some kids doing the motions were projected on the wall in front of us.  I can handle this, I thought. Almost done.

And then the song started.  My kids started giggling.  They love the song.  Why do they love the song?  Because it gives them a chance to act like they are in Kindergarten.  It was so ridiculously below their grade level that it cracked them up.

Next thing I knew, I was having to roar like a lion and act like a cute kitten and swing my elephant trunk and flap my bird wings and hoot like an owl and jump like a frog.  Three or four times through.  No wonder that girl wanted me up there with her.  No way she was going to attract any attention with a grown woman trying to keep up next to her!

To top it off, they then called all the kids up for the theme song.  The girl checked to make sure I was staying.  And then Hal rushed to join me.  And then the song started.  It was impossibly fast-paced with so many motions that I couldn’t possibly watch the motions and read the lyrics and sing.  So I ended up just holding the cardboard house that kept getting knocked over and hoping that if anyone was video-taping, they weren’t trained on the woman standing there red-faced in the sea of dancing youthful energy.

I think that’s the truest sign of maturity and age, when you willingly give up your dignity for the sake of others.

Addendum:  When I read this to my husband, he said that I was wrong, that the truest sign of maturity and age is when you recognize that you are not giving up your dignity at all.  And he is right.

Why I Share Where I Do

So yesterday’s post was almost a Facebook status update. I took that picture, hit the share button on my phone, selected Facebook, and was typing the status update about my son using the word “plinth”, when my husband pointed out to me that I shouldn’t be climbing mindlessly into the passenger seat of his car… since my car was in the parking lot as well.

I stopped the post and began my drive home. As I did so, I thought about the story for awhile and thought, “Hey, that could be a blog post.” And that’s when I realized that my story sharing has taken a sharp change in direction of late. I am much more likely to share my little vignettes of life on WordPress than I am on Facebook.

Used to be, I had to throttle my Facebook status updates so I didn’t annoy my friends. Now, if I look at my timeline, it is composed almost entirely of shares from WordPress. That night on the drive home, I felt like I was making a choice of who to share with.

See, there are many people who read my blog that I don’t know in real life, thus, they are not my Facebook friends. Likewise, there are people that are my Facebook friends who don’t follow the link to my blog posts. Many do, but as many or more don’t. So when I’m faced with that choice to share a brief synopsis of my son’s funny behavior on Facebook or a more lengthy telling on WordPress, I feel like I’m making the choice between sharing with friends or strangers. And more and more, I’m making the choice to share with strangers.

I struggled with that but by the time I had reached home, I had decided that, yes, I wanted to blog about it. It was a cute story. If I blog it, I have it forever. I can search my history, I can bundle it up in a book later in life, I can give it to my child when he’s an adult. If I post it on Facebook… *sigh* I gave up trying to save off my Facebook statuses a long time ago. It was just too much work. If I share it on Facebook, it’s a flash in the pan and then it’s gone.

And… And… anyone can read the blog. Anyone. Even all those Facebook friends who don’t. And who knows? Maybe more of them read it than I think. I’m frequently surprised by someone referencing a post when I didn’t know they paid my blog any attention at all.

I read someone’s blog recently about why they write. They talked about all the words in their head and needing to get them out. That’s not me. What I do have is a driving interest to tell stories. I don’t make them up. I’m not (yet) a writer of fiction. But I do thoroughly enjoy telling the stories of what’s happening around me in what is (hopefully) an entertaining and engaging way.

As I said in my first ever blog post, people on Facebook were enjoying my stories. They encouraged me to share them with a wider audience. Ironically, they aren’t around encouraging me much anymore but I trust that their sentiment was genuine. I came across a letter from a long-lost friend recently; he too told me that I needed to share my stories.

And so here I am. Trusting that it’s far better to fully flesh out my story and save it for posterity than to throw a quick quip out there on Facebook. And judging by how much my daughter laughed when she read about her brother’s “Inner Dragon” last night, I think I’m taking the right path. Because now, she’ll be able to laugh about it again and again. And some day, his kids can laugh about it too.

The Inner Dragon Let Loose

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A stone support near the entrance of our local Braum’s.

It’s Vacation Bible School week.  The coolest thing about Vacation Bible School week is that we go out with friends for ice cream at Braum’s nearly every night afterwards.  This is a pretty crazy thing to do since it’s already bedtime when we get there but, hey, it’s summertime.  Why not?

