Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

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Movie Magic & Human Nature

When I was a kid, the movie magic and the theater were the domain of my dad. He’d frequently pick us up, go to Thrifty’s for two candies each, and head to the theater for the latest movie. There’s an anecdote about my active imagination that my dad loves to tell. I’ll try to recreate it but remember that it’s far better when he tells the story.

There was a day we were at the movies and, as was our custom, before the movie started, my brother and I would run down the front of the house to explore that big space in front of the screen but before the seats. “Back in my day” you had to show up to the theater early to get a good seat, so we had plenty of time to kill before the previews started.

This time I came running back with my serious face and sat beside my dad leaving my little brother to explore on his own. My dad asked me what was wrong, and I replied that I was afraid of the monsters. My dad scoffed and reminded me that monsters were only in the movies. I turned my six-year-old face to my dad, wide-eyed and dismayed, “Dad! This IS the movies!”

You can’t argue with that. Movie magic comes with movie monsters!

As I grew up, movies with my dad became more and more rare. Teenagers don’t go to movies with their old parents! But I did keep going with my friends until well into my 20’s. As an adult, they fell out of favor. I’m not sure why. It may have simply been the expense of taking the whole family.

Over the past five years, I began to rediscover movie going and was reminded of how much I love the experience…only to have it whisked away by the “pandemic” but theaters are open again and this past weekend a friend asked if I wanted to go.

At first, I jumped at the chance, then I looked at the offerings and wasn’t impressed. There weren’t many movies to choose from and they all seemed lame. But it has been blazing hot this summer and sitting inside a cool, dark theater sounded so nice. We picked a comedy and decided to go on Saturday.

Then I started thinking. Would it be crowded early on a Saturday afternoon? I don’t want to be surrounded by people during normal times, and even more so now. Would there we weird ass restrictions that make me uncomfortable? I’d rather just stay home than jump through hoops so that everyone FEELS safe and really isn’t. Human behavior can make me crazy sometimes.

I decided I was being ridiculous, and it would be better to go out and experience the world, take notes, and make observations in person, than to stay at home and speculate.

I’m glad I did, because people are so damn weird and movie magic is real.

We purchased our tickets online about an hour before the movie started. It’s the kind of theater where you pick your specific seats when you purchase the ticket. I thought that was pretty cool BCB but now it’s even cooler. They can separate people before they get in the theater, put empty seats between groups, because we’re all too collectively dumb to do so for ourselves (insert eyeroll).

When we bought the tickets, we were the first to do so. That was weird. I assumed more people would be buying tickets just before the movie and the theater would be fairly full. I mean, it’s Saturday and over 100 degrees outside…again. I messed up my timing (again) and got to the theater five minutes before showtime to find the theater empty but for one other family, who had bought tickets for seats directly in front of us.

Think about that for a moment. Those people looked at the seat chart, saw that only two other seats in the whole theater were already taken, and selected the seats directly in front of those. Really?!

With the way they build theaters now, sightlines are not a problem. And maybe you’re not that worried about strangers breathing and eating and talking less than three feet above and behind you because you’re vaccinated. But what about personal space and privacy? I get it if the theater is full and those are the only seats available, but the whole theater was empty. Why would you CHOOSE to be that close to other people?

Humans are so strange. I sat down in those seats because I those are the assigned seats I bought, but within a couple minutes the previews started, no one else was coming, so we moved up a couple rows. I laughed in my head the whole time thinking about my Dad and how he always complains that people choose the seat directly in front of you no matter how empty the theater is. I couldn’t wait to tell him.

Movie magic strikes again!
Image from Wikipedia

As a side note, Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is hilarious. I chose that movie purely by the title and the genre. I assumed it would be as stupid as the title, but it was inside and air-conditioned, so what the hell! I was pleasantly surprised, laughed the whole time, and loved every minute of it.

There was something else interesting that was thinking about while I was at the movies and for several hours after. Things are changing…duh…but not necessarily in a bad way.

I had stopped going to the movies mostly because the hassle of going, the cost, being among a large group of people that (from the story above) seem to have no sense of manners when it comes to movie etiquette. Screaming kids watching clearly inappropriate movies, sick people over my shoulder, talking people, etc. Why spend that much on a movie when I can sit a home and watch them on my big screen with a beer and chips? The ability to pause when I have to go to the bathroom? Yes, please!

Moving my watching time to earlier in the day, before 2pm, helped a tremendous amount. Why is it that no one goes to the movies at 11am or 1pm? We had been going on Christmas day for the latest release of Star Wars and walking into an empty theater for years. Walking out, we’d see a long line of people waiting for the late afternoon showings. Crazy.

I was bored with the selection of movies at one point. It seemed there were only action movies and coarse and crude comedies. I was so completely disappointed with first Hobbit movie, that I never went back to see the next one. There’s no dialog, no depth of meaning or character, just chase, chase, explode, and kill. It’s exhausting. And loud.

