Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hold. Tie. Pull.

Friendship bracelets.  The official accessory of girlhood summer.  My 7 year old recieved her first one a few weeks ago.  "Mom!  This is so amazing!  Look what K made me!  Mom!  She made it!  For me!"  Her mouth actually hung open for a few seconds with surprise when I told her that I could teach her how to make them for her friends too.

I had to reach deep into my memory, and my craft bin of junk, to find the things required to fashion a bracelet of string.  Amazingly, I was able to produce a few tangled bundles, not in the colors she would have chosen as she so eloquently informed me, oh well... and we began our first attempt.

She wanted to watch me do the first few knots.  I talked her through what I was doing.  Choose your strands, even ones that you might not think go together sometimes end up looking wonderful.  Get them all lined up and tie a good knot, you don't want them to come apart once you get started.  You've got to anchor your knot down to something firm, so you can keep a good hold on it while you are working.  Then you start slowly, one knot at a time, the tiny loops start to form a stripe, and you'll get better at it as you go along.  Count as you go, but don't worry if you forget, you can always look back at what you have and know where you are.  Hold tight to those middle strands, never let those go, they are what keep it all together.  Hold, tie, pull.  Hold, tie, pull.  Hold, tie, pull.

She only let me do about 25 knots before she was itching to take over.  I handed over the tangle of threads and watched her talk it through.  "Knot.  Pin.  One knot at a time.  Count one, two, three, four.  Hold tight to my main strands.  Look Mom!  I'm doing it!  This is so simple!"

Yes, Love.  It's all so very simple if we let it be.

She has moved on from the leftover threads in the art bin.  She has been to the craft store with her piggy bank money to buy dazzling summer colors and 10 shades of pink.  She has upgraded from simple knots and just a few strands to fancy twists and fists full of coordinating hues, but the basic steps are still working for her.

Choose carefully and tie a good knot, you don't want your pieces to come apart once you get started.  Anchor yourself down to something and keep a good hold.  Start slowly, you'll get better as you go, but you can always look back and know where you are.  Hold tight to those middle bits, they are what keep it together.

The basic steps still work for all of us.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Anxiety at the Water's Edge

She stood there.  Panicked.  At the edge of the water.  It was a hot day, very hot.  Her sisters had run in ahead of her with much screaming and splashing.  Right in to the cool water.  And she had run right up to the edge and stopped.  Because all she saw was brown water.  And floating bits of forest.  And she couldn't see the bottom.  And she began to fall apart.  Mom, what else is in there?  Mom, what are those brown things?  Mom, what if I step on something?  Mom, I don't like this...

To be fair, this child does a lot of swimming in pools, where the water is chlorinated and the only floating things are inflatable toys.  This lake was brown.  The bottom was covered with all sorts of unknown things.  There were large mouthed creatures, other than her two sisters, swimming around in its murky depths.  And it was very, very scary.  She decided quickly, that getting in the water was not something she had any intention of doing.

I was unbelievably frustrated on the hot day when it happened.  This was the water that was going to keep us cool on the hot summer days and she was not going to participate.  This was our lake vacation and she was boycotting the lake.  In hindsight, I am able to see it a bit differently.

We are not all the kind of people that can jump right in to something brand new and completely unknown.  Caution isn't always a bad thing.  Sometimes being up high, out of the water, where you can see where you are going and steer clear of what's coming at you is the perfect place to be.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Notice to Vacate

I have vacated my life; taken leave of my to-do list; turned my back on my duties; stepped away from my resposibilities.  I am voiding bedtimes, relaxing normal nutrition restrictions and giving the gramma and grampa the opportunity to do the lion's share of the swing pushing, face wiping, book reading and ball throwing.  In other words, I am on vacation.  I am no longer in The Middle and find myself waking everyday, and for the next 11 days, closer to the edge.  I am in a magical place where calla lillies grow in the yard, around every corner is a view of the lake, and afternoon napping is not just for toddlers.  It is warm, the bills in the mailbox aren't mine, the job of planning meals is on somebody else's plate, and the floors aren't mine to sweep.  It is wonderful.

