Internal Climate Change

The Persistence of Memory By Salvador Dali. Image taken from, Fair use,

I went down to the school to teach an art class on Salvador Dali to a group of 3rd graders.  Of course, I showed them his well known painting with the melting clocks.  To us old folks, the idea of time slipping away is something of which we are very cognizant.  But I couldn’t help but wonder what a group of eight year olds would make of the idea of time slowly running out.

“Remember when school first started?” I asked them.  “Bringing in your supplies, meeting your teacher, learning who you were going to sit by. Does that seem like a long time ago?”  Heads nodded and I saw their eyes drift as they looked back to the start of they year.

One little girl in the back cocked her head to the side and commented, “Yeah, but it also seems like just yesterday.”  More nods of agreement floated across the room.

“That’s so weird,” said a little boy in front, “it’s like long ago but also just over.  I think I get the clocks.”  That crazy sense of the past being right there next to you is present even when young I guess.  The end of Kindergarten sits snuggled up right next to the end of 6th grade in my mind.  My girls are equally tiny little things and then almost grown women.  And trying to wrap my head around how long it has been and how quickly it has flown is almost impossible.

As the countdown to summer draws to a rapid close, I can’t help but wonder where did the elementary years go?  How are we suddenly almost finished with middle school?  I’m worried that my clocks are melting at an alarming rate.  Climate change on an internal scale?  Is that a thing?  Lets hope not…..

Picking the Right Fruit

I have reached that part of parenting where the waters have become murky.  The low hanging fruit has been successfully plucked and what is left requires strategy to reach.  My girls can sleep through the night, use the potty, recite their address and phone number, and don’t bite (for the most part).  Considering they are now in middle school, these accomplishments may seem minor.  But trust me, at the time they were considered herculean tasks of extreme parenting.  Little did I know that even more daunting hurdles lay before us.  Now that I have successfully molded their external behaviors, I am left with the frightening task of working on their internal ones.

I have to teach them to be a good person.

Oh Lordy.  This fruit sits so high on the tree.  How do I even begin to reach it?  I thought I was doing well until Jada died.  Reflecting on her life got me thinking that maybe I’ve been aiming for the wrong fruit all along.

The joke in our house is that anything less than an “A” is a fail.  There is no such thing as optional  “extra credit”.  And if a McLaughlin commits to something, there is no quitting half way through when things get tough.  Work hard.  Strive for more than average.  Follow through.  What delicious fruit, right?  Good grade.  Good education.  Good job.  Isn’t that the dream all parents have for their children?  Be someone.  Get out of your small pond and take over the next size up.

And yet.  Is that really true?  Is greatness the answer?  Or is it maybe something much smaller and less flashy? Jada’s pond was tiny.  Our house, the mean streets of Sherwood, and whoever came to visit.  She didn’t really own much.  Two dog beds, a food bowl and a stream of chew toys that never lasted too long.  By conventional standards she was nothing.  Didn’t win a dog show, not certified by the AKC, never had a role on TV where she rescued someone from a well or rampaging cougar.  And yet, she made us whole. You want to lie on the sofa and binge watch Bosch?  Sounds great, I’m in.  Oh hello!  Feeling a bit peckish are we?  Well, let me accompany you to the kitchen and see what we can find.  Are you heading for the door?  Can I come?  Can I?  Can I?

Her accomplishments were much more subtle but, I would argue, just as amazing.  A companion, a happy presence, a partner in crime.  Would her life have been better if she had been “successful”?  If I had entered her in dog shows, driven her to events, groomed her to look perfect?  I doubt it.  Actually, I have no doubt.  I know.  Being a loving presence in our lives was the most powerful thing she could have done.  It was her shining accomplishment.  And if I can raise my girls to be as adventurous, companionable and joyful as she was, then I think I will have done well.  Lets aim for those fruits, shall we?



Maybe It’s Time

I like to pride myself on being quick on the draw.  I can read the signs, pick up a quick wink, tell which way the wind is blowing.  But this time, I think I was a bit dense really.  It took the universe much longer than normal to enlighten me.  In the span of about a week, I experienced the following signs…..

  1. Kulia had an assignment which required her to bring in a story about her as a baby.  Easy enough.  I just pulled up my good old blog and began surfing.  And here was my first epiphany.  I remembered the “big” stories.  Celebrations, holidays, and traveling were still in the old memory banks.  It was nice to read about these events but since I still remembered them, it wasn’t anything miraculous.  What I had forgotten was the mundane, the day to day grind, those small moments of simple bliss.  The posts about our daily routine and interactions fascinated me.  As soon as I read those old posts, the memories came flooding back.  Memories I didn’t even know I had forgotten.
  2. Two days later, Uncle Dan asked if I was still writing and if I missed it.  He, too, had noticed that it’s the little simple moments that get lost in time.  They can be pinned down and preserved but if you aren’t careful they can also slid away.  I admitted that I had stopped journaling.  Mostly, I just take a picture with my phone if I want to remember something.  I have images now but no stories.
  3. A week later, Jada died.  Again, I turned to this blog looking for lost memories about her.  There are a few but because I stopped writing, there aren’t many.  I know that time will rob me of her presence eventually.  Right now, she is my phantom limb.  I still glance down in the kitchen to make sure I don’t stumble over her as I cook.  I check before I scoot my chair back so I don’t hit her.  I pause to listen for her skritchy claws at the bottom of the stairs.  Eventually, I will unlearn all these behaviors and they will fade into forgotten dust.  But the real regret is that I didn’t capture them here while I could.

So OK universe.  I get it.  Stop hurting me.  I understand that this – right now – is a moment of great importance but also a moment that will fade to nothing.  That the “bigs” will live on in my photo roll but the “littles” have an awesome ephemeral power too.  I see that someday future me will need these small moments that I capture now.  She will relish them and thank me for taking the time to preserve all the uneventful, boring, useless chatter.  That any moment is worth remembering, not just the big stuff.  I need more than the images in my iCloud.  I need to be able to hear my voice talking to me from the past as well.

So hello blog.  How ya been?  Me?  I’ve been better but I think that’s a story for tomorrow.

Kulia had a writer come to her class to teach poetry. This is what she brought home….

I know my classroom.
The smell of fresh paper,
The smell of lead on a pencil,
The smell of jolly ranchers.

I know my classroom.
The sound of a pencil moving on paper,
The sound of books opening and closing,
Sneakers squeaking.

I know my classroom.
“Turn to page five,”
“Time for Mrs. Tricky!”
“Line up!”

I know my classroom.

Dinner Love

Kulia: Mom, I’m hungry. What’s for dinner?

Me: Um, I don’t know. How about we go to Red Robin?

Kulia: Yeah! We are saved from the horrible awful things you make!

Me: (sob)

October 1st

What is it about Fall?  I’m not an artist or photographer but yet I find myself talking about “the light” to people.  There is something about autumn sunshine that does the most amazing things to the colors around you.  I can’t call things blue or green.   Right now, I find myself savoring the words burnt umber, cerulean, emerald green, fiery red, mustard yellow.   Walking home today, I tried to say the colors I saw.  I must have looked crazy as I stopped before a bush, running through all the crayola colors I knew trying to capture this red/yellow hue.  But that’s what Fall does for me.  More so than spring.  Spring here is just two dull two-tone.  Grey sky + brown mud.  That’s it.  But Fall?  Fall has so much more to offer visually.  And when that crisp azure blue sky hits the hunter green sky line of trees, you just have to stop and admire it.  Or at least, I do.