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Friday, September 8, 2017

First Pumpkins, Now Sunflowers?!

First surprise pumpkins and now surprise sunflowers?! It's as if the universe knows how much I love fall (and sunflowers)! Amazing! I almost pulled these out thinking they were weeds. Another reminder that sometimes we need to let things grow to see how beautiful their potential. 

Happy Friday and Happy (early) Fall!


The only flowers I intentionally planted were the red ones,
not the pink or sunflowers. 
Grateful for however they ended up here, though!

Friday, August 25, 2017

A Small, Surprise Pumpkin

One of my home projects this year was to clean up the landscaping around our house. The front was overgrown and needed to be trimmed back, so I spent countless hours clearing out dead brush, thinning out the already growing plants, adding fresh new colors, and laying down mulch. It was weed free, clean, bright, and beautiful, exactly what I had imagined.

This work was completed within the first few weeks of summer vacation. Now, we are beginning another school year and the other day, as I went out front to get the mail, I noticed something growing up through my hard work. At first glance, it looked like a weed, a vine-like plant growing out from between a patch of pink cone flowers. On closer observation, I realized it was a pumpkin plant, already blooming bright yellow flowers, one of which had grown into the smallest pumpkin I've ever seen, and slowly creeping its way into my grass.

I stood there for a good ten minutes, baffled at how a pumpkin plant could be growing there. My initial thought was the local squirrels. Then, I remembered. Last fall I had decorated the house for Halloween with pumpkins. This plant must have grown from the seeds that were left over after the pumpkins had done their part in the festivities and had started to rot.

I could have easily gotten mad or frustrarted. So much hard work to make the house look neat and organized and this pumpkin plant was not part of the plan. It would make cutting the grass more inconvenient. It didn't necessarily match the look of plant I was going for. I didn't know if it would affect the other flowers. I didn't get mad, though. After I stopped standing there, dumbfounded at how it got there, I smiled.

This little pumpkin was my own unintentional fault. It was something I had let happen by accident, never thinking for a second that my Halloween decorations from the fall before would have left seeds that would invade the vision of my summer project. It was almost as if it had grown, not my accident, but intentionally. A small lesson to be learned as the new school year begins.

What is the lesson to be learned from this small, surprise pumpkin? Sometimes, we take so much time to pull weeds, till the soil, plan, and plant, but things don't end up as we imagined they might. Most often, they don't. The weeds grow back, the flowers don't bloom, or we end up with a surprise pumpkin growing in our garden. It is up to us to love the result and appreciate the surprises that might find their way into our gardens, seemingly by accident, but most likely, by some unintentional design.

Can you spot the small, surprise pumpkin? 
Can't wait to see how many we get! 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A Damn Poem

Every year, writers from around the world attempt to complete the 30/30 challenge during the month of April, which is National Poetry Month. This means they attempt to write 30 poems in 30 days. They don't have to be complete poems. Most poets joke that May is "National Editing Month" because usually you only end up with a few poems that you would consider up to your own standards.

I have completed this challenge quite a few times, most of them relatively successful. This, however, was when I was reading poetry at events regularly. I could crank out a poem a day easily and while they weren't all masterpieces, I always ended with at least 5 or so that I felt confident sharing with others. So naturally, I decided that this year, in the midst of working full time and finishing my Masters, I would try the 30/30 challenge again. To sum up how things went, here is one of the poems I wrote:

A Damn Poem 

I can't even find five
minutes to write a damn word
let alone a poem. 

And after this poem, which was written on April 11th, I only attempted to write one more. Based on the above poem, you can probably guess that this was not my year to complete the 30/30 challenge successfully. In fact, I'm not even sure I got 5 or so quality poems out of it.

While reflecting on my failure at the 30/30 challenge, I realized that poetry is not the only thing I feel disconnected to this time of year. The end of the school year tends to cause everything else to fall by the wayside. I feel over joyed when I have time to work in my yard, spend time with my cats and my husband, even read a book, things that weekends are for, but the extra time seems to be so hard to come by.

I recently agreed to participate in a teacher book club at my school. When I found the book sitting on my desk, I wanted to tuck it into my desk drawer and forget about it. That sounds horrible because I know it will make me a better teacher, but if I can't find the time to read for fun, how will I ever find time to read for work? It's just another thing to add to the list.