We chose to stay home to watch movies instead and I love the new streaming movies. There are so many new limited series shows based on books, history, etc. It’s awesome. Traditional movies have to be made to fit a niche: a time frame people can sit through in one stint and that a large swath of people will watch. A two-to-three-hour movie has to leave a lot of details out to get the story told. And it has to be made so that as many people as possible will watch to be profitable, so it’s catered the lowest common denominator.

It’s expensive for a theater to show a movie, so they need as many people there as possible. Streaming movies are cheaper to distribute, so they can be made for a smaller market. Limited series shows based on books or history, can be as long as they want. And now we have movies that cater to a very specific audience. It’s awesome.

But something is missing for me. Where’s the movie magic?

When The Force Awakens came out, something strange happened to me. This was the first movie I’d seen in a theater in years. When those yellow words started scrolling up the screen and the music began, I got a chill. I could feel the energy around me. And when the whole theater gasped in excitement to relive old memories and see the continuation of a story that we had all grown up with…it was movie magic. A collective memory, we were all connected emotionally. It felt…primal. I’m tearing up just writing about it.

The best part of that movie was the fact that we were all sitting there watching it together. Like watching your favorite band perform live or a live performance of a play, we are experiencing something together and for a moment we had a bond with our fellow humans. It was weird.

Right now, I’m reading “The Righteous Mind” and he’s talking about humans and how their evolved edge over all the other animals is their ability to work together, to trust each other (as in The Rational Optimist), and to bond into large groups of non-family. This is what has made us thrive and spread out over the world, to master our environment, and create technology that makes us fatter and happier than any other species. Call me crazy, but I think the movie magic is an extension of that.

I remember huge movie houses when I was a kid, packed full, shoulder to shoulder with little leg room, to watch a giant screen. The last movie I saw like that was Jurassic Park at the Cinedome in Anaheim. This movie was HUGE and was touted as having huge sound that had to be “experienced,” so we went there. It was amazing. You could feel those dinosaurs walking and hear them coming up behind you.

Those huge movie theaters are gone, I know, and that’s ok because their replacement is so much more intimate and comfortable. Smaller theaters, with comfortable recliners, tiered up so no one’s view is obstructed. Seats far enough apart that you don’t get kicked in the back by the long-legged dude or coughed on by the squirmy kids behind you. It’s fantastic.

But ticket sales had started to fall BCB, and I hope after being closed for over a year, they don’t continue that trend and theaters close forever.

There’s just something about the collective experience that I had forgotten was so special. The arrival, the popcorn, the finding of your seat. The lights dimming, the previews we watch and then look at each other for a thumbs up or down. The movie itself with the collective laughs, gasps, and painful silences. And then the end: the applause, the standing and stretching, walking from the theater laughing or crying, the looking to other patrons with the “Did you feel that?” look. It’s movie magic.

Making Time for the Little Things You Want to Accomplish

You know that thing that you wish you could make time in your day for? What if you did? What would it be? What if making time for it was a decision you could consciously make?

Making time to read every morning.
My Morning (photo by author)

Learn to meditate, read that book, start a journal, finish that craft. There are loads of things we tell ourselves that we would love to do them if we only had the time. But really…how much time we need to start?

What do you do when you first wake up in the morning? If you’re like me, you stumble into the kitchen for coffee and hope there is some still left! I used to plop myself down on the couch and turn on the tv to vegetate awhile. It was a habit I created when I was younger. I was tired and grumpy and needed an hour or so to sip my coffee, watch the news mindlessly, and give myself some time to wake up. I needed that time and felt violated if anyone interrupted my morning routine.

And then I had kids and my morning routine was shot to hell. I couldn’t get up before the kids, they usually woke me up at the crack of dawn. The morning routine became about them, taking care of their needs. It was fun most days.

As they got older and we considered homeschooling, I began to be aware that I needed time for myself, time to read, reflect, and relax a bit. I ended up creating an evening routine for that, reading to my kids before bed, and then sitting in their room reading and journaling while they went to sleep. It wasn’t always relaxing but it worked well most nights.

Once they were “school age” and began sleeping past the earliest rays of sunlight, I started being able to get up before the chaos and when I did, I returned right back to my old way of coffee and tv news, with the added time-suck of social media. Habits do not die easily! My morning hour turned into two, while I listened to the news and scrolled through Facebook chatting with friends.

I’m not sure how it came to my attention or why I suddenly thought of it, but I do remember I was growing frustrated with how little time I had to read. My evening routine was great, but I was tired and could only read for about half an hour before I became sleepy and went to bed. The boys didn’t need me to sit there until they went to sleep anymore. I needed to find more time in my day, when I was more alert, if I were going to get any serious reading done.

That’s when it dawned on me…first thing in the morning. I’m conscious enough to scroll through my social media feeds and read articles while I drink my coffee. Why not use that time to read my book? So that’s what I did. I promised myself that I’d get my coffee, sit on the couch, and read for fifteen minutes before I did anything else.

