November

Two note-worthy events happen during the month of November: “Movember” and “NaNoWriMo”. For those that unfamiliar with these events, allow me to introduce you to them.

Movember – when gentlemen forgo the ritual of shaving their facial hair and instead “grow a mo’” – mustache – to both bring awareness to, and, hopefully, commit to raising donations that benefit men’s health (which include prostate and testicular cancer and suicide prevention) by participating as a “walking, talking billboard in honor of men’s health” during the entire month and joining in or hosting fund-raising run/walks or other events.

NaNoWriMo – according to their website (www.nanowrimo.org), this event is for anyone who has ever aspired to writing a novel – which I’m sure is a passion most here have either dealt with , are dealing with, or don’t want to admit to, for fear of awakening a beast too rebellious to contain… The goal of NaNoWriMo (for those not “in the know” stands for National Novel Writing Month) is to complete a 50,000-word novel, written between November 1st and 11:59 PM November 30th.

 

 

Okay, now that we’ve all become properly acquainted, let’s move forward, shall we?

 

 

My young son asked me the other day if I had ever heard of “Movember” or “No Shave November”, to which I informed him I had, indeed, heard of it, and understood it to be in place to help bring awareness to men’s health (as it is, indeed)… We briefly discussed the topic, and I jokingly urged him to participate. Now, of course, I don’t know that he’ll be able to actively raise any funds for the cause; however, I’ve been wanting to see what type of facial carpet he could attain if he would just step away from the razor blade for a little while! He’s still so young – I forget sometimes that he shaves, he’s that young – and most of his facial hair comes in tawny-colored so it blends in with his complexion. However, ever since the first time he put the blade to his face and removed the three or four hairs that took residence between his nose and top lip, he’s been obsessed with the smooth skin feeling – stubble of any sort drives him bonkers!

And then there’s me… (Oh, I could almost hear the collective sigh from the universe…) I’ve wanted to complete a novel for SSSOOOOOOO long, it’s nearly pathetic at this stage – almost like that sweet four-year-old girl who, when asked what she wants to be when she grows up, replies “a mermaid!” and you just don’t have the heart to tell her it’s well, out of this world, never going to happen in a million, billion, trillion years, simply impossible… Well, yeah, that’s me. I want to be a novelist – or for goodness’ sake, simply a writer by trade! – however, it’s beginning to seem like an impossible achievement. Alas, I still (figuratively lay my head down and) dream! I know writing is something I can do, when tasked – I’ve been a student on several occasions, and have therefore been tasked with numerous written requirements. Thousands upon thousands of words, carefully chosen and with the precision of a craftsman, delicately positioned to convey and entertain, educate and persuade the reader while demonstrating a knowledge and understanding, a passion and compassion, not only for the subject matter, but also for the art form of writing itself. I know that I can write… So, why is it that my mermaid’s tail remains an impossibility?

As of the composition of this post, 1/6th of the month has come and gone. Kudos to my son, who has resisted the urge to shave – not that you can tell by looking at him, but he claims there are whiskers there that are driving him mad, and the sheer unevenness of his mustache stubble is simply unruly (ooooookay, if you say so…). As for me, surprisingly, over the past 24 or 36 hours (I don’t know when it all started, truly, and it really doesn’t make that much difference in the long run!) I began crafting a brand new story line, with twists and turns, surprises and secrets I had never envisioned before! Although I have two in-process works that constantly tug at those guilt strings, desperate to inch forward in progress, remorsefully staring at me like malnourished pups begging table-side, I thought a new creative path might stir up the desire for exploration and journey. Thus far, as fate would have it, my word count toward the famed 50k NaNoWriMo word count is sitting at a nice, symmetrical goose egg.

