I don’t know what lies around the bend, but I’m going to believe the best does.
(from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery)
I don’t know what lies around the bend, but I’m going to believe the best does.
(from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery)
Most of the quotes I chose for this blog are pretty obvious and make sense without needing context to support them. I’m going to veer away from that today a little bit and I’ll need to set up the context for you in case you haven’t read the book. Last night, my husband was listening to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (read by Jim Dale, the audio book is not to be missed) and I walked into the room in time to hear the quote I am using today:
There was a deafening bang and the sidecar broke away from the bike completely: Harry sped forward, propelled by the impetus of the bike’s flight, then the sidecar began to lose height–
In desperation Harry pointed his wand at the sidecar and shouted, “Wingardium Leviosa!”
(from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling)
What struck me when I heard this small portion of the final Harry Potter book, is that in a moment of desperation, when losing height and on the brink of death, Harry doesn’t use one of the more sophisticated or advanced things he learned in six years of wizarding education. Instead, he uses one of the very first (maybe the first?) charm he was ever taught.
I think this is why the early lessons we teach our children are important. This is what sinks in. If they learn this now, it could be the thing that makes them soar when they would otherwise fall to the unforgiving ground. What are the first lessons we learn? Treat other people the way you want to be treated. Listen before you talk. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Tell the truth. Be brave. Be kind. Forgive. Love one another. When we start to lose altitude, these are the lessons that can bring us back up. These first lessons are the ones we know so deep that we can call them forth in a moment of desperation without thinking. They can become like instinct, that thing that stops you from saying the horrible thing on the tip of your tongue that can never be taken back. These are the lessons that can save your marriage, your job, your friendships, your life.
What you learn as a young child you will use until the very end of your story. I hope I can teach these lessons very well.
“You either get hit by lightning, or you don’t,” whispered Hobson.
“If you can’t start a fire, you could freeze to death,” added Scooter. “If you do start a fire, you could burn to death.”
(from Alvin Ho: Allergic To Camping, Hiking, And Other Natural Disasters by Lenore Look)
I am exactly the kind of person to worry about every possibility. If my husband stays up too late working, I worry that he’ll be an unsafe driver the next morning on the way to work and I’ll be left alone to raise our babies. If he doesn’t stay up late to finish a proposal in time for a deadline, I worry that he’ll somehow lose his job and we’ll end up penniless on welfare. If my left foot swells more than my right, I worry that I could have some sort of life-threatening blood clot in my leg. But if I go to the hospital in the evening to check on this, I worry that I will pay an extreme amount of money just to find out that it’s nothing. I have always been this way. I’ve actually gotten so much better.
But it’s helpful at times to laugh out loud at someone like Alvin Ho, someone like me. Because, really, there isn’t any sense in worrying everything to death. I can’t believe how much research went into our selection of car seat when I was pregnant with Benjamin. It seemed like the world’s most important dilemma–to make sure he had the seat that would keep him safe. But what keeps him safe from a tornado, a fire, a freak fall, an illness? At some point you have to let go. I can’t protect myself, my husband, and my children from every scenario. Why waste the days we have on worry? You either get struck by lightning or you don’t.
“Some family,” I said. “No one’s paying attention to the mother. Who could blame her if she took off? Look at them.”
A minute or so went by, and then Mrs. Windermere said, in a voice as soft as summer blue air, “Skinny Delivery Boy, you have it all wrong. Look how she’s standing close to her little one. She’s looking around to watch for the next spectacular thing that’s going to come into his life.”
And I’m not lying, she was right.
(from Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt)
I’m loving this book from the 2012 Lone Star list so expect several quotes and passages from its pages to appear here in the next few days. It’s all about art’s power to bring light in darkness, empathy and understanding, crossing cultures, looking at people as individuals rather than assuming that their families can define them. Just lovely. It boldly shows the truth that even among teachers there are real bullies and among children there are true heroes. Read it. I know you’ll love it.
