Life is about to get a bit hairy around here. Quite literally, I imagine.
At the end of this week, we will bring home a 16 week old puppy. We’ve already named her Zoe. The anticipation of this milestone—a girl and her dog—has been mounting for more than a year now, as we’ve waited oh so patiently for a suitable Corgi pup to emerge from one of the litters. It is all we seem to talk about now.
It’s no small undertaking to make room for an animal in your home. You are, inevitably, signing yourself up for a bit of chaos and eventual, devastating heartbreak. But you’re able to look past that and remember, especially if you grew up with animals, the boundless unconditional love they offer you every single day.
And while a new puppy is not on par with a new sibling (perhaps), in an only child household like ours, there is undeniably an added layer to this decision that I was not expecting, or at least not to the depth and complexity as I’ve come to witness. The companionship of an animal takes on a deeper meaning when there is no one else around to grow up with. Now, there will be someone else for my daughter to play and share secrets with, to read books to and get the sillies out. There will be a set of (very perky) ears to listen to the troubles of the day.
She will have an outlet and input that is not just us.
We will have a focus that is not just her.
We’ve been a triad for so long, stable and deeply connected. We are in a bona fide groove at this point. We still will be, I’m sure, but now with four furry feet to hold us up a little bit higher. There will be new responsibilities and attentions divided, yes. But there will also be breathing room, for all of us.
And, of course, dust bunnies.
With almost precision timing for Mother’s Day, the towers of lilac buds growing along the southern side of our yard silently burst open, revealing their pale pinkish purple flowers within. It’s a mystery how these ragtag, decades old bushes time it for the second Sunday each May. No matter what Old Man Winter throws their way, they rarely miss. Though the explosion of blanched color is a private affair, it seems, waiting until my attention is turned elsewhere.
Their perfume floats like a veil on the warm spring air for only a few days. It reminds me how transient the most humble of beauty and service all too often is. They are not like the summer marigolds or hosta, those guests who linger at the party that’s gone on way too long, making their hostess grow weary and resentful of the tidying still to come. No, the lilacs are not like them at all. Rather, they are the diffident butler who quietly lets you into the grand mansion of spring, but go missing when you want your shawl.
Today we cut a few lilacs for my daughter’s first grade teacher: snip, tuck into wet paper towel, wrap in a short strip of foil.
You remember. I certainly do.
While we were walking to school, she clutched the quaint bouquet for her beloved teacher, the manufactured film of clear plastic wholly incongruent with the bark and bloom within. Seeing her small fingers wrapped tightly around the stems, I was thrust back onto the saffron yellow school bus I rode as a child in elementary school. I was carrying my own bouquet, though it was forsythia and they were intended for Mrs. Sherry, the bus driver. I remember her bouffant salt and pepper hair and navy blue polyester pants, with black boots poking out. I remember the smile she gave as I handed them to her. I remember how I felt when she did that.
How can I recall that scene in the accordion doorway of a hot school bus—some thirty years ago—yet cannot recall more than a handful of high school teachers or what kind of cake we had at our wedding? It baffles me. But that instant is like a pressed flower in my mind, its forsythia yellow color still vivid even though the petals might be a bit brittle and dry.
Will today’s lilac bouquet and teacher’s smile press just as firmly into my daughter’s mind? Or will they disappear like the butler?
Copyright (c) 2015 Kristen M. Ploetz
As some of you might remember, I entered a short story in a recent MASHstories contest. It was a whim decision to enter, and quite a surprise to get my story Penny Wise shortlisted as a finalist. It was a really fun experience.
You might also remember that in Massachusetts, we got quite a bit of snow this winter. QUITE A BIT! There were many housebound days. Too many, actually. But one day, I decided to use the MASHstories format—three word prompt, among other word count rules—with my daughter so that she could write a short short short short story. Her words were
After she wrote the story, I tweeted it to MASHstories, thinking they’d like to know that some young folks like to write stories like that too. And they did like knowing that…and blogged about it yesterday! Here is more about that. My daughter’s story is there too.
I hope you’ll check it out!
Copyright (c) 2015 Kristen M. Ploetz
For the past two months, I’ve taken a short Twitter* break during the first weekend of the month. By midday on those Fridays, I signed off or deleted the app from my devices. I didn’t return until after school drop off on Monday. I’ll start another break today, and it’s a practice I’m likely to continue. (In case you’re wondering: nope—I don’t even peek during those times.)
I don’t take breaks from Instagram. It’s just so utterly different from Twitter that I haven’t felt compelled to do the same. I’m rarely on Facebook so I don’t even need to impose self-discipline there. But Twitter? There is something about the constant barrage of information and communication that starts to impinge on my otherwise good feelings about it.