I can’t begin to explain the anxiety! Even writing about writing causes anxiety! Why? The fear of the unknown – what if writing something brilliant actually leads to the fulfillment of a dream? What then?? I wouldn’t know what to do with myself! And would I be able to replicate such a feat? I mean, really, C.S. Lewis, Ray Bradbury, Hemingway, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling – whomever you fancy! – they were, and are, blessed with abundant talent that surpasses any general conception of talent! And until one can earn enough through writing – which is a feat in itself – there’s the drain on time and energy of the dreaded “day job” (which right now, is my total “Stockholm Syndrome” – but more on that later!)… If I were to tell you that in writing this blog post alone, I’ve stopped and walked away from it on three separate occasions, you’d think me mad! (Okay, so I guess I just admitted to it anyway, and you’re free to think whatever you want – it doesn’t change the facts…) In the interim, I’ve cleaned my kitchen, washed the dishes, made popcorn – because, hey, whole grains, right? – and almost purchased a new desk for my son, all to avoid the thought of finishing this blog post and maybe, possibly being faced with the anxiety-inducing thought of starting my NaNoWriMo manuscript… Agh!

Dang it! If my son can persevere despite the savage tortures of microscopic uneven and unruly mustache stubble, I should be able to boldly face the blinding white of the blank computer screen and toss a few unassuming lines of dialogue and understory much like Bob Ross with his simplistic “even if you’ve never painted before, this one you can do” brush strokes and, voila, just like those famed ‘happy trees’, my story would just miraculously unfold upon the canvas!

Wish me luck!

 

 

“The secret to doing anything is believing that you can do it. Anything that you believe you can do strong enough, you can do. Anything. As long as you believe.” – Bob Ross, from “The Joy of Painting”

Heart of Gold

He said humbly, “I’m sure jealousy had a bit to do with my attitude tonight…”

What fourteen-year-old thinks this way?

Okay, first, I have to get this out of the way before I have a whole battalion of Grammar Police knocking at my wee little Blog-dom door front: in a “perfect world”, he should have said ‘envy’ and not ‘jealousy’ – as there is a striking difference in the two terms, one being a fear of losing one’s position or situation to someone else, especially in an intimate relationship whereas the other implies the feeling of wanting what someone else has – and I understood what he meant, which was the important part! So, now, moving on…

What fourteen-year-old has the wherewithal and groundedness, the sheer levelheadedness, to understand and realize his behavior and motivation came not from anger, or sadness, or any other random combination of fatigue and cold pizza indigestion, but in fact from envy? He wasn’t rude about it – to his friends, or to me; he just stated it plainly, and quite humbly. This wasn’t the first time he’d mentioned this growing trend within his close-knit group of friends; however, I could hear – nay, I could feel – the heaviness of his heart as he spoke solemnly during the brief drive home.

First, there was the Homecoming Dance itself. He looked very sharp! (I know, as ‘mom’, my opinion is quite biased; however, he DID look very handsome!) Towering at nearly 6-foot-tall, decked out in slim-fitting dark grey slacks, a crisp white shirt with French cuffs, a black suede vest with antiqued silver pocket watch, and a black neck tie with gold, silver and bronze accents, not to mention bleached blonde shoulder-length tresses and a genuinely sincere smile, it was hard to say he was anything BUT eye-catching! As fate would have it, though, he was ‘the seventh wheel’, and “melancholy” was the overarching mood of the evening… Apparently his three buddies paired off with the three accompanying young ladies (two couples were already well-established, and one couple just decided to start their dating relationship days prior to the dance), supplanting my son along the dance’s outer perimeter, solo, as they meandered in differing directions. Oh yes, the proverbial “Wall Flower”; that was my boy… (In my not-so-subtle and humorous way, I reminded him that he was a tall, bright, beautiful sunflower and not just some measly lil’ garden variety wall flower – I’m not sure that it helped overall, but he did smile for a brief moment…)

The following weekend, after a friend’s birthday party, on the drive home, he mentioned to me, “You know Mom, I’m the only one of my friends that’s not part of a couple… I’m the only one that doesn’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend…”

::sigh::

“…distractions…” was all I could think to tell him… “All they are right now, honey, are distractions…”

“I know, Mom; but, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be distracted from time to time…”

                    Gaw! Who raised this kid?! He’s too smart for his own good!

          And what hurts me the most?? I know his pain! I long for the same “distraction”… I long for the feeling of knowing that someone, somewhere is distracted, thinking of me… I long for that companionship that’s been missing in my life for so many years…

          How could I tell him honestly that it’s wrong to not yearn for that type of friendship, companionship, when my heart cries out for it too?

