It’s OK, Make a Mess

Facebook memories get me every time.

I could get lost in photos of the past. Seeing random moments of my babies, captured and returned to me, sends me off down the rabbit hole of memories reaching out to bring anyone nearby down with me. 

The photo with this post is one of my favorites. It was one small mess in the millions of messes created in the home of a toddler and preschooler. I’m not known for my stellar memory, ask my husband, but this day I can relive again and again in 8K clarity.

Still early in the morning, I had been upstairs getting my little one ready for the day; diaper changed and dressed. As I came downstairs and turned the corner into the kitchen I was greeted by my happy big kid surrounded by half a box of spilled Cheerios, an open refrigerator with a chair in front, and a gallon of milk sitting open on the formerly clean floor. 

I’m not proud of my first thought, I didn’t need to start the day with this. I’m grateful that before my mouth could give voice to my brain my buddy spoke up, giddy with pride. “Mom, I made my own breakfast, all by myself!”

How could I crush his spirit? 

I sat my toddler in his highchair and tossed him a handful of the Cheerios that remained in the box to pacify him. I swallowed my anxiety over having to get everything cleaned up and smiled. I told my oldest how proud I was that he could make his own breakfast, that he was such a big kid and he did a great job. 

It was a small moment in time, but for my child it was his greatest achievement. In this moment he gained independence and confidence. This was his first attempt at self-reliance and he was successful. 

From that day forward, he continued to make his breakfast and I taught him how to do it with a bit less disaster. When my little one was older, my big kid would get him breakfast too. With that little bit of work, trust, and confidence, I eventually got to sleep in. Glorious, I know.

It has been eight years, and now, instead of a mess of crushed cereal on the floor, there is occasionally a plate of scrambled eggs with avocado and goat cheese delivered to me in bed with my coffee made just the way I like it, lots of sugar and cream. 

Don’t worry, I’m not perfect. Just this morning I lost my mind over the dishes laying around in my now tween’s room and the mess he left behind after making his own fruit smoothie. We won’t always turn disasters into learning experiences. Today I had to apologize and remind myself that growing up is messy. 

It is in the mess our kids learn to grow. 

Only in the mess can they practice the skills they need to become the independent people we want them to be. So, let them make the mess. Let them try on their own sometimes. I know it will mean more work, I know it will take more time.

I promise you though, the rewards will be great, because what parent doesn’t deserve breakfast in bed?

Last Words — Heartland Society of Women Writers

By Jill Robinson You’re so beautiful: The last words he ever spoke to her, not that he knew who she was anymore.  As his memories slowly dispersed, like dandelion seeds in a soft summer breeze, his love for her remained.  The young child she brought to visit, snow white hair and deep blue eyes, almost familiar, a vision in […]

Last Words — Heartland Society of Women Writers

Share Your Voice

Walking through the forest preserve last week I found this little nugget of wisdom and encouragement. While I don’t know the exact intent the creator had in mind, it seemed placed in just the right spot at just the right time.

I now belong to the community of writers. Most of us are unknown. You haven’t read our work, you don’t know our names, but we are writers just the same. 

We would love to find success and praise, but it’s not why we write. 

Some days our posts go unnoticed. Not everything we create goes viral. We submit and are rejected time and time again.

We would love to make a living off our creations, but it’s not why we write.

Often we are told by others what we are doing doesn’t matter. Some days we tell our own selves what we are doing doesn’t matter. If we don’t see the engagement we want we get discouraged.

We would love to be seen and encouraged, but it’s not why we write.

We have stories that need to be told and thoughts we long to share beyond our own noisy heads. We create art on the page and throw it out into the world hoping it connects with someone along the way. We share our voice, our experience, our hopes and our pain to make the world a better place.

This is why we write.

Share your voice.

Granny Smith

Photo by James Krudop on Unsplash

They stood under the apple tree, heavy with fruit. Early October sunshine, with a hint of late fall breeze, drew the family close. The Granny Smith had been planted five years past, to the day, in a similar gathering. Today would be for celebrating, the healing already done. 

The tree’s first harvest was a success. The aroma of Grandma’s brown bag apple pie now spilled from every open window of the yellow four-square.  

“Five years ago we spread the ashes of our mother, grandmother and friend. Today we celebrate her rebirth and give thanks to the bounty she has delivered.”

This piece was composed as a 100 word, flash-fiction piece on the topic of metamorphosis.

Not Me

Photo by Wendy Scofield on Unsplash

Last week I had a chunk of my left lower shoulder blade cut out due to melanoma in situ. 

Melanoma, the deadly skin cancer. Fortunately “in situ,” while still malignant, is considered stage 0, or noninvasive. The cells are confined to the top layer of skin and have not spread further. With the surgical removal and follow-up screenings, chances of recurrence or spread is considered minimal.

For a self diagnosed worrier, even this was enough to get my brain spiraling for a good twenty-four hours. I vacillated between self-loathing for not being better at keeping my skin covered and safe, nervousness about having the removal surgery and fear about even the smallest chance of spread or recurrence.

