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Beautiful World: letter to my son’s preschool teachers

Yesterday’s milestone: my littlest graduated from preschool. I expected to be all sappy and sobby at the ceremony, but I did surprisingly well. I think it’s because I got it out of my system beforehand, writing the following letter to his three remarkable teachers:

To my son’s preschool teachers: Mrs. Hunter, Mrs. Hulslander, Mrs. Stroble

May 16, 2013

Every morning, a stream of cars outside the door. Little faces peering out, ready for the day, although some are not ready at all. You have to soothe worries, mop tears, interpret words and dig deep for patience. I have been glad sometimes, eager sometimes, relieved sometimes to be dropping him off into your waiting pool of patience. A silent tiding of “good luck!” to you while I tell him, “have a good day!” or “try to be good.”

You have practical knowledge of this kid, stuff that will matter to the world. You see him with his school-mates, listen to him describe his show and tell, observe whether or not he cleans up from snack most days or puts his head on the table when the lights dim. Does he help his friends? Does he cut along the dotted line? Does he have the right attitude? You know better than me.

It can be hard for a mother to admit that someone else knows better than she. I know his wild hair and sideways pajamas in the morning from a busy night of sleep, his favorite foods and the much longer list of foods he despises, the music in his CD player at night. The intimate things. I feel acute love and anger and pride and frustration. Our burden and gift of motherhood are buckets full to balance. (As a mother, you know this already.)

In spite of the days he defies, disrespects, misbehaves, I’m sideswiped by his cute smile and blue eyes. I have to love him. But all along, through his growth and stalls, you’ve shown that you love him, too. You didn’t have to. It’s hard work, what you do.

Will he remember you when he’s twelve or twenty? Maybe not concretely. He might not be able to summon your face or even say your name, but you’re like a line in his fingerprint. Your patience and guidance, careful instruction and measured words, he’ll take them all with him into life, and he’ll be better for it.

Thank you.

Kindergarten bound…

Beautiful World: Excuses and First Friday

Someday I will sit and write every day.

Actually, I do sit and write most days, but they’re words commissioned by other people. That’s ok. Words are everything, from space shuttles to shark attacks to lullabies. They tumble into the bingo wheel and are pulled out each day–lining up perfectly for a host of lucky players. Bingo! I just made a sale. Bingo! I just encouraged a careworn woman to connect with someone just like her, dispensing medicine and holding up heads, tending to her beloved mother with Alzheimer’s. The words charge through the real world getting shit done.

I wonder how many non-commissioned words go unwritten, though. The ones I want to string together, more like necklaces than the lucky five that line up for Bingo.

I’ve watched an entire month slip past during which I was going to start writing. There are those deadlines that crop up, softball games and practices and soccer games and T-ball games. Dirty floors and piles of laundry and weeds. Good God the weeds. And evil time-sucking Facebook, where you likely found this post in the first place.

So long, month of April.

Tomorrow is May 3. The first Friday of the month, and my friends at the Pajama Factory are at it again, making creative things and inviting the locals of central Pennsylvania to see what it’s all about. My door will likely be open for a little while, later in the evening, after the children’s sporting events that take precedence over All Else. If you swing by and see it closed, look for the small bucket of chalk. Write a note for me. Tell me one thing you saw last week that was beautiful.

Here’s the door:











It’s blank right now… but if you stop by, find a piece of chalk and tell me a piece of a story.

Beautiful World

I’ve been considering this theme for a blog for a long time: Beautiful World.

Beautiful in my world are the pop-up surprises, the little glittery moments that stop chronic, infectious grumbling and break up gray skies, like the smile I catch on one of my kids’ faces in a picture. I usually see it later, as I scroll through my downloaded images–that unmistakable child’s glee because he made a long skid mark on the driveway with his bike or because she’s watching her brother open a birthday gift, as excited for him as she would be for herself.

Beautiful is in music, voices, in the dark hallways of the building where I work, surrounded by artists who freeze a moment on canvas or in a photograph or in words. Because beautiful can stalk us the way darkness can. Why not, right?

This week I’ve been more than nudged to write something down, I’ve been shoved toward this idea that I have to find beautiful even in the frigid uncertainty of its existence. When a little boy–8, the same goddamn age as my little girl, is killed for cheering on his dad in the Boston Marathon. Clearly people have their point to make. I claim counterpoint.

Beautiful World.

I want to drop a few f-bombs to make my counterpoint really strong. But it seems counterproductive, so I’ll refrain.

I’ll watch instead for green tendrils to grow on the cliff of anger, from which we could all drop. I know I could. I could at times take a running leap and soar until the painful landing. I felt a piece of that anger rip at me watching news coverage of the harm from some distant and faceless coward. Fucking coward. There, I said it. Because of the coward, I want to train my eye on more than what we frail and victimized humans can make–beyond what we do to surround ourselves with pretty things in the face of ugliness.

This is the picture I mentioned, of my little girl’s excitement, watching her brother open a gift that she made for him:

It’s just a lousy snapshot, but can you see the eagerness, the shine in her cheeks? Ugly can’t dull that shine, not with shrapnel or fire. It’s an example of the beautiful flashes in the world that shove aside hatred and carelessness. So the days when I’m certain that people suck, or in mid-February when the only speck of color is a discarded cigarette butt in the grimy leftover snow, or when all the little things rise like an army to destroy my confidence, or something unimaginable happens, like bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, on those days I’ll write about something I find beautiful.

This is my insufficient tribute and apology to the family of eight-year-old Martin Richard. I’m sorry you no longer have him to bounce on the couch when he’s not supposed to; to hug, encourage, or make fart noises at the table even though it’s rude. For Krystle Campbell’s family and for Lingzi Lu’s family. I’m sorry, and I grieve for what’s been taken from your lives.


Why I like freelancing … today

Today I’m profiling a college professor who is studying the language changes within his minority culture, the Druze in Israel. Because of my job, I’m familiar with a new concept: linguistic landscape–analyzing the signs in multilingual communities to get to

deeper questions and issues of communication within an ethnic or geographic group. Freelancing is like like taking a crash course in an unexpected subject, regularly exposing me to something new.

Find me in a bar and call me Norm!