An Honest Assessment

I shared over on Instagram that it’s Laurel’s assessment day. Meaning, she has to complete a series of tests highlighting her abilities as well as her disabilities.

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It’s pretty stressful.

It requires about four hours of sitting and doing.  For a homeschooled student who does not do standardized testing it’s a lot. A whole lot.

I spend the time in the waiting room. It’s not bad, really. They have wifi, I’ve caught up on writing and reading. I don’t hate it.

I also reflect on our road to saying ‘learning disability’ out loud. It took some time, for sure.

When my husband and I were dating I remember teasing him that perhaps he had dyslexia. We were in college and writing papers was tricky for him. He basically wrote eight pages of run on sentences. Punctuation, capitalization, spelling – none of it was there. What was there was content. He was a great writer, and still is, but something wasn’t right. It was as if he didn’t even see what was missing.

He shared one of his most memorable moments from school, which involved not being able to memorize his multiplication tables. His parents and teachers often told him that if he would only try harder his work would improve. It boggles my mind that no one every noticed how his intelligence didn’t match up with his level of work.

Lee was left with the notion that he was lazy, didn’t apply himself, and was probably a little stupid.

That is the story of so many adults who have undiagnosed learning disabilities.

I don’t understand the shame that surrounds learning differences. The first time I asked Lee’s mom if she thought he could be dyslexic she blasted me. She angrily told me that he had a very high IQ, that he had been tested by several people, that there was nothing ‘wrong’ with him.

I quietly replied that dyslexia has nothing to do with a person’s intelligence. We never broached the subject again, but the shame card had been laid on me.

When our first child showed signs of struggling to read the first person I called was Lee’s sister. She was a teacher, and I knew that teaching reading was a passion of hers.

Dyslexia is tricky, though, and many teachers are not trained to see its symptoms. Many times the symptoms are seen as stubbornness or an unwillingness to learn.  Lee’s sister suggested I call the local school and ask them. It was not a homeschool friendly area, though, so I opted to just figure it out on my own.

Man, was it rough.

I was so young and so new to homeschooling that I was overwhelmed by all of the choices. I tried to stick it out with a reading curriculum that came highly recommended. It was tear stained and tattered within the first three months of using it. Kiley and I both came to hate that book.

We were not like the homeschool families I read about or the ones who were highlighted in the news. I was not raising a future Scripps Spelling Bee Winner or someone who would be ready for college by 6th grade.

Which meant we were failing.


I don’t know why people do this, but when you homeschool friends and family think it’s fun to quiz your kids. Holidays and birthday parties became dreaded events because you never knew who was going to say, “What have you been learning?” or “Come read this book to me.”

Nobody likes that.

My oldest girls were in second grade and kindergarten, and both struggled mightily with reading and spelling. They went to stay with my husband’s family for a weekend.  After they’d been home for a couple of hours my oldest one told me they played school with a relative all weekend.

I felt the pit in my stomach and asked her to tell me more.

“We practiced spelling and writing,” Kiley said.

I smiled and asked if she had fun while inside I was fuming.

That’s the day I became an advocate for my children.

Perhaps there had been no malice behind the relative’s actions. When you homeschool there is often a feeling of suspicion behind questions about school, family or not. I’d way rather someone ask me, “How do you know what to teach your children?” than sneak them off and quiz them.

That incident taught me a valuable lesson, though. I learned that my children had no voice. They did not have the vocabulary to say to someone, “I have a learning disability.” or “I don’t want to do that.” “Mom makes me do that stuff every day. Please don’t you do it, too.” 

I became their first voice, teaching them to self-advocate.

Up until that point I’d been hesitant to share our struggles in traditional school. I felt like I was scamming people when  I said  my kids had dyslexia because I didn’t have an ‘official’ diagnosis from a psychologist. I also struggled with how hard to push them.  There were times when I allowed outside pressures (real or imagined) to influence our homeschool. I became the enforcer and said horrible things like, “If it’s hard we try harder.”  There was a lot of sitting at the table, and a lot of crying.

There were other times that I declared we would only read aloud and do art. I have tried to forgive myself for those early days when I was uncertain of what was going on. I was truly doing my best.

I see that shame had a huge role in my behavior. I was ashamed that I wasn’t a better teacher, that I didn’t homeschool hard enough.

I am so grateful I’m not in that place any more.

After that I decided to become an expert in dyslexia. I read as many books as I could find about dyslexia. Pro-tip: only read the most current material, otherwise you’ll end up even more confused. I told my kids they had dyslexia, and maybe some other issues that we would figure out.

Then I studied how they learned. I paid attention to what gave my girls a spark, what caused them to dive deeper, what made them ask questions. Then I did more of all of those things. Gradually we all began to relax about school.* When number three got to school age I didn’t panic when he began to show the same symptoms.

Also, there was never anymore ‘playing school’ while they were with relatives. If well meaning friends asked if they would read to them I gently informed them that reading wasn’t their thing, that it required a lot of work for them and that they just wanted to relax and have fun.

The only thing that exploded was my shame. It was gone the minute I said ‘dyslexia’  out loud to the first person outside of our family. It gave me permission to ask Sunday school teachers and co-op teachers to skip over my children when reading out lout in class. 

The amazing thing that happened was that people began telling me about their children’s struggle with learning, or there own struggles. Me sharing my stuff invited others to share theirs, which led to more exploding shame.

Hooray for exploding shame!!


I am still sitting in the waiting room, which means Laurel is still working. One of the things I hate about the assessment is the feedback. That’s when we sit down with the psychologist and review the test results.

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I’m not going to lie. The first time we did this I sat in the car and cried for a good thirty minutes, and that was after crying in the psychologist’s office. It’s one thing to know your child’s struggle. It’s another to see it written down in black and white, to see numbers attached to your child, numbers that cause that shame thing to rise back up.

I will push it down, though, because I have the secret.

I know that my children are more than numbers. I know that those tests cannot calculate their potential, cannot know that they were each handmade for a life only they can live.

Those tests cannot tell us what they were created for.

I know those things, but I also know my girl will be hurting this evening when she reflects on the parts that were especially difficult. I think I’ve heard it compared to asking a person confined to a wheel chair to show someone how hard it is to get up a flight of stairs. Alone. With no help.

These assessments, while necessary for now, are not the whole truth.

I will be content with paper telling us part truth, but my heart will know the whole.

 

My heart will give the honest assessment to anyone who will listen until my children can.

 

Be brave, misfits. Be a voice for anyone in your life who needs it.

 

 

*Mostly. I think when you have a learning disability ‘school’ automatically conjures up all kinds of weird, uncomfortable feelings. We can talk more later about anxiety and how kids with learning disabilities are more likely to deal with it.

