Category Archives: Fiction

Wednesday’s Wisdom–a.k.a. “Sharing my gurus”

I love books that carry messages tucked within the pages, the books that leave you ruminating on the lessons hidden in the story. Several years back, I read The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews. In his parable, Andrews weaves together vignettes to tell the story of middle-aged David Ponder who finds himself at a crossroads in life and discovers the “seven decisions that determine personal success.” Periodically, Andrews breaks from the story to clearly define and apply the “decision” related in the preceding pages.  The Traveler’s Gift quickly joined the ranks of East of Eden, Death of a Salesman, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Alchemist and Water for Elephants, to stand among some of my favorite reads. In fact, I liked it so much, I made his adapted “teen version”, The Young Traveler’s Gift required reading for both of my girls while in middle school. The principles conveyed through the time-traveling main characters are both powerful and timeless. However, even powerful and timeless principles need an occasional refresher course, leading me to pull my dusty copy off the shelf for a recent re-read. Good stuff in those pages, good stuff.

Invariably, the books that land among my favorites offer something different each time I read them, impacted by the “who and where I am in life.” The first time I read The Traveler’s Gift, the 6th and 7th “decisions” (“I will greet this day with a forgiving spirit,” “I will persist without exception,” respectively)  were the two that resonated the loudest. At the time, I was going through a particularly rough patch mentally and physically.  I had been in and out of hospitals and their operating rooms, and I was harboring the (self-directed) anger and resentments of a small army of cell phone-denied teens. Reading Andrews’ book made me aware of the choices I was making and reminded me of the better decisions I could make.

This time around, it is the 2nd decision, “I will seek wise counsel,” that has jumped from the pages and screamed for my attention. Ironically, it is the same decision that resonated loudest with my older daughter as she transitioned into her high school years. It makes sense; she was at the start of a “transitioning period” herself then. She applied Andrews’ guidance and sought the counsel of myself and others to guide her through the roller coaster high school years. At the threshold of her own high school years, her younger sister is beginning to follow suit, seeking counsel from myself, her sister and others as she moves into high school.

Like two strong currents that meet in the ocean, transitioning periods can create an emotional maelstrom when confusion, fear and indecision meet the energy and excitement of fresh opportunities. Though Edgar Allen Poe and Jules Verne would lead you to believe maelstroms are the inescapable whirlpools of death, a well-informed captain trusts the wisdom of those that have skillfully sailed the waters before her and carefully navigates through the tumultuous seas, arriving on the other side more confident and appreciative of the welcoming calm.

Perhaps, my contemplation makes it obvious I heeded my sister’s recent tough love advice (On sisters and tough love). Her counsel and Andrews’ book got me thinking about the years ahead and the direction I’m heading. (Even bought a new journal, that’s how serious I am. 🙂 ) Good decisions begin with taking responsibility and seeking counsel, be it a book, sister, friend, pastor, rabbi, or even a perfect stranger with applicable experience. Wise counsel offers the voice of reason grounded in solid principles. It moves the seeker to take stock of where they are, where they’re heading, and alerts them to potential pitfalls.

Regardless of who you are or where you are at in life, odds are pretty good there is some level of transition going on inside or around you. Often landing on the edge of a maelstrom, I frequently, and I mean FREQUENTLY, benefit from the counsel and experience of others. Thankfully, I’ve got a plethora of awesome “counselors.” And, like love, good counsel shouldn’t be hoarded.  A primary purpose of this blog is to vent share some humor as well as the lessons I learn and the wise counsel I receive as I transition into the empty nest years. The fact that I like alliteration (hence the catchy name) and mid-week pick-me-ups to keep my energy flowing, made Wednesday’s the obvious choice to “share my gurus”, the wisdom and links of those that have built and crossed various bridges before me. So, be sure to click on the links, comment on the blog topic and/or share the life wisdom you have gleaned along the way.

Louisa May Alcott said, “I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.” I’m not afraid either, because I’ve got some really terrific gurus traveling with me.

Andy Andrews’ The Traveler’s Gift is found here on Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Travelers-Gift-Decisions-Determine-Personal/dp/0785273220/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1311780552&sr=8-1

“I love you the purplest.”

