This is a total fluff post. Because Wednesday will be day two of being “stuck” (read: I don’t mind really…yet) at home due to a snow day at school. We received 25″ of snow in as many hours. That’s a lot of snow for the uninitiated. And much of it still needs to be shoveled at our house, but I’m not even suiting up until my second cup of coffee is drained.
One thing I did while the flakes fell was to thin/declutter my growing nail polish collection. I have a lot, it seems, though I didn’t buy a solid half of them because they were gifts. Many of the bottles are also well over eight or nine years old. Anyway, the project reminded me that one thing I have always loved is nail polish (and paint) names. Who has that job?! It’s great! For the past five years, I’ve been partial to Essie brand polish and they have cute names: Big Spender, A List, She’s Pampered, Cute as a Button, just to name a few. OPI has fun names too, but they are always so long!
It got me to thinking of what fun alternate jobs I’d ever want if money/new degree/time/ambition/family obligations were no object. If someone just plunked me down smack in the middle of a new role, no strings attached, here’s what I’d like to be:
1. bookstore owner—an indie, none of that big chain malarkey
2. bakery or candy shop owner
3. nail polish or paint name creator
4. librarian ca. 1980 when card catalogs were en vogue
5. wedding or wildlife photographer (though I suppose there are some commonalities there!)
6. Italian ice vendor—cart on the beach kind of thing
7. wildlife rehab veterinarian
8. potter in a rural New England town
9. veggie farmer, with at least one donkey, a few hens, and some goats
What about you? What’s your fluff dream job? I promise I won’t get all inspirational rah-rah and say “well, why don’t you go do it then?”
Copyright (c) 2015 Kristen M. Ploetz
It snowed here this weekend, the first “real” snowfall we’ve had this season. Though now with a large storm coming in a couple of days, I think the snowcat is now officially out of the bag. I wonder if the novelty will soon wear off. Still, the sun was bright today. I felt like trying out my new boots and grabbing my SLR camera for a change, especially if we’re about to be housebound soon.
Do you do this too? Let your mind wander on a short walk down familiar streets? You’ll always find something new, or at least have a new thought about the mundane. Even thirty or forty minutes will clear your head of the dusty thoughts and replace them with something fresh, especially if you have camera in hand.
Here are mine from today, alliterated.
beautiful burgundy branches
copper covering clouds
tilted turret tile
descending drip dots
Did you get out for a walk after the snow? What did you see?
Copyright (c) 2015 Kristen M. Ploetz
I didn’t know this at the beginning, but it’s only after you have a child that Father Time likes to play his most sinister tricks on you. He knows the predicament you’re in now. Or maybe he just thinks he’s funny. But he’s sly, like a fox, that guy.
At first, you just sense him lurking along the edges of your heart and frayed nerves. He lies in wait until you’re settled. He only makes his presence known once you’re deep, deep in love. But by then you’re too far gone. There’s no way out.
Father Time is running the show. Tick. Tock. Trick.
You don’t read about his antics in any of the parenting books. There’s no chapter titled, “Dealing With Father Time,” or an outline of what to expect from him going forward. When you’ve read the same books aloud for months on end, there is no entry in the index for “Time, passing too slowly.” When you’re giving away the newborn onesies and halfway through first grade all in the same nanosecond, there is no entry for “Time, passing too quickly.”
No, that word—time—is glaringly absent from the books. There is no advice to be given. Even the experts are stumped into silence.
Your only signposts are the weathered tenets and thinly veiled warnings whispered by more seasoned parents. Sometimes they look directly into your eyes with glimmering reminiscence, a gentle smile on their face. A bubble of hope rises through your sternum that makes you believe that there’s a speed bump ahead that will slow things down eventually. But the optimism is ephemeral. It’s the ones whose eyes are downcast that make me most worried—they have more hindsight. They know the truth.
Enjoy it while you can.
This too shall pass.
Live in the moment.
I remember when mine were that age.
They grow up so fast.
Millennia have passed and this is still all we know. These are our best defenses in the face of time passing with those who completely obliterated everything we knew about love before them. This armor is not adequate. You are pummeled to the ground with the notion that Father Time is in control here, not you. You rise up and wipe the grit from your wet eyes. You empty the heavy stones out of your pockets and brush away the dust. You submit. Again and again, you submit.