I just drew in a slow, deep breath, smiled a mom’s loving smile and told him: “Honey, the day’s going to come when these girls are going to figure out how wonderful you truly are, and good laurdy, you’re gonna have to beat them away with a stick! They’ll be lined up around the block! I kid you not, Hon! You have a heart of GOLD, and I’ve been sayin’ that for YEARS! Being in a relationship for the sake of being in a relationship isn’t good – and you know that! It’ll lead to hurt feelings and bitterness – for both of you! Better that the two of you find each other and the relationship be built on a solid foundation. Give it time, honey! Don’t “settle”. Don’t try to be like everyone else – you’re not everyone else! Just be you and it’ll happen when it’s supposed to happen – remember: it’s all in the details; details matter! I have faith it won’t be long! You’re quite a catch, and I KNOW your heart is true!”

I know he heard some of it, and some of it he chalked up to “mom-talk”. But I’ve never wavered from telling him that’s he’s got a good, true heart, and that “details matter!” He knows that…

This past weekend, after trying to endure an evening watching some friends, umm, “over display” their affection for one another while at a group event, his admission of being envious showed his maturity – he wasn’t angry with them, or bitter; he knew he was envious. But, at the same time, he was able to poke fun at the situation (suggesting that next time, he arm himself with a spray bottle and use it as one would when training cats to stay off the counter tops, or to trigger a “cooling down” session between the two ‘lovebirds’ while in public), and carry on with life.

I hope he gets the opportunity to show his genuine kindness, respect, humor, and wittiness in the days, weeks, and months to come. He’s somewhat introverted, which makes finding “love” difficult; however, stranger things have happened! Besides, he’s still young, still very handsome, and still completely loved by his mom!

(…as for his mom’s chances of finding love – good laurdy!)

Prelude to “The Kiss”

“Mom, can you believe some people’s luck?” he began with such exasperation. “I’m so jealous!”

Okay, before we get any further with this, allow me to roll this story back about five months, to the middle of May 2016, and the start of summer semester in school – human resources management.

               Relevance, you ask? Hold on, I’m getting there!

So, while digging deeper into the required assignments, and doing research to help construct the foundation of my mock HR policy manual, I happened across a wonderful piece of, well let’s just call it “literature” for the sake of tidiness. It was a pilfered, several-years-old handbook for new employees, chock-full of unconventional tips for the corporate newbie, offering a hand to help guide said-tenderfoot through the maze of job assignments, coffee pot etiquette, and even how to not to freak out about the availability of dartboards and massage tables, but to get suspicious in the event of catered lunches with caviar… I know, I started thinking to myself: how do I land a job at THIS place? Dartboards and massages? Yes, please!

Here’s where things start to get interesting…

Reading further, I start to realize what type of company this is – I was genuinely unfamiliar with the organization’s name because the line of work they’re involved in is just not up my alley. However…

“Son, have you ever heard of XYZ Company?” I asked of my youngest, not sure what type of response to expect. His dead-pan expression made it seem as if I had asked him if he had ever heard of a big gaseous ball in the outer reaches of space, bursting forth with an unsurpassed brightness, often referred to as THE SUN. He went on – in small words, so that I was sure to understand the extent of my error and simple-mindedness – to explain the vastness of this company’s reach in their field of expertise. I flipped my laptop around to show him the, umm, illustrations (reminiscent of the Dick and Jane series fame, circa 1930s), and for hours, he and I discussed this XYZ Company in great detail. It was a wonderful bonding moment for us –bringing together one of his passions alongside one of my school obligations, and cemented the idea that education isn’t necessarily droll. The highlight: finding out that XYZ Company resided in our own backyard! At that point, my son decided he wanted to gear his upcoming studies toward nearing his feet to their front door. Goals are a good thing!

So, fast forward back to Saturday afternoon…

No! Wait, not that far! (No, no – hear me out! If I skip this bit, nothing will make sense, trust me!!)

So, THURSDAY, at work, one of my clients sends over some last minute documentation for filing; I make a quick comment to him about something I notice regarding, yep, XYZ Company, and he says “Oh yeah! Did some this-and-that for them; great bunch of folks!” I throw in a “my son would be so jealous” comment, mentioning it’s his aspiration to work there in the future, and get hit with a “my friend so-and-so works there full-time, how about I see if he can hook you guys up with a tour?” Umm, yes, please! Emails start flying Thursday, and by the end of day on Friday, I’m in touch with “the friend” at XYZ Company, who’s helping to secure my nomination for “Mom of the Year” award! Get this: I’m asked if we’d prefer being put on the list for the ‘group tour’, or if we’d rather just tag alongside “the friend” on a personal exploration… Seriously?! I can’t breathe!! And I can’t tell my son; I’m keeping this a secret!

