Monday, September 30, 2013

Get Up That Tree

Nature is a dominant theme in my writing, and I think it is so because it has been my most constant companion. Wherever I go, I can find it:

In the city or in the country,
in the sky or on the ground,
look, listen, and feel—
Nature is all around.

And when I do find it, even if it’s only a few blades of grass sticking through a crack in a concrete sidewalk, it brings me peace.

I think that’s because I grew up in the outdoors. As a child, I was deeply connected to nature—in tune with the environment around me. I played outside so often that I could tell it was dinnertime just by seeing the shape of the shadows from the sun. Who needed a watch when you had Mother Nature?  She ran better than any old Timex.

When I climbed a tree as a kid, the only thing I thought about was getting up the tree,

 If I grab that branch with this hand and pull up, then my foot can go right there.

My mind had a singular focus, clear of all other distractions. I wasn’t thinking about the pile of homework waiting for me in my room or why my softball coach moved me down in the batting order. My focus was simple—get up that tree.

I don’t climb as many trees as I use to, but nature still has that effect on me.  Nature reminds me to take a few breaths and calm my mind of all the extraneous worries keeping me from accomplishing the task at hand. 

When I find that I’m overwhelmed by the to-do list running through my head, I leave my cell phone on the table and step outside. Five minutes, that’s all it takes (well, maybe ten if it’s a particularly difficult day).   My technique is simple: I find one natural element and give it my full attention: 

An ant crawling up the wall,
birds flying up high,
a leaf about to fall,
or a cloud slowly passing by.

When my mind stops racing
and I can describe
the way ants are marching
in one long line,

I count to three
now knowing,
just breath…

I’m ready to go inside.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A New Career

My friends told me my life would change when I became a mom, and, while I knew I would have to adjust my ways, I truly didn’t anticipate the level of my metamorphosis.  At first I noticed little adaptations such as new eating habits, a visceral distaste for violent films, and spontaneously speaking in rhyme
      all the time,
          which is fine,
               ‘til you lose your mind,
                    which is a sign,
                         that it’s time,
                              to no longer rhyme.
While all of these were unforeseen, I never-ever-not-in-a-million-years, thought I would give up my career; a career for which I endured eleven years of higher education and finally had earned my way up to a director level position.  But the strings of motherhood pulled me towards my daughter and away from the corporate ladder.   

My husband’s career financially allowed me to morph from a multi-million dollar strategic leader to play-date planner extraordinaire efficiently juggling swim lessons, ballet classes, birthday parties, and pre-k fund raisers.  Over a year has passed since I hung up my new “Stay-at Home Mom” shingle, and I have no regrets. Someday I’ll rejoin the rat race, but for now, I’ll just enjoy the only rat in my life—Chucky Cheese.  (Or is he a mouse?)

In my new role, I have discovered that reading encompasses a huge chunk of my time.  My daughter, Madeleine, and I love going on literary adventures together.  We have read just about every children’s book in the library, and it was these mental explorations that inspired me to put pen to paper and rekindle my passion for writing.

When I was in elementary school, I won first place for my short story, Hello Mother, Hello Father, about a topsy-turvy summer camp experience.  Ever since then, writing has been woven throughout my life in a variety of forms: pathetic poetry, dreary diaries, pointed press-releases, and riveting research.  Except for my dissertation I never took my writing seriously; that is, until I found my muse, Madeleine. 

Last fall, she and I engaged in an outdoor inquiry lesson about an orb-weaver spider that had built a web outside our kitchen window.  We had such a fun day watching and learning about “Charlotte” (I know—what an original name for a spider), that I decided to write down our adventure.   As I re-read my journal entry, I thought, this would be an awesome children’s book.  I was often frustrated that the majority of children’s science books I read to Madeleine had male protagonists and that when a female character did find her way into the story she often shrieked and shrilled when she saw bugs, snakes, and all slimy things. 

Let me jump on my academic soap box for a moment.  Research indicates that we have a true problem in this country with young women not engaging in the fields of science, mathematics, technology, and engineering; and I believe that much of that lack of involvement is due to poor modeling. The media (books, movies, cartoons, etc.) doesn’t often portray girls in these roles, and when they do the girls are often stereotyped in not so flattering ways.
Jumping back off my box; after reading my journal entry and knowing what I know about girls’ science education, I had an epiphany.  This children’s’ book could be my contribution: promoting science as something cool not only to girls but also to boys.
And that is how my new career began as a children’s book author.  Do I have anything published? Nope; not yet.  But this is only the beginning.

While children, nature, and education are near and dear to my heart, I also have other topics that you will read about in my future blogs.  My interests span a variety of areas such as culture, leadership, business management, food, friendship, parenting, and much more.  So if you’re not interested in the topic of the week, then come back the next for a taste of something different. You never know what I might write about:  how getting lost at the Opryland Hotel landed me a graduate assistantship; my life as a vegetarian married to a hunter, academic ramblings, science projects exploding in my kitchen, or even some pathetic poetry.     

Thanks for tuning in!