He holds the strings, after all. In a complicated game of Cat’s Cradle he weaves them in and out, over and under, plucking and strumming, fingers flowing with magic and transformation right before your eyes. It’s mesmerizing, simultaneously fresh and predictable.
But you never know when he’ll turn on you and tie your heart up into knots, the string a crumpled mess in his hands.
On a wet weekday morning in November, it will be on the way out the door, on the heels of a late night dealing with a stuffy young nose, after you’ve packed your five hundredth container of cut apples. Time will come to a screeching halt, your tires spinning in the rut of a well-worn routine. You cannot possibly do this again tomorrow. Time is passing too slowly.
On a lazy Saturday in August, it will be while you’re lying on the deck warmed by the afternoon sun. You’ll catch a glimpse of a fine flaxen line in a long brown ponytail and remember when her whole babycrown was woven with wisps of blond curls. The shimmer of superfine leg hair will catch your eye and you lament that shaving is only a few more years away. Life is shifting quicker than a bolt of lightning from a sodden cloud. Time is moving too fast.
You cannot seem to catch your breath in this two-step of fast and slow. You want to grab highlighters and take notes and snap photos and just remember it all—contain it somehow—so you can take it all in again and again, now and later. You want to press pause and fast forward at the same time.
The silver fox tricks you once again. Your effort is futile. It cannot be done.
Father Time is unfair.
Tick. Tock. Trick.
Copyright (c) 2015 Kristen M. Ploetz
Come April, we will mark a decade in our modest Cape. The house is 75 years old and sits on just 2/10 of an acre. What I’ve learned in that ten years is that a small house on a tiny lot can feel like a manor on an estate if you have the right mindset.
When we bought it, I was sure of two things.
1. I adored the built-in bookshelves in the “extra” bedrooms on the second floor. Somehow, I was able to see past the bright salmon-rose colored sponge paint left behind by the prior owners. I claimed it as mine. It would become a future workspace and sanctuary. I’d fill it with a desk and my books.
2. Neither of us seemed all that interested in having children, and having none was certainly within our realm of possibility.
For a time, that room was mine. We painted it a tranquil seafoam blue. A secondhand futon and a whitewashed desk tried to fill the space, but it always seemed empty in there. No matter. I put my deep blue geode bookends on the shelves—a flag on the moon, as it were. This was the first space I could call my very own since I left home for college.
Of course, it turned out that I wasn’t so sure about that second certainty after all. And, because I’d claimed the bigger of the two “extra” bedrooms, it looked like I was also going to get evicted from my sacred space and downsize into the room next door. A baby was on the way.
We transformed the room and painted it a second time. We didn’t know if this baby would be a boy or a girl, so we played it safe with Veranda View. I’ll remember the name of that paint color for the rest of my life. The light green paint still lives on the walls today, but splashes and swaths of pinks, aquas, lilacs, and yellows fill the room too. A young girl lives here now.
Her bookshelves are filled to capacity with books, some of which have been in rotation since she was born. We get lazy at night and often just toss the books we’ve read to her on the space between her bed and the built-in. It’s a precarious place to navigate on foot given that this is also where the dormer ceilings prevent her father and me from standing upright.
I am usually the worst offender when it comes to tossing books on the floor, so the other morning I felt compelled to clean a bit of the mess myself. I glanced down at the pile of upturned spines and stacked covers. The ruled pages of an open journal looked up at me from the wide pile. I thought it was her sketchbook, the one where she doodles inventions and shows us regularly. It’s not private so I picked it up to see what she’d created recently.
Except, I was wrong. It wasn’t her sketchbook, it was her diary. And I knew this only after I skimmed two pages. It was an honest mistake, but I still felt like I was holding a bag of stolen money. I quickly put it back the way I found it and felt guilty the entire morning.
I won’t tell you what it said, but I will tell you this: seven year olds can have secrets too, just like us. I think that should be honored. Whether it be telling one trusted friend or a sibling, or writing it down, unleashing a secret is where we reveal, and discover, some of who we are deep down.
