The Project

photo by David Meredith

Photo courtesy of David Meredith, photographer

 

“I know we can do it!”

Richard infused his voice with all the pep he could muster.

The house was a dump. He wanted to put a match to it. A tent would be better to live in. The very prospect of what fixing this wreck-of-a-building would entail had him exhausted in advance. He’d fixed homes before: this project would be measured in years, not months or weeks. He could almost see the creepy crawlies inside walls, the rot above the ceiling, the mold under the floors, the who knows what in the rafters.

He hated it already.

Who buys a house sight unseen? What on earth did she expect?

“It’ll be great!” He enthused, his arm protectively around her shoulders.

She’d been so proud to find a house that could fit them all and within their minuscule budget, further shrunken since he’d lost his job. She wanted to surprise him.

He hated seeing her devastation when they arrived at their new home, belongings and kids crammed into one truck.

“The children will learn so many skills,” he stressed. “You’ll see. We’ll go room by room and prioritize.”

“It’s a disaster,” she sniffled. Looked up. Smiled. “And I love you.”

 

 

For Sunday Photo Fiction

 

 

 

 

A Path Back

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

She’d needed this for so long she almost did not know what to do with it. The sense of expansion felt as if it would crush her chest from the inside. The freedom felt disorienting. The quiet deafened. The freshness of the air dug splinters in her lungs.

It was the yearning, really. The slow release of what she had compressed herself into, for absolutely way too long.

Like pins and needles of a ‘fallen asleep’ limb waking up, it was. Only that this was her soul awakening, her spirit that she’d squelched into an air-tight packet and had pushed into a too-small drawer. Her way to survive.

She’d done this to herself, in a way. She realized. Sure, she could blame others for the part they played, but in the end it was her own small choices to ignore and minimize and shrug off and explain away, that slowly but resolutely coiled herself into herself, and did it so completely that she’d began believing herself to be devoid of need or want or urges to do more than what was outwardly expected.

So she’d stopped taking time for herself. She’d stopped going into nature. She’d stopped asking what she loved, or inquiring what she lost, or still required.

Till that day, when the small worm of “maybe,” fed by events that almost forced her hand, led to a gap in her calendar, and to a decision she could not quite explain to herself. A caprice, it felt, to rent a car and go — without a definite plan or conscious understanding of its meaning — into the wilder parts outside the concrete jungle that had become home.

And with the first crunch of her feet onto the leaf-strewn path, something inside her belly and right above her heart began to crack.

She let the wind carry her tears in zigzags on her cheeks. She used her sleeve to wipe her nose, as heedless as a child and as contentedly miserable. She cried because she could. She felt the ache and wronged bewilderment rise in her, slow at first, then unrestrained in its demand to be freed from the confines of denial and regret.

When she’d first left the car at the makeshift parking by the hiking trail, she thought she’d just stretch her legs a bit and perhaps take a few photos of the foliage. She didn’t realize — or perhaps she had but her spirit guarded it a secret so that, too, not be squashed — that there was far more inside her that needed a bit of stretching out. And that once out of the box that confined it, it swelled and would not be going back.

The air around her rustled and a flock of geese curved a misshapen arrow overhead, heading to a warmer clime. She spread her arms and closed her eyes and twirled a slow circle around.

She’d needed this for so long that she almost did not know what to do with it. But she was going to find out.

As the space in her chest fought to accommodate the rise of feelings, the rush of hope finally allowed her to truly inflate her lungs. The leaves around her crumbled to the touch even as more of them floated down to crown her head and shoulders. Some things in her were crumbling, too, even as others — light as golden feathers — came to rest like beacons on a path back to who she was.

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto challenge: Copper

 

Her Song To Sing

jorgen-haland-tAR3hvcfom0-unsplash

Photo: Jorgen Haland via Unsplash

 

And so she stood

Among the rocks

That piled,

A pyre of life’s debris,

Like so much refuse

Of what had

Once been

Beloved goals.

 

And so she sang,

The words still raw

Against her lips,

Her livid

Scar of

Soul.

 

The song, she knew,

Was more than

A sum

Of her whole,

And beyond any meaning

Voice could

Hold.

 

And so she stood

Amidst the wreckage

Of her faith

Atop the middling shards

Of hope.

 

And she recalled

The seeds long planted

In her core,

Beneath the thickets

Of lost calls,

Awaiting, perhaps,

This very annihilation

As invitation

To grow bold.

 

 

 

(Dedicated to all who are feeling broken. May they find the seeds within their core. And grow bold.)

