Tuesday, November 30, 2010

And so goes November

In November, at winter's gate, the stars are brittle. The sun is a sometimes friend. And the world has tucked her children in, with a kiss on their heads, till spring.
- Cynthia Rylant, In November

If you're a lover of children's picture books, check out Cynthia Rylant's beautiful text. It is a beautifully illustrated meditation on one of the simplest months of the year.
November closes feeling exactly as it should - ominously cold, anticipatory of winter, and austere enough to be peaceful.
May we all find quiet peace in the next few weeks.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Tightrope

Random fact: I am completely obsessed with tightrope artists.  Funnily enough, this doesn't come up often in conversation.

This weekend, friends shared with us that they have hit a bit of a rough patch in their marriage.  Along with the heartache that quite naturally springs from a revelation like this, I was left with a vague sense of imbalance.  I went to sleep troubled, and woke with the vivid image of a tightrope walker on my mind. 

A tightrope stretches in front of each of us, in any relationship that matters.

You begin your journey in confidence.  Of course you step out in confidence!  How else could you be convinced that this was a reasonable undertaking, if not for your blind faith that you absolutely have the skills and abilities to reach the other side?  As you inch your way out over the chasm, your confidence is so great that the twist of rope beneath you feels as solid as a twelve inch plank.

You get a bit further out, and the winds pick up.  Maybe it is a single gust, that blows you momentarily off balance.  Maybe it is a steady breeze that makes each step, each inch forward a challenge. Maybe your legs simply start to tremble.

Whatever the reason, all of the sudden you are wobbling, way out on this woven cord with nothing to hold onto. Every rule of tightrope walking tells you not to look down - never look down - but maybe it's the looking down that made you start to sway in the first place. Maybe you took your eye off the far side, and started focusing on your toes curling around that stupid skinny rope instead.

So you're wavering, and you know good and well that you are the only person who will steady the rope. It won't happen by looking down, it won't happen by flailing your arms around helplessly. The only thing - the only thing - that will stave off disaster is a change of focus. Pulling your eyes up, and finding the far side again.

Maybe some of us won't be able to pull it back. Maybe some of us won't be able to withstand the buffeting wind, or maybe the sway of the rope will have gotten too far out of control. Maybe all that can be done at that point is to consciously look down, to keep looking down, and believe with all your heart that the safety net of those that love & care for you will be there as you fall.

Some of us...some of us will make it through those vicious winds. Some of us will find the steadying stillness, and we won't be sure quite how we did it. The only way through the swaying is to continue: stopping - standing still - is simply not an option. 

So, whilst I've had that vague swaying feeling all day, having heard my friend's news, I will choose to continue along the journey on my own rope, stretching out over the void. Inch by inch, my toes will creep across the twisted cord. 

I have to believe that my friends' toes will keep them moving across the rope too. If not, I sure as hell am one of the people who make up the net underneath.


There are millions of blogs out there - funny, frank, or starkly painfully honest - that will freely discuss our failures as parents. But I find that when it comes to our failures in relationships, we are less able to open up, to admit that we are wavering.

Just for today, let Your People know that you love 'em, no matter where they are on (or off) the rope.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankful: for Family, Trees, and Friends

In the middle of handing out mini-Snickers and Reeses Cups this Halloween, I was busy snipping pieces of kraft paper into a vague sort of tree outline:

It's our Thankful Tree.  I ran across the idea somewhere in the blogosphere last year, and it was a big hit here in the Yellow House.  The concept is simple:  each night, we go around the table and each family member names one thing they're thankful for.  If certain 2nd graders insist, they are given rights to the coveted brown Sharpie marker to write their own leaf.

The 2010 tree was extremely prolific:  as the leaves tumbled off the oaks, maples and poplars in our backyard, the paper leaves grew and grew on the Thankful Tree.  Some of my happiest moments this month have been craning my neck to check out all the funny little things my kids are grateful for.  Except, not so funny:  many of the adults' and kids' leaves turn up with some version of  'grandparents' or 'my friends.'

Ahh, friends.   Today on Classic Play I am guest posting all about a Friends Thanksgiving - the meaning of a holiday spent with The Other Kind of Family.   Let us never forget the gift of our families, crazy as they might be, but also?  Keep those friendships on your Thankful Tree.  There's nothing like 'em.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's Blinding Me With SCIENCE!

Hey readers out there!! As if the scintillation of the every-other-week posting around here weren't enough, I have something SUPER exciting for you this evening.

The brilliant minds over at Classic Play have published a new issue of their e-zine, and this time it's all about SCIENCE. There are the gorgeous crafts, activities and gift guides that you always expect from Ellie Bellie Kids, and of course there's the writing. The writing! Classic Play have rounded up an eclectic team of contributers from all over the globe, and you. do. not. wanna MISS IT!!!

Scamper scamper scamper to check it out - and make sure you leave those people some comment love, because darn if they don't work hard to make our lives lovelier with that magazine.

Monday, November 1, 2010


My eldest got really sick this afternoon, really quickly. She arrived home saying she felt 'tired' and an hour later had spiked a fever of 102 and was shivering on the couch in pajamas. She didn't ask for ice pops, ginger ale, or even Barbie movies. She asked for Grandma.

As I drove home from driving her to my mother's, I tried hard not to feel insulted. I mean, aren't kids supposed to want their MOM when they're sick?

Then I thought about my husband, travelling to Norway this week for his grandmother's funeral. I thought about the stories he told us at the dinner table, the night we heard she'd died: stories of cousins, of chocolate cakes, of a laughing, loving woman.

I thought of my own grandmother, who died in November 2006. My own memories were visceral, tonight - of her kitchen table, of her beautiful white hair, of her long graceful fingers on piano keys. She is present in so many of my day-to-day choices.

Today is November 1: All Saints Day. A day to remember the "great cloud of witnesses." Today, I am grateful for grandparents - those magical people in our lives who have the extra time, the extra space in their evening for sick little girls or the surreptitious morsel of cake to share.

Today I focus my heart on the gifts and wisdom of those who have traveled the path ahead of me, and I'm not insulted. I - we, we who have had loving grandparents in our lives - we are given the most profound gift.

The Grandparents of NilsenLife on the beach in the Lofoten Islands (and lil ol' me)
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