Okay – NOW on to Saturday!

Completely – and I do mean completely!! – out the blue, he’s talking about how he’s jealous of his buddy, and I’m clamoring to find out why. (He doesn’t seem to be “upset” in this jealous rage; it’s more of an exuberant jealousy, which I’m guessing is a good thing…) As the story goes, his friend has posted pictures he took – wait for it!!! – while. on. a. tour. of. XYZ Company headquarters! Really?? I had to know: a group tour?? How did he score a deal like THAT?? My son didn’t have the answers, and based on the dates the pictures were originally uploaded to his social media page, the tour was over two years ago. Still, it was genuinely something to be excited about. Me? I felt as if an elephant was standing on my chest as I tried to share in my son’s covetousness, full-knowing what adventures lay just around the corner!

I wanted to say something! Oh, it took everything within me to keep that secret bottled up; to not blow my cork and say something foreshadowing like “just wait a week” or “you’re a pretty lucky kid, too, you know?” Oooohhhh! The suspense, people!

 

          (side bar: this will actually be the THIRD ‘big-reveal’ secret I’ve been involved with this year – first, flying down with my two children to surprise my mother for her birthday/Mother’s Day; second, flying my mother and one of my nephews up to my area and surprising my daughter on her birthday by having her Grandma at her birthday dinner; and now, this! I KNOW what I want the next surprise to be; the details just haven’t panned out yet…)

 

It’s Tuesday, and this spectacular event is slated to take place on Thursday. I’m hoping my heart can hold out for two more days!

Giddy… can’t breathe!

Dress the Part

Conversations aren’t always the easiest to strike up.

          Well, that’s not true! According to my youngest child, I have a knack for chatting up fellow patrons  in the line at the grocery store waiting to pay for their produce, fishing for unbiased feedback from strangers outside the changing rooms while hunting through second-hand haute couture, even alleviating awkward silences on the elevator while scaling urban high rises. But, when it REALLY matters…

My youngest child is at a new school this year, and is experiencing all the thrills that go with the territory: new teachers, new schedules, and a new terrain to navigate in record time each day. He’s not the only new face on campus, though – there’s an entire grade-level worth of “newcomers”: the 2016-2017 high school freshmen class! These individuals, stuck between adolescence and adulthood, trying to fumble and flail their way through the muddied waters of senior high school – no long the “upper classmen” of middle school, tight-knit and secure in their relative proximity to one another as ‘a pack’. Now, scattered across countless acres of mundane, mud-colored buildings, corridors humming with pounding feet and the crashing of exhausted metal locker doors barely clinging to their hinges and a veritable menagerie of shapes, heights, hair colors, widths, eye colors, voices, talents, laughters, snarls, social cliques and antisocial exiles representing all corners of the city, county, school district, and outer banks of consciousness possible. Tough enough task just to make it through each day during that first month. But that’s not enough for the soul-crushing monster that is High School…

 

Must. Inflict. More. Emotional. Scarring. Through. Social. Awkwardness.

 

          Is it just me, or in retrospect, does that seem like the general mission statement of high school?

Two weeks in, and all of a sudden, there’s a social function that requires focused CONVERSATION. The Homecoming Dance. It’s become so much more than what it was when I was in high school – back before the fall of the Berlin Wall and fashion-forward Swatch watches. Now, it’s pre-sale tickets, suits, ties, evening gowns, pre-dance dinners – it’s pre-Prom, for all grade levels! But what do you do when you only know 6 people on campus – those six friends you had in Middle school, four of which are guys you band together with to terrorize online gaming servers and blast everything into oblivion by way of Steam-enabled games? Sure, talking with the person sitting next to you in Geometry or Video Tech class is easy if it’s just random chit-chat about classroom subject matter; however, when there’s a calculated risk underpinning a seemingly innocuous dialogue, casual and light-hearted antics give way to fear, anxiety, and trepidation. Compounding on the perceived pressures of unplanned conversations with a relative stranger, add to the mix the innate cloddish and provincial mannerisms of life as a teenager in general, with untimely voice cracks and unanticipated brain drain, how could it even be conceivable to drum up the courage to talk with a fellow classmate? The list of unknowns is far too overwhelming! I haven’t even mentioned the earth-shattering concept of (gasp!) rejection… (dun-dun-duuuuuun!)