I was standing near the above pictured item with Daryl while Hal and Daddy fetched some bread and bananas from the market before we left.  (If you don’t live in a close enough radius to Western Oklahoma, then you may not know what Braum’s is.  It’s primarily an ice cream store except it also has great hamburgers and cherry limeades… and a pretty decent grocery section where we buy eggs, milk, bread, and some produce.)

Anyway, I was standing there with Daryl, who was wound up and hyper.  He was hopping around and throwing his arms around and talking trash like a rapper.  Actually, he looked more like a pale, skinny, nerdy white kid trying to imitate a rapper, which made it kind of hard not to laugh.

“Momma, momma.  I’m tellin’ ya.  I’m gettin’ ready to let loose.  I’m gettin’ ready to let loose my inner dragon all over this stone plinth here.” He slapped his hand on the support in demonstration.  “I’m gonna let loose my inner dragon on this stone plinth.”

Ok, let’s just set aside the whole “inner dragon” business for a minute.  My ten year old son used the word “plinth” in conversation.  I mean, who does that?  *I* don’t even do that.  In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the word spoken before.  It doesn’t come up in everyday conversation.  It just doesn’t.  Unless you are talking to Daryl, that is.  Which is what makes him so awesome.

Now, I must have heard the word before, because as soon as he said it, I corrected his long I sound: “It’s plinth, not ply-nth.”

He paused from his tough guy act.  “Are you sure?”

“Not positive, but I’m pretty sure it’s plinth.  You can go ask Daddy.”

He returned from checking with his dad to tell me it’s pronounced “ply-nth”.  The tone of his voice would have been enough to label that a lie even if I hadn’t heard his dad protesting in the background.

This kid uses the vocabulary he gains from books, which makes him awesome.  And the fact that he mispronounces almost all of them doesn’t faze him one bit.  Which makes him doubly awesome.  I love this kid.  And that crazy inner dragon of his.

Hide and Seek

Do you know what the single most common forgotten item is in hotel rooms?  I’ve heard that it’s the cell phone charger.  I’ve never had that problem because I’m quite anal when it comes to making sure I have that charger.  The phone is just too important.  It’s my communication device.  My alarm clock.  My sleep monitor.  My entertainment source.  My contact with friends.  My media outlet.  It’s very important… and thus its charger is too.

Still, when I traveled on business recently, I forgot to pack it.  Luckily, I remembered during the drive to the airport and was able to swipe the car charger, which is a USB cable and an adapter for a cigarette lighter.  Since most hotel rooms have USB charging locations somewhere, I was fine.

That meant that when we turned around as a family just three days later to go to a family art conference, I did not forget my charger.  I dutifully plugged it into the wall outlet next to my side of the bed, which was near the wall, and life was good.

Then Hal had a meltdown at the Wednesday evening worship service.  He had already hit at the water bottle his sister was holding and been warned that he was on thin ice.  Then he actually got up from his seat, walked past his sister, slapped the expensive SLR digital camera his dad was holding, and then looked at him to see how badly he was in trouble.

Dad quickly removed him from the beautiful by-the-river outdoor location, not to return.  I was to learn that Hal cried all the way back to our room, but didn’t struggle to get away from his dad.  Even stood in place (crying) while Dad stopped to talk to someone they encountered on the way.

Eventually, they got to the room and Daddy had him lay down on the bed with him “to rest” with vague promises of possibly returning once he calmed down.  He did finally calm down.  And fall asleep.  And somewhere along the way, perhaps before he was asleep, roll off the bed to the floor between the bed and the wall.  My side of the bed.

That’s where he was when I returned to the room.  Fast asleep along my side of the bed, with his blanket and pillow added for comfort.  I also noticed, as I prepared to get it out of the way, that my phone charger was not there.

I carefully dug around his blanket and his sleeping body.  I couldn’t find it.  I looked over by the table, where I had briefly moved it earlier in the week.  Not there either.  I checked the sleeping kid again.  I checked the sheets and blankets on our bed.  My purse.  The table.  The suitcases.  The older kids’ bed.  The bathroom.  The dresser.  I checked everywhere.  It. was. gone.

“Where is it?” I asked my husband, stressed.  He checked the kid and blankets again.  I felt I was losing my mind.  He offered to let me use his charger during the night and we snaked it under his pillow to my side of the bed.