Fifteen minutes after a week or so, turned into thirty and that year I finished 15 books. Over the years, I’ve increased my reading time little by little. In the past I was never able to focus on books for more than a few minutes at a time, but it turns out that it just takes practice to increase that focus. I still only read for an hour at a time, an hour and a half if the book is fun and exciting, thirty minutes if it’s complicated. Then I need to get up and move around, change positions, or change books every hour or so, but I’m up to three hours of reading a day now. And most of that is early in the morning, before I do anything else. I have a new habit. I reach for my book and my coffee now, automatically. This past year I read 64 books.

So, what if you could do that thing you wanted to make more time for? What if you had it ready and waiting for you in the morning, like the coffee maker prefilled and put on a timer? All you’d have to do was pour your cup, pick up your thing, and head to the couch to start. Write your first thoughts before any new input. Listen to that podcast or audiobook while you craft. Read that book for fifteen minutes. Meditate on the steam from your coffee. Whatever it is, make time for it first thing in the day and the rest of the day will already be won because you already did something awesome.

Were You Allowed to Use Curse Words At Home Growing Up?

In stark contrast to my own children’s early lives, when I was growing up, curse words were not allowed. It didn’t matter how old you were, if your parent or grandparent was around, you’d get smacked for it. If your parent wasn’t around, it was open season. My grandma would smack my mom for bad words as quick as my mom would smack me, but it didn’t stop any of us from using them. The truth is, colorful expletives are useful, right? They express passion. Life just isn’t the same without either. Like I used to my tell my sons, you just have to know your audience to avoid being smacked.

I was probably about ten years old the first time I used a curse word in front of my mother, and I’ll never forget it.

Baking cookies is an excuse to use curse words?
Photo by Pam Menegakis on Unsplash

My mom and I loved to make chocolate chip cookies, and I can still see that kitchen in my mind. The windows, crisscrossed with wooden trim painted white, yellow kitchen curtains over the sink. And that lovely yellow and brown linoleum floor, the avocado green fridge and oven. What year is it? I know you know.

That oven was something special to me. There were two of them stacked one on top of the other in the corner of the kitchen. Next to it was an island with an electric stovetop to match. All in avocado green and chrome. I don’t think I’ve ever had two ovens like that again. Although sometimes I could have really used it!

Making cookies with my mom on a Saturday afternoon sounds so cliché, doesn’t it? It’s like a scene right out of a Hallmark Channel movie. Young, pretty mom with her long brown hair and big glasses, polyester slacks, and blue eye shadow. Honestly, I always thought my mom was the prettiest mom around. She was funny and boisterous, always had lots of friends. I watched her closely and envied a personality that could so easily greet people and make friends.

Most weekends my mom and stepdad had parties with their friends, playing cards and talking well into the night. You’d think I’d look back on it as a bad time, my parents were distracted partying with their friends and not taking care of us, but it didn’t feel like that to me. I was always enamored with them. I wondered what they were talking and laughing so loud about and would sneak out of my room, long after I was supposed to be asleep, creep down the hall toward the living room and listen. It sounded like fun, grown up fun that I wanted to be a part of.

Sometimes my mom would let me help mix and serve drinks before I went to bed. I felt so grown up. But after bedtime, I wasn’t supposed to come out of my room. I was too old to need my mom in the middle of the night. If got caught in the hall, I just said I was going to the bathroom or feign sleepwalking and my mom would just turn me toward my room and tell me to go back to bed.

I’d reluctantly return, feeling left out of all the fun. I climbed back in my twin bed, dressed in my long, little girl nightgown and lay there wondering what could possibly be so funny. I hear my stepdad singing silly songs, my mom groaning about putting down the wrong card, her friends picking teams for the next round of spades. It seemed like a grown-up mystery.

But Saturday mornings were for fun and I looked forward to it every week. We’d bake sweet bread and cookies mostly. Chocolate chip cookies were my personal favorite, not only because I loved them, but everyone else did too and we’d race to see who could eat the most. With four people living in the house and friends coming for cards in the evening, we had to make a lot of cookies to keep up with demand.

My job was to read the recipe and get out all the things we would need. I’d get the recipe card out of the metal paisley covered recipe box and lay it down on the counter. My grandma wrote this one out (off of a Nestle chocolate chip package I later learned). Her perfectly feminine cursive always impressed me. The delicate, evenly formed, precise loops. The gentle pressure of the pen. The clear lettering with no flourishes. It was serious and concise writing. Getting work done writing. Just like my grandma. Gentle yet serious. Hard but very loving. She didn’t need to get angry about anything. She didn’t need to scold, much. We all just felt compelled by her strength of character to behave.

I can recognize her handwriting the moment I see it and still have a few of those cards tucked away in that same metal box.

