We’re vacationing this week in southwestern Michigan along the great lake. I had big dreams of spending the week painting the water and the weather which never fail to inspire. Thing2, however, was also inspired. The absence of glowing screens combined with an abundance of immediate and extended family helped Thing2 rediscover the joy of corralling parents and grandparents into card games and rounds of Monopoly highlighted by rules he makes up as he goes along. When we finally got down to the beach, I was happy just to soak up the surroundings. I did a few quick studies and photos of things that may become paintings later. I’m starting to think, though, that the most important part of painting the landscape may be actually experiencing it — and the rest of life — while you’re in it.
This Mother’s Day Sunday, I’m going to Hubbard Hall to see Giles in The Crucible for one last time. It’s kind of a bummer watching your husband get the axe on Mother’s Day-or pressed to death in Giles’s case.
Last week Giles Corey joined us at the diner for breakfast just before the show. I could tell he was thinking about the upcoming performance because he was unusually quiet. Then the food arrived, and we all started smiling. I’m working on a theory that people in Salem, MA could’ve avoided that whole witch trial business if they had just opened a diner. People would’ve been too busy smiling to start pointing fingers.
I sat down Sunday morning to work on my alphabet book for parents. I do some rhyming and then some drawing, depending on which side of the brain decides to show up for my creative sessions.
Sunday it was the letter “I”, and there are surprisingly few useful nouns that start with I. There was infant and imp and ice cream, but enough things to make a rhyme?
Parenting duties mercifully interrupted creative time, and I hoped for inspiration later in the day.
T2 needed new shoes so we did that. T1 wanted sloppy Joe’s for dinner so we went to the store got that, and running errands took my mind off of the world and it’s woes for a while. We came home and I sat down again, scouring my dictionary and thesaurus for something funny in the letter I. I finally came up with the first two lines just as T1 announced that he was starving. I scrapped the whole thing again and got dinner going.
Later that night, the new stanza was born, inspired by my day. That busy Sunday reminded me of my Infatuation with my two Imps and how they inspire me each day. It was also a day when I remembered why it was so hard to write the letter I. There is no I in parent – there’s only T1 & T2, and that’s okay with me.
One of my less attractive qualities is an obsessive-compulsive need to schedule every half an hour of my day. However, as more of my waking hours have been surrendered to supporting a new release at work, extra dentist appointments for the kids, and an impending influx of guests for Christmas, I’ve begun arranging my day by the quarter hour.
Last night, as I stood at the kitchen island, my rear end facing the red hot wood stove and my iPad calendar open, seven-year-old Thing2 came to rest his chin on one of my arms as I rearranged my work day for today. I got my writing at 4 AM, email at 6, kids to the bus at seven, fitness at 7:30, dinner preparation at 8:30 so we can eat at right at 5:30 or whenever I actually sign off work.
“What are you doing?” He asked.
“Just prioritizing my day,” I said.
“What are prior-ties?”
I thought for a second and then answered, “They’re just important things on my to-do list.”
Then I scrolled to Saturday. Writing got a nice chunk of the morning while the family was still in bed. I had a block for work, but moved it to the end of the day. There were blocks for running and breakfast at Bob’s, cleaning and grocery shopping. I was moving my blocks of to-do’s from one hour of Saturday to another when Thing2 held my scrolling arm tight and said, “You don’t have any time scheduled to cuddle with me.”
“You’re right,” I said. “Where should we put it.”
“Let’s do it right before we go to Bob’s for breakfast,” he said.
I added a one hour block after writing and running and right before Bob’s to sit on the couch and snuggle. Thing2 gave me a big hug and said, “I think we got the prior-ties in order, Mom.”
For the last month, I’ve been wondering if my bipolar disorder had evolved in to something more insidious as the chorus of demands created by a stint of intense overtime at work and holiday social obligations amplified, drowning out much of what matters to me – fitness, writing and even family from time to time. I had been joking the last few days that – even as a work-at-home-mom – I spoken to my kids no more than twice a day lately (Once to tell them to get on the bus, and another time to tell them dinner is ready and go to bed).
There’s an old saying goes, “When mom ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”. I never believed that. I was thought I was putting my family’s health and happiness first – even when I wasn’t so happy. But Saturday, as the Big Guy and I arrived home from a cross-state work party too late to get to another outing and knowing I had to throw together a potluck contribution for the town’s annual holiday Christmas party (the only place with a Santa who actually knows if Thing2 has been naughty or nice), I realized I wasn’t happy. And I wasn’t making my family happy either. I was running on empty which doesn’t leave you much to give the people you love.
Saturday night Mother Nature gave me a sign. Actually she threw up an eight inch powdery white stop sign. And Sunday, the din stopped.
We knew the storm was coming, and, while the forecasted 5-10″ isn’t’ enough to morph my Saturday grocery shopping list into disaster planning mode, I knew the weather would likely keep us housebound in the morning. I did a mental inventory of our hot chocolate and popcorn supplies, but I also began making a list of the commitments outside my door that I could now reasonably avoid a day.
Sunday quickly became a day of rest. For me, it was a day of no iPhone, no email – work or personal, no iPad or TV. There was no Facebook and no news. After a late-night saturday look at the weather map, there was Radio Silence.
Sunday, with the cacophony shut out, I was finally able to hear the things that matter. Three of them are still sleeping down the hall. The other I am nursing for the first time in over a week.