The next morning, I asked the kids if anyone knew where it was.  As expected, I received blank looks in return.

“Look, Hal,” I said. “It was in that wall socket right there yesterday.  Now it’s not.  It’s very important that I find it.  Did you do something with it?”

Blank look.

“Ok, no one will be in trouble.  I just need it back.  Please.  If anyone knows where it is…”

“Wait a minute, Mommy,” Hal said as he scurried over to the space between the bed and the wall where he had slept the night before.  He mumbled something that I couldn’t quite make out as he lay prostrate on the ground and reached way, way back behind the bed and extracted my charger from that narrow space between the wall and the head of the bed.

I couldn’t believe it.  I kept my promise and didn’t yell at nor punish him.  You better believe, though, that I used the flashlight app on my phone to check that area of the room before we left Friday.  I never have before but it’s now part of the “make sure we haven’t left anything” routine.  At least when the kids are involved.  Who knows what they’ve been up to while you weren’t watching?

Trusting and Creating

As I said yesterday,we are back for our third year at a family art conference.  We  attend our art class for three hours each morning with optional mini courses in the afternoon, worship each evening, and  enjoy a beautiful location that allows for hiking, swimming, resting, and enjoying God’s great creation.

One of the hardest lessons for people to learn is to silence their inner critic.  We each have a tendency to compliment others’ work while dismissing our own.  Why can we see the beauty in other people’s creations so much easier than we can our own?

This year, the worship leader spoke about how our God is a creating God and since we are created in His image, we are creators too.  All of us.  We are all artists.  We all have that capacity within us.  She pointed out that it doesn’t matter how good your work is, how well received it is, how perfect or flawed: you are an artist, regardless.

We call people who have children parents, she pointed out, regardless of whether they are any good at it.  So, too, you are an artist, regardless of your skill level.

The idea here was to get people to relax and create.  And love their creations.

It’s easier for the kids.  They love what they create.  It takes years of effort on the part of our society to drive all that hope and creation and self-love out of them.  And if we can’t stop society’s effect, it will take years of attending events like this one to add it back in.

I chose to take stained glass this year.  It was recommended that I bring a pattern or picture that I’d be interested in doing.  My first thought was of Van Gogh’s exploding Tardis:

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I was not surprised when I was told it was too much.  I had some back up pictures.  One was of the backside of a sunflower.  It was interesting but not nearly as difficult. That’s all relative, of course.  It might be easier than an exploding Tardis… but it was still an ambitious project.

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I put in a lot of hours outside of class.  Two or three afternoons and a couple of evenings.  There were 60 pieces, many of them tiny.  They had to be cut, trimmed, ground, fitted with copper foil around the edges, placed together and held in place by horseshoe nails.  (As a quick aside… do you have any idea how terrifying it is to hammer a nail right. next. to. your glass creation?!)  Then I had to solder all the seams – front and back, attach the lead border, solder it to the seams, and clean it all up.

I finished though and it looks gorgeous.

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A lot of people stopped by to check out our work.  A number of people insisted that this couldn’t be the first time I had done stained glass.  They didn’t believe me when I said I had never done it before.  This kind of reaction was, in my mind, both complimentary to me and healthy for them.

Other comments, which were also complimentary to me, seemed perhaps unhealthy for them.  At least, if you are looking to believe that we are all artists.  They would say stuff like “your whole family is so talented” – as if somehow being married to a potter made me more of an artist.  I know they were just telling me that they liked my work and felt I was talented.  But I couldn’t help but hear a tone of “well, we’d expect such work out of you… but me…”.

The thing is, I don’t think of myself as an artist most of the time.  I’m an engineer and a mother and a wife.  My life is full of non-art stuff.  I told my husband the other day, “I’m an artist one week out of the year.”  It’s this week.  At this conference.  When I can devote almost my entire self to creating something.

And that’s where the talent lies, I think.  In taking the opportunity and making the most out of it.  Removing the distractions and the self-criticism and just doing it.

am an artist… as it was described in our opening worship service.  I am not an artist in the way that most of us think about it.  I’m not more talented than the person across the table.  I don’t have some innate skill, some gift.  I’m you.  I go into every project thinking I can’t pull it off.  And every year I do.  And you can too.  You just have to believe in yourself.