I love Twitter, actually. I cultivate relationships and have made bona fide friends there. I keep up with current events. I learn so much from others, writers especially. I curate feeds that enlighten me and, hopefully, chip away at some of the willful (or at least one-sided) ignorance I’ve harbored in some very specific areas for too long. It’s one thing for me to say I am a feminist/am not racist/wholly embrace LGBTQ folks/am open-minded/etc., and it’s quite another to actually allow information in from a wider range of people, some who are so different from me. I’ve taken deliberate strides to diversify my feed, and I am so glad that I have.
Yet the consequence of all that is once in a while—when my defenses are down— there are feelings of being left out or the sense that I’m talking into the abyss. If I’m not careful, I can take things said (or unsaid) personally. It has the capacity (if and when I let it) to diminish time with my favorite people and activities. All ridiculous, I know. I know! Plus, to put it bluntly, I’m having a harder time letting nosy people mine random snippets about me (or others I engage with)—it’s creepy and I’m not entirely sure how to handle it, but that’s a topic for another day [insert tantrum-y I’m taking my ball home defense here].
More than anything though, on Twitter I see vitriol and despair that seemingly fills up too much of our world every single day. Even when I know they are trolls, witnessing the mean-spirited nature of some people becomes draining, even if it does not affect me directly. I can only imagine what it must be like for those on the receiving end of some of the barbs I see. It turns me sour and jaded. Yes, I could make Twitter just a fun space, but I think much of its potential would be lost that way, and so I continue to follow a wide range of accounts.
I think there is the capacity for some, especially those who are not actually engaging on Twitter but are “on there” in some capacity (stalking would be another word I might use), to think that folks who use Twitter have their eyes glued to it nonstop and with total disregard for their priorities. Maybe that’s the case for some, but not me and I suspect most others. I definitely glance at it often throughout the day, whether it be to take the equivalent of a water cooler break (I work alone from home) or to find inspiration for something I’m working on, or even just to get caught up on the news, but I am not obsessive about it. That said, I was shocked to experience what might be called withdrawal symptoms those first few hours when I turned it off on those Fridays. I expect the same today, though the figurative twitching subsides earlier each time.
It’s a habit to look there and seek validation/interaction/information, even if it is not a full blown addiction. That is enough for me to recognize I must take a break sometimes. Given my personality, I have to schedule breaks for a specific and regular timeframe; I cannot just dial it back on a daily basis (I’ve tried). So, I turn it off. I take a break. And instead, I dig deep into other things and people that sustain me and enrich my precious time in a far deeper way.
It’s interesting, I think, to contemplate all of these things, particularly for those (like me) who are not digital natives—the need for information, the constancy of it, and the signs that it may be too much. What do you think? Do you ever take deliberate breaks?
* My Twitter handle is @littlelodestar. It’s the same on Instagram, but that is a private account, so you’ll need to request to follow. As of about a month ago, I almost never cross-post Instagram photos to Twitter anymore except maybe an extraordinary sunset or two.
Copyright (c) 2015 Kristen M. Ploetz
Late April has arrived and the sun is about to set. Small clouds of gnats form in the slanted, golden light. Their chaotic winged energy swirls and circles above the granite boulder, still warm from the day’s sunshine. Two robins call to each other over the din of highway traffic. Perhaps they will try to meet. A sharp wind whines through a barely open window on the porch, groaning in protest. It’s too early, too cold, it howls. I ignore the suggestion. The breeze feels good on my cheek. It reminds me that summer will soon be here.
Around the block my daughter is trying in earnest to ride her new bike without training wheels. I don’t know how it’s going, though I imagine much better with only one parent there than two. Especially if it’s not me, it seems. Something similar happened when she learned how to swim. I don’t hold it against her. I remind myself that her father should teach her to drive.
Then, without warning, I start to wonder if I’ve ever told her how to store tomatoes. On the counter or the windowsill, never in the refrigerator. It’s an odd, if not premature, thing to worry about, right? Most first graders do not need to know these things.
Without effort, my mind wanders unchecked. The list of things still left to be said unravels like a spool of thread knocked off a table. The weight of the wisdom to be handed down grows heavier in my heart.
It becomes harder to breathe when I let these thoughts sink in. I often need to fight back tears. There is nothing specifically or even generally that should cause this apprehension, but it mounts often. This is how my mind works. Will there be enough time?
Sewing a button
First crush and broken hearts
Seasoning a cast iron skillet
How to find her true north
The sun is setting now, and two tires spin almost silently up the driveway. Though I cannot hear the words, her voice giggles with the enthusiasm of a woodland brook in spring. It is the sound of progress and determination. It is the sound of growth and life.
The spool of thread comes to a soft thud against the wall.
There’s time, I tell myself. There’s still time.
Copyright (c) 2015 Kristen M. Ploetz
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