Tag Archives: The Little Things

Let’s talk about the weather.

14 Aug

When I was in Ireland for my summer study abroad program earlier this summer, I took an Irish language class that met twice a week. I was hoping to learn some Irish phrases so that I could come back to the States and impress my friends and family with some Irish, or maybe an accent. Unfortunately, I came back with neither. However, I did learn one interesting thing: The Irish love to talk about the weather. One of my language professors said that in Ireland it’s typical to spend about 15 or 20 minutes every day just talking about the weather, as if it is as important as something that happened at work or an interesting conversation you overhead while standing in line at the grocery store. I found the importance of the weather as a conversation piece very interesting mainly because that’s not how the topic of weather is viewed in the States.

Here if someone brings up the weather as a conversation topic, they’ve done it for 2 reasons: 1. The conversation is so boring or awkward that they’ve settled for discussing the weather or 2. Something big is happening in terms of the weather (i.e there’s a severe storm coming their way or it’s been unseasonably hot). Normally, I think that if the weather is brought up as something to genuinely discuss, the conversation has already been shot to hell. However, imagine how things would change if we put the same emphasis on the topic of the weather as the Irish do. Though we normally view the topic of the weather as a mundane discussion, taking the time to actually sit down and comment on the weather could help us slow down a little bit. It could give us a break, even a small one, to discuss something that seems as simple as brushing our teeth in the morning. When I was in Ireland, I noticed the slow and overall relaxed nature of the Irish. They don’t rush. If the bus is 15 minutes late, it’s not a big deal. The earliest classes begin at 9am rather than 8am. However, forbid them to go into their favorite pub as soon as they get off work at 5pm, and you’ve got trouble.

I know that if I took a few minutes every day to talk about (or at least observe) the weather, it would be a daily reminder to slow down. Though I know that it is a common saying to “Stop and smell the roses,” how many of us really stop and take the time to notice the little things? Maybe today each one of us could try to connect to our Irish roots (that we may or may not have) so that we can be reminded to take things just a little bit slower.

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The Summer of the Lightning Bugs.

18 May

When I was growing up, summertime in the mountains of Saluda, North Carolina, meant catching lightning bugs after dark. To some they are known as fireflies, but ever since I’ve been coming to the mountains since I was a kid, I have always called them lightning bugs.

When the summer nights rolled around, I’d go into my grandmother’s kitchen in her mountain house and find a jar for lightning bugs, which often turned out to be easier said than done considering all the different things that could be found in my grandmother’s kitchen. Though it would seem like finding a jar for lightning bugs was easy, in my grandmother’s kitchen, the one thing you were looking for was often the one thing that you couldn’t seem to find. Most of the time I just used a regular mason jar and then poked holes in the lid using a knife. That way the lightning bugs couldn’t escape, but it would still allow them to stay alive.

Catching lightning bugs is a lot like looking for shark’s teeth or pieces of sea glass on the beach. You’ve got to let your eyes adjust to your surroundings before you can focus on your goal. When searching for lightning bugs, that goal is a flicker of a greenish-yellow light that can be found anywhere from the right of an old tree trunk or to the left of your hand that’s clutching the mason jar, waiting for the moment when you can open the lid and put your treasures inside.

When I first started catching lightning bugs, the only thing I really understood was that I had to wait until it got dark to catch the bugs that light up when you cup them in your hands. In those days, my mom or dad would come along with me to hold the jar so that I could focus fully on spotting the lightning bugs. Once I caught one, my mom or dad would be right behind me with the lid already open so I could put the lightning bug inside. Sometimes, however, I’d get tricked. I’d think that I caught a lightning bug, but then I’d open my hands a little bit to place it inside the jar, but my hands would be empty. Even though I got frustrated when that happened, I’d turn back around and keep looking for the green flicker that was my sole connection to warm summer nights in the mountains.

Even when I got old enough to carry the mason jar and look for lightning bugs by myself, the experience held the same excitement as the early days. I’d eat my dinner as fast as I could, and then my eyes would dart from the window to my one of my parents, eager for the go-ahead that I could go outside to catch lightning bugs. When I reached the age where I didn’t have to have one of my parents go with me, I developed my favorite spots around my grandmother’s house to catch lightning bugs. My favorite spot was the “mini garden” right above my grandparents’ house that had 3 bushes in a row, flowers dotted all around, and a bench off to the side of the grassy area. This was one of my favorite spots because even though it was part of the yard, it seemed secluