Monthly Archives: February 2016

Words on Words

Creating the space to write has been a struggle for me ever since I first discovered that writing was something for which I had both an affinity and ability. Like many things I now appreciate, this connection happened only after reaching adulthood. It came about when a marketing internship I held for a few months lead to me composing a few blog posts about the Tour de France in an effort to add content to the online community my boss was building. I thought nothing of it, I was simply doing my job, but a few days after posting my boss casually mentioned that a colleague of his who “knows these things” read my babble and thought the writing was good. Who knew? I didn’t. Prior to that my writing career consisted of hastily written school papers and doodled nonsense passed as neatly folded notes to friends.

So blogging… this thing that certainly didn’t exist in any sort of friendly fashion prior to my university years, and even in college was still a mystery to most. I guess I decided to try it, first setting up a Blogger account through which I wrote all of three posts in as many weeks, one of which discussed the strength of our fandom for the Florida Gators and another of which bemoaned the maintenance of hair free legs. Truly epic stuff my friends. My dear Dad provided more praise and I was feeling lovely about this developing hobby, but then it died. As a childless woman working a part time job, it’s a wonder I found time to do anything at all, let alone write a few paragraphs about my high brow interests and opinions. I couldn’t allow anything to interfere with marathon viewings of the Sopranos or…um… what the hell did I do back then?? I didn’t work 40 hours per week, I didn’t have children, I didn’t have more than a thousand square feet of yardless townhouse to maintain, I wasn’t part of any sort of group or club or organization. WHAT DID I DO? I can’t even fathom the endless minutes available to me and what pile of meaningless fodder I filled them with. Point being, back then, I was fully setup for space to blog and back then, I didn’t.

But back then I didn’t work 40+ hours per week, and back then I didn’t have kids or a house or a fabulous circle of friends with whom I partook in all sorts of activities and endeavors. Back then I had little happening in my life that I deemed worthy of interweb discourse and so I lacked what every writer, artist, creator needs – inspiration. Of course with time came changes that created a more fulfilling life, one where adventure in one shape or another was seemingly always on the horizon, and one that no longer lacked excitement, but instead, lacked time. Ain’t it funny how life works? TNSTAAFL. Google it.

I suppose I’ll give myself credit though for the fact that Elderland here has existed since 2009. Dry spells abound, and it seems with every passing year I become less likely to keep at it, but I’m grateful for every last word I’ve written because those words are memories and those memories mean everything. I think about writing nearly every day, frequently frustrated with myself for not figuring out how to make it happen. I make a million other things happen all the time, why not this?

Well. It’s happening now. So how?

I started journaling. Nothing serious. Random thoughts, stream of consciousness, to do lists, wishes and wants, kid quotes, rants and vents, goals, feelings and anything else that I feel like privately expounding into my phone. Yes, it’s an app. I figured if I was going to make this thing work so I could make the other thing work, I better make it as seamless as possible, and what’s with me more than my phone? The “other thing” being writing of course, because aside from the mental health benefits that I’ve only recently realized the possibility of, the decision to journal came from my supposition that if I could just start writing some fucking thing it would lead to writing other things, and with journaling there would be less pressure (from myself) for it to be anything eloquent so it would be the walking that leads to running. Energy begets energy, so why shouldn’t writing beget writing?

And then there’s Norah. My burgeoning student. A couple weeks ago I came home to a beaming 5.5 year old proud to present her first ever award: Extraordinary Effort & Growth in Writing. The swell in my heart upon receiving this news was overwhelming in the most wonderful of ways. Having been an oft awarded, high achieving student myself, I’ll be honest and say that my expectations for these two little Elders in terms of their school skills are a little on the lofty side. Of course I’ll be supportive and grateful as long as they are putting forth a solid effort, but I’m looking forward to every ounce of satisfaction I’ll glean from the moments when they excel. So there she was, a certified achiever in the field of forming sentences, and there I was procrastinating as fiercely as ever on putting a few words on the web. Motivational magic.

I’m trying! I’ll always try. And fail, and cuss, and forget and then come back for more.  The benefits are many, and if nothing else, I aim to set for my children an example of determination – to show them that every goal is worth the work, no matter how many times you have to set it, and in the end, the simple act of writing it down can be a pretty big step toward success.

And lastly, for your reading pleasure, some sentences as recently written by future Pulitzer winner Norah Elder. There may be some room for improvement in her choice of punctuation, and in case you aren’t from around here, it’s Great Wolf Lodge…

“To mom, I cant wat for your berthday! I wont to go to grat woof loj on your berthday mom!”

“Dad can you have fun and play with me! Let mom play with Crosby at grat woof laj! Prity plees dad can you play with me at grat woof laj!”

“I love you mom! Can Gracie and Katie and Sylvie come to are berthday! I would reelee wunt to go to grat woof laj with my frends at my berthday!”

“I am so good at geting on purple.”

“I like yer shert dad.”

Take care. S.

 

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Kindergarten

Norah’s first two weeks of kindergarten were awful. We anticipated a challenging transition based on previous experiences with her starting something new, but we were not prepared for the level of struggle we ultimately confronted. Dance class is a solid example of the former. Norah is now participating weekly in her third edition of studio dance, each of which has begun with an anxiety infused performance of the masterpiece “I don’t want to do it” – sobbing, clinging, begging as though we were about to force her into a perpetual time-out, or some other version of child perceived hell.  I’d like to make it clear that each time we’ve signed her up for dance it has been in response to her request for such, and only after we double, triple, quadruple checked that she really wanted to do it. But as was described here in one of the few posts I threw out last year, all is sunshine and rainbows when it comes to new things until just about the minute that said thing is slated to begin and she hits the wall of realization that the unknown is about to envelop her. So it went with kindergarten.

Unlike dance class, however, the panic performance had an unfortunate number of encores – nine to be exact. When I put it that way, it doesn’t sound too terrible, but living through it was exactly that (and worse). Drop off day one was fairly peachy. On day one there was no knowledge of the new life she was to lead five days a week. We were able to walk her into the room just like we had for several years at preschool, and the novel surroundings were familiar enough from the orientation we experienced a bit before. But then we left, and then all she had before known of school was pretty much overturned as she sat through not three but seven hours of rules and education, in full force as compared to a somewhat softer experience at her aptly named Playschool. So on day one when we picked her up, she wept.

Even then we attributed it to her being exhausted and we still did not foresee the crisis that was to ensue. The next morning, almost immediately upon waking her, the tears flowed again and then the begging began. “Please let me stay home. I don’t want to go to school. I don’t like school. I’m tired. I’m scared. I just want to be here with you. I miss you. I like my house. School is not fun.” and on, and on, and on. Drop off day two was dripping with drama, but at the very least we were still able to walk her into the room. Through tears we said goodbye, and a miserable me walked back to the car. Morning three, the same, and by the end of that first week I started to lose my shit. Sympathy and sadness turned into defeat and dismay, followed by anger, yelling, and my very own dramatic performance of “Scarah”. Depleted of patience and understanding, I was desperate for her to stabilize and settle into this new role, so each morning she cried, and each morning I reached peak rage, dropping her off with both of us in a horrible heap of stress, and then I wept my way to work.

Nine mornings. The entire first two weeks of her kindergarten career with the exception of that first day before we all knew. An eternity of negative emotions, with no ability to see our way to the other side. And then came Labor Day weekend. We got away, and we relaxed. We spoke about school and offered encouragement and support. We played and laughed and forgot about things that made us unhappy. We enjoyed time as a family and we did our best to find peace. And then upon returning home, and before heading back to school for week three, we introduced… the sticker chart (Gasp! Ooohh! Ahhh! Confetti!). Sure a long weekend in the mountains was fantastic for a lot of reasons, but that wasn’t the magic pill that kicked off our recovery from transition hell. Nope. I give majority credit to the sticker chart. Okay, yes, time was a factor, but not so much so as the promise of placing 1-2 gloriously enticing adhesive backed cutouts onto an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper lined with eager little boxes. “If we have a smooth, panic-free morning, and you help us to get you ready for school, you get a sticker.” Sold.

There were tentative moments where we teetered on the edge, but that looming reward always brought her feet back to the ground, and week three was an entirely different, better, more stable and enjoyable experience. Week four? “I like school! I like my teachers! I like my friends! I can’t wait to tell you about everything awesome that is my new life in kindergarten!” – sunshine, rainbows, fuzzy bunnies and all the happy things. The idea for the chart came from my boss who had used it for potty training with his son, so a HUGE thank you to him and a strong recommendation from me to you to give it a whirl if you find yourself in any situation where nothing else seems to be getting the results you so desperately seek with your little darlings. It may not work for everyone or everything, but it did for us, and thank goodness because another week of that would have lead me to drink (a lot) (more) (whatever, you get it).

Everything has been going smashingly since, and we love being a South Mebane Elementary family. This past Friday we attended the SME Valentine’s Dance and had a grand ‘ol time watching the younger Elders shake their booties to today’s top hits. I might have shaken mine a bit too, but kept it PG lest Principal Royal form a poor opinion of me. We’ve had the privilege and pleasure of participating in a few such events since settling in at SME, and each one is a happy reminder that even the most challenging changes are usually worth their weight. I’ve lots more to tell about our kindergarten experience and promise (hold me to it!!) to do so soon, but figured the beginning is always the best place to start.

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Take care. S.