My mom had amazingly sharp instincts. With a glance, she could read the mood of any one of her kids. There were times I was convinced she could even read my mind. She was especially astute at detecting stirring tensions between her children. Simply walking through a room, it seemed, she could mediate our sibling glares with a touch, a look, or a gentle word. With little effort, her  pre-emptive strikes often diffused brewing battles. I can only imagine what she might have taught the UN Council,  given the opportunity.

She was a wise woman, but there was one battle I think she never truly won. And, it certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying. According to my children, it is the “unwinnable” battle, and, when there is more than one child in the house, it is likely unavoidable.  A sibling is a child’s first  “opponent” in life, each vying  for a mother’s exclusive attention; “I want mom’s lap!”, “Mom, will you read ME this book?”, “Mom bought this for me, not you!”, “Mom…Mom….MOM!” As mothers, we stretch ourselves in attempt to meet the needs of each child, and still, we have only one lap, only two arms, only 24 hours in a day to fill each bucket. 

Regardless of a mother’s best efforts, sibling rivalries often sprout early and grow through the years, rapidly, it appears, during the teen years and times of  perceived disparities in discipline. As mothers, we are sucked into the turbulent vortex with an assault to our (sometimes fragile) maternal identities by those we love most, our children. In anger and/or disappointment, our little darlings lob the ultimate verbal bomb, “________ is your favorite. You love him/her more than me!” It finds our hearts with stealth accuracy. It is the nuclear weapon in a child’s arsenal. It is an indefensible accusation, akin to asking a husband,”When did you stop beating your wife?”And really, how does one argue the logic (or lack thereof) of a child when you are so tired you could sleep standing up? The war was lost before the battle began.

Truth is, when the child to mother ratio exceeds 1:1, problems are bound to arise. The power struggle for attention seems to take root upon the conception of baby number 2 and grows more antagonistic as a pregnant lap shrinks.  Though my mom tried, really tried, to give us each our own little sliver of herself, at 9:1 odds, she was plain outnumbered and, aside from cloning herself, didn’t stand a chance at winning the tender ego-driven “Who do you love more?” battle. But, she never stopped trying and she generously shared with me the wisdom of her experience.

With the arrival of my second, she saw the winds of change swirling around me. Shortly after I came home from the hospital she arrived with a box of gifts. Inside, cached among the little outfits and blankets, was a children’s book. “Not today, not tomorrow, but one day this will come up,” she assured me. (Little did I know just how right she would be.) As she held her newest granddaughter, and with my first-born tucked snuggly by my side, I flipped through the pages of I Love You the Purplest by Barbara M. Joosse.  

That day, I became privy to a mother’s secret; as mothers we don’t, and really can’t, possibly love our children “the same”; they are not the same people. This does not mean that we don’t love them equally, of course we do, or try to, but if we are to see them as individuals, we can’t possibly love them the same. 

In her book, Joosse’s story begins with two brothers hunting for fishing worms. One asks, “Mama, who has the most worms?” and the other asks, “Mama, who is the best rower?” The story continues as  “Mama” negotiates her way through the delicate maze of comparison questions during a day of fishing. All the while, “Mama” never chooses one as the best ______, giving both boys equal, but different praise; “Max, your can is full of the liveliest worms. And Julian, your can has the juiciest.” 

That evening, as “Mama” tucks her boys into bed, Julian whispers, “Who do you love the best?” “Mama” gently answers she loves Julian “the bluest,” the color of a dragonfly, the deepest part of a cave, the mist of a mountain, the hush of a whisper. To the same question, she tells Max she loves him “the reddest,” the color of the sky at dusk, the color of a campfire, a wide open hug, and the thunder of a shout. Together, the reader learns, she loves both her boys the “purplest.” Equal, but different, each bringing something unique and special to the mama’s heart.

For several years, my girls loved hearing this story, especially when read with their names inserted.  Truthfully though, like my mother, I doubt I will ever really win the “you love her more” battle.  My teens caution, “You can’t win because it’s like boxing a ghost when you’re fighting against feelings.” Nonetheless, I tell them everyday that I love them, hoping they see my love for them is equal, but unique, just as they are. Conceivably because they are teens, that message is often lost. Perhaps someday, when they have children of their own, they will come to understand their mama’s love, just as I did.