So, please, do yourself a favor.  Go out there and create something.  Think and dream and design and build.  You won’t regret it.  The sense of accomplishment is worth all the frustrations and failures along the way.  Trust me.  Better yet, trust yourself.

Magical Camp

We are once again at the family art conference that we’ve gone to for three years now. And it continues to be a magical experience for us all. Most of the people here have been coming for years and we’ve finally been here enough that I’m starting to feel like I know people and am known by others.

This year Hal got to join the Young Artists group instead of the nursery.  Technically you are supposed to have completed Kindergarten but that’s a loose rule and “they” felt he was ready.  He’s having a blast.  According to his big brother, he’s quite the disruption.  Big brother seemed surprised when I told him I had received the same report about him by big sister the first year we were here.

Jane is taking Landscape Painting with acrylics.  She now loves to paint and is doing remarkably well.  My husband is trying his hand  at Digital Photography and, while he claimed earlier in the day yesterday to dislike it as an art form, is now enjoying himself immensely.  I’m doing Stained Glass and once again managed to pick an overly ambitious project.  And once again, with a wonderful and supportive teacher, I’m pulling it off fairly well.  Although I’m having to put in some extra hours outside of class to get it done!

The big story of the week so far though has been Daryl.  Daryl has fallen in love with a charming three year old girl named Mia.  He is smitten.  And I mean that in the healthy, he’s-going-to-make-an-awesome-daddy-one-day kind of way not the man-that’s-kind-of-creepy way.  He plays with her and takes care of her like he’s never done for his own little brother.

When Mia loses her sword (again) after slaying the mighty dragon, he tells her to climb to safety in the covered wagon (where monsters, including dragons, apparently can’t go) and then, after making sure she is safe, goes and retrieves another imaginary sword to slay yet another mighty dragon.

When she falls down, he’s right there, making sure she’s ok and picking her up again.

When she decides to take off her shoes on the wood chip covered playground, he carries her on his back so her nice little white socks don’t get dirty.

When she wanders over to said playground during the outdoor worship service, he follows her to keep an eye on her, carefully watching her when a group of teenagers from a different camp invade the space.

And during musical chairs, when she falls down as everyone scrambles for a chair, he puts his hand on a chair and calls to her to come take it, thereby being out himself but preserving her participation in the game.

He’s been simply charming.  And now everyone thinks he’s an amazingly sweet kid.  Which I suppose he is… just not all the time.  And not typically with his own siblings.

My three earlier posts this week were scheduled before we left.  I’ve had very limited time here, my days filled with many wonderful things.  This one is just a light brushstroke but I hope to find some time later today to blog about the deeper things that come from being here and being fully an artist for one brief week that I can share in the morning.

Until then, I encourage you to break out of your box  today.  Try something radically new!  It does wonders for your psyche.

Evolution of a Nap

Hal hasn’t been taking naps lately.  This is good practice for Kindergarten in the Fall, when he must face the rigors of a formal education without that pesky little distraction of sleep in the middle of the day.  He likes the new arrangement.  We aren’t quite sold on it.

Saturday, he was being a bit grouchy and we had made him go to his room for quiet time.  After quiet time, he had wandered into the living room and begun to pester the dog… who happens to still appreciate nap time.  A lot.

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What she doesn’t appreciate is non-napping youngsters bothering her during hers.  So she tolerated the snuggling and neck pulling for oh, about… 2 seconds, and then gave a little growling snap of protest, which prompted at least 2 people to call out sternly, “Hal!  Leave Rose alone!  You know better than that!”

Hal took a break for maybe 2 minutes and then had another go.  I scolded him and told him to return to his room.  He flopped on the floor.  I was busy with garage sale preparations so I didn’t notice right away.  This is what I found a little bit later:

20140712_144134I’m pretty sure this started as a pout.  But after awhile, I noticed that he wasn’t moving.  The pout had evolved into a nap.  Praise the Lord!

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The dragon stayed perfectly placed to give me a smile each time I walked through the room for some time.  But let’s face it; sleeping on the floor really isn’t all that comfortable.  Especially when there’s no carpet.  Even when you are a little guy.  So eventually the pout that had evolved into an impromptu nap evolved again.

20140712_152712And again.

20140712_161326And again.

20140712_161535And even though he was sort of in a main thoroughfare, we all tiptoed quietly around him and enjoyed the peace.  Except Rose, who stayed sprawled out on the couch… enjoying the peace.