Setting the plastic wrapped card on the counter, I started to read it aloud: eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt, flour. I’d get everything out and place it on the counter next to the recipe. I’d get the bowls, the big one and small one. The measuring spoons and cups. And place them on the counter too. Then I’d watch my mom go into action.

While she got the mixer out and plugged it in, she’d ask me to help by measuring the flour, salt, and baking powder into the small bowl. She’d put the butter and vanilla in the big bowl and start whipping it with the mixer. As she softened the butter, I would ask questions like, “Can I taste it now?” and hear, “Not yet.” At least a dozen times.

I’d pour in the sugars as she kept whipping the butter, and then the eggs, one at a time. When it was soft and fluffy, the beaters stopped, I got a chance to stick my finger in the mixture and taste it as she cleaned off the beaters. She would turn to see me licking my finger and scowl at me. “Not yet silly!” and I’d laugh.

My Mom would take the big bowl into her arms and I would slowly add the flour mixture to it as she stirred, one scoop at a time until the cookie dough was good and thick. Setting the bowl down to get the chocolate chips, I’d reach in a grab a pinch of dough. “There won’t be any left to bake if you keep doing that.” She’d admonish me, laughing at my antics. “Tastes like cookies!” I’d squeal.

Two scoops of chocolate chips went in next, minus the ones I stole when my mom wasn’t looking. I’d beg to be let to help stir them in only to give up seconds later and let her finish.

The big cookie sheet came out next, discolored and warped with age. Set out on the counter, it was my job to fill them with cookie dough balls! After having my own children “help” me in the kitchen, I have a better picture of what my work looked like to my Mom. Irregular shaped ball of dough in various sizes, scattered across the cookie sheet!

“All done?”

“Yep.”

And she’d open the oven, slide the sheet of deliciousness in and set the timer. Then we’d clean up a bit, putting away the ingredients and washing off the utensils.

It felt like forever had passed and I was a least a year older when the timer bell rang from the kitchen windowsill. Yes! Cookie time!

My mom had her hands in the sink, up to her elbows in soapy water. “Can you use the hot pad and get those out yourself?”

She couldn’t be talking to me. I looked at her incredulously. “You’re big enough. Be careful though. Don’t burn yourself.”

To a kid, being entrusted with any responsibility, any task usually relegated to adults, was a huge step up in life. The moment an adult talked to you as if you were their helper and not someone in the way, you felt taller and more noble. Someone had opened the door and said “Welcome!”

I tentatively picked up the hot pad glove and put it on. “Hurry up, sweetheart. They’ll burn. Careful. The edge is hot too.”

I opened the oven, reached toward the pan of deliciously brown cookies, caught hold of the edge and began to pull them out oh so carefully. As I did, my arm brushed against the side of the oven and I instinctively jerked my arm back, dropping the cookie sheet onto to the open oven door, yelping, “Shit!”

I stopped dead in my tracks and looked at my Mom. I had startled her, and she came running over to help.

“Are you ok?” pulling my arm out to see the damage.

“Yes.” I said, with tears and not a little bit of fear.

She pulled my face up to look at her, “Don’t worry. Shit is exactly right. I would have said a lot worse.” Kissing me on my forehead, “Go put some cold water on it.”

The relationship between my Mom and I changed that day, all because of the use of curse words. She was no longer just my Mom, the dinner maker, keeper of the rules, and laundry washer. She was my friend. My mom was a person, just like me.

We finished baking several sheets of cookies without further burns. Many pinches of dough were stolen between sets. And once they were all done baking, we got a big glass of milk and set to making ourselves sick eating what was left with the help of my little brother and stepdad.

My Empty Nest is not the End of the Word, But I Could Use a Hug

Every parent experiences the empty nest at some point, I know this. But what if we didn’t have to tuck it all down and experience it alone? Vulnerability in the midst of struggle is not my specialty, but sometimes I feel that my saying something might be just what someone else needs.

The perfect quote for an empty nest on a winter sunrise background.

“And this, he decides, is what a good-by should be.
Not a period, but an ellipsis, a statement trailing off, until someone is there to pick it up.”

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

Goodbyes are so hard. The end of a chapter, the turning of the page. I loved this ellipsis analogy. I often use those, and my son tries to tell me I’m doing it wrong. “It’s not a pause, Mom!” I know but…I like it that way! Think about it.

“Goodbye.”
Door shut. Time’s up. It’s over.

“Goodbye…”
Turns slowly. Starts walking. What’s next?

It’s different and it feels so much better.

And then this one.

“That time always ends a second before you’re ready.
That life is the minutes you want minus one.”

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

Yes, it does. I’m going through a big one of these right now. My youngest child has gone off to University in another state. I’m officially retired from everyday Mom-ing.

I have an empty nest.

Everyone knows that once you’re a mom, you’re always a mom. We have an amazingly close relationship. I never experienced that “teenage” stuff, where they shut themselves off from me. I know they’ll always be texting, sending me pictures, and coming back to visit as often as they can.

