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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Memoir Prompt: Adventure

Great memoir prompt! Anndeecandy wrote: "Day 4: Adventure. "This is the story of how Baggins had an adventure, and found himself doing things and saying things altogether unexpected. He may have lost the neighbours' respect, but he gained--well, you will see whether he gained anything in the end."' 

Want to participate in the Memoir writing? Go to Anndeecandy or type #8minutememoir on Instagram. :)

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I have a strong sense of adventure. Or rather, my brain does. After having careened wildly through the years up until about age 30, my brain finally started slowing down enough for me to become more introspective.. to be able to look inward and and to begin to be PROactive instead of REactive.

My brain has a strong tendency to be sleepy. Since having my youngest child and watching his development, I have associated my brain as having ADD, in the literal sense. Meetings are painful, paperwork is a struggle. My difficulty with schooling through my early years until high school began to make sense. While I crave the structure of a routine and some semblance of schedule (as is proven to me by about mid-July of every summer) I find that without some adventure to plot, I sleepwalk through my life.

Give me something novel, particularly an adventure of any kind, and my brain comes gloriously alive! It is at these times that I believe I am my best self, although I can also move into hyper focusing and then drive myself and others around me to tears. :)

Most recently, my sense of adventure was satiated with a six week long summer trip that I took with my two sons. Nearly two years in the planning, it gave me something fun to obsess over and obsess I did! There was so much to read about and plan! Lodging to be rented, activities to be booked, routes to plan. Everywhere that I go, I like to plan things to be as "local" as possible, so we try to stay in neighborhoods or Mom and Pop joints, and we like to find hole-in-the-wall places to eat that the locals enjoy. We also try hard to eat what is special to that place or region. 

We also jumped off the cliff into physical adventure! Nine national parks and many state parks. Rappelling, Canyoneering, Hiking Bungee swinging over a gorge, Ziplining, Extreme 4x4 Rock Crawling and more. It took me a year, the loss of 65 pounds and some major training to prepare my body, but I did it. It was the "Summer of Yes," as in YES we can do that and YES I can and YES to every picture in every place possible.  And now, looking back a year later, YES all those things were accomplished and I don't regret a single minute or a single penny spent.

Oddly, that adventure was both so exhausting and so fulfilling that my sense of adventure, maybe for the first time in my life, has been somewhat satiated. I don't have the craving that I have felt all my life, deep in my bones, to be somewhere else, on the run, planning the next big thing. The restlessness has been dormant and I have been more of a homebody than I can recall being at any other time in my life.

Still, I am beginning to feel a flickering again. There is so much out there to explore, and so little time in which to do it all! Accents I have yet to hear, foods I have yet to try, sights and sounds and smells and adventures yet to unfold before me. 

Ain't life grand?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Memoir Prompt: Billboards


Road Trips: pretty much a given in Americana childhoods.

Who doesn't remember being on an endless road trip growing up with their parents and siblings?
I certainly do!

Road trips were sliding around in the back of the station wagon, and one lucky year, getting to lay back there to sleep while our parents were in the front seat, driving through the night. I remember laying there looking out at the sky, soothed by the road noise and feeling the expansiveness of the world and my small place in it.

Road trips were the excuse for crappy handheld games, but it was all we knew and so we loved them..  you knew it too, as COLECO! Coleco basketball, Coleco football- those are the two I remember. Little red DOTS for God's sake, yet my brother Richard played the games with rapt attention. I played them some too.. it was a road trip and I was desperate!

Road trips were the fun "Yes and No" Invisible Ink books, that I have since shared with my own kids, who were decidedly less impressed than I had been.

Road trips were "What city are we in?" "What state are we in?" "What country are we in?" Possibly simple questions for some, but not for a ten year old dreamer, staring out the window and singing a song.  Tears would ensue after incessant badgering from the front seat.

Road trips were searching a map from top to bottom, left to right for probably a full hour, searching for a town called "Red Stick" according to my Dad, which I will never forget for the rest of my life, is  instead Baton Rouge. ;)

Road trips were stories made up and continued for years, quite literally years, by my brother and I called "Hegge and Eggy." Little creatures that were made up of our second and third fingers, who would walk around and talk and,  more than anything, be INCREDIBLY NAUGHTY and ILL BEHAVED and according to my Mother, EXCEEDINGLY LOUD AND ANNOYING.

Road trips were the "Quiet Game" (after too many episodes of Hegge and Eggy, natch) ONE TWO THREE QUIET! and a few seconds later, the inevitable fart, or burp, or giggle.