Annemarie admitted to herself, snuggling there in the dark, that she was glad to be an ordinary person who would never be called upon for courage. (from Number The Stars by Lois Lowry)
I want to say something about this quote but the words won’t come. I want to say something about how it came to mind when I watched a mama walk into her son’s memorial service, how all I could think was, “How can they bear it?” Sometimes I think about how people look in their wedding pictures–so happy and hopeful and full of love–and how when they promise their lives for better or worse, they do it at a time when they can’t even conceive of the worst. No one thinks on that day that someday they might be the ones who have to face cancer or betrayal or loss. Or death. But I also think that on that blissful day, it’s impossible to predict the best of the times you will have. How can you know beforehand the joy beyond words of a child that is part of yourself? How can you understand that your love for each other can grow and grow as you earn the type of love together that you never dreamed existed? You can’t know ahead of time what joy and love the picture slide-show of your life will show. And you can’t know ahead of time if that slide-show of the best of times will play to give you comfort at the epoch of your worst of times. I know this is a babbling post. I hope you will forgive me. It is even more jumbled in my mind. The truth is we are all ordinary people. And the truth is we will all be called upon for courage. It is when someone answers the call for courage that she becomes remarkable. It takes courage just to live and to love and to risk loss. In Each Little Bird That Sings, we are told that “It takes courage to look life in the eye and say yes to the messy glory.”
On the smooth, cream-colored page, in Ma’s fine handwriting, Laura read:
If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek,
Five things observe with care,
To whom you speak,
Of whom you speak,
And how, and when, and where
Your loving mother
C L Ingalls
(from Little Town On The Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder)
I received a comment a week or so ago asking why I love the Laura Ingalls Wilder books so much? I assume this question is mostly in response to the volume of quotes I have used from the Little House series in the last year. Typically, on this blog, you will see groups of quotes from whatever I’m reading at the time. So, in re-reading the series last year, I found many notable quotes and used them during that time. But the question is still an interesting one. Why do any of us love the books we end up loving? I thought about it for a while and I have some answers for this particular series.
First, I love them because my Mumsie gave me the boxed set for my eighth birthday. That was my favorite-ever birthday party: my mom and aunts set up little stations all through our house for my friends and me. We had a make-up station, hair station, and dress up station. She had my great-grandmothers beautiful old dresses (from the days when ladies had many occasions to dress to the nines) shortened for us to play in. We had the dresses, the gloves, the hair-spray smell, the ridiculousness of make-up on eight-year-old faces. Then we had petite fores and punch and other fancy things on my mother’s good china. There was a lace table-cloth on the table. I remember I had asked for a basketball for that birthday because my PE Teacher scolded that I needed lots of practice at home (I couldn’t dare tell her that in our two-sister home there were no basketballs to practice with and DON’T get me started on the PE methods in public education). I did get a basketball–just what I asked for and didn’t want. But I also got the boxed set of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I didn’t ask for them. I didn’t even know they existed. I had never heard of the television show based on them, we had not yet read one of them in school, but Mumsie told me she loved them when she was growing up. “Growing up.” That’s how she said it. Not, “I loved them when I was a little girl,” but “I loved them when I was growing up.” It made me feel like she thought I was growing up.
I read them straight through. In class later that year we read The Long Winter and I felt great that I had my own copy at home, so much better than the textbook version. By The Shores of Silver Lake was the first book that ever made me cry, when Laura became Mary’s eyes in a world that had gone dark, when she learned to sacrifice her own selfish desires to work toward sending Mary to college. For years after that, if I needed a good cry and couldn’t get the tears to come, I would pull Silver Lake down from the shelf and read a few chapters about Mary’s blindness. Silly, I know, but true. So I love the books for the memories first. Like my grandmother, I loved them when I was growing up.
And, I love them as a grown-up for a new set of reasons. I love them because they offer a gentle wisdom and a simple lifestyle in a crazy, commercial, speedy world. They take me back to the basics. They chastise me for always taking the easy way or the convenient way. They remind me to live well within my means, to not chase after everything my friends and neighbors have but to live with contentment. The Ingalls and Wilder families show beautiful examples of courage under pressure, grace in the face of tragedy, acceptance of hardships, determination, pluck, relationships, and humor. Sometimes I can hardly believe what they went through. I love the history of this country told through the eyes of a girl growing up in it. I love the romance between Charles and Caroline Ingalls and the romance between Laura and Almonzo Wilder.
In re-reading the series as an adult, I have been challenged to do things for myself that I might not have a few years ago. I am sewing my baby girl’s bedding and some other things for her nursery. I am venturing in to the world of cloth diapers (something I seriously thought was insane a couple of years ago when I had my son). I am making my own household products if I can’t find them at the rock bottom price I want to pay: laundry detergent, all-purpose cleaner, glass cleaner, etc. I make gifts for people I love instead of shopping around to buy them something. I feel like I’m living more abundantly and counting my blessings more readily. When something is hard for me, I think how easy my modern life is compared to the pioneer life and I am grateful.
