Strategic Spontaneity

We’re not sure how our oldest grandchild morphed into a social seven-year-old, but it caught us off-guard.  Her maturation snuck by us so quickly. To our hearts’ discontent — gasp — she now prefers playing with her friends over hanging with her grandparents.

We have two choices: 1.) wallow in self-pity, mourning the passing of the once-glorious moments she clung to our legs in worship or 2.) thank God for those memories and revel in her marvelous, normal development.

We chose Door #2.

Really, she hasn’t outgrown us.  She’s simply distracted.  Staying present amongst the diversions in our grandchildren’s  lives will simply require more creativity.  So, my husband and I formulated a strategic plan, incorporating  a tradition of semi-annual Grandpa and Grandma “dates” when each of our grandchildren will be the center of our universe.

We’ve only completed one Grandpa and Grandma Date and we’ve already determined that these modest events will soar among the highlights of our lives. 

During our first official date, our granddaughter (Ms. Social) selected dinner at A&W Root Beer and shopping as her excursion. She held our hands and skipped, often lifting her feet, so that we could swing her through the air. To encourage selflessness — and because children are starving in Bangladesh (we are cheapskates) — we took her to the dollar store to shop for her siblings. We worried she would consider us miserly.  Instead, she glowed, as if she had inherited a treasure. She carefully searched out the perfect stuffed animal for her toddler brother, an art apron for her pre-school sister, and window decals for her kindergartner sister.

She brought her own money to purchase eye glasses for her nearsighted doll.  We helped her do inventory of her pennies and nickels and Grandpa slipped in some extra change to cover her selection.

She declined amusement park rides, getting sidetracked by an ice cream/cookie sandwich.

When we dropped her off at her home she proudly distributed her gifts — a consolation for the formerly sad siblings who wanted to go on the first first date.

While we admired her admiring her bespectacled doll, Ms. Social whispered, “I love you, Grandma.  I love you, Grandpa.” This led me to skip–even though Grandpa couldn’t swing me when I lifted my feet.

Since then, we’ve decided to be proactive with our grown children and our friends as well — diligent in designing more quality interaction rather than hoping the moments will spontaneously occur.

Perfectionism-Friend or Foe?

Ten years ago, a young friend gave me this comic strip from our Sunday newspaper:

Snoopy: “Here’s the world famous writer starting work on his new novel…”
Snoopy types “The”.
Linus: “I don’t know…”
Snoopy types “It”.
Yes, I like this beginning better.

Charles Schulz astutely captured the human/beagle condition of perfectionism.  My friend gave me the comic strip as a form of intervention for my perfectionism disorder.  I only recognized her motives the other night when I heard my husband arrive home from work.  I quickly changed my computer screen, so he wouldn’t see that I editing the same 20-word page I was revising when he left that morning. My reflexes weren’t quite fast enough and I couldn’t make a poker face to save my soul, so I’m sure he caught me.  It didn’t help that my eyebrows hung over my head and “busted” flashed in neon on my forehead as he kissed it.  Now, he probably thinks I have a different computer-related disorder. 

For writers, perfectionism will be the death of our work.  Certainly, we should strive for quality, but the fear of making a mistake can lead to paralysis — or success at completing absolutely nothing. Here are my signs.

  1. I’ve dreamt about writing books all of my life.
  2. I’ve thought about writing books all of my life.
  3. I’ve talked about writing books all of my life.
  4. I started writing a book at age 25.
  5. I stopped writing a book at age 25.
  6. I started writing a book at age 30.
  7. I stopped writing a book at age 30.
  8. I started writing a book at age 35.
  9. I stopped writing a book at age 35.
  10. I started writing a book at age…well, you can see a trend here…

Living with a perfectionist is probably even harder than being one.  My family has heard me talking about my dream for too long.  Now they just sigh, “that’s nice” with that glazed look, like I get when Bertha, the nursing home resident, tells me about her hemorrhoid problems for the 2,749th time.

If you recognize any of these signs in yourself, save this cartoon as a background image on your computer.  The first step to recovery: make a decision, for goodness sake!

So what’ll it be?  “The” or “It”?