 

Enter ‘Spirit Week’ dream concept: “Traffic Light Dress Code Day”.

 

Okay, picture this – there are those whose lives are truly uncomplicated; they know their path. Class schedules are always without a hitch, friends all live within shouting distance of their front porch, their dog and cat are snuggle buddies, and their bathtub never drains slowly. And questions about a date for the Homecoming Dance? Pish! That’s a no-brainer. Then there are those who wrestle with details: did ‘So-and-So’ get a parent’s approval? Does ‘Whos-a-Whats-It” have transportation? Maybe there’s a relationship that’s as predictable as a bee’s flight pattern during a wind storm, and it’s anybody’s guess until the 11th Hour… Lastly, there are those who are totally open to the idea of unpretentiously parading into the dance with a partying partner but who lack the “partnering” skills…

Red.      Yellow.      Green.

For one day during ‘Spirit Week’ (the week leading up to the Homecoming football game, and Homecoming Dance, where students are encouraged to partake in activities that show their ‘school spirit’), individuals dress in the color that corresponds to their dance-date situation. If your dance-floor moves are spoken for, then red’s your color. If ‘it’s complicated’ for any given reason, dress the color of sunshine. “Green light” indicates you’re open and available!

As I was describing this to a family member, the reaction was mixed. Direct quote: “The color thing almost sounds humiliating. Like, look at me, I’m single. No?” I went on to explain that participation was merely BY CHOICE, and in my humble opinion, I thought the concept was inspired! This was my interpretation of the theory:

If you’re too shy to ask someone for fear of rejection, or you’re not sure if they’re going with someone already, you’re reluctant to ask. However, if you see them wearing green – or, on the flip side, if they see you wearing green! – it opens the opportunity for conversations that otherwise might not have taken place. At fourteen, are they really going to be ‘humiliated’ about their singleness? (please, please, PLEASE, I need to hear a resounding “no!”)

Besides, it’s not really a “look at me, I’m humiliatingly single”, but more of a “look at me, I have the potential of being your new best friend – because apparently I’m gusty enough to play along and I’m honest with people”!

Family member’s response (direct quote again): “Ok. That perspective makes sense.”

 

…for the record, my son wore green pants AND a long sleeve green shirt… I haven’t heard if it started any conversations, though…

Reverse Psychology

I know I’m not the best parent that ever lived. Heck, I doubt I’m even the best parent on our block! Probably not even the best parent in our triplex, and Brandy and Steve haven’t even been parents for a full year yet… That’s not to say I don’t try, though!

And despite having a completely overloaded schedule, I still allowed my childhood companion, high school counselor, lifelong roomie, and long-time nemesis, Guilty Conscience, to whisper in my ear, “What kid is going to remember that you did this or that task for ‘their benefit’? What they’re going to remember is whether you took the time to spend time with them!” Gee, thanks, GC! You’re brilliant!

So, at the request of my 14-year-old, who oddly enough, broke character and rambled on in the kitchen for over 40 minutes (he’s a two – to – three sentence kind of kid, usually) about this new television program he happened upon, all while I prepared our dinner, I set aside the school books, and agreed to watch the pilot episode with him (thank you, Netflix, for your diverse library of programming). I did, so rudely, though, preface my response with the explanation that it could only be one episode on this particular evening, as I did need to continue on with my homework assignments – obligations are obligations, after all, and even in showing my propensity for taking time for quality time, I needed to also demonstrate that I was a responsible person!

The show was as interesting as he described, and it opened the opportunity for some informed and thought-provoking conversation between the two of us. I promised him we would re-visit the show as time allowed. Unfortunately, he didn’t like the idea of having to wait – although I didn’t exactly ask him to. By the time he invited me to join him in watching the program, he was already at Episode Five (proof positive that he didn’t have to wait for me), and wanted to advance forward. He learned quickly that I was not going to sit and binge-watch with him this time! Sorry, kiddo!