But… (I did it again)

I’m alone here all day now. And when my husband is done working, we’re alone all evening and all night. And when I get up in the morning, there’s no reason to keep quiet. I can do what I want at any time of day. The TV isn’t on unless I’m watching it. No one is playing music in the middle of the night. No one interrupts what I’m doing. It’s so damn boring.

I’ll admit that I was excited to retire. We have three kids. When the first one left, we relaxed. There was a bit more space in the house. When the second one left, we were happy. There he goes! Two down, one to go! We looked forward to the youngest taking off. If all three of our kids were out in the world taking care of themselves, we were off the hook. We did it. Done! Children are a huge, long-term commitment. It’s incredibly stressful.

But… (he he he)

It’s so quiet. And then…I’m choking up again as I write…can’t we have one more day? One more drive into the city? One more dinner? One more, “Guys! WTF? Can you not?!”

I wasn’t ready.
I seriously underestimated how hard an empty nest would be.

But…

Are we ever ready? I don’t think so. We just have to dive in and keep flailing around until we notice we’re swimming.

I’ve hesitated to write about this for several reasons. It’s so fresh. I’m still working through it. I don’t need other people’s crap right now. But it keeps coming back up. A scratch in the record that needs to be dealt with, not ignored. You’ll only keep hearing it every time you get to that part of the music.

The first is, as usual, I don’t want to make my kids feel bad. They are doing nothing wrong by growing up and going out into the world. Pursuing our own path is what we all do. That’s normal and good. While I’d certainly have no problem with them living here forever, I want them to chase their own dreams without worrying that the mother they love so much is having a nervous breakdown. It would defeat the purpose of raising children into adults if they were so afraid to hurt my feelings that they never left home.

The second is that I’m not good at being this vulnerable. While I’m good at telling others what I’ve already been through and worked on, I cringe at the thought of asking for sympathy and help as I need it. I’ve recently come to notice that my culture fosters independence over just about anything else and I’m not sure it’s all that healthy. Stand on your own two feet. Buck up. Don’t be such a baby about it. From childhood and adolescence, into adulthood, marriage, children, and on until we die, we’re encouraged to keep our feelings to ourselves, to deal with our own shit alone.

I’m starting to question the wisdom in that. The times that I have reached out to talk to someone about something I’m going through, I’ve always found that I’m not alone. Life’s stages are common. We all move through them. Amazingly enough, no matter what you’re going through, there are others that have been there, felt that. The key is finding those people, and they’re usually very close by, remaining silent, believing they are alone in the world too.

And the third reason is people’s reaction. I don’t find support when I express my pain, I generally find platitudes, dismissal, or worse…help or sympathy. We’re not trained in supporting others through something difficult. Have you ever felt something so strongly, a feeling you just don’t want to feel and can’t get away from? Have you ever told someone about it and they said, “That’s just life. It’ll be better tomorrow.” Yeah…not helpful. Or worse, “Everyone feels that. You’re being ridiculous.” And “I told you this was coming.”

What do I want? To be completely honest, I’m not sure. Maybe I simply want to be heard and to get a hug. I’d like to hear an affirmation. “This must suck.” Or “I feel that from you.” Maybe even questions like, “What are you going to do?” I also really enjoy hearing other people’s painful stories. “There was a time I felt that way.” Or “I remember when…” I hear that and I think, “Yes. I’m not alone. I’m just one of the humans here. Life does go on.” And then I consider what’s next or cry some more. It depends on my mood. Sometimes I want to wallow in my sadness awhile.

Ultimately, the story continues no matter what happens to any of us. It isn’t a period, end of line, close the book. It’s just…what’s next?

I blogged about “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” when I started reading it back in January. It certainly didn’t take me long to read it all. I couldn’t put it down! Have you read it? You can find it on Thriftbooks.com if you don’t have it. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments when you read it!

Healthy Habits Create Strong Roots that Lead to Happiness

Healthy habits grow strong roots. Quote from the book on a desert background.

“A tree with strong roots can withstand the most violent storm, but the tree can’t grow strong roots just as the storm appears on the horizon.”

The Art of Happiness by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.

How do get those strong roots? By building healthy habits every day. We prepare for the coming storms, because we know they are coming even when the sky is clear and the air is warm. Suffering is inevitable: an illness will find you, someone will die, a relationship will end, you’ll lose a job, a natural disaster will hit where you live. The list goes on and on forever.

What can we do?

Grow deep and healthy roots.

We read and study, exercise, eat healthy to prepare for the coming storms. We work, budget, and save money for the future. We do preventative maintenance on our homes and vehicles so that they continue to work well for us. We learn to communicate and bond with others in new ways so that our relationships can last longer.

We should always be growing and learning, creating more intricate and developed support systems.

Healthy and communicative relationships help you prepare for the future. Each time we successfully navigate a new relationship, build on a current one, or transition from one kind to another, we learn about ourselves and become stronger for the next stage of our lives.

