When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Love Letters

I did a lot of rummaging and sorting through storage boxes when we were packing to move houses back in the fall. Many long forgotten keepsakes turned up in that process -- old photographs and small handmade articles of clothing, travel trinkets and stacks of eager school projects --  stirring poignant memories from the quiet inner corners where I'd tucked them away years earlier.

One found item was a letter I had handwritten and mailed to my Grandma Atkinson back when I was a university student at Queen's. (The letter came into my hands again years later when my aunt and I tenderly sorted and packed up my grandma's apartment for her move into a nursing home.) There was nothing out of the ordinary in this letter; it was one of many notes I had written to her to say hello and to share tidbits of my daily life as a student living far from home, at a time when the cost of long distance phone calls was prohibitive. But that letter, written in my tiny, even cursive, was a very physical reminder of a long ago self that has faded and fallen further beyond my current reach as the years have passed. Reading it again had a powerful emotional effect on me.

I don't remember exactly when I stopped regularly writing letters to people by hand. I'm assuming my letter writing activity, like many other people's, simply tapered off as email took over, and it became easier to connect with others by sending off a few quickly typed lines of text any time I wanted to. But I'm reminded every time I receive a piece of handwritten mail from a loved one of just how touching this kind of correspondence can be. My Grandma Deresti's cursive takes me back into her warm, familiar kitchen when she sends me a handwritten recipe in an envelope, and a note from my parents, faintly scented by my mom's handcream as she looped her pen along the page, allows me to be happily closer to them for a moment, even though they're an eight hour drive away. A handwritten message somehow reaches the brain and the heart in a different way, I think, than a text or an emoji sent from a keyboard can.

I was glad yesterday to read about InCoWriMo, a "vintage social media" movement that encourages people to handwrite and mail or deliver one letter, card, note, or postcard to someone each day for the month of February. I still send handwritten cards to family and friends for special occasions, but I love the idea of sending a non-typewritten letter or note to someone "just because". February can be a tough and lonely month for people, as the gray, cold days of winter drag on. It seems a perfect time to dust off the cute stationery that's been hiding on a shelf somewhere and use it to brighten someone's day (and maybe redevelop a lovely habit for the longer term). If the idea of writing a letter a day seems too much, perhaps InCoWriMo can inspire us to send off a cheerful, leisurely written note to someone even a couple of times next month. This would be a great little project to involve the kids in, too -- who doesn't love receiving a few creatively spelled words scrawled in crayon by a little one in their mailbox?

Will sometimes tells me I'm a dinosaur, because I'm often reluctant to embrace the latest tech trends and I still cling hopefully to my paper and pens. Call me a dinosaur if you like, but the act of slowing down for a few minutes and sending thoughtful messages to loved ones the old-fashioned way appeals to the sentimentalist in me. Some outdated practices just seem too nice to become extinct.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Winter Wondering

Well hello, long-neglected blog space! Nice to see you again. I'm not even sure what I've come here to write about today (everything and nothing seems like a good topic when I've left so many gaps to fill in), but I was starting to feel like if I didn't come back soon, I just might never again, and so here I am. Happy January!

We had a lovely holiday season, Matt and the boys and I, one that was everything we always hope for when we have some time off together to celebrate and recharge: a couple of weeks filled with family, favourite foods, laughter, fun and relaxation, cozy moments spent at home, and lively moments spent outdoors enjoying Mother Nature's most beautiful seasonal displays. We hosted dinners and went to relatives' houses, decorated a gingerbread house, played board games and ping pong, read new books and magazines, did a giant puzzle, went walking in the nearby conservation area after a pretty snowfall, and went sledding down a deserted hill on the coldest night of the winter so far. (This was the boys' idea, and though Matt and I didn't really appreciate it at first suggestion, hearing the boys' laughter ring out as they flew down the hill under a starry winter's night sky later made the frozen toes and fingers feel worth it.)

The down time was very welcome; it was a good period of restfulness and togetherness before we headed into what now feels like the busiest season we've ever experienced.

Our family calendar is bursting right now, to the point of almost being ridiculous. Both Noah and Will are currently involved in an assortment of worthwhile, but demanding, activities. Noah coaches swimming at his old swim club four days a week and has meets to go to some weekends; he also practices a couple of days a week in the pool with his high school swim team. (He had a very successful season before Christmas and is moving on to the CWOSSA championships).

Noah made the local newspaper! :)

He has also kicked it into high gear with Team Dave, the high school robotics team, which is in its hectic six-week build season right now. What this basically means is that Noah is at the school doing something related to robots any moment of the day/evening/weekend that he is not doing something else.

Will is gearing up for competitive dance season, with extra practices and events on top of his regular three days a week of training, and he made his school basketball team this season (something he was really proud of considering his relative height disadvantage!), so he has games now after school. His Lego robotics team made provincials at the qualifying tournament back in December, so he is still hard at work with his teammates several days a week, improving their robot, missions, and project in preparation for the next round, plus, he has also joined the high school robotics team that Noah is on (which means that he is also at the school doing something related to robots any moment of the day/evening/weekend that he is not doing something else.)

It is really wonderful to see them both so happily engaged and learning in so many different areas, but it's also hard not to feel like my head is going to explode trying to keep all of their schedules straight and make sure they are fed well before we need to dash off to the next thing. I need to keep reminding myself to take it one day at a time, and to enjoy this richly full period of our lives, because like so many other phases of the boys' youth, it too will one day suddenly be behind us and I'll look back on it with a sense of wistfulness that it's over.

In the midst of all of the busyness of life with two very involved teen boys, I also need to remember to keep myself and my own interests front of mind. I've been thinking recently about where I want to direct my creative energies in the coming months. The process of moving houses, and then getting ready for Christmas, were the focus of almost all of my free time and attention throughout the fall and early winter, but now that I've spent a week wrapping my head around the new schedules and gathering new recipes that will work for healthy, hurried meals (see my personal Facebook page for a great collection of slow cooker recipe suggestions from friends!), I feel that if I put off starting a meaningful project of my own any longer, I'm just making excuses. I've missed writing; I can feel myself getting frustrated and antsy when I've been away from it too long, and each additional day away makes it easier and easier to keep procrastinating. As a means of getting back into a regular writing habit, I'm going to start using Lynda Barry's suggestions for keeping a daily journal. (Thanks to local writer Carrie Snyder for introducing me to Barry's work.)

I hope the new year has been kind to all of you so far, and that you, too, are finding everyday life to be an adventure worth experiencing fully (even if it sometimes feels overwhelming). xo