Hell, I couldn't even take 5 minutes to write more angsty haikus to complete my 30/30 challenge. And maybe that is the downside of being an adult. There are always a million things to do and something like poetry never falls at the top of this list. It's too bad because when I wrote the first 10 poems, I felt amazing! 10 minutes to write about something that matters to me was a great stress reliever just as yard work, kitty cuddles, and reading can do.

But how can we find time for ourselves in the hectic day to day tasks? How can we find time to write about what's going on, read to become a better person, and do things that help us to relax? Maybe there isn't a solution, but my goal from now to the end of the school year is to try and write some damn poems, finish my book club book, and get some cuddles in because I know there's time, I just have to find it.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

I Ate Meat Today

I have a confession to make. I ate meat today. I skipped mass, didn't walk around with ashes proudly displayed on my forehead. I have not thought about what to give up for Lent because I didn't even realize it was even coming. I debated leaving my Easter wreath in the basement and putting up one with just generic spring flowers.

As a dutiful Catholic school girl, I would have felt ashamed for even thinking these things. It was cool to walk around with a big cross made out of ashes on your forehead and if a little got on your nose or white uniform shirt, it was even better. If you ate something you had given up for Lent, even by accident you felt guilty until you told someone and still felt guilty even after you did.

And every year there was a St. Joseph's table at school filled with hundreds of baked goods to choose from. And every year my classmate had her birthday party at a chocolate shop and there was always at least one of us who ended up taking theirs home to freeze for Easter. And every year at least one of us would slip up on our Lenten promise and though someone always reassured us that God would forgive you if it really was an honest mistake, we still felt like we had failed him.

Growing up, being Catholic was who I was. Lent was a time for me to grow closer to God, to ask for forgiveness, to feel close to him by promising to give something up for 40 days as he fasted for 40 days in the desert. I would go to church and feel rejuvenated. I was surrounded by people who thought and felt the same way. I was comfortable in my faith.

Nowadays, my faith makes me uncomfortable. I was taught that questioning our faith, though natural as humans, would lead us away from God and that we should always believe and accept things without asking too many questions. I think this is where my struggles have lied. I am human. I have lots of questions. I don't believe everything the church teaches. Some days, it is hard to even pinpoint what I believe.

Yet still, on Ash Wednesday, when I find myself with no ashes on my forehead, planning on eating meat for dinner, skipping mass, and choosing to leave my Easter wreath behind, I find myself longing for the comfort of these traditions, of the faith that I grew up in.

Today, when my student walked into school today and another asked her "What's wrong with your forehead?" and she proudly replied, "I am Catholic and today is ash Wednesday!" I felt the urge to go to church. When my student was eating a cheese sandwich and someone asked her, "Just cheese?" and she replied "I am not supposed to eat meat today" I wanted to change my dinner plans. I was jealous of her faith and the pride she had in it.

Perhaps this is all just part of growing up. Through life experience we learn to never take anything we are told at face value. We learn to ask questions. I am grateful that I have learned to not walk through life stating my faith blindly, relying on what others tell me to be right as truth. I am grateful that I do not feel guilty for slipping up, for being human. I am grateful for this journey of faith I am on, however winding and cracked it may feel. I just find myself missing my roots some days. Today is one of those days.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Until You Know Better

I want to write more again and so I found myself sifting through the many notes I have in my iPhone of ideas for poems. I have many random thoughts on my long drives home and so many of the lines are written through my Bluetooth using my not-so-good-friend, Siri. If you have ever tried to do this while driving and being unable to edit, I am sure you can imagine how hard they can be to decipher. Fortunately, I have many that are not gibberish and today, I came across two lines that struck me. Here they are:

A bottle of red is just a bottle of red until you know better

And a word is just a word until you know better.

I don't remember where I was when I wrote this. The date of last edit on that note is 10/6/2016 and I don't remember what happened that day that made me write this. It is funny how things we think, randomly on a drive home or in a grocery store or laying on the couch, can ring true months later.

Before I knew my love for red wine, it was just something my mother ordered when we were out to dinner or something grown ups gave to each other as gifts. In college, it was too bitter to drink. I stuck with sweet wines that make me cringe now. It wasn't until after I graduated college that I truly appreciated a glass of red and how well it pairs with steak or chocolate or cheesecake or the end of a long day. Something about growing older makes us appreciate bitter things. Dark wines. Black coffee. Fear. Grief.

Before I knew my love for words, they were just something I used to relay my needs. When I began writing at a very young age, I was fascinated by language and its sounds. But as beautiful as some words can be, they can also be violent. There are so many words I never knew the power of until they were used against me or someone I love. There are so many more that I still don't and hope I never will. But I know that words have bite now. Something about growing older makes us more cautious of the things we say. Chalk this up to experience or fear of offense or personal discipline.