When Destruction is Part of Life

This year we’ve put the garden in the front yard. I got a bit of a late start on it, though, and didn’t want to take the time, or the expense, to till. Dad did a little research and we decided that spraying down the grass with vinegar then covering it with dirt would have to suffice.

Coming to this decision was not as simple as it sounds.

After hosing down our 16×4 plot of grass with vinegar we pinned down a plastic tarp. Our hope was that the sun and vinegar would work together to kill off the grass.

Then came the dirt.

Who knew that there were so many types of dirt to buy?

I stood at Lowe’s fretting over which bags. The cheapest? Definitely not the most expensive ones. Compost? Fertilizer? I felt so silly trying to figure out which bags

In the end I decided on the next to cheapest dirt I could find. It said ‘natural’, but when Spencer and I got it home and cut a bag open it smelled anything but natural. It smelled like death.

Except, I guess death is natural.

We spread it out over the dying grass, each of us taking turns with the garden rake. I loved the way that dark, rich dirt looked when we poured it out. I felt quite proud of our little patch. Every morning Spencer and I would come out and dig through a little patch to check on the death of the grass. Most of it was white and wilted, unable to withstand the weight of the dirt.

A few persnickety pieces of the green stuff continue to poke through the surface, though, and have to be  pulled. I’ve got to be diligent.

Whenever I am busy in the garden parables come to mind. It’s easy to see why Jesus taught in parables. Working with my hands, being part of creation, always makes me think on the teachings of Christ. It feeds my hunger for deep thinking. I examine God’s divine nature, think on his goodness, and am so grateful for tomato plants.

The parables seem all at once simple and tricky.

That dirt and grass, though, they were teaching me something. The lesson has just taken a few weeks to catch up to me.

 

 


 

I’m learning about Jeremiah with some friends, a few certain women, over the summer. I tend to skip over the prophets because they seem so …troubled.

Jeremiah is one of my husband’s favorites, though, so I decided to give him a go. It turns out he’s one of Eugene Peterson’s, too. I found a great study by Peterson that we’ve been using. It’s called Excellence: Run with the Horses.  Immediately we noticed that Jeremiah is kind of a downer.  In fact he’s known as the ‘weeping prophet’.

Rightfully so, since he had the unfortunate task of announcing Israel’s impending destruction.

As the Lord helped Jeremiah reach an understanding with his role in his people’s future God said these words to him:

Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the LORD. ~ Jeremiah 31:28 

 

There it was, my comfort, those words I highlighted in green.

Maybe your comfort, too?

God doesn’t destroy because it’s in his power. Our Creator always has a plan to build and to plant.

This gives me relief (and hope)  because no matter what devastation my life suffers, the Lord is always working a plan to build and plant.

It’s like after a forest fire there’s the opportunity for regrowth.

Destruction feels brutal and non-recoverable. Even when you know with your brain that you will make it through a Hard Time, your soul is dying a death that will leave you changed.

In a sense, you won’t recover because you will be a different you on the other side of grief.  As I read parts of Jeremiah I recognize the echo of the story of my life, too. He has certainly been overseeing the destruction of my earthly kingdoms which had been set up in the artifices of career, finances, church, and material things.

When we left the ministry we didn’t realize we were walking away from a worldly domain of our own making.

I didn’t realize how dependent I was on our plan for Lee’s career for security or my possessions for my identity. Losing those things put us on shaky ground for a little bit. Recovering from that self-imposed destruction has been life changing for all of us. I’d say we all feel more certain of God’s place in our lives and less certain of the world’s demands – not a bad place to be. 

Not everything about our old life was bad, but not everything was God-directed, either.  

 


 

Spraying that vinegar all over the grass felt wrong, but we knew it needed to be done.

It’s not always that easy with our lives, though, is it? Often the destruction is against our will. I’ve been there, too, where every fiber of your being is begging for the devastation to stop.  I know what it’s like to wake in the middle of the night feeling fine when the sudden knowledge of your loss settles on your chest and replaces your even breathing with gasps. It’s as though while you’re asleep your body stops remembering the wound and then, upon waking, it all comes back.

I know that kind of pain, too.

Destruction of our earthly kingdoms is not without discomfort, even misery,  but God will use it for a purpose, too. He will oversee building and planting and renewal.

He will make all things new.

 

 

I look at this garden knowing that it will bear fruit soon. I barely remember the patch of dead grass underneath it all.

That’s the amazing thing about being rebuilt. The old stuff becomes a building ground for the different stuff, the new stuff. I can’t say better stuff, though, because I know people who have lost more than jobs and bookcases. Losing people, be it babies in the womb or aged dear ones, is not the same as losing stuff. Life is always better with those we love. The part of life that comes after them can’t be better…only different, and new. 

New growth will always come after devastation. I believe that.

The first year after we left ministry felt like slow drowning. We paddled and paddled and still went under. We failed at finding a church, finding friends, finding a job. We lost our momentum and gave into the waves – and it seems that’s when we got to shore.

Sometimes you just have to give in to the devastation without knowing where it will take you. The miracle is that with some work, with some tender care, you’ll be looking at fullness again. Your old life will be under the surface offering up little aches and pains every now and then, but also giving you solid planting ground. 

My life, my family’s lives, each look very different than they did 2 years ago. I cannot believe how full we are with community, church, and each other. The loneliness and heartache of 24 months ago seems so distant. Every now and then, though, it comes back through and I remember that God is still working that plan.

 

 

If you’re suffering under devastation, big or small, self-imposed or accidental, you’re not alone. You’re loved and cherished.

You will be made new. 

Be brave in the devastation.

 

 

 

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The Way of Miracles

Miracles

Walt Whitman, 18191892

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer
forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so
quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.

To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—the ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?


Each new month of 2017 has shocked me.

Is it that way for you?

I cannot believe it is June 6. We are definitely in the summer routine of staying up later than we mean and in turn sleeping more of the morning away that I’m comfortable with. I do enjoy the pause from our normal routine, though.

Still, I feel like I have a tiger by the tail.

I find that parenting teenagers is a lot like that. I cannot believe that I have three of them. One is mostly on her own, writing brilliantly and forging her own way. The other two are busy bees who like to spend their days active, on the go. There’s so much to do with them and for them. They are my tiger. 

I find myself missing the days when parking a lawn chair in the backyard next to the sprinkler was summer.

Fortunately, I still have one of those.

Liam, at 7, is at quite the fun age. I am getting lots of time with him,  me and my last little one. My little one who talks like a teenager.

“It’s just a prank, brah,” he says when he squirts me with the water gun.

“What’s for dinner, yo?” he asks when he’s hungry.

“I’m just a boy who likes zombies,” he says when I beg him to stop talking of the *zombie apocalypse because zombies aren’t real.