Road trips were "Don't make me pull this car over!" and an arm reaching around from the front seat to slap and pinch wildly at the shorts-clad legs in the back seat, while Richard and I would simultaneously be trying to move our own legs out of the way while getting our sibling's legs slapped or pinched.

Road trips were "He's on my side!" "She's touching me!"

Finally, road trips were the billboards on the side of the road while playing the Alphabet Game. The game would go fast and furious until we got to the letter Q, and then the great anticipatory wait for the La Quinta Inn would set in. It only occurred to me today that we weren't even out of Houston City Limits at that point. My poor parents. :D

Kids today may have their iPads and iPods and movies, but on the other hand, they have no idea what they are missing!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Memoir Prompt: I Don't Remember


My Dad called me on the phone last night.

Long story short, he had read the blog entry from the other day, and he was touched by it. Perhaps more than that, though, he said in a cracking voice that he didn't remember that moment.

He went on to share that I remember him as perhaps a better father than he was, that when he reflects back on how he parented, he does not remember moments such as these but the things he did that he is less proud of.

I've thought a lot about that, both last night and also since I have become a parent. I've wondered what will rise to the surface, what my children will remember and retain of their childhoods. I've written, somewhat jokingly, about how my children seem to believe they were spanked within an inch of their lives on a fairly large number of occasions, which is QUITE far from the truth, but apparently the few made a large impression.

Lord knows the endless meals, laundry, shutting to and fro make next to no impression at all!

I think two things ultimately rise and stay in memory, at least from my childhood and, I expect, from my childrens' childhoods as they look back on them- the element of surprise/special/the unexpected, and the overall intention.

I have a lot to draw from in the first category, my favorite memory of all being my Mom pulling me out of high school one day COMPLETELY unexpectedly, right in the middle of the day, to take me to the airport, fly me to Dallas, and take me to the Bruce Springsteen Born in the USA concert. THAT was an amazing surprise and more than that, it was a remarkable thing to do. No doubt she could have cared less about Springsteen and I can guarantee I was a CRAPPY teenager to my Mom.. I would not have wanted to spend time with me and my attitude toward her for sure.. but I will never forget the surprise, the effort she put forth to bridge a gap; even in my self centered teens I had great appreciation for that. And small things too, like cupcakes baked in ice cream cone shells for my birthday, that I could take to school and feel special.

Regarding intention, here's the thing, Moms and Dads:
We all mess up. There are times when we mess up ROYALLY, sometimes we know it as we do it or immediately afterward, and sometimes those mistakes become apparent in hindsight. Some are EPIC and when we see them, they fill us with shame- that we couldn't see our child was hurting until too far down the line, that we reacted in a way that caused them pain that was not temporary but more permanent... that we failed them. Isn't that a parent's greatest fear? That we fail to do what we can to make them strong, healthy and whole individuals? Isn't that our JOB?

This is where I believe intention comes into play.
Of course I remember things my parents did that they shouldn't have. Absolutely they made mistakes, just as I have and Rob have too. Some I already know, some will be revealed to me in time either through my own eyes or through what my children will reflect back to me.

But what I do know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that I was loved. My brother was loved. Fiercely, by both parents, in the imperfect way that we love each other. The overall intention was to make us better people, and through successes and misfires, I think they did.. and I believe they did it all in love and in the best way they knew how to do at the time. Just as Rob and I are doing and have done.

So Dad, don't worry about what we remember and what we don't, or what you remember or what you don't. Over time the details fade away, and some good stuff rises to the surface (and some bad stuff too) but the overall intention remains.

I was loved. I am loved. Deeply and fully and well.
That's all that matters.

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Join in the Memoir Prompt series if you would like!
Link is here: http://anndeeellis.com/2016/08/19/day-2/

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Memoir Prompt: I Remember When

(I am participating in a Memoir Prompt activity. Eight minutes of writing, three prompts a week, unedited stream of consciousness.

At this point in my life, I am writing for me. Those who have been a part of my life and have tender feelings, know this going in!)

I remember, back in my middle school days, living in Italy, when it was report card day.
I hated report card day.

I hated school.
I hated the social aspect of school- I didn't fit in well with most of the girls, I was a tomboy and fairly socially awkward. I got hit hard by that ugly stick, no lie.
Not only did I hate school, but I wasn't that good at it. Not that I couldn't have been, mind you, I just didn't CARE that much about it. Homework? Meh, why bother?