911: The Universal Call to Action

Tragedy is not a typical topic for a blog about writing for children.  But, since today is the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, it seems only right to reflect and grow.  There’s no escaping history and our children may need to talk about it.

During a recent tour of Washington, DC, on the way from the U.S. Air Force Memorial to Arlington Cemetery, our tour guide pointed out the bus window, “And, there is the Pentagon.  Note the section of limestone, lighter than the rest.  That is where American Airlines Flight 77 flew into the structure.  The benches on the grounds by the Pentagon are part of a memorial — each one signifying the loss of a life that day.”

Everyone in the bus grew pensive.

I’m sure you remember where you were that September morning.  I sat, oblivious, in a clinic waiting room. Then someone turned on the TV.  A year later, I spoke on behalf of our Chamber of Commerce at a city-wide memorial service.  I still have my decade-old notes:

Everything  changed on September 11. This horrendous event, meant to demoralize America and steal our faith, has indeed brought us to our knees.  But, little did our adversaries know that in our humblest moments, we are  strongest — when we can admit our need for God’s help and each other.

Isn’t it ironic that the numbers nine-eleven would hold significance to our adversaries as a number which would inspire them to do harm? In America, nine-one-one is the universal call to positive action, when we are called to help and care for each other.

Misguided men meant to change our country in a negative way — to tear us apart. Yes, we were changed, but not in the way they had hoped.  They’ve taken our pride and we’ve traded pride for wisdom.  They’ve taken our indifference and we’ve traded indifference for compassion.  They’ve taken our ingratitude and we’ve traded ingratitude for appreciation — a deep appreciation for the great country in which we live. They’ve taken a part of our hearts, but hearts regenerate.  The more we give of our hearts, the more our hearts grow.  Our adversaries have enlarged America’s heart to strengthen our love for one another. Yes, we have been changed — for the better.  Because, we are not the Solo States of America, we are the United States of America, one nation, under God, indivisible… May God bless America. (End of notes.)

Let’s talk with our kids today.  If we don’t have the words, Martin Luther King Jr. does:


Aye Aye, Captain

I’m practicing my salute in anticipation of our son’s return to the States next year.  He was recently promoted to Captain, but we didn’t get to witness his commissioning.  He serves our country with other brave men and women in a scary, far-off land that doesn’t specialize in tourism.  Yet, this is his second tour there — to try to make a difference.

To me, he’s still our little boy. I know he hates that, and could crush a coconut in the crook of his arm, but he’ll always be that to me — especially now.

I phoned our other son, Captain’s little 6’4-contractor-family-man brother, and asked “What should I send your brother?  What gift can possibly express, ‘Congratulations on becoming a Captain!'”

“Send him a box of Cap’n Crunch.”

Brothers are so sappy, aren’t they?  And, ingenious.

This inspired me to brainstorm for other resourceful items to commemorate the auspicious occasion.  After all, the Captain had sent me this Mother’s Day sentiment :

Caution! This video will lodge in your head and cause bad-hair dreams.
Also, an ad pops up.  Sorry.   I couldn’t find the original.

 So, here’s my list of TOP TEN THINGS TO SEND A NEW CAPTAIN.  You might want to use it — unless you have more cash (and class) than us.  And, I know, some of these items will only make him scratch his stubbly head:

10.  Captain America Blu Ray (So he gets one gift he can share with his men.)

9. Captain America T-shirt (So everyone will know he’s a Captain, even when he’s wearing civilian clothes.)


8. Captain Kangaroo’s Surprise Party Golden Book (Duh! Because it’s time to party!)

7. Captain America bobble head — Just because…


6. A Captain Jack Sparrow Tribute to the tune of “I Am Your Captain” by Grand Funk Railroad (Two Captains for the price of one.)

5. A YouTube of Captain Kangaroo with Mr. Moose. (Snappy dressers should stick together.)


4. Captain & Tennille YouTube – “Muskrat Love” (In case he starts to hate his job, he can consider what it’d be like to be  this captain.)


3. A box of Cap’n Crunch Cereal (Straight. No berries or peanut butter for a real Captain.)


2. A boxed set of Captain Underpants paperbacks.             (No explanation required.)



1. Nostalgic pictures of our Captain Underpants (packaged discreetly, so they don’t end up in enemy hands).