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Song in 102 words

 

The Instructions

luma-pimentel-1vnB2l7j3bY-unsplash

Photo: Luma Pimentel via Unsplash

 

“I’ve written it all down,” she’d said.

“Anything you need to know is there,” she’d promised.

“It’ll a breeze,” she assured me, one hand already on the door handle. “I won’t be too long. It’s just a short gig. A few hours at most. He’ll likely sleep right through to my return anyway.”

But the baby slept through about five minutes and then would not stop crying and I had no idea what half of the terminology for baby-brand stuff meant or what “up to the spoon line” was supposed to be when I couldn’t find any spoons with lines, and no clue how to “keep a hand on the baby at all times” while also needing two of them just to untangle the tabs on the darn diaper and another two to keep the baby’s feet from kicking it away … And the clean bottles came separated from nipples, which had multiple unrelated parts that needed assembly like an Ikea cabinet from hell … And what on earth is a spit-up cloth and how is it different than a towel or a blanket?

Speaking of, how does one swaddle a baby without dislocating something in the process of making it into a mummified burrito?

And did I mention the baby would not stop crying?

 

“You’re a saint, Rick!” she’d said. Even kissed me on the cheek like I was some long lost brother and not the neighbor who happened to live next door and perhaps smiled a few times at the baby on the elevator.

“I know it is last minute but I’ve been waiting months for the opportunity … I’ll make you dinner,” she’d promised, and her relief at having a solution for the baby was so palpable that I felt guilty extricating myself from what she’d misunderstood as “yes” when at the very most I’d meant “maybe, but not really.”

 

“It was a breeze,” I said.

“He woke up but is now sleeping like an angel,” I assured her, ignoring the baby’s heft on my desperate bladder. I hadn’t dared to move, lest the baby woke again.

She looked tired and worried and sad and a little worse for wear, and I wondered how the gig went but didn’t want to ask after she appeared to hold back tears when I’d asked if she had a good time.

“Did the instructions help?” she asked instead.

I nodded. “Perfectly.”

 

 

 

For the SoCS Prompt: Instructions

 

Beginnings

small AmitaiAsif

Photo: Amitai Asif

 

A new shoot

Pushes forth.

A reminder

Of the tenuous

Exuberance

That turning

A new leaf

Holds.

 

 

For the Wits End Photo Challenge

 

Opportune – New Blogging Challenge

This post begins what I’m trying on as a new twist on an old idea — I will be utilizing Merriam-Webster’s lovely Word of the Day, as my (hopefully daily) inspiration a-la the “Daily Prompt.”

Miss The Daily Post and want to join me in this experiment? Feel free to link to this post on your blog, and/or post a link to your blogpost in the comment section below so others can enjoy it, too. For more visibility, tag your post with #WordOfDayNY, so your post can be searchable.

“Follow” me if you want to receive future prompts, or just pop in when you’re looking for inspiration. Here’s to the fun of writing and our ever-evolving blogging community!

Merriam-Webster’s word for June 3, 2018:

Opportune

 

Old door Turkey OsnatHalperinBarlev

Photo: Osnat Halperin-Barlev

 

If one door

Has shut

On a path

Not yet over,

Opportune ways

May become

The future’s

Treasure trover.

 

 

For Merriam-Webster Word of the Day

Keep Calm and Carry On

direction AmitaiAsif

Photo: Amitai Asif

 

Do not fear

The abrupt edge

Of life

When the path

Disappears

And clefts

Into strife.

Take a breath

Blow out fear

Know a brand new

Adventure

Is immediately

Near.

 

 

For The Daily Post

Coincidence of Fate

Lookig back DvoraFreedman

Photo: Dvora Freedman

 

You are no accident.

This time.

This place.

Your presence is

If not pre-ordained

Then an absolute responsibility,

Manifesting

With each moment

Every action

Of said and unsaid,

In a remarkable

Synchronicity

For opportunity

And fate.

 

 

For The Daily Post

New Beginning: Habit & Opportunity

opportunity

“He still won’t read.”

The mother’s voice held disappointment and frustration. Her son struggles in school and was required by teachers to read every day over the summer, but hadn’t.

“I did read!” he protested, pouted. Hurt. “I read two whole books!”

“Only because we made you read!” She retorted and turned to me. “Every day is a new excuse. He’s too tired, the book is boring, it’s too hard, he’ll read later, he hates reading, it is stupid … He’ll do anything to avoid it.”

He stomped to the chair. Sat dejectedly. I patted his arm. “I’m glad you read two whole books,” I said. “Which ones?”