I want her to feel safe in her expressions on private paper. She wrote something that wasn’t polite to say out loud, and something else more profound that she is working through. Two different types of secrets, but things that she felt compelled to put down on paper, maybe to move on or maybe to consider again later. It reminded me of the days when I was young and kept a journal. That’s why I didn’t peek through the rest of the book, even though I admit I really, really wanted to.
There is something deeply moving about reading the innermost thoughts of your child set down in their rudimentary handwriting and creative spelling. It sets your heart afire in a completely unexpected way. It was hard to set the book back down and just walk away without reading the rest, but I did. Yes, she keeps secrets from me now. It’s where we are on our mother-daughter journey together. If she feels the need to grab a pen in lieu of my hand sometimes, I am OK with that. I have to be.
Did you journal when you were very young? Do you encourage your child(ren) to do so too?
Copyright (c) 2015 Kristen M. Ploetz
I rarely post three times in one week, so please forgive the overload.
Fair warning: I’m about to indulge in just a bit of horn tooting. As you know, my word for 2015 is REACH. Even though I cut up my bar card this week, I actually started reaching slightly before the year even began, with these two submissions in particular.
1. I was totally surprised to learn that my short story, Penny Wise, was shortlisted by MASH Stories. Have you heard of MASH? I heard about their contest from my friend Nina Badzin after she’d entered in July 2014 with Meet the Vines. What’s fun about MASH Stories is there are only two rules: 1) must be 500 words or less, and 2) you must incorporate three specific words into your story. This time, they wanted contestants to use honesty, blow-dryer, and pilot. I had never submitted any short stories anywhere, so I decided to reach this time around. It is a really fun way to exercise your writing skills. But the best part? If you submit a story,* the judges give you the most incredible, helpful feedback about your story. I learned a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of my story (so much so that I wish I could now rewrite it!). I’d love it if you clicked over to read Penny Wise (and vote for it if you’re inclined). Read some of the others too—such variation with the same three words! Even if I don’t win ($100 for the winner), I already got so much out of the experience. You should try it next time! Runs quarterly.
2. I was also very excited to have my essay, “Tacos & Tolerance” published in the January/February 2015 volume of The Humanist magazine (print version and online), which is published by the American Humanist Association. I don’t write very much about my atheism on this blog, but it is something that is a large part of who I am and which informs my take on many things. This essay highlighted an interaction that I had while picking up some dinner, and which has softened my snap judgment reaction to how I think I am being perceived by religious folks. Part of my reaching in 2015 will be to write more openly about this topic because I think too often non-believers are left out of the conversation or deemed an afterthought (or worse). It’s not sitting well with me anymore.
Now, something fun for a cold Friday. Bird song! Have you been outside yet this morning? If you’re in New England, you know it’s lovely and crisp, with a fresh layer of snow. It makes for great birdwatching and bird listening. I’m trying to learn new songs this year (reaching!). I’m telling you, if you learn to identify birds by song in addition to sight, you will “see” that there are so many birds in your midst that you’re not even aware of. I highly recommend Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Merlin Bird ID iPhone app to help you learn.
But two very familiar ones make me very happy this time of year. First, the White-breasted Nuthatch. These guys like to creep up and down tree trunks and take a single seed or tap-tap of suet and then fly back to a branch/trunk to eat. They don’t linger at the feeders. But their yank call (scroll down on this page) is just charming.
The other guys that I love in winter are the Dark-eyed Juncos (that’s really the only time they’re in this part of Massachusetts). They are dark grey on top and white breasted (though they vary in color in the Western US). They like to eat seeds on the ground, and you can see them skittering (usually alone or in small groups) around the lawn and near the feeder. Listen here to the alarm chips … that is what a bunch of them were doing while I was idling under the tree to get some photos. They didn’t like me there and flew off to feed near our large granite boulder. But then this one little guy, eventually, broke away from the pack and came closer to me where a lot more seed had been thrown the night before. He was brave, and it paid off. Feast just for him.
Go be that brave bird today. Have a wonderful weekend.
** EDITED AT 7:22 1/16/15: PLEASE NOTE THE ORIGINAL VERSION OF THIS POST indicated that only shortlisted stories received feedback from the MASH team. That was incorrect. All stories submitted receive feedback. My apologies for the error and thank you to Kate Kearns at MASH for pointing out my error.
Copyright (c) 2015 Kristen M. Ploetz
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