Okay, so here’s where things get complicated…

Remember, I already admitted my failure at “perfect parenting”, so no finger-wagging!

There are those times – definitely not right now, in the midst of these two heavy-homework-laden courses in school, but believe me when I say instances have presented themselves – when I have NOTHING better to do than to let my brain rot away, watching rerun after rerun of “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”, and my beloved 14-year-old cannot divert his eyes from whatever electronic device holds him prisoner, not even long enough to acknowledge my existence. Do I say something? No. Do I unplug said device? No. Do I restrict future screen time? (I know I probably should, but please refer to previously posted disclaimer) No…

I think the most “reckless” thing I’ve done in such an instance was refuse to cook dinner when I couldn’t get a response to what he wanted to eat that evening. I called – TWICE! – on my way home from the office. I texted and asked for a return phone call. No response to anything. So I came home. And when he continued to stare at the computer screen, I simply curled up on the sofa with the hyper pup, a ginger beer and the tv remote. Was I worried about his nutritional well-being? Not really. He knows how to cook soup, eggs, pizza, potatoes, pasta… And if he wanted to be lazy but still indulge his taste buds, there was microwave popcorn, a variety of cereals available, as well as fixings for black bean nachos. I knew he wouldn’t starve. I just refused to put forth the effort myself since he wasn’t going to acknowledge my existence. On that same night, I even went up to bed without so much as a word to him (it was a Friday night). He didn’t stop to say “hi” or “hey” or “Delilah chewed up another soda bottle cap” (our dog; don’t ask!) Not a word. So I responded in-kind.

However, it seems without fail, the moment I mention I have a cascading mountain of assignments to attend to, and I beg for him to respect my need for quiet time, he all of a sudden becomes a social butterfly, or is absolutely compelled to find the loudest, most obnoxious, disruptive television programming the satellite dish in our yard can siphon from the cosmos. Really?! We have ONE television in our domicile, so it’s not as if he’s holed up in his room, channel-surfing. No, he’s sprawled out on the sofa, bag of potato chips rustling under the weight of his scavenging fist, making sure to ignore the passage of time and continue to fill the air with static noise. And because of the less-than-ideal wi-fi service offered in our area (only one provider, so it’s not like I can shop around for another provider – the only other option is paying 3 times as much to the same provider for “upgraded” speeds…), I’m trapped down in the adjacent dining room area, feverishly working on my laptop.

Not only that, but he’ll decide that on the weekend when I’m utterly slammed with research papers and exams, that he will simply die if he can’t have his long-time buddy come hang out at the house. What drives me up a wall is that despite MY need for solitary time in order to accomplish tasks, I end up having to be the chauffeur, the chef, the entertainment director, the moderator, the maid, and still manage to take care of my own checklist. “You do understand, I have a lot of homework to get done…” The empty promises of silence and respect for my work time; why do I fall for it?? I want my son to be social, to interact with his friends – to have a life away from the computer screen! I just don’t understand why he always seems to choose solitude and YouTube when there are no prerequisites on my time, but when I need a few hours of silence to devour the concept of balanced scorecards and product innovation, he can’t help but ponder, “I wonder how many episodes of this preposterous program I can watch before the sun comes up?”

I think I need to start using reverse psychology with him again, like when he was 4 or 5 years old. Please, make all the noise you want! Why don’t you invite your friends over? You don’t want to just sit there and stare at the computer screen all day, do you? Maybe then he’ll hunker down and not acknowledge my existence, allowing me ample quiet time (aside of the dog’s crazed barking fits, and the cat’s bellowing from the landing upstairs) to complete my assignments! Four and half more weeks to go!

Thirty days, and counting…

A cog in THE MACHINE

I do see, acknowledge, ponder, and even (mentally) respond to some of those “one word” or “two word” writing prompts that pop up from time to time; however, recently, I haven’t had a lot of free time to pen out long, thought-provoking chronicles, or even insightfully toasty chestnuts of wisdom to share with the masses (school will do that to a person’s cache of unobligated minutes – note previous post, “6,810”…). That’s not to say that I ignore the prompts entirely either, avoiding any version of “eye contact”, as one would, trying to escape the shopping store without being accosted by the newspaper vendor offering a free Sunday issue, the cable/dish t.v. service vendor trying to make small talk, or those adorable Capitalists-in-training, with their boxes and tubs of chocolate, popcorn, and cookies. No, I admit, while most of them I give only a passing glance, gnaw on the concept for a fleeting moment or two to see if it’s flavorful, and usually expel before any ache takes form in my jaw or head, some of them get stuck in my teeth, forcing me to wrestle with them for longer than a hiccup, and darn if unsolicited ideas don’t start to form like dastardly rain clouds over a long-awaited beach party.