I have a lot of busy things going on in my real life these days.  You might have heard, I've written a book, and not only am I the author, but I am also the VP of advertising, the head of the marketing and promotion department, the distribution director and the manager of the central region shipping division.  I have big plans to return to the hustle bustle of shameless self promotion in a few days...but as I've already stated...this week, I am vacating.

I am not totally gone.  I will still continue to participate in important things like parenting, recycling, catching up on Friday Night Lights in an effort to free up some space on the DVR and making sure there are no half empty bottles of wine going to waste.  Some of us are never completely free of to-do lists...sigh.

I have big plans to do things like eat local produce, fall asleep in the hammock, watch the birds on the feeder and bake bread.  I will keep you posted on my progress, but if you are in desperate need of something to read during the longer than usual stretches between posts on theMiddleBit then please allow me to direct to you this lovely little tome that you can hold in your very own hands.  You could drop it into your purse for some light reading at the pool.  You could leave it out on your coffee table or put it on the corner of your desk, so in the middle bit of your busy day, you could open it up, to the middle of course, and read a couple of pages to take your mind off your busy day. 

To vacate...just a bit.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Little Help for My Friend

Friends are such a blessing.  My friends are such a blessing to me.  If I pause for just an instant in themiddlebit of a busy moment I can call to mind so many moments...with a friend.  So many events.  So many emotions.  So many friends.  Girlish frustration and giggling about being made to eat birthday cake with chopsticks; barefoot tennis and hotel room hijinxs that made me laugh so hard I nearly wet my pants; sitting in a college apartment hearing the news of my mother's breast cancer over the phone; falling in love; garage sales and birthday parties and thrift stores and roller coasters and baby girls.  In my mind I can look to the left and the right and see my friends.  And there I am.  In the middle.

I have celebrated with them.  Cleaned up with them.  Laughed and cried with them.  Climbed mountains and slogged through the mud.  And when they call out, "I need some help."  I jump up and run over.  It's what I do.  It's part of what makes me who I am.

Last February, my dear friend Maria called out, "Help."  She called out to her friends with the news she was in desperate need of us.  Of help.  She called out to tell us that all was not fine.  That she had laundry to do and errands to run and two young daughters to mother and dinner to prepare and a husband who was busy...and in the middle of all of that...she had just been diagnosed with lung cancer.  Lung cancer.  In her 40's.  She called out, "Help."

She needed meals prepared and a few loads of laundry done.  She needed someone to pick her kids up from school and someone else to keep her girls while she spent hours on the phone arranging medication and having x-rays and scans and endless visits with doctors.  And I wanted to be one of the friends that could rush right over and help.

But I live in the Middle.  And she lives 1,500 miles away.  And I was paralyzed.  I wanted to bring her family a meal while she was in the hospital.  And scoop up those girls.  And fold laundry.  And run to the drugstore.  I wanted to jump right into the middle of it all and help.  But I couldn't...or so I thought.

Maria is incredibly blessed by her friends too.  She had people to her left and to her right that could do those things for her.  She was in the middle of the fight of her life, but she had her people all around her.  They came.  They washed and cooked and scooped and hugged and supported and drove and sat quietly with her while she drank tea...and so I thought...

What can I do?  What can I do?  Maria once said to me, "Lady!  You should write a book!  I would totally buy your book!  And then I'd buy a bunch more copies for all of my girlfriends."  And I laughed her off...heh, I could never write a book...or so I thought.  

But that's just what I've done.  I've written a book about all of the things that happen in the middle.  About the distance from healthy to cured.  About the space where accidents happen and recoveries begin.  About the tiny miracles that can be seen in the chaos and the joys that you miss if you're not looking for them.  About the middle bit.

I have collected and revised all of my most favorite essays from the first years of this blog.  And my sister and some of my friends have taken magnificent photographs to accompany my words.  And now you can buy a copy of it for yourself and know that 100% of the profits from the sale of this book will be donated to Maria's fight.

You won't need to rush out and look for it in your local bookstore because I have done this very modern thing called "self publish" which means you can just follow the link below and order yourself a copy.  It takes just over a week and you'll be able to hold it in your hands and make it part of your collection.

Maria is a treasure in my collection of friends.  I am blessed by her.  And this is the thing I could do when she called