Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday Feature: How to Stop Being Average


I'm not great at writing titles, so I have a special appreciation for one that's well-crafted. So, when I saw this article on Twitter, I had to see what the simple trick was.

It's tougher than it sounds, but I wasn't disappointed. Hope you aren't either.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

6 Questions from the Porch Swing for Gwen Anders and Rebecca Peters

Some secondary characters are well-drawn; others blur together. With limited time on the page, they don’t get much of an opportunity to tell us who they are. At Bible study meetings, Gwen and Rebecca don’t really sound much different, but in reality, they are, so I thought I’d put them on the porch swing together to answer the Bible study ladies’ questions.

Where will we find you when you’re not on the page of the book we’re reading?
Gwen: Volunteering at my daughter Alaina’s school or working on a project at home. I love sewing, knitting, crocheting and scrapbooking. Luckily my hobbies are quiet--my husband works at home, so I try to stay quietly productive during his business hours.

Rebecca: I like to keep busy. I work part time as a receptionist at an optician’s office, and, when I’m not working, I enjoy biking, swimming and going to the gym. In the evenings and on weekends, my husband and I enjoy trying different restaurants, and we try to plan at least one weekend getaway a month. 

What’s something we’d be surprised to know about you?
Gwen: I have a degree in English literature.
Rebecca: Wow! I did not know that! 
Gwen: You thought education, right? 
Rebecca: I did! I’ve always wanted to be a travel agent.
Gwen: You're so much more adventurous than I am!

What are your thoughts on children?
Gwen: I love them! I’d love to give Alaina a little brother or sister. 
Rebecca: I enjoy kids, but I haven’t been bitten by the baby bug just yet. 

What regrets do you have?
Gwen: Not a single one! I love my life!
Rebecca: I feel exactly the same way.

Whom do you admire? 
Gwen: My husband. He took a big chance starting his own business, and he's willing to work as hard as he has to to make it work.
Rebecca: Angel and Merrilee. Both of them are so sure of what they want from life.
Gwen: Aren't you?
Rebecca: In most aspects, yes. But when it comes to some things, I wish I were more decisive.

Whom do you think is the leader of the Bible study group? 
Gwen: No one. 
Rebecca:think each of us has something to offer in that respect.

So there you have it! All the ladies of the Bible study. Right now, I'm working on figuring out how they fit into the third Angel and Marita story, as yet unfinished and untitled!

Monday, August 22, 2016

New York State of Mind

Among the things I noticed for
the first time on our last visit
was the beautiful St. Francis Friary,
practically across the street from our hotel.
I'm a Jersey Girl but I must confess: I'm a child of the suburbs. I grew up a mere fifteen minutes from Philadelphia, but ventured across the bridge only infrequently and in the company of city-savvy friends. Relieved of the responsibility of knowing where I was and where I was going, I was free to enjoy my surroundings and all the city had to offer.

I was in college before I grew to love New York, and it took me much longer to become comfortable there. As an adult and a parent, I was unwilling to relinquish control to someone else, and decided it was high time I got to know the city if I planned to spend time there.

As with so many other things, practice makes perfect. Our early trips to the city were on bus trips, then the train. I introduced my husband to Manhattan when we were dating, and we introduced our daughter more than a decade later. Early on, it was easy to go to the same places, to do and see the same things.

Maybe that's why my daughter took to the city so easily. Never a big fan of change, she nevertheless enjoyed the vast difference between our suburban neighborhood and Manhattan. A weekend in New York quickly became her go-to birthday request, and a Christmas without seeing the city lights seemed to be missing something.

Over time, we began to expand our horizons, discovering Bryant Park at Christmastime and finding my favorite Christmas tree not at Rockefeller Center, but at the New York Public Library. We moved past Broadway and Times Square (though most of our trips still include a show or a concert) to visit the 9/11 Memorial, the United Nations and Grand Central Station "just because." For me, each trip includes a new destination on the wish list. It's a wonderful place to visit.

Interestingly enough, in the process, we've raised a child who's unafraid to push the boundaries of her own horizons. She starts college tomorrow five hours from home -- a drop in the bucket for some kids, but not the norm among her friends -- with trips abroad in her sights and Chinese on her course schedule. It's not that she's unafraid. It's that she's not willing to let that stop her.

Funny the things we learn from our kids.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Friday Feature: Ryan Lochte's Bad Manners

As parents, we teach our kids to be honest, and to behave with politeness and respect when they are guests in someone else's home. What happens when their role models behave as though they are exempt from the rules?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

6 Questions from the Porch Swing for Thea Barnes

Thea never fails to bring humor to the Bible study meetings. For all her wisecracks, though, she's a loyal friend and a devoted mom who's tough on her kids because she wants them to be good people. And, she'd do anything for her Bible study girlfriends.

