Collectively Conscious

It all started innocently enough.

Moved by an evocative poem by Dennis Ference, I shared it here.

A friend liked it.  She had just lamented on FaceBook that her son participated in his last grandparent day at school since he’ll be entering middle school in the fall.

My aunt emailed a link to a video she’d watched meditating on the fact that it is the everyday moments that make up life with our children – just minutes before reading my reblog.

That afternoon I watched my children ride their bikes to the neighbors’ house – only four doors down – but far enough that they pedaled out of sight.  I fought hard against the pressure building in my chest.  I fought against the desire to reel them back in on an invisible thread to my heart.

I watched the birds alight from treetops across the street and glide across the sky.

We will all honor every moment.

When the last child leaves home

Jennifer Butler Basile:

I will read this whenever I wish these moments away. So much better than ‘Enjoy them while they’re young. It goes by so fast.’ Thank you, Dennis Ference.

Originally posted on Merging Traffic:

What does one make of this time?
A time filled to the very edge
with emotions almost unbearable.
At first taste, sadness.
But then again joy,
and pride and fulfillment.
Yes, it is our son
who is leaving this time –
the youngest,
the last to go,
farther away than the first.
But in the symbol of the leaving
is also the daughter, the first.
For something deeply significant happens
this time around
for mother and father –
the close of a chapter
never to be repeated.
And we stand in awe
of what, or rather, who
has come to be.
For we, husband and wife, have loved
out of a oneness
that we have been destined to live.
And out of that oneness
has blossomed life
that in this strange mystery
that we are all part of,
has shared deeply in our union
and yet has always been meant

View original 197 more words

Dust Echoes

The universe has sent me a thing of beauty just when I needed it.

Searching for an image to accompany my previous post, I came across this logo:

dust echoes

Given my explanation of dust as a metaphor for all that piles up in one’s mind, I found it an apt illustration – but I was curious as to its creator’s views on the subject.  Clicking on the link, I found this amazing website.  A project of Tom E. Lewis, Dust Echoes offers animated shorts from then emerging Australian animators, depicting touchstone stories of Aboriginal culture.  The homepage itself is a story, drawing viewers right into the landscape.  Aimed at engaging young people in the rich traditions and history of the Aboriginal people, it is a visual and auditory treat for people of any age.

So, in answer to my question, the creators of this graphic had totally different views on the idea of dust echoing.  They helped me see that there is great value in hearing echoes of the past and transmitting them to future generations.

The Hairy Crumb

Do you remember when you were a child and your mother seemed so neat and tidy, so put together? She would whip the house into shape in no time. Flit about the house each morning, making beds, washing breakfast dishes, hanging clean laundry to dry in the sun.

You knew she did it, but it never occurred to you how. You never weighed the drudgery of the tasks, the tedious amounts of effort that went into the seemingly effortless job she did.

Did the tasks weigh on her the way they do you? Another item added to the to-do list adding one more stone upon your chest. The never-ending monotony of it threatening to suffocate you like a toppled tower of laundry. The disarray around you making you feel like a failure.

The hairy crumb on the floor taking on a life of its own, sucking the life out of yours spiraling out of control.

Keeping house probably didn’t send your mother into the existential angst of a panic attack. Not because she emulated June Cleaver, but because she was not (is not) ruled by anxiety. She would not take on more than she could chew. And if she did pack her calendar, she’d know how to prioritize to make it all work. She did not suffer from the irrational desire for physical orderliness as a means of reining in her mental and emotional chaos.

Or maybe you’re seeing your mother through the eyes of a child – a superhero who can do all effortlessly and heroically. Perhaps not unlike your own children see you. Only you’re pretty sure you never saw her sitting on the floor, hands hovering near her heart, tense and twitching, physically trying to push. the. demands. away.

Dirty Laundry

A neighbor came into my house this morning.

Dropping her girls off for their daily trek to the bus stop with mine, she had considerately righted my pot of mums blown over in last night’s storm. The pot had not so considerately slimed her with green goo growing on its side. Ushering her into the bathroom to wash her hands, I thought, oh God – is it clean? Is the hand towel fresh enough? Will she drown in the puddles of water the girls perpetually leave around the sink? Has too much time elapsed since I wiped the scum out of the sink? Lots to think about in the few short minutes it takes for proper hand washing technique.