Parenting is another way we prepare for the future. Building a strong and stable family that loves and supports children as they grow their own roots is the best way to contribute to a happier future generation. Your children are born growing. They instinctively know what they need. Follow their lead.

Giving your children the home and safety that you wanted as a child, helps you re-parent yourself and grow those roots you feel you were lacking. In this way, each generation can build on the last.

Strong roots are built by healthy habits.

Strong healthy roots are developed intentionally over long periods of time. The deeper and more intricate they are, the more likely we are to weather the storms of life and create happiness for ourselves and those around us.


You can find The Art of Happiness at Thriftbooks. If you read it, let me know what you think!

I posted about this book when I started reading it back in December, New Read: The Art of Happiness

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An Empty Nest Can Inspire A New Beginning

Photo by Lê Tân on Unsplash

Oh, my sweet readers…I know you were looking forward to another post about “The Art of Happiness” this morning but I sat down to work on it and the next post but found my heart wandering elsewhere. I closed my laptop and decided to take a break for some breakfast, more coffee, and a couple delicious Winternacht cookies that my older son was so cruel to send to me in the mail.

As I sat there, listening to my younger son watch “Clone Wars,” my pen poured out ideas into my journal. I swear it does that, you guys. I’m serious. I sit and look at the page and out come words. Sometimes those cursive sentences are not fit for human eyes. They are uncensored and sometimes very ugly. That’s the process of journaling thoughts as they come up instead of burying them to fester or throwing them out into the world to poison others. I write them as they present themselves in the hopes that seeing them on paper takes some of their power away. It works…usually.

Today was different. These thoughts need to be shared. Maybe I can make them clearer and more useful to myself if I can type them. Maybe you can use them if I do.

There are big changes coming to my home. Those changes were delayed and altered by the reaction to Covid-19, but they are now here big as life. The whole house is feeling it, but unlike my family, my emotions run all along my surface, so I tend to react more than they do. You can usually see how I feel about things without me saying a word. Positive or negative, excited or depressed, love or hate, you know what I’m feeling, but you may not know what it’s about or why. There are many times that I’m not sure either. Let’s just say I’m fun to be around.

So, what are these changes? Every mom reading…hold on to your heart…my youngest is leaving for university in another state.

The empty nest has come.

No need to go into those details. There are movies, books, podcasts, songs, anything you can think of to tell that age old story. But what does it mean to me and you? How will it change our relationship? I know that’s what you’re wondering!

That’s what I’ve been asking myself the past year, and more in the past few weeks as plans became reality. You know what they say, the goal of a mother’s work is to work her way out of a job. My mom career is officially over. What’s next?

I’ve always written and for the past few years, I’ve been working toward writing more and in better ways. This blog was a hobby, then a part-time job, and now that I have no other demands on my attention, it will become my full-time job. I have big plans and I hope you’ll join me for the journey.

What now? I think I’ll change the pace and some of the content of this blog, just a little. I’m becoming burned out writing so much about the books I read. I love it, but there is more that I want to say, and I’d like to work some time into my life for writing more short stories.

I know, “Get to the point, Michelle!” Here’s the schedule I came up with.

  • Monday: Gratefulness Post
  • Tuesday – Friday: Book Quotes and New Read Posts
  • Saturday: Short Story of the Week
  • Sunday: Nothing. It’s my day off.

And, of course, there’s the monthly newsletter. That’s a separate special opt-in list! If you’re interested, go to My Autobibliography page to sign up. That’s another something I might put a spin on this month!

I plan to keep writing every morning of the week. I love creating habits and I have morning routine that rocks, when I don’t get derailed by an extra cup of coffee, “Clone Wars,” and brilliant conversation with my family.

I’ll be totally honest here. I’m terrified by the prospect of my last child leaving. What will it be like? Will I go crazy in the house alone all day? Will I drive my husband and friends crazy? Will my blog end up being a non-stop rant about the birds on the porch or the cat on back of the couch?

…deep breath…

Change is an inevitable part of life. We’ve trained for this. We’re ready.

…big smiles…

The School System is Oppressive for a Reason

School system feels oppressive quote from book and book cover on desert background.

“Marianne’s classmates all seem to like school so much and find it normal. To dress in the same uniform every day, to comply at all times with arbitrary rules, to be scrutinized and monitored for misbehavior, this is normal to them. They have no sense of the school as an oppressive environment.”

Normal People by Sally Rooney

The school system we have is not the best way to create a responsible and independent population.

Speaking out against the public school system is unpopular, I know. I usually get even fewer likes when I speak my mind here. But hear me out, please. What we are currently doing (and have been for nearly 100 years) isn’t working. That old cliché definition of insanity comes to mind.

I pulled this quote out because it reminded me of my own experience in high school and my feeling when I talk to parents that send their kids to school. In fact, it reminds me of how I feel when I talk to kids in high school, or that have just left it.