I did introduce him to Elmo in Grouchland and he LOVED it, so that’s a win. It is funny how we rush that first child along then beg the last one to just slow down on growing up.

Today I am I am declaring this the Summer Worth Remembering. Liam is at the perfect age for making memories, so we will do just that.

I considered asking him what he’d like to do but it turns out it’s about me not him.

There are certain memories from my childhood summers that I hold dear, and feel are quintessential summer activities. It’s easy to get sidetracked, though, by LISTS and THINGS and MUST DO’s.

Grown up stuff can really ruin summer.

In order to make this a Summer Worth Remembering I am declaring my intentions here, so that you can hold me accountable:

I, Kara Krieg Shepherd, do hereby state my intentions to make 2017 a Summer Worth Remembering by committing the following acts:

 

Ride my bike with no hands or feet – perhaps while going downhill.

Turn a summersault in a lake or pool.

Eat more popsicles than my stomach could possibly hold in one siting.

Catch fireflies.

Float on my back for such a long time that only me and the sky exist.

Catch a fish.

Squish mud between my toes.

Throw that same mud at my children.

Eat an ice cream cone, late at night, after a long day swimming.

Go to the drive-in, or make one in my backyard.

Make some cool stuff out of stuff I was going to throw away.

Have a lemonade stand in the driveway.

Visit local museums.

Drive somewhere new using only a paper map for navigation.

Get a new tattoo.

Write an amazing story.

Play in a rock bed creek, maybe for hours.

Make a new friend.

Wear kookie sunglasses.

Go to a karaoke bar.

Have friends for dinner without cleaning the house first.

Sing around a campfire.

Skip rocks on a lake.

Get sick on a fair ride.

Watch kids ride a fair ride.

Redecorate my bedroom.

Worry less.

Dream more.

 


 

The hardest part about being an adult isn’t really the responsibility. It’s the idea that responsibility means fun is thing of the past, something to be remembered. It’s the embittered mindset that miracles are for other people.

Shoulds and have-to’s can start to weigh you down if you’re not intentional about how you spend your time. Already I feel the calendar dictating where my hours I go.

I’ll not be having that, at least not every day.

My childhood summers were filled with wonder – and there was rarely a calendar telling me what to do. Most days I woke up not knowing or caring what day of the week it was. An early morning bike ride usually got my day going. Sometimes I would ride up to the donut shop in my neighborhood for a warm donut. All I needed was a quarter and a dime, the couch willingly donated every time. 

Some days I stopped at my best friend’s house, throwing rocks at her window til she woke up. We’d ride together for donuts, or stop at another friends house to get the day going. Often our crew was assembled before noon, riding from house to house, eating the cabinets empty. Some days one of the mom’s would take us to the pool, probably in hopes that we’d stop eating all their food.

I remember skinned knees, dirty fingers, the smell of chlorine, and streetlights telling me it was time to go home.

It was the best.

I also spent a lot of time alone. I read. A lot. Sometimes I’d read two books in a day. Some days I just laid in my bed staring out the window, watching the sunlight play off the leaves outside my bedroom window. I can still remember how my room looked in the early morning light versus in the late afternoon. I can recall with perfect clarity the way the handle bars of my bike, the Sky Queen, felt when gripped in my hands. The feel of lake water surrounding me when I dove from the floating dock, the dark liquid like a night sky, the fish aliens from another planet.

It was all my favorite.

It was all a miracle. 

 

My brothers, Mom, and I circa 1983

 


 

What kids are great at, the thing adults seem to lose sight of, is being in the moment. They don’t think about the next thing on their to-do list. They don’t fret that an activity won’t be fun, unless said activity involves a waiting room or distant relative. Kids just know they’re going to have fun because kids ARE fun.

Except when they’re hungry or need a nap. Then they’re not so much fun.

My point is that life is meant to be lived to the fullest. The calendar wasn’t invented to rule us, but to give us rhythm. We can choose to see the tasks that are written in the little squares as things that have to be done or things that we get to do.

The only obstacle in front of my Summer Worth Remembering is me. I can put myself in the frame of mind to take joy in the tiny miracles each day holds, or to see each 24 hour period as a time to meet my responsibilities. It’s up to me.

One way will leave me feeling full, the other will leave me feeling weighed down.

One way will have me waking with wonder-filled thoughts, the other find me waking slowly with a slight creeping dread.

I’ve dealt with both decisions, and know which I’d rather choose.

I choose the way of the miraculous.

 

Be brave, misfits. Choose to see the miracles, big and small.

 

 

 

 

 

*he does not watch zombie shows. He does play Minecraft and enjoys those zombies. Also, his siblings (and maybe his parents) occasionally hold discussion on what to do in the event of a ZA. I regret some of these things.

Brother of Mine

This brother of mine.

You can’t tell but twenty minutes before this he was ranting about something that happened in 1991.

 

I’m not sure that anyone can make me feel as exhausted as he can.

I say that in love.

He comes home on the weekends, generally just for a a day. Often he has his own agenda. There is no sit down and relax with him, no enjoying a movie. He used to watch movies, but for the last ten years or so he’s only able to watch a few minutes at a time. He may sit for a bit, rocking in his chair then get up and wander out. My favorite is when he comes back in and stands in front of the television talking about Guitar Center or The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

It’s not really my favorite. I’m being sarcastic.

Erik’s mind never stops. There must be a constant flood of chatter up there.

Putting him to work, though, at least gives him somewhere for the energy to go. He will relax then. Last week we started putting in a raised bed. He had driven me bonkers with his talking and I wasn’t happy when he chose to follow me outside where I wanted to work. Alone.

That’s the thing with someone like Erik. You never know what kind of day you’re going to have. For me, even when I’m in a sour mood, I can correct it while I’m around people. Erik, though,  doesn’t subscribe to any social constructs. He could care less how it makes others feel. Well, actually it’s not that he doesn’t care about other’s feelings. He is simply unable to see how his behavior affects them in the moment, and he’s incapable of stopping the behavior.

Sometimes.

Sometimes we can pay him $2 to get it under control.

Seriously. 

You get him working, though, and it’s amazing how coherent and calm he becomes. He’s always been good with his hands, able to put things together (or take them apart) quicker than I would think possible. Getting his body busy gives somewhere for his anxious energy to go.

That day we worked in the soon-to-be garden I remembered how much I liked doing things with him. When I was pregnant with my first child, Kiley, Erik came over and helped me put together all of the baby furniture. We were just going to do the bassinet and changing table. We both were so excited, though, that we put every single piece together.

Erik is such a strange juxtaposition of turmoil and calm.

When I was young, in my early teens, he was happy to sit in my room. He’d watch whatever I was doing while he laid on the floor. One leg was crossed over the other bouncing on his own knee, hands behind his head while he stared at the ceiling. His presence never bothered me. In fact, his presence was comforting.