Where will we find you when you’re not on the page of the book we’re reading?
TB: Running away from my teenagers — just kidding. I do love to run--it keeps me healthy and relieves my stress--but I also love my kids. In fact, I’m pretty proud of them. 

What’s something we’d be surprised to know about you?
TB: I love chauffering my kids around. We have some of our best talks in the car, and I get the chance to overhear some interesting conversations and get a sense of how they act around their friends. I’m a little bummed out that my oldest just got his license. I’m going to miss that time in the car together.

What are your thoughts on children?
TB: They’re really a blessing, but don’t tell my kids I said that. I don’t want their heads to get too big.

What regrets do you have?
TB: That I didn't learn to eat healthy as a kid. Although I've learned to love it as an adult, it's been an uphill battle. 

Whom do you admire? 
TB: Merrilee. She's level-headed and always thinks of others, but also knows how to stick up for herself. 

Whom do you think is the leader of the Bible study group? 

TB: I think Nora thinks she is, but in reality, we all share that responsibility.

Monday, August 15, 2016

It's All in Your Perspective
Busy Mondays seem to come in two flavors: raring and ready to go, or at loose ends with too much to do and not enough direction. Today is, unfortunately, the latter. By this point in the morning, I'm usually finishing up my blog, getting ready to add the final touches so I can post it and move on to a writing project or class planning. Instead, I've abandoned the post I intended to write and am writing something completely different, a theme that I suspect will echo throughout the rest of the day.

Today, on this Monday, my daughter is here, beginning her final full week at home before she leaves for college next week. She had plans for the day, but they've changed, and, although she requires zero assistance in entertaining herself, I'm distracted by her presence, wanting to be available for whatever she may propose. I have tasks to complete and deadlines to meet and the upheaval in my house matches that in my head. Too many days away have created a backlog too big to eliminate with my usual baby steps, and, although I know I'll feel better when I've organized everything into submission, right now those tasks seem less important than anything else.

I have a list and clear priorities, but no matter where I turn, I feel as though I should be looking at something else--not that this is unusual--and so I am spinning my wheels. As long as she's home, I keep revving my engines, then screeching to a halt.

I don't know how to do this new stage of parenting where departure is imminent. A part of me longs for the days when my little girl would interrupt me and ask me to play, while another part of me is relieved that I can accomplish a few things before doing what I know I'll do anyway--abandoning the desk, the piles and the deadlines to do something with her, just as I did when she was seven.

Time is so fluid, so endless, yet so finite. Gone are the days of sitting on the playroom floor, being told which Barbie I was allowed to play with--endless hours of play she doesn't even remember. Today's activities will doubtless involve an infusion of cash far beyond the cost of an outfit for a fashion doll. But they'll also include time alone in the car--conversation time even more precious now than it was when she was in middle school and we discovered the beauty of in-car conversation. I always drove then, but these days, I'm just as often the passenger.

Day by day, time is ticking away, and, as I have been so often in the past four years, I'm so grateful to be here to seize every minute of it. If I were still working, I'd be at an inservice today, stressed out about her departure in an entirely different way, wondering how I'd get it all done amid the madness that is the first week of school. I'd be leaving her lists and checking in to make sure she'd done the things on them, perpetuating the nag-ignore cycle that was so big a part of senior year and the college search, unable to participate in this very big event in my daughter's life.

Suddenly, thinking of what might have been, I feel the weight lift. If I were still working in my old job, I wouldn't have time to wallow, but I wouldn't have time to revel either. I wouldn't have been here this morning to consult on chocolate chip pancakes or nag her about that last remaining thank you note. I wouldn't feel her presence as she does her thing upstairs in her room while I do mine down here in the office. And ditching work and going out to play wouldn't be an option.

And once again, just like that, I'm grateful. Not any less sad, mind you, but immeasurably grateful. As the sands of time shift, so does my perspective, probably not for the last time.

Something tells me these next nine days are going to be both the fastest and the slowest of the summer.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Friday Feature: Move-in Day

It's coming. The big change. The humungous goodbye followed by the teary drive home.

In less than two weeks, we drop my daughter off at college. I'm excited for her, and even for the all the last minute shopping for must-haves.

Part of the reason I'm even close to ready has to do with my voracious consumption of articles on what to/not to buy/pack. Those have set me up for the next hurdle: how to pack it so it all fits and arrives in one piece -- or at least as many pieces as it was to begin with.

Are you wondering the same thing? Check out this article by Lisa Heffernan of the fabulous Grown and Flown website.

It won't help make the parting any sweeter, but it might just help with that last minute shopping.