He brightened. Threw a “you see?!” look at his mom, and told me. We discussed what he liked about the stories, what he didn’t. What was hard, what wasn’t. We then went over a list of possible titles to follow.

I scheduled a time to speak with the mom. Her frustrations need venting, and she needs solutions, but we can talk about her disappointment without him needing to be present.

♦♦♦

Every child is different but the complaint is not unique. Children and parents rarely battle over things that are fun and easy. It is the stuff that’s hard, confusing, boring, tedious, or appears to be of import to one side but feels less so to the other … where lines get drawn in the sand and stubborn frustration ensues.

Parents cajole. They threaten. They withhold privileges. They might use shame as ‘motivator’ by characterizing the child as lazy or ungrateful, oppositional, immature …

Not surprisingly, these tactics rarely work to ‘motivate’ learning. Nor do they solve whatever problem underlies a child’s reluctance to read: difficulty decoding, difficulty comprehending, delays in language and learning, issues with processing and retrieval, attention issues, stress and overwhelm …

A new school year is seen as opportunity for new ways of learning, new progress, new habits. Parents expect their children to enter school with gusto after a summer’s break and to give it their all. They often expect improvement of whatever issues may have been present the year prior. They verbally and otherwise communicate their expectation that the child prove himself or herself as mature and hardworking, and overcome whatever habits held them back.

A new grade and new beginning indeed offers much new opportunity for doing things differently. However, for that to happen we cannot fall back on failed methods or less-than-helpful habits. If children knew to do better on their own, they would do so already. No child wants to fail. No child enjoys the negative attention of reproach if they can get the positive attention of pride and praise.

♦♦♦

“So what am I supposed to do?” the mother asked when we met. Exasperated.

“You did the best you could last year, and this year we’ll have to work together to do better,” I replied.

She was taken aback. She didn’t expect me to include her in the assessment of last year’s difficulties …

I did not mean blame, but I did mean accountability. Parents often do the best they know, but they are often overextended themselves, and some don’t quite follow through. They may want to follow suggestions but only do so sporadically, or expect the child to take full responsibility for remembering new tasks that they themselves forget … then feel pressed to blame or require … They may get discouraged at the first sign of difficulty (not unlike the child, maybe …) and not continue to work toward new habits when the implementation hits a bump or scheduling needs to be adjusted. They may balk at taking on more responsibility in a life that may already feel too stressful (again, not unlike the child…).

Parents deserve guidance. Shame does not work any better on adults than it does on children … Parents can use encouragement, not blame. Many can benefit from reminders and a pathway to setting new habits. It is not a weakness or poor parenting to make errors or get frustrated or not follow through. People aren’t perfect. We all need help in some areas.

♦♦♦

For this boy, now in mid-grades, and often argumentative and quite fed up with “everything being too difficult”–new habits will (hopefully) include less fighting and more working together, less demand and more playfulness, less critic and more problem solving, less rigidity and more predictability, less shaming and more understanding.

Practically speaking?

  • Setting a weekly schedule where one of the parents reads TO him every night or almost every night (on the benefits of reading check: How early? For how long? ).
  • Separating the child’s own reading for decoding and school, from the parents reading TO him for literary exposure and pleasure.
  • Taking care to not make a parent’s reading time an opportunity for ‘testing’ vocabulary or memory about the story (talking about the story is fabulous, quizzing is not).
  • For books mandatory for school (but too difficult for the child’s reading level), using audio books as accompaniment to printed/electronic book. This helps the child follow the written word and assist him with decoding and comprehension.
  • Placing reminders for reading-time and having a timer he can set to ensure he is reading long enough and can do this independently.
  • Scheduling daily reading (for school and book logs) at a time that is realistic, rather than opportunistic.
  • Providing assistance with homework and/or test preparation, so that the child is not left to manage what is too difficult on his own, and ends up too stressed and exhausted to optimally process information.
  • Incorporating narrative into the day to day and offering modeling of narrative instead of requiring the child to constantly answer questions.
  • Offering a model for making time for reading. Adults who read are more likely to have children who enjoy reading.
  • Setting the child up for success, not failure: rather than focusing on a day he didn’t read or what he isn’t doing well yet, offer praise when he does do his reading without arguing; remind the child what worked before and what he can try to do again; offer solutions, not reprimand.

♦♦♦

In this new school year, what old and less than desirable habits can your child replace with brand new opportunity?

What steps can you take to help?

If you need help to formulate a plan–it is okay to ask for it. That, too, is an opportunity.

reading-extinction-buzzfeed

from Buzzfeed.com