I was good at the system. I was able to work my way through public school in the 80’s and get good grades, make some friends, and start university. But I felt like I as living a lie, walking among zombies that didn’t realize there was a world outside what we were being forced to live until we were 18 or completed so many credits. Why was I different?

I don’t believe controlling other people from birth to death is the way we create order out of chaos. I’ve heard time and time again, if you don’t teach a child that you are bigger and stronger than them, the authority in all things, while they are small and fragile, they’ll walk all over you when they get into their teens and are bigger than you, capable of walking away from your control. It sounds so perverse.

It’s the same with schools today. I’ve heard parents tell me that you need to put your children in daycare early so that they learn to fit in to the system once they get to school age. Children that have not been corralled from early age have a harder time settling into the mold of school days.

A young person, fresh out of high school at 18 years old, scoffed at the fact that my son (her boyfriend) must have been too lazy to finish high school. He didn’t get the same education as she did and would probably never fully understand the system of merely making good grades and completing checklists instead of engaging in and learning from the material and teachers he came across at college. He was 16 and taking the same classes as her, helping her with her math assignments and holding a job.

When people see us, our children, and our lifestyle, some say, “Sure, that’s fine for you but other people need the control of an authority.” Do they? Or have they been trained from birth to believe that they do?

Some people have met us and have told me, “Wow. Your sons are so happy and intelligent. They seem like full-fledged people, not teenagers.” Their next comment is usually that we must have had a strong hand on them, kept them out of trouble, restricted them from video games and cellphones. It was the opposite. They have grown up being respected as individuals, with their own needs and wants, the ultimate authority of themselves, even when we thought they were crazy. We worked together to make living together comfortable. They grew up treating us the same way.

It wasn’t easy. Every decision, every change, every stage of life has to be thought about and evaluated to some degree. Negotiation so that everyone’s needs are met is impossible sometimes. And sometimes we failed miserably. We were learning too, not just the kids. Ultimately, now that the youngest is leaving home, I think it worked out well overall, more positive than negative.

The quote above, Marianne’s feeling about the school environment she is in, it’s legitimate. Raising large groups of people in controlled environments where they have no choice but to attend and obey is oppressive. It brainwashes people into believing that they are not capable of living outside a set of parameters set by someone else.

And that, my friends, is bullshit. We can all live exactly as we please. That doesn’t mean I have to live next to you or with you and agree with you, but it does mean you have the right and the ability to make your own choices, ones that serve you and your needs alone.

Stop raising humans as herd animals and start treating them as independent sentient beings from the moment they are born and we’ll begin to see civilization flourish in ways you can’t imagine.


If you’d like to go back and read my thoughts on this book from the beginning, start at my post New Read: Normal People.

You can find “Normal People” by Sally Rooney on Amazon.

My monthly newsletter highlights my immediate after-thoughts about the books I read the previous month. You can sign up for that awesome email at the link on the right or by hopping over to my Autobibliography page. Once you opt-in, you’ll receive one email a month only available to my email followers…mmm…so exclusive!

Can More Faith in Yourself Lead to More Faith in Others?

faith in yourself quote with background image

“Only the person who has faith in himself is able to be faithful to others, because only he can be sure that he will be the same at a future time as he is today and, therefore, that he will feel and act as he now expects to.”

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

Find the book on Amazon, HERE!

Loving others starts with having faith in yourself.

We simply lived without school. But that doesn’t mean that we didn’t learn. The outcome proves that.

My sons are both out on their own, living productive lives. One traveled Europe, and now has a good job with potential for growth, along with his own car and apartment. He’s 20 years old. The other has been at community college here in town for two years, working, and has his own car. He’s transferring to university next semester and will be leaving the state to live in the dorm and focus on his studies for the next couple of years.

What did we do instead of school?

Our faith in our own drive to learn led me to believe my children had that same drive.

We lived and learned together. We read books, watched movies, built things, went places. We talked and laughed and loved together. We cried and fought, worked things out as best we could so that everyone had their space and got as much as they wanted without stepping on anyone else’s toes. I rarely said no to things they wanted to try out. I spent a lot of time searching for new experiences, and then making it possible to do them. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

I had faith in them from the moment they were born. I knew myself and so did their father. We didn’t need an authority to guide, protect, and direct our lives. What we wanted more of growing up was less direction and more support, so that’s what we gave our kids. We knew they would find their own unique way to adulthood if we gave them a loving and supportive home, if we led by example and followed our own interests, served our own needs, without sacrificing anyone else’s lives in the process.

I had faith in them because I had faith in myself.

And I have faith in others because I have that faith in myself. I know that others can take responsibility for themselves and their families if they want to. I’m not special. My family is not special. We are not more intelligent or lucky than anyone else. The only thing that is different is that, for some reason, we have faith in ourselves.

Real love starts with you loving yourself, believing in yourself, and taking responsibility for your own life. And no one can give that to you. I believe all of us have the ability, but somewhere along the line we have lost the knowledge of it.