One such prompt was the single word, “Melody”. I’m sure there are a million different directions a ripe mind could take this term. I think, however, when I happened across it, my mind was beyond ripe, and the term steam-rolled right over me, spewing creative juices and seeds of introspection throughout the entirety of my conscious. The hardest part about the whole experience was finding the time to make something coherent out of it – whether there were enough logical pieces to dice up, throw together with peppery bits, emotional, tear-inducing slivers, zingy one-liners, and serve it all with a big bowl of corniness, or whether I’d just have to scoop up the remnants, continue to grind away and just make a saucy pulp out of it.

Now, most people know what a melody is, but in case there are any doubts, let me just state the basics: a melody is the succession of single tones in musical compositions, producing a distinct musical phrase or idea, and is considered the principal part in a harmonic composition (thank you Dictionary.com). That was easy enough. So why all the fuss? Why did this word hit like a drum line before kick-off at the Homecoming Game? Because after giving a moment’s thought to “melody”, I began to consider its partner, “harmony”. And, well, there’s been a serious lacking of “harmony” in my life lately.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with a good friend the day before my classes began this term, and she and I got on the topic of employment (ugh… that can be as painful as slicing open your finger with the edge of paper, and drowning that cut in a vat of salty lemon juice! But, I digress…). She is wise, this friend of mine; wise, loving, patient, and encouraging! Knowing that I’ve wrestled from time to time with my choice to forego personal pursuits for the tediousness of “obligation” and valiantly wearing the mask of “responsibility”, she assured me that hope was not lost, and that the opportunity may still exist to shake off the dust of corporate society and rekindle the fiery passion I once coddled like a iridescent soap bubble whimsically dancing on the breeze just above the death-spikes of the spring lawn. But, alas, I explained to her my years and years of “conditioning”, my submission to conformity, and my subsequent fashioning into the perfect corporate “cog”. She just smiled, gave me a hug, and told me I was not “a cog”! Bless her!

What that conversation made me realize was that much of my life – especially recently – lacked depth. I submitted early to the idea that creativity was unacceptable and that conformity was essential for survival (find a career path that was sustainable regardless of economic and geographical circumstances). I carried that ideology from my youth, through my young adulthood, and into my later years. My life-song was pure melody; there was no acceptance of random, complementary high and low notes, lofty imaginativeness, intoxicating fervor, vision, talent, and originality, despite my admiration of such occurrences in others’ lives. I hid “symptoms” of inspiration, knowing that one could not sing both melody and harmony simultaneously, and I knew it was wrong to abandon the “principal parts” in life. Therefore, I would stick to the melody, and allow my song to be flat, monotonous.

That’s all and well – for me. However, I have children. And I feel that I’ve done them a terrible disservice! By carrying this philosophy of “conformity” and “obligation”, I fear that I may have strangled the creativity out of their spirits – just as was done to me when I was younger. Not having much of an advocate to help foster ingenious and innovative thinking, colorful and charismatic dreaming, and fanciful and flagrant cavorting, I did not know how to be such an advocate for my children – at least not wholeheartedly. I hope I may have slipped from time to time, and said something encouraging back before the weight of the world came crashing in on them; I pray that they still harbor flames of inspiration within their souls, and coax it out to at least toast a marshmallow or two! If nothing else, I openly say at this time I am deeply sorry if my “cog”-iness was more desert than your pools of enchantment could endure. My wish for you, my dear children (and for anyone on the brink of suspended animation) is to pursue what makes your heart soar! Live for your dreams, and never allow yourself to become a cog of the system – conditioned and effectively lifeless. Stand tall. Stand proud. Stand out.

As the reader-board in front of the physical therapy clinic put it so succinctly:

‘Be a flamingo in a flock of pigeons.’