I can’t remember when his constant chatter picked up. It was probably around the same time I had kids, so I got good at ignoring background noise.Whenever it started it’s a constant now. When people meet him I can see them waiting for the pause, for their turn. For me it’s just like white noise in the background – occasionally I tune in.  Erik is satisfied with me nodding my head, I guess. I learned the hard way to never agree to anything without clarifying what he had asked.

We will probably never break his habit of turning the radio up loud while continuing to talk incessantly.

“I can’t listen to you and the radio,” I’ll tell him.

He’ll turn radio up and look out the window.

And continue to talk.

I wonder so much about him. What does it feel like to be him? Does he feel connected to us, or separate? He’s like a child in some ways but very adult in others. He can be quite capable. He can mow the yard, weed eat, add windshield wiper fluid, and find things on the grocery list. Erik thinks on deep things and worries about getting cancer, losing his family. He’s surprises me sometimes with what weighs on his mind.

Erik has also developed a lot of fears over the last 8-10 years, something I was sure would never happen. He always seemed the most fearless person to me.

When we were kids our parents used to take us to amusement parks all the time, Kings Island, Dollywood, and county fairs. We’d keep track of him as best we could but he would always wander off on his own. One time we had split up to look for him and I stopped to watch a ride. It was one of those round things, where they load everyone into cars that surround a circle. The arm lifts the cars into the air and starts spinning the willing passengers upside down for two or three minutes.

Those things horrify me. I’m afraid of heights and throw up pretty easily but I was powerless to take my eyes away. I was watching in horror when the face of a passengers jumped out at me.

There was my brother in the center of a group of strangers, smiling huge with his eyes closed. Erik looked completely relaxed. I wondered if that was when he felt the most free. I wondered if he was going to puke. I wondered what it had been like for all the strangers around him when he was in line.

I told you I wonder a lot about him.

Erik didn’t look surprised that I was waiting for him as he got off the ride. He had gotten what he wanted and was fine to join the rest of us wherever we were.

We all laughed and talked about how weird it was that he would enjoy something like that.

I wonder, though, if that’s what it takes to get his mind quiet.
Neighborhood walk.

Erik has never been simple. Going places with him is generally a gamble. It can go really well, or not. My family has developed the ability to read his body language and make a hasty retreat when necessary. The last few years have been particular difficult, though, because we truly thought that we were losing him. I’m so thankful for medications that allow him to function, for behavior therapists who know what they’re doing, and for staff that cares for him.

I’m also thankful for community. My friends, my church family, Parks and Recreation, Erik and my parent’s church family, Latitudes, and many others, have made life much easier. They’ve all played a part in finding our way back to normal.

When you love someone who can be difficult there are times that being away from them feels better than being with them. Sometimes it is easier, and sometimes it is necessary to spend time apart. Other times, though, pushing through the desire to avoid complicated feelings gives way to better things.

Things like satisfaction, love, and commitment can be born in relationships fraught with imperfection.

I think we’d all fooled ourselves into thinking we’d found the sweet spot Erik, that we’d gotten him there. There being that magical place where people with disabilities, or impairments, or whatever issue they may have, are copacetic with what we want for our lives. 

There is no sweet spot this side of eternity, though, is there? Not one that we can maintain. Situations are always changing, our hearts are always turning.

Erik is teaching me to enjoy the sweet spot when we’re there, and to hold on to those moments when things are rough. He’s always teaching me something.  I’m learning about unconditional love in real time (and it’s not always easy).  Unconditional love means loving without condition, to love no matter what.

It’s not based on behavior, looks, or how good someone smells.

It’s just love and love and love and love and love no matter what.

 

Erik’s most recent purchase, and prized possession.

 

 

 

Be brave, misfits, and love.

No matter what.

 

 

 

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Disaster Preparedness

My husband and I are completely different.

I mean, I know that goes without saying. There’s the whole male/female thing. What I’m saying is that we operate in COMPLETELY different ways.

He operates under the ‘everything is great’ premise, while I operate under the ‘at any minute we could face disaster’ premise.

A couple of years ago we took the kids to the beach. It had been a long time since we’d been to the ocean so I prepped them on the drive down.

Thank goodness we had twelve hours.

We went over drowning protocols, jellyfish scenarios and practiced CPR. It made time go so much faster.

When we got to our house on Dauphin Island it was dark but Lee wanted to take the kids to the ocean. You know, to say hello. So we climbed up a sand dune and followed the sound of the ocean. We got lost in some brush and had a family argument. I’m sure everyone on the island heard it. Some kids were crying and one lost a flip flop.

We made it there, though, and could almost see the ocean. I think Lee felt vindicated that the kids were as happy as the were to be near the ocean.

In daylight we could see that we had chosen the wrong path, the one that led to the crappy part of the beach. I didn’t gloat, though.

I was satisfied with a look of superiority.

Our beach, as we called it, was perfect. It had shallows where clusters of hermit crabs were gathered, ripe for us to examine. There was a long stretch of sand we could walk out on and there was a deeper part perfect for body surfing. I found a spot on the beach to sit and watch.

Thirty minutes later Lee came up to sit with me, smiling, covered in sand, and slightly out of breath.

“You having fun watching the kids?” he asked.

“No. I’m looking for sharks. I heard on the radio that one was spotted this morning by a fishing boat. Also, a local man drowned last week while fishing so we need to keep an eye out for undercurrents,” I answered.

No sharks. Yet.

Lee was looking at me like I was nuts.

“Is that what goes on in your head?” he questioned.

“I packed some snacks if you’re hungry,” I deflected. He smiled and started rifling through the bag, “I didn’t want anyone getting low blood sugar or dehydrating.”

He huffed and headed back to the water.

It works out pretty well in his favor, though, that I plan for disasters. Because when things do go wrong I’m there with an amazing plan.

Unless I’m overly tired. Then I’m not so great with a plan.

A few weeks ago we were driving back from an ultimate frisbee tournament in Ohio. The hotel was nice but someone in our group snores. I’m not naming any names, but it’s not me or any of the kids. Well, I do snore but  not that night. What I’m saying is that I had no sleep for two nights.

There’s only so much coffee can do that for that situation.

We were driving home by way of Cincinnati when a strange beeping started. At first I thought it was my phone, but no, that wasn’t it.

My next assumption was that the car was getting ready to explode and that we needed to immediately pull over. This caused some of the children to begin panicking.

Well, just Liam. Kiley and her beau were laughing, like it was a joke.

As if there were no way that the car could blow up.

Anyway, we have an AED that we take with us. That’s not part of my planning for natural disasters. Three of the kids and I have Long QT Syndrome so the AED is a precaution, like an epi-pen.

