Sucker punched

I am sitting in the airport reflecting on the senseless bits and pieces of the day thus far.

This morning my eldest and I rushed into the classroom to check on the baby chicks that began hatching two days ago in an incubator in his classroom. A small group of students was huddled together reading books with their teacher.

One of the girls immediately announced that a baby chick had died.

The teacher shook her head.

All of them, she said.

All of them? I repeated, incredulous.

One I can understand. I almost expected one not to make it given their vulnerability and diminutive nature.

But all fifteen?

I felt sucker punched when I realized that this engaging and heartfelt project had ended so abruptly and harshly.

Like the children, I thought “it’s not fair!” and “why did they die?”

There is no good reason.

My son was angelic as he kissed me goodbye, but not before insisting I stay to look at a dinosaur book for a few minutes. His eyes were wide open when he was told that the fledgling chicks died, and then he changed the subject as we left the room. I inquired about how he was feeling, but he wasn’t ready to go there. So we read the dinosaur book and I headed to the office.

I was too distracted to listen to the morning story on NPR, but I did check my Twitter account at a stoplight.

Today is not only the First Day of Summer, it is Daylight Appreciation Day.

I know this because Ellen DeGeneres tweeted about it this morning (and yes, I follow Ellen because she is awesome and I have a crush on her and no, she is not yet following me).

Ellen thinks it’s really silly to have Daylight Appreciation Day, but I think it’s wonderful. Ellen has obviously never endured 40 consecutive days of rain and gloom and clouds like we do in the Pacific Northwest. The power of the sun is like nothing else. Sun increases our productivity and intellectual capacity, boosts the immune system, and reduces anxiety and depression.

The sun is a hurculean presence in our lives.

If I had known it was Daylight Appreciation Day, I would have done something special to celebrate!

The good news is that I still can.

I recently discovered a marvelous blog called Inherit the Spoon that weaves together tales of food, food justice, and family. I couldn’t resist clicking on the link called “Good Night Gorilla” because that is the name of one of my youngest son’s favorite books. We call it the “Banana Book” because he likes to point out the sunshine-colored fruit on every single page. It turns out I’m not alone, because somebody else’s kid loves it so much that he is addicted to this book.

I love it when unexpected commonalities refresh my own experience in parenting.

and

I hate it when unexpected loss darkens my day.

Today I will appreciate the daylight till it disappears beneath the horizon, and I will mourn the gentle spirits of the baby chicks.

I am filled with gratitude because I have two children for whom I can find the strength and patience (most days, anyway) to read and re-read Good Night, Gorilla at least 32 million times before crashing into the sofa with a glass of wine and a book.

Enjoy the light, readers.

A holiday wish for mama

Thanksgiving is over. It’s time to get serious.

Christmas is coming.

It’s critical to remember that as we enter the intense and exciting holiday season, the major theme of this time of year is peace and goodwill. Any good holiday movie will tell you this (It’s A Wonderful Life is my very favorite, but I also adore Dickens’ tale of Ebenezer Scrooge).  Advent calendars are poised to open on Day One, stores are bustling, and Santa is watching. Blue Spruce, Virginia Pine, and Douglas Firs are carefully stacked to attract tree trimming families everywhere. Boys and girls are keeping lists and writing letters detailing coveted bits and baubles. Champagne is chilled for holiday gatherings when mistletoe appears and kisses are stolen. I love this time of year.

But sometimes, the peace and goodwill I crave gets pushed to the bottom of the barrel of holiday treasures. Often this happens when I pick up the newspaper to read the latest. Inevitably, I learn that mobs of seasonal shoppers include manic strangers intent on purchasing deeply discounted products, at the risk of being Pepper sprayed, trampled and even jailed!

If Black Friday is someone’s idea of introducing the season of peace and goodwill toward men, I’d just to like to point out how it taints the entire point of the season. If the purpose of the season is really about procurement and competition, I’d rather pass. If the disappointment of missing your chance at buying the last $%&^*(*! toy on the shelf exceeds the joy that you find in your little one’s expression as he sees colored lights appear on your neighbors’ trees, then something is seriously wrong.

Don’t misunderstand me. I appreciate a bargain as much as the next gal. In fact, I’ll probably check out amazon.com before I head to bed tonight (for those of you who periodically reside under rocks, today is Cyber Monday). And in this season of excess, I’ll be imbibing, sampling, and staying up too late in an attempt to get too much done. Then I’ll be detoxifying from all the spirits and sweet stuff in January with the rest of you.

But today, and for the remainder of the season, I am striving for balance. Knowing that I will probably have reason to get stressed out and carried away a few (or a thousand) times during the remaining 34 days of 2011, I will strive to implement the same strategies that my preschooler uses:

Take a deep breath. Calm down. Ask a question.

Is this something for which I should have concern? Is this something I really need? Or really need to do? What other options do I have?

As I strive for balance, I naturally breathe more. I love the calmness of mind that silence practice and solo running bring to me. It never fails: if I take fifteen minutes to sit in silence, I appreciate the little things more, and worry less about the big stuff. If I take an hour to run, slowly and centered, I return home having moved toward equilibrium and away from distress.

Knowing these things work, I strive to employ them more frequently during this busiest time of the year.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here.

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