Why does it take a crisis for us to do what we know we should have been doing all along? 

The greatest threat to ourselves is the “not me” syndrome. There are those who will drive after a few drinks, because others may get in an accident, but “not me.” There are those who may smoke or vape thinking others get lung cancer, but “not me.” There are those who sit in the sun to get color because others may get skin cancer, but “not me.”

I’m not here to judge, because we are all human, all fallible. Without “not me” we would become too paralized by anxiety and fear to function in our daily lives. If it wasn’t for “not me” no one would ever get on a plane, drive on the highway, or leave the house.

I’m sharing my story as one of millions of cautionary tales of what can happen when we take “not me” too far. Don’t let “not me” jeopardize your safety and your life. Take care of this one body you were given.

And if I may preach for one short moment, go get a skin check. Ten minutes in the dermatologist’s office could save your life.

Good Morning

Photo by Leti Kugler on Unsplash

You know the routine, the chaos of morning.

Kids up too early, you in bed too late.

Everyone wants something, 

toast lightly buttered, eggs scrambled.

Sitting with your coffee, now cold, surrounded by the cacophony of 

morning news, plates rattling, children chattering.

Little one is tattling on big brother again,

employing tactics, duplicitous at best.

Finally out the door to school, alone at last, 

the marked change of stillness. 

You sit for a moment

enjoying the peace

and look forward to doing it tomorrow. 

Perfect Shade

Alone in the drawer

worthless, useless.

Lacking the confidence to trot it out.

Bought with ambition,

silly girl.

Should have known better, you’re not the type.

Matte, velvet, stain or shine,

no matter the kind.

Everyone sees you’re trying too hard.

Won’t learn your lesson,

apply one more time,

ruby, scarlet, burgundy or crimson.

Back in the drawer,

shut it away.

Maybe try again another day.

We are a First Draft

Photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash

There is nothing wrong with being a first draft. 

By definition, a first draft is the rough attempt at a finished, polished piece of work or art. I know no one who can claim to be a finished, perfectly polished version of themselves. 

As humans we are always changing, always growing, always making mistakes. 

A first draft is a place to spill out ideas without the need to worry about the final product. It is a place to be creative, it is a place to make mistakes, it’s a place to explore. A first draft is messy and painful, but there can be no final product without going through the growing pains of a first draft.

 A first draft is incomplete, it needs to be nurtured. This is the time to edit and delete what no longer works. This is the time to expand and embellish the best parts. There is room for refinement.

We can choose to follow the outline or throw it out and start over if the path no longer fits. We can research and rewrite until we are satisfied. In the first draft we are finding our way through the story, not knowing where it will lead. 

There is no shame in the incomplete, still evolving self. Keep editing, keep polishing, keep creating until you are happy with the result. 

Embrace your first draft.

What is My Worth

Photo by Nolan Issac on Unsplash

Am I worth the occasional four dollar coffee?

Am I worth the time spent writing words on the page?

Am I worth a day off accomplishing nothing?

Do I deserve spending time on myself?

Do I deserve the love of my family?

Do I deserve the good things in my life?

Are my thoughts worth sharing?

Why do I need to prove my worth?

Can’t my existence be enough?

Perfect

Perfect doesn’t exist. 

There, I said it. I’ll say it again, perfect does not exist. 

There are fleeting moments of when everything is wonderful, but the second law of thermodynamics states that entropy, the gradual move towards disorder, is always increasing in an enclosed and isolated system.

You don’t need to be a physics major to understand what this means for us simple humans moving through our world. If you are a parent you understand this better than most.

“A simple way to think of the second law of thermodynamics is that a room, if not cleaned and tidied, will invariably become more messy and disorderly with time – regardless of how careful one is to keep it clean. When the room is cleaned, its entropy decreases, but the effort to clean it has resulted in an increase in entropy outside the room that exceeds the entropy lost.” [1]

So I present to you a photo of max entropy in my kitchen this morning. Does it stress me out. Sure, I’m human, I’d rather exist in a magazine worthy photo shoot, but what you don’t see in the chaos is what actually are the most important things.

The griddle, plates and syrup dispenser are from the pancakes my nine-year-old made this morning for breakfast. 

The lunch packing mess is from the same child currently making his own lunch for school. 

The coffee and computer are for my writing time. 

There is a volleyball jersey in there, waiting for my twelve-year-old’s first volleyball game later this afternoon. 

The plethora of various markers are from my kiddos’ latest art creations.

I’ll get it all cleaned up just in time for my twelve-year-old to come home for lunch to create more mess, and he’ll have to clean it up himself, life-skills building in practice.

I can choose to see the mess, or I can choose to see what that mess represents. I can try for perfect all the time, or I can surrender to the universe and its laws knowing I’m powerless to fight against it. 

Life is lived in the midst of chaos.

Entropy will always win out. 

Perfect doesn’t exist. 

[1] (2021, May 6). The Three Laws of Thermodynamics Lumen. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/introchem/chapter/the-three-laws-of-thermodynamics/