Kiley applied her logic and deduced that it was the AED, which  had been tilted on its side for a little longer than it was apparently happy with. We uprighted it and the beeping stopped.

I took a nap.

Before I fell asleep, though, I remembered when I had a job at a video store when I was in college. I’d been watching The Godfather before I closed the store for the night. It was about ten o’clock at night, so I was sleepy.  When I got into my car I heard ticking and assumed someone had planted a car bomb.

I wish I was making this up.

I called Dad and begged him to come and investigate. I think I was crying. I’m glad I didn’t call 911. It seems I had forgotten  that I had an old fashioned alarm clock in the glove box. I liked to take naps in my car in between classes and needed the alarm to wake me. (It was before cell phones, and my watch beeping would not wake me).

Poor me.

Dad rolled his eyes and went home.

One day my husband and the rest of the people who just enjoy life as though nothing bad could ever happen will be thankful that they have people like me.

They will rue the day that they laughed at me! Then I won’t be a ‘worry wart’ or ‘nervous Nellie’! No! Then I will be their hero, the one that they look to in times of trouble.

If only they didn’t count on me for meal planning.

 

I think zombie apocalypses are my specialty. 

 

 

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IMRL (in my real life)

It’s funny how when you start out parenting you think you have a plan. You plan to grow them up, to do all the right things, and to live happily ever after.

Pee on the toilet seat is not part of your plan.

Children who refuse to eat vegetable is not part of your plan.

Mountains of never-ending laundry are absolutely not part of the plan.

I sometimes feel that life and my plan should have a conversation with each other, a shared google calendar, perhaps.

All the stuff that gets in the way of my plan is the problem, not my plan. Right? Right?

Say I’m right.

That’s real life, though, right?

Pendulous

Right now in my real life I feel like a pendulum. I swing from ‘everything is awesome’ to ‘what the freak is happening?’ constantly.

I’ve got to tell you, Lee’s job search is getting to me. I’m weary from the wanting and praying and hoping. Yet, I feel so grateful that we’re okay, that our kids are okay. It’s not where we thought we’d be at our age (hello, the plan I was talking about!) but we’re happy, healthy, and relatively stable in mind.

I feel for people job hunting. It’s demoralizing and tiring.

On to happier things in my real life.

Garden

We’ve started our garden. This year we’re trying it in the front yard. I hope it looks beautiful in July. The boys love planting things…hopefully they’ll also love eating the things that we grow. We planted arugula and lettuce. It’s a little late for those but I’m a Brave Misfit! No rules shall be followed in my garden. Green beans and peas went in as well. Sweet peppers are in, and in a couple of weeks we’ll put in tomatoes. I’m stoked.

This is not our garden. It’s not even our yard, but Liam wanted me to put this one in.

I’m getting the Brave Newsletter ready to go out and I’ll share some sites I love for gardening tips – so if you haven’t signed up go do it! You won’t be disappointed.

And if you are, please don’t tell me.

Screens

They are taking up my life. I’m going to be transparent here: I really struggle with screen time, I think for a couple of reasons:

1)They leave me alone when they’re on screens. Just being honest.

2) I love screens. I love the interwebs. I love Google and Instagram and Facebook (most days). I want to love Twitter but fail to understand it a little. I write a lot and I write on a screen.  And Netflix. I heart Netflix. I love a great series.

Liam interrupting me whilst binge watching. Er, I mean applying hyper focus.

There’s my struggle. I don’t allow myself to find a series very often because bingewatching is a real problem in my life. Hyper focus is my super power but can be detrimental when applied to movies and shows. Lee, my darling husband, told me yesterday that he wasn’t ready for me to find another series because he needs me to run things.

It’s like I’m the show runner! I AM THE SHOW RUNNER!!!!! Revelation. I’ve had a revelation, an epiphany whilst typing! (Can you tell I binge on BBC shows, which is why I feel I can say whilst?)

I really think we’d all be healthier and happier without screens in our lives, but here they are. So I’m applying some scheduling and trying not to freak out over it all. Liam told me the other day that he knows I often forget they’re only allowed screen time after 3:30, which is why he asks regularly. Smart kid, silly mama. So, I’m also reading some helps for parents with ADHD. 

Summer School

We typically do year-round school, so this isn’t a huge deal. However, this summer we’re going to keep going with Tapestry of Grace because we are behind where we’d like to be. Illness, schedules, math and science took over for a while. I love this curriculum so much, though, and I don’t want to short-change the children.

Spencer is begging me to short-change him, however.

Laurel is excited, though, because we’ll be studying early America, which means HAMILTON. I’m pretty excited, too. I’d be more excited if we won a free trip to Williamsburg, though. Or tickets to Hamilton. Or both.

I’ll probably settle for Fort Boonesborough, though, and be quite content.

Storage Unit
We went to the storage unit to look for sheet music. Laurel stayed home and did math. Look how big Spencer is getting!

It’s been two years.

Really almost two and a half.

I never thought our stuff would be in storage for that long.

The math works out like this: plan + life = new plan. 

I’m thinking, though, that most of this can go in a garage sale. Some of it can go here, too, but Spencer wants to save up for a red footed tortoise so a yard sale seems like the thing to do. I’ve got a ton of homeschool stuff that we no longer need, too. Maybe I’ll have an auction.

I wish I was an auction caller. I think that be so fun.

Here habadnye nadbandye Teaching Textbooks Algebra One heremabnda noeobdanae day dye going for $60 habandyend adyabodydady $80 over. I think I’ve got the hang of it.


So, that’s it. That’s the gist of my real life. Pee on the toilet set, battling binge-watching, planning summer things, lamenting loss, and moving on to summer plans.

Here’s hoping that in next month’s newsletter I can tell you that no urine drops have plagued my behind.

 

This photo does not represent guilty parties. At least not all of them.

I’d love to hear what’s going on in your real life, too. Share in the comments or shoot me an email, or visit on Facebook or Instagram.

Be brave, misfits. Carry on!

 

When to Push

I try to remember the first time I thought that my kids might have learning issues. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the light bulb went off.

That’s the beauty of homeschooling. You figure out how your kids learn and you keep moving forward. At first it was hard for me because I’m a rule follower. If the instructions say to do it a certain way I tend to believe that’s how it must be done. I have figured out that instruction manuals are not always right.

I’m guessing it was around seven or eight years ago that it dawned on me that my teaching wasn’t the problem.  Well, I should say it wasn’t the only problem.

 

I’m a paper and pencil girl. I love to write. I think in words; short and sweet words, or long and lively ones. I learned to read before entering kindergarten. I any free time I had reading throughout my growing up years. I loved to practice handwriting for fun. Math and I have always had a tumultuous relationship, though. 