I’m telling you that you have it. Start using it.

If you’d like to read more of my thoughts on the book, “The Art of Loving,” check out the following links.
Where Did Our Words For Love Go?
We Cannot Give What We Do Not Have
Learning to Concentrate by Being Alone
How to Parent by Respecting the Individual

You can find “The Art of Loving” by Erich Fromm at Thriftbooks.com.

Have you read this book? If so, leave me a comment. I’d love to hear what you think.


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How to Parent by Respecting the Individual

“How many parents experience the child’s reactions in terms of his being obedient, of giving them pleasure, of being a credit to them, and so forth, instead of perceiving or even being interested in what the child feels for and by himself?”

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

Parenting Needs Respect

I hear and see parents do this constantly, everywhere I go. A baby cries and it’s a sign of “neediness” or the baby is already trying to exert control over the parent. A toddler throws a fit over something and they are called “strong-willed.” A school child interrupts a LONG adult conversation, and they are scolded and pushed away.

It couldn’t possibly be that the baby’s only way of communication a basic need is to cry out, the toddler wanted something that was important to him but couldn’t communicate it in time, or that the school child had a limited amount of patience to wait for a break in adult conversation.

Contrary to popular belief, your children are not actually a piece of you walking around outside your body.

That is supposed to be a metaphor for how you feel, but it doesn’t really help you treat them as the whole individual human they were born to be.

We all are born with our own innate wants and needs. Our first communication tool is noise and as we grow and learn to control our muscles, we learn to communicate better and more precisely. Our job as parents is to help our children learn to use these tools. It takes a lot of time and patience because not only do our children have limited communication skills, but they also have a limited attention span and patience as well. And the only way to expand those is by giving them the time and space to practice using them.

Parenting Needs Patience

Poor communication skills and a lack of patience in adults, in my opinion, comes from lacking in practice while a person is growing up. Children that are set aside, ignored, or not treated as relevant human beings with independent wants and needs, grow up to be adults that insist on centering the world on themselves and treating others as NPC’s. That’s “non-playing characters,” people that have no active narrative, space filler for the game, for those who are not gamers.

Recently, within the last few years, my brother opened a car repair shop and has been complaining about people making appointments and not showing up, requesting things be done without regard for his time and effort, and things of that nature. I had the same experience working at a pregnancy clinic in the past. People would make appointments and not show, complain about how the place was run and what they received (for free, from volunteers and donations) when they were asked to complete tasks to qualify.

How do we, as adults, “reparent” ourselves so that we learn to treat others with the respect we wish to be given? How do we make it clear to those that treat us as NPC’s that we are not? Yelling and cursing at each other isn’t working. Calling people out for bad behavior, punishing people for having little patience, poor communication skills, or no respect for us, doesn’t seem to help either.

When a baby cries out, we look to see what the problem is and attempt to fix it quietly and calmly. When a toddler pitches a fit over the wrong color cup at lunch, we lovingly give him the one he wants when we can and when he’s happy again, explain how it might be easier for both of us to get what we want next time. And when the school child interrupts us with his antics, we hold his hand or let him join in our conversation for a moment and then shift the attention to him so that he’s shown he is respected and how adults give others a chance to speak. We don’t hold grudges against them, yell, or punish.

Could that work with the adults around us? Loving space, respect for individuals exactly where they are, and sympathetic consolation for the natural consequences of their actions would go a lot farther than pushing people into a corner until they behaved according to our own wishes.

Parenting Experience Points

“The thing is, Peter, grown-ups don’t know what they’re doing any better than kids do. That’s the truth.”

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

This quote reminded me of the relationship between my stepdaughter and me. Let’s just say, I was not the ideal parent and I apologized a lot, but it never helped. I wish kids were born knowing the adults in their lives are doing the best they can with what they have.

She was my first child, even though I got her when she was five years old and only half the week. Parenting was new to me. Step-parenting was new to me. She was new to me. I wanted to do better than my parents did, but in a lot of ways I failed. We all fail. It’s how we learn to do better.

Our relationship was torture for both of us much of the time. There were great days, but I felt like I failed at every turn and she’d never forgive me for it, which only made me feel worse about myself, and then I’d get worse. It was a vicious cycle downward that only ended when she finally moved out forever. And at the bottom of my heart, I was glad she did, proud of her for getting away and doing what was best for her.

I haven’t seen her in six years and we only recently, carefully started texting each other. I still don’t know how to talk to her. I try to listen to my husband. He seems to have a better sense of these things. His advice stems from what he’d want, “Just leave her alone and let her come to you when she’s ready,” but I’m afraid. What if the day she comes to me when she’s ready, I am not? What if I screw it all up again?

I didn’t know what I was doing. I still don’t. Parenting is hard. Parenting someone else’s kid is harder.

The only difference between adults and children is experience points. The more experience you have in life, the more you know how much you don’t know, how much you still need to learn…and then we die, hoping our kids do better than we did.

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