Then she had to walk back through the dining room to get to the front door. She noticed our retro console radio, one that provided the soundtrack for countless cocktail parties my husband’s great aunt threw in her heyday. Instead of zeroing in the connection she had to it, having had a similar one growing up, I fretted about the piles of paper schmagma she might notice on top it. Or the tiny pebbles of Play-doh scattered about the floor that I made a mental note of last night to sweep up before they came over.

I felt like she’d judge me if I didn’t have a perfectly clean house. I worried the outward appearance of my home would reflect the inner workings of the care of my children, my family, my self. Is the put-together, in-control image a facade? Off-guard, unawares, does this tell the true story?

This feeling, concern, compulsion is not inspired just by this neighbor. It is the panic that ensues whenever someone drops by unannounced. With a constant flow of laundry, dishes, corrected school and artwork, mail and printed matter, any given surface in our house is clean for no longer than an hour. And that’s the clutter. Never mind the dust bunnies, the ring around the toilet, the smears, the crumbs . . .

And then I saw a picture on Facebook. It was of a woman I haven’t spoken to in years reading to her two children in a home I’ve never been to before. The kids nestled in close to her, all three seated on the floor, their backs up against the front part of the couch. The scene, a simple and common occurrence in the life of a family, somehow spoke of the love of a parent and child, of the connection, of the amazing gravity of this stolen moment. The picture was taken at wide range, including the bookcase behind them, the TV stand, the windows – a pile of laundry haphazardly spread across the couch. Yet, all that blends into the background, pulling this trio into sharp focus.

Truthfully, I was happy to notice that pile of laundry. Because it meant I wasn’t the only one with messy mounds of stuff we’d failed to put away. But what struck me more was that this mother only saw the story in front of her. She wasn’t looking over her shoulder at jobs left undone, chores to do. She hadn’t ‘unshared’ this photo because her house wasn’t perfectly tidy.

When my youngest was maybe eight months old, another mother of three came over to take photos of my girls. I may have worried about not having a good backdrop for her practice shots to build her portfolio, but she was only concerned with their pudgy little faces, their sparkling eyes. In fact, she told me it was refreshing to visit the home of a woman/mother who didn’t feel like she had to make everything perfect before accepting a visitor. She begged my pardon, assuring me she didn’t mean it as a critique of my homemaking skills. I knew she didn’t. But it still gave me pause. First, was my house that nasty, so obviously not cleaned up? Second, I couldn’t claim the freedom from judgment she charged me with. I’d just run out of time and/or energy to make things better before she arrived.

But none of us have the time and/or energy to have show-ready homes at all times (or anytime). So why do we still beat ourselves up for not achieving it? Why do we make excuses when others enter, apologizing for the mess, fibbing that’s it’s not always like this? Why can’t we own that big dust bunny in the corner? Why can’t we see the life around us and not the litter?

Why are we always so ashamed of what’s inside, when it’s usually what makes us the same? If we only aired our dirty laundry, it would become fresh and clean.

A Place to Land

Not so long ago, maybe a generation or two back, all things were black or white. There was no middle ground. Expectations were clear. One either fell on one side of an issue or the other. The thing was – there were people who fell in the middle. People who had no defined spot. They were neither here nor there – so they were nowhere.

No one deserves to be no where.

Nowadays, in our generation, those children desperately coming of age as parents of their own children, everywhere we look there are different shades of gray. Fifty is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many nuanced pitfalls to navigate.

Body image. Nurturing healthy sexuality without encouraging oversexualization. Self-concept. Independence with a modicum of obedience. Utilization of technology while maintaining human interaction. . . .

Instead of yes or no, everything is up for discussion. We don’t want our children to do a particular thing, make a particular decision, live a particular lifestyle, but we cannot condemn it – for we run the risk of offending someone. We do not want our children to condemn others or other points of view – so we skirt around topics instead of facing them head-on. We live in a constant haze of gray.

But if everything goes, everything is everywhere – does that not leave all of us nowhere?

Our children will not know where to stand if we place everything in front of them with no guidance, no discussion, no sense of right and wrong. There is a difference between open, informed dialogue and an all-you-can-eat buffet of sociology.

If the pendulum trended toward the restrictive threat of ostracization before, it has now swung toward the promiscuous promise of floating in the wind. There must be somewhere in the middle.