Reading made all of my children cry. All of them. It caused them great anxiety. For two of my kids writing is possible but laborious and not quite worth the amount of effort they have to put in. 

Dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia. We’ve got it all.

So how do you teach when learning is really, really hard? How do you know when to push, and when to back off?

First, observe how your child learns.

I was so surprised that my second daughter actually finds it distracting to be read aloud to, especially if she doesn’t have something to do with her hands. Her younger brother is the same way. We do read aloud with play dough, drawing books, and Legos. That’s also where audiobooks come in handy. They can do other things, and so can I, while listening to great books.

Another miracle came in the form of YouTube. There is total trash to be had there, for sure, but there are also some awesome learning channels. Spencer, my third child, takes in information best from videos or hands on learning. Then he dictates information back to me in a journal because writing is his mortal enemy. (We’re working on keyboarding and speech to text but this is a great way for me to see what info he’s taking in.)

If a certain curriculum that you bought because it was the best, or worked really well for someone else, doesn’t work for you DON’T USE IT. Or feel free to modify so that it does work for you. Ask your child how they think they could learn this thing.

Second, observe what your child is curious about.

 

My boy always has a frog or a lizard somewhere.

 

For kids with learning disabilities passion about a subject will always drive them over the speed bumps. It’s worth doing the hard thing if there’s a reward at the end. Plus, research shows that interest led learning is the way to go for children who learn differently.  My kids have taught themselves knitting, sculpting, chemistry, herbology, herpetoculture, drawing, cake decorating, ukulele…I could go on and on. I imagine that this goes for kids who don’t have learning issues, too. 

Don’t we all learn best when we’re excited about a subject?

Find what they’re interested and allow them to pursue it. Start with books at the library then try and find real life resources in your community. YouTube is an excellent source for this kind of stuff as well.

Build on their interests to teach them other subjects. Geography is not fun when you’re just memorizing things. However, when you’re learning where your favorite scientist or composer lived it suddenly becomes interesting. I tend to teach grammar through editing but we don’t get bogged down in too many details. If we’re feeling curious Purdue has an awesome website for that.

Thirdly, don’t feel sorry for them.

Frankly, this one was hard for me in the beginning. I still struggle with it a little now. Feeling sorry for kids who struggle with learning won’t do them any good. In fact, I look back I can see where I made some mistakes by parenting through guilt rather than compassion. There were times when I inadvertently gave my kids the impression that they were not capable of something hard. Then I had to do the  work of undoing that message.

The best thing I ever did was stumble upon Marianne Sunderland’s site Homeschooling with Dyslexia. I read a post about struggling versus stubbornness and breathed a huge sigh of relief.  Knowing I was not alone, that I was not the only person in the world who had multiple children with learning challenges gave me courage. I re-evaluated how we had been doing school and I changed some things.

I’m still learning about education with my number 3 and 4 kids. I tease mine all the time about how it would be much easier for me if all their learning differences were the same. I do know now that to prepare them for the world I’ve got to teach them to work around their learning issues. We are realistic about what’s difficult but choose to focus on their strengths.

When my children were really little I used to say, “When things are hard we just try harder.” I DO NOT say that any more, partly because of this article. I have no understanding of how hard it is to learn to read and write with their issuesNow I ask them how we can work around it, what I can do to help. By allowing them to part of the solution I give their power back which helps negate the learning disability’s power in their lives. 

There are sometimes, though, that we take breaks from certain subjects. I do think that the brain needs time to process information. We don’t do spelling every day because 15-20 minutes three days a week is a lot of spelling for someone with dyslexia.  I’m using game schooling for math because paper and pencil just don’t work for Spencer.

To tell you the truth I quit doing spelling with my oldest two kids when they were in middle school. I didn’t know about All About Spelling back then, which is the best thing ever in my opinion. Every week the spelling list left them defeated because no matter how much time they spent trying to memorize their words it just didn’t happen.

If frustration levels are too high learning isn’t going to take place anyway.

Once we took the source of frustration away their spelling improved on its own. Texting, keyboarding, and speech to text apps were a huge part of that advancement. Some things you figure out along the way.

Asking my kids to explain to me what they’re learning about helps them, too. It’s called multimodal learning. Taking in information is important but so is relaying knowledge. 

Legos are an essential part of our homeschool.

 

Ultimately, figuring out when to push and when not to is about knowing your child.

I have to trust my kids when they say, “I cannot do this right now, Mom.” This requires me to take a step back from shoulds and have-to’s. I have to evaluate WHY I feel it’s important they learn this thing I’m pushing on them. Occasionally I’ve caught myself pushing because  I want to impress people with our homeschool powers.  I may have to remind myself (again) that education is not an emergency.

I don’t believe tears should ever be part of learning.*

I’ve learned that if I’m always pushing my kid they don’t learn to enjoy pushing themselves. I want them to enjoy learning for the pure joy of it, not because they have to. I’ve found thinking of myself as a guide helps. I’m not here to force them to learn things they don’t want to. Rather, I’m here to guide them toward the things they’re interested in.

Allowing my kids to be in control of what they learn has made them brave. They’re more willing to take risks knowing that ‘passing’ a class isn’t the goal. Although my second born loves to get A’s and complete assignments and make sure her grades are recorded. Still, she knows that’s not the most important thing in life, she knows that’s not what’s expected.

I think my kids are the biggest, best Brave Misfits ever.

I’m amazed that when I quit pushing they began to excel in certain areas. Sometimes I still have to nudge them along, and sometimes I have to say, “This is really important to me.” and we figure it out together. Overall, though, I’ve quit pushing. I’ve quit forcing, and we rarely have tears. I’m good with that.

 

Are there any areas you’re struggling with? Do you find it hard to know when to push and when not to?

 

*I am talking pre-school to third grade here. Sometimes as kids get older tears may be part of the process of finishing a project or a assignment. Tears may happen when you put down boundaries with them. I do not believe, though, that tears should be part of acquiring new information. That part should be fun and if it’s not I do think it’s important to take a step back and figure out the why of the tears.

Community Matters

A couple of days a month I drive to a house in a rougher section of town. I have friends who meet me there, some I know and some  are strangers to me.  We have coffee together, maybe share a meal . Sometimes we do art together. Sometimes my friends just sleep on couches  or the floor. Sometimes my friends need fresh clothes and a toothbrush. Sometimes my friends need hugs.

My friends have worked the streets. They may be addicted to drugs, or alcohol. They may be experiencing homelessness.

I volunteer with an organization called Natalie’s Sisters, a ministry devoted to showing the love of Christ to women who have been sexually exploited, either on the streets or in clubs. The Natalie’s Sisters drop-in center gives women a respite, a place to go  where they are safe and free from judgement. Food and clothing are available, as are other services to  help them.