My parents would ask me, "Do you have any homework?" and I would blithely reply "Nope!" or come up with some strategic lie about having finished it at school or whatever. And off I would go to play, or read a book, or do whatever I would do.

The time would come, of course, for The Reckoning.
In the life of a middle schooler, that is Report Card Day.

Oh, how I would drag my feet on the walk home from the bus stop.
My brother, God love him, would be skipping along merrily with his near-perfect report card, with me hissing behind him to not show it to them dear God can we just not tell them we have our report cards PLEASE?

Yeah, good luck with that.

I have no idea what my parents must have thought quarter after quarter, year after year, about this kid with the crappy report card. I'm sure they must have been disappointed, aggravated, furious even. They were paying for private school for us and they could not have picked a kid who seemingly cared less.
I really think I would have slapped my kids silly, but oddly they are not of me regarding school, but of my husband, and they all do well.

But for this I Remember When, I remember this:

Standing before my Father with said report card in his hands and expecting the worst.
He looked at me, with a measured gaze, and then he suggested we go down to the corner market and play video games (or something like that. I can't exactly remember. But honestly, it was something like that, or get ice cream, or SOMETHING LIKE THAT.)

I looked back at him, stunned. Confused. Perhaps waiting for the earth to spin off its axis or to be struck by lightning.

Instead, I took his hand, and walked with him out of the door and to the corner.
My hand was secure in his and amidst my feelings of shame and failure, I knew that for him, regardless, I was enough.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Letting Go and Letting God, Redefined.

My dreams for my children have always been ordinary.

I don't really know what that says about me, but it's the truth.

All I've ever wanted for them is that they are happy and find fulfillment in their lives. I hoped that they would marry someone who would love them forever and always, and that they would have children who would also be happy and healthy. I dreamed that they would have a job that would bring them satisfaction, yet also enough income to have everything they need and some of what they want. All of this, along with safety, health and longevity.

Plentiful dreaming, but not extraordinary.

I never dreamed that they would be world renowned for anything- music, sports, inventions etc. That never occurred to me at all.

Since August, I feel that I am being stretched in ways that I never anticipated and honestly, never wanted. Well, I never would have wanted it I'm sure but honestly I don't know that it ever really occurred to me at all.. that I might have a child who was interested in serving his country.

Blithely in July, I took both my sons to visit the Air Force Academy in Colorado. We oohed and aahed over the extraordinary architecture of the Chapel, ate a pizza in the food court, peeked around the bookstore. It was a stop amongst many stops on our five week trip and it registered as no more than that for any of us.

Thus, when my Dad was coming for a visit in August, I planned a day for us to drive over the Annapolis. We'd visit the capitol city of Maryland, tour the Naval Academy and eat at a crab house. A wonderfully enjoyable way to spend a summer afternoon, I'd say. And I was right.

Except.

I did not foresee the rapidly growing excitement in my 16-now-17 year old son's eyes. I did not see the sudden fire of desire and passion and then when I saw it, I fully expected it to flame and then burn out quickly.

Now it is nearly December. He is single minded in his desire to attend the Naval Academy. Each test score, each leadership position, each accomplishment is a step in that direction. It is his first choice, his motivation, his dream.

But wait!

What about MY dreams?

I realize now that nowhere in MY dreams did I leave room for his dreams to be different. Not that his are directly opposed to mine of course, but nowhere in my dreaming was there a risk taken that could shatter the comfortable progression I had chosen.

In the months since August, I have wrestled fiercely with my desire to support his dreams while also desperately fearing them.

It's admirable to want to serve our country and I think the Naval Academy is a good school, I really do. I can see him absolutely loving it, actually, and growing by leaps and bounds in his natural gifts of excellence, motivation and leadership. But when I think of the years after the Academy, at least five, when his life will potentially be in peril, I want to vomit. I have a literal, visceral reaction that I've only ever experienced before when I have felt that someone is threatening my children.

That's it. That's what it feels like. It is that crazed Mama Bear response that rises up like the fiercest beast and protector, except that my son is walking toward what I am perceiving as the threat, by choice. He doesn't want my protection in this, and I have no idea what to do with these feelings.

My work over the past few months, my work now, and my work in the next year plus, is to learn to shift my way of thinking. His life is his life, his dreams are his dreams. I will have to put my trust in him to live his life as he feels called and led to do, and put my trust in the Academy (should he go there) to teach him well. And I will be calling on God with every fiber of my being to protect him and hold him in his care.