I’m grateful that I don’t have to depend on the weather for the very food to feed my family. I’m grateful to be having babies in the twenty-first century when my 8lb 4oz breech baby could be delivered by c-section safely, when I can get a glimpse of my daughter in an ultrasound video to know she’s growing well. I’m grateful for electricity and technology, for community and all the books I want.
I love the Little House books because they remind me of growing up, because they challenge me as a grown-up to live more simply, to do without what I don’t need and to appreciate the luxuries of living when i do, and because they’re just flat good books that have stood the test of time.
If the track is tough and the hill is rough,
THINKING you can just ain’t enough!
(from The Little Blue Engine by Shel Silverstein)
Today is my second day of potty training my son using a three-day method. Today has been okay. Yesterday was dreadful. Yesterday we went through ten pair of toddler underwear before the day was done. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more tired than I did at the end of the day yesterday. Not even when he was a newborn.
So far the method seems to be going by the book (or rather, by the e-book 3DayPottyTraining.com) but I have a few minor complaints about the book. Number 1: The book says that though you will undeniably feel frustration, you are never to show this frustration, keeping at all times a positive attitude toward the process. Well, pregnancy hormones made this a nearly impossible charge. I found myself fighting back tears MANY times yesterday, from frustration, from fatigue, from my house smelling like urine… But I think it was worth it. He seems to be catching on here in day two, so maybe one day of hell is worth not giving up a year (or more!) to the roller coaster of potty training. Of course, this positive spin is completely dependent on the method working in the end, but my hopes are high.
Number 2: The book says don’t take your eyes off the child at all. All day long. Even if you have to go to the bathroom yourself. Well sure, I don’t want to miss the chance to catch him mid-accident and teach him to run to the bathroom, but the baby girl in my womb is kicking at my bladder constantly and my son gets so tired of trailing me to the bathroom every time I need to go. He’s very happy to play on his own and usually does so for lengthy bits of time. He was pretty tired of me being in his business all day long yesterday, and forcing him to be in mine. Also, he usually entertains himself while I take my daily shower. To make sure we weren’t separated for the length of a shower yesterday, I got up at 6:30am to take one and prepare myself for the day. 6:30 AM!!! My son usually gets up around 7:15, I give him a cup of yogurt and a granola bar or toaster waffle for breakfast and go back to bed until about 8:30. Like I said, he entertains himself. 6:30 is a dark and ungodly hour and it came back to bite me in the mid afternoon when I could barely hold my eyes open. It’s hard to keep your eyes focused on a toddler peeing time-bomb when your eyes want so badly to just close. Today I skipped the morning shower and just waited until a time when I was pretty sure he wouldn’t need to use the potty, planted him on a stool at the bathroom sink with some splash toys, and took a shower in the afternoon while he played. Much better.
I read a quote on Pinterest the other day that said, “The length of a minute depends on which side of the bathroom door you are.” When I called my husband yesterday before lunch and said, “This is terrible! It’s not working at all and I’m going crazy!” his response was, “Well, it’s only been four hours.” The length of four hours depends on if you are the one potty training a nearly three-year-old boy or not. I reminded him of this. He became much more sympathetic and showed up a little while later with a mocha frappaccino from Starbucks. God bless the man.
Last night, once the laundry was in the dryer (we had to have all those underwear ready for another day) and my baby was asleep (without a diaper), I collapsed into a heap of utter exhaustion and prayed for the grace, patience, resolve, and strength for another day. I couldn’t honestly imagine doing it all again. But as I lay there, I thought of how lucky I am just to have him. I thought of all the things we go through as mamas: pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, diapers, sleep training, potty training, nightmare soothing, cleaning up messes. It’s hard work, but some people would give anything they have to get to do these things. I know women who struggle with infertility, with miscarriage after miscarriage, with losing their children too soon.
It’s hard work. If today hadn’t been much better than yesterday (so far), I probably wouldn’t be writing this (because I couldn’t take my eyes off of him yesterday. Today he is actually napping!). Again, it’s hard work. It wasn’t enough just to decide to do it and pluck up my resolve, to say, “I think I can.” I needed more than that. I needed prayer. I needed that extra caffeine from Starbucks. I needed to be allowed to cry at some point. But at the end of a truly bad day as a mom, I’m still so grateful just to be one. I’m so glad I get to be his mama.