My first experience with the group was meal drop off. I rode with two other women and a police officer to deliver meals to women on the street.

Poverty was not new to me and I knew about sex trafficking.

I had never seen it in action, though. I had never seen women getting into a car  and driving off to conduct their business. I had never seen a person so strung out on heroin that they could barely form sentences. I had never seen women so thankful to be treated with dignity.

When I came home, after that first night, to my warm house and full pantry and healthy children I cried. Hot, angry tears left my cheeks wet. It’s so confusing that a different world is only a few miles from my house. Suddenly everywhere seemed dark and dangerous. I wondered what happened in my own neighborhood that I didn’t know about.

I wondered how I can have so much while others have so little. 

I wondered how I would sleep knowing that my new friends might not be safe.

I wondered a lot of things.

I’ve only been volunteering for six or seven months but I am so changed. I have learned so much. Examining my preconceived notions of what it meant to be on the streets, what I thought prostitution looked like, was hard but important.

Pretty Woman is not how it is, in case you were wondering.

On of my first full days spent at the center I just sat back listening to some of the ladies chat with each other. We were making bracelets together outside. The sky was blue, the clouds white and puffy. From far away the noise was just women talking, laughing. Up close their words punched my gut.

Their lives were not safe. Some of them had lost their children. Some had been stabbed, others slapped and hit. Some needed to find a place to sleep for the night.

Still, they had room in their lives for  laughter. They made room to be caring. They took the time to  hug and ask each other to stay safe.

They have community.

I think that’s one of the most important things I’ve learned from Natalie’s Sisters. Community matters. Having people who listen, and have your back, people who will make things with you, and share a meal with you. That’s community. That’s important.

 

Community is essential, in fact, to being human.

Natalie’s Sisters is a bridge between communities that are separated only by social constructs.  Natalie’s Sisters is Jacob’s well.

Jesus met a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, breaking all the rules of Jewish culture. He sat at the well and offered her Living Water, so that she would never thirst again. The woman listened to him, shocked that he knew her sin. That used to be the part that got me, too. The disciples were shocked to discover the two of them in conversation.

This is my favorite New Testament story. There is so much happening here. It is not that Jesus knows her sin that is important. No, the important kernel here is that Jesus knows her. He knows the authentic her.  He knows each of us, the real us. That’s what’s important. 

 

“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.” ~John 4: 23-24, The Message 

 

One of my favorite writers, Shannan Martin, shared on her blog about this, the importance of being known. Her life was forever changed when she learned the names of people previously only theorized about. She knew about them as a concept,  in the context of improving the lives of those stuck in poverty.

Shannan learned that poverty, when given names, can’t be looked as something to be fixed and she filled her blog up with words that left me hungry and knowing something new. Poverty needs relationship, shared meals,  and yoked shoulders. That’s where we’ll see change. (Go read her stuff. She’s amazing.)

I’m learning the same thing. My friends have names, they have beautiful faces, and unspoken dreams. Putting a list of shoulds and have-to’s on them won’t work because their system is broken. Their personal system is broken, and the government system they have to work within is broken.

I don’t know why there are the gaps that there are, no matter how much I read it about it. I don’t understand addiction, sexual trauma, or why change is so slow. I don’t know why it’s not just about providing money and food, but it’s not. 

 

What I have learned is this: the more time I  spend with my new friends the less space there is between us.

 

After these months I’m comfortable knowing that it’s not my job to fix their lives. I’m called to know them. I’m called to be their sister and love them just where they’re at. I love them addicted and strung out, and I love them clean and sober. I celebrate the triumphs in their lives whether it’s jeans that fit or the choice to go to detox.

Their lives matter just as they are.

What I can see is that my time at Natalie’s Sisters is changing me from the inside out, too. I see that I am becoming Jacob’s well, not just visiting. I am allowing myself to be a space where cultural barriers are broken, a place that Living Water can be offered from. I am becoming more like Jesus, able to see people for their authentic selves. I’m not seeing addicted people, homeless people, or bad people; I’m just seeing people.

See, you can’t be in relationship with people and not be different. I no longer avoid people pretending not to see them. I look them in the eye because being known is more important than food or water. I believe that.

Today I am convicted to pray to become Jacob’s well. I want to be a place where others can meet Jesus, drink of the Living Water, and never thirst.

I think it’s key to remember that the woman at the well didn’t leave believing. She left wondering. She also left cognizant of the Truth that she was known.  I believe that her questions caused her to seek answers. She went back to her village with her questions, but I also have no doubt that she was changed from what she now held in her heart.

Her heart held the treasure that she was known by the Creator of the universe, the Maker of all things good.

What is better than that?

My heart holds a new truth, too. I know that it doesn’t matter if people walk away from me believing. I used to think I was a failing Christian if I couldn’t convert non-believers. I know that it’s important that they walk away wondering, seeking answers. It’s important that they know  that I see them for who they are, their true self, and that I love them. 

That’s it.

Jesus will take care of the rest.

 

Be brave, misfits.

May you find Jacob’s well today.

 

Books That Changed My Life

 

Photo Credit: Pascal Rey Photographies Flickr via Compfight cc

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love to read. I was definitely one of those kids that always had a book in hand, or tucked under my arm, just in case I had time. I sat in science class with my textbook propped up on my lap and my ‘real’ book inside so that the teacher thought I was absorbed in the boring words.

I stayed up late, flashlight in hand, reading until the words blurred on the page. I suffered for reading a good book, but I would read bad ones, too. I’ve just always loved the written word.

In looking back on my life there are books that literally changed me, made me think differently, caused me to view the world from a completely different perspective. I consider this to be a great thing. I’m still adding books to this list, but here’s a start:

1. The Velveteen Rabbit -by Margery Williams

This is one of the first books I remember having read to me. I identified so strongly with the child who had to have their favorite toy taken away. I felt so sad for the bunny, too. Now, as an adult I identify with the rabbit. I have written about it before, but I believe that I have been loved into being real, too.

2. The Hundred Dresses – by Eleanor Estes

My second grade teacher read this aloud to our class and then gifted me with a copy. The ending surprised me so much. I’m not exaggerating when I say this book transformed how I looked at people, but especially immigrants.

3.  Rebecca’s World – by Terry Nation

This is one that I stumbled across in 5th grade. I used to go to our school library and browse for as long as I could. I found this book on the shelves and sat down on the orange vinyl cushions scattered about the library and read until it was time to go home. I think I got in trouble because I didn’t want to return this book.

4. The Hobbit – by J.R.R. Tolkien

Dad read this aloud to my brother and I, or maybe it was both of my brothers and I. What I do know is that we loved it. I looked forward to finding out what happened with Bilbo and Gollum every evening. I’d say it was also during this time that I knew I wanted to be a writer.