Floating in the wind is nice – until you tire of it and realize you’ve nowhere to land. A place to land – we owe the next generation at least that.



Oh, My Aching Head

We call them Old Wives’ Tales, but there must be some truth to them.  For, why would such a tale transmit through the generations, from place to place, person to person?

One particular teacher, a seasoned veteran, and I used to compare notes on our students’ behavior in relation to the phase of the moon.  In other words, a full moon meant crazy kids.

I extended that prediction to rainy days as well.  A drop in the barometric pressure caused children’s brains to ooze our their ears.

Which is about what is happening to my just-returned-from-school children right now.

Oh, my aching Old Wife’s head.

Found this image on - thought the info on this site was ironically appropriate for all adults involved.

Found this image on – thought the info on this site was ironically appropriate for all adults involved.


Marking the distance yet to cover when your arrival time has elapsed. How close can I get?
Noting how many more steps yet to complete a recipe before your spouse returns. How far can I get?
Washing clothes and putting them back in drawers before it’s been a week since you first took them out. How anal retentive can I get?

Perhaps we all have such markers, paces we put ourselves through – though we might never know because not many would admit them. For fear of – sounding crazy? Mental? OCD?

I actually asked my therapist once if I was OCD. She said there are such things as OCD tendencies or even an OCD personality without an actual OCD diagnosis. One way to tell, she said, if whether such routines disrupt our way of life. If they stop us from all the other bits of living we could be getting to because they take up too much time – or if we cannot even begin living if we don’t first complete them.

So I may not have full blown OCD, but I have my quirks.

Not being fully free of a dinner party until the platters, teacups, tablecloths are all clean and back in their original homes.
Reading library books in the order they were taken out of the library.
Impelled to leave pieces of projects out, where they will taunt me, until I’ve completed them.

My mind works in weird ways. Segmented. Compartmentalized. Whatever part of it that is responsible for my control freak tendencies has trained me to believe that physical limits lead to overarching control. What a quirky rule of thumb. And I fall for it mind, heart, and fingers.

Quick and Hard Hitting

Something to which I aspire . . . This page offers some amazing examples of what one can do with but a few hundred words.


Boston Literary Magazine.

Fly on a Sticky Wicket

A second grader, hands still so small they remind you of the baby they grew out of not so long ago, eager to please, eyes full of wonder and mirth, proud to show her parent some of her schoolwork, excited because the parent is here, in her classroom. It is a special day, out of the ordinary. As she moves to retrieve her journal from its crate, a classmate in the front row sneers under his breath, “What do you think this is? A second open house?”

The parent in this scenario is me. The second grader is my daughter. The classmate in the front row is – rude? A bully? Jealous? The teacher in me found it hard not to reprimand this rude comment. The mother in me found it hard not to put this punk in his place. But because my daughter thankfully didn’t seem to hear it, because it wasn’t my place, and because it wasn’t my charge of children (ie my classroom) – I stepped back to assess the situation.

All teachers know that nearly all off-base comments are based on some insecurity hidden deep within the offending student. In the heat of a disruptive moment in one’s own classroom, it’s hard to remember or appreciate this, but as a parent privy to only this one comment and able to scoot back out the door I’d only just peeked into, it was easy to presuppose why this student may have made such a snarky comment.

As jazzed as my daughter was at my visit, there was a vacuum of other parents who couldn’t be in the room right then. Perhaps this young man was upset that his parent(s) couldn’t be there. Perhaps his parents have jobs that prevent a midday visit. Perhaps he’s angry or sad that his parents would never think to come into his classroom. Perhaps the obvious joy and pride in my daughter’s eyes reflecting in mine is something he can’t bear to see because this is the only time he will.

Perhaps it is unfair for me to make such presuppositions.

After many years of seeing students in action, however, I know that those students who you would least like to embrace are exactly the ones who need it most.

Not an easy task when they make hurtful comments, strike out at those around them, and have no other framework of operating to follow. There is no easy answer. Remember, I didn’t say anything . . .

But while there may be a reason for it, such behavior cannot be condoned. Had my child heard this hurtful comment, her joy would’ve been squashed as well. Her fragile nature, which I’d come into the classroom to build up, would’ve been diminished.

How do we support such children without discouraging others around them?


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