I guess these two lines were meant to say, as we get older, we learn to know better. I have learned that a bottle of red can cure headaches, but can also cause them. I have learned that words can bring us closer or tear us apart. These are the only two examples I wrote down of things that can be both a blessing and a curse, but I bet I could write a whole poem listing hundreds. I bet you could write your own list, too.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Spending 2017 Sitting in Lotus

Good morning everyone and welcome to the year 2017. Last night, as Brandon and I continued our tradition of ringing in the new year in our pajamas, drinking champagne, and relaxing together, I asked him what his hope was for the new year. I won't share what he told me, but I will share what I said.

While tradition urges us to come up with a resolution, something we want to change or improve in the coming year, I am hoping for consistency, some calm, a chance to settle into life more. Here is what I mean...

I want to continue to gain confidence and knowledge in the job I have, the job I love, so I can become the best at what I do. I want to continue making connections with my colleagues, students and their families to positively impact their lives.

I want to continue seeking out a community in this new state we live in. It has been difficult at times being away from family and friends for obvious reasons. There are times where I feel lonely, but I am making progress towards finding community here. My hope is that I can continue to do so.

I want to continue exploring my faith and beliefs, to continue the search for my own personal truth, to question, to listen, to discuss.

I want to continue to read and to read all kinds of books. I read 50 books in the year 2016 and that is my goal again for the year 2017. It gave me a chance to learn about different people, religions, cultures, and to grow my own knowledge of the world around me.

I want to continue to exercise, to write, to have meaningful conversations with my husband, to spend time with family and friends no matter how far, to take advantage of opportunities to do fun things, but also to spend time relaxing at home.

In reflecting on this past year and the new year of 2017, I am reminded of a quote from Andrea Gibson, one of my favorite poets, from her poem "Pole Dancer" that goes:

"cause anyone who has ever sat in lotus for more than a few seconds
knows that it takes a hell of a lot more muscle to stay than to go."

The year 2016 was another year of moving and rebuilding and while the past few years have been exciting in a variety of ways, I am realizing I am ready for some calm. I want 2017 to be more steady, more peaceful.

So here is to spending 2017 sitting in lotus for more than a few seconds.
Here is to finding comfort in routines and the place I live in.
Here is to being still in the life I have here, now.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Be Each Other's Light

When members of my family turned on us, it was a quick and easy decision to remove them from my life. It seemed the only practical thing to do. Why go to family parties, sit in the corner, and fear an outburst of hate? Why bring someone I love onto an unfairly weighted battlefield? Why bring our future children into a family that would make them feel bad about themselves solely based on their mixed race? Why live in fear of hate?

Upon hearing the verdict, and I say verdict because it feels to me like a guilty man has just been released, I found myself shaking. My first thought was shock. I had believed, that the outrageous, hateful rhetoric that was shared by our now presidential elect would be enough for America to stop him in his tracks. My second was to reach for optimism, to say there is a light at the end the tunnel always, right? But I found myself asking, what if the sun has set and there is no more light?

I have struggled a lot with this election. I have spent the last week constantly near tears. It feels like the air around me has changed. I can't really explain it, but last night, when Brandon texted me from work to say there were protesters outside and police in full equipment blocking off streets, that he had walked through this to get inside, it hit me. The hate, from both sides, is way too close to home.

The last time I felt this way, all I had to do was change my email address, stop going to family parties, and spend more time with people who lifted me up than those who were bringing me down. Now, I cannot just change my email address. I cannot just stop going to events. But I can do the latter. I can surround myself with people who lift me up, who love no matter what. And I can lift others up and love them.

There are a lot of scary things happening in this country. Both sides are turning on each other. People are angry. People are afraid. While this week has felt like walking through a tunnel where the sun is setting and the light is slowly dimming, there is something I was reminded of.

There will always be hate. There was before and there will be tomorrow. It may be from our families, strangers, neighbors, political figures from around the world and while I admire optimism, it is a fact that we will never truly be at peace. People are different and that is what makes us human and powerful and strong. It is this realization that must be embraced.

We must live together despite our fears and beliefs. We must not let one man define how we interact with each other. We cannot give one human being that kind of power over us. So whatever your political affiliation, whoever you voted for, whatever your fears, we must be each other's light at the end of this tunnel. It is the only way we will get out.