5.  Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret – by Judy Blume

I was in sixth grade when I read this and loved it. If you were a girl born in the 70’s you absolutely read this book. If you didn’t, you should.

6.  The Catcher in the Rye – by J.D. Salinger

I found a copy of this book in my Grandpa’s coat closet. I think it was during 7th grade, and I think it may have been right he after he died. The book had a picture of Holden on the cover, wearing his hunter’s hat. I loved everything about the book, even what I didn’t quite understand at that age. I read that book every year. I adored Holden and his quirks, I loved him for his weird vocabulary. I also couldn’t stand him and found myself squirming during some of his conversations  with adults. I think that’s why I liked this book so much. Holden isn’t completely likable but he’s recognizable in each of us. My daughters read it and hated it, so that stinks. I guess they’re a couple of phonies.

 7. Gone with the Wind – by Margaret Mitchell

I don’t know what possessed me to read this book in middle school. I’m sure it was to avoid doing school work. It was the first historical fiction I had ever read and enhanced my love of history. I’d also never gotten to know characters so well, some I loved and some I hated. Rhett and Scarlett’s relationship really confused me . That hasn’t changed. This book allowed me to see how description creates a strong sense of place when reading. It also taught me that the book is ALWAYS better than the movie.

8. Julie of the Wolves – by Jean Craighead George

I picked out this book because my mother’s name is Julie. It’s a very intense story that gave me a look at a completely different way of life. It caused me to see that we are each experiencing life in very different ways. Julie is 13 and I was probably around that age when I read the book.I think I’d probably always assumed that all of us humans had pretty similar life experiences.

 9. The Color Purple – by Alice Walker

I’d say this book is in my top 5 all-time favorites. The scope is incredible. I learned so much about slavery and racism, but also about how those issues are entrenched into our society.  The book also illustrates the deep cords of relationship. I used to re-read it every summer. It’s been five or six years, so it’s probably time again.

10. Lord of the Flies – by William Golding

I’m sure I had to read it for school. I know I stayed up all night to finish it, and it may be when I decided to homeschool my future children.

I’m kidding about that. But really, this book made me think about society, groups, and the behaviors that drive us.

11. The Princess Bride – by William Goldman

This was one of my best friend’s favorite books so I had to read it. It is so great, so funny. Again, better than the movie. I also learned how to use humor in writing from this book. I wanted to name our first son Wesley because of this book. Maybe I’ll get a puppy, or an R.O.U.S.

 

So that’s the top 11. There’s more to the list, but those are the ones I read between the ages of 10 and 18 that had the biggest impact on me. In high school I entered an embarrassing Harlequin romance novel phase that I’d rather not speak of. When I met my darling husband I began reading in earnest again. Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and Tolkien were staples of the early years of our marriage.

What got me thinking of this list is the book I Am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak. It’s another life-changing book, at least for me. Zusak’s writing is amazing. It’s literary. It’s beautiful. The story is one that has stuck with me. I was taking a writing class at the time I read it and I felt so jealous that he’d been able to write all of this beautiful stuff. 

Speaking of the writer’s class, my big news I wanted to share is that an essay I wrote (in the writing class I was telling you about) has been accepted for publication in Mother’s Always Write, an  literary publication celebrating motherhood. The essays and poetry in MAW are inspiring as well as beautiful. Go check out their site and for any aspiring writers I highly encourage you to look at their Writer’s Boot Camp. This helped me take my writing to another level.

So, I’m curious…

Are there any books that have remained with you long after you read them? If so, what are they? I’d love to know. I’m always on the hunt for a good read.

 

 

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Antique Stores and Such

I’ve always liked to pilfer through old stuff. My mamaw’s Victorian house was chock full of amazing objects. There were old records, shoes, and pictures stacked under chairs and on window sills. Really any flat surface held something. A giant closet beneath the staircase filled with coats was at least 8 feet deep.  Untouched bedrooms held posters, board games, and clothes from eras gone by.

My cousins and I would sneak off to play hide-and-seek but then get lost in game of searching. That may have led to my love of antique malls and flea markets. Though I know Mom and  I spent many Saturday afternoons at flea markets. Perhaps it is just in my DNA.

At any rate, when we moved back to Lexington we discovered a little store called Feather Your Nest and fell in love. They have a collection of booths AND free coffee.

All photos by Kiley Shepherd

 

Hello?? Free coffee and antiques?

Yes, please.

There is just something comforting in history. I love imagining where items were before they ended up in the store. I enjoy wondering what stories a tea cup has overheard, whose fingers wrapped around it’s delicate handle. 

 

I have a jar of shells at home. We collected them on a trip to Dauphin Island a few years ago. I remember my toes digging in the sand finding shells, the kids coming and fishing them out. Mom held the bucket and they plunked them in. Liam and Spencer pretended they were money. Lee was out in the waves with Dad and Erik.  It’s one of my favorite memories.

I wonder if my jar of shells will end up in an antique mall one day.

Wandering around stores like this is like wandering around in someone else’s memories. I can imagine the housewife tying on her yellow apron, or a salesman putting on his fedora before he walks out the door. Their lives fascinate me but so do their dreams. What did they want out of life? Did they get it? Who remembers them today?

 

 

 

 

I’m not sentimental over objects, generally speaking. I tend to enjoy memories more. There are a few objects that I do love. My mother’s original wedding rings are special to me because they are one of my earliest memories. I remember watching her spin them on her ring finger with her thumb.  I also  remember the feel of the prongs holding the diamond as I played with it. I loved playing with her delicate fingers when I was small. I thought they were so beautiful. I still do, in fact.

My Dad had a nail brush, and still does. A thick white, two-sided brush. I still use it on my boys. I remember it sitting on the edge of our sink throughout my childhood. Dad likes clean fingernails but also hard, dirty work. He’d come in from outside, covered in sweat, and go straight to the restroom to clean up. Even then it reminded me of my Grandpa.

I also love my sweet husband’s journals. I tease him about them sometimes but they’re one of my favorite things about him. He is a poet, a real romantic, and has filled leather journals with his thoughts and prose. I adore how sensitive he is. His love of the written word was a surprise to me when we were young. 

 

Who knows where those things will be in 50 years. Who knows where I will be?

Today I am here, in my house, with my little boy and little dogs. I think we’ll go for a walk after we argue about Minecraft. Then we’ll all have dinner and it will be noisy and loud and I’ll wonder why I neglected manners so much.

Then I’ll realize it’s more fun to join in.

I can go to the antique mall for quiet.

 

Be brave, misfits.

You know where to go if you need a free cup of coffee and time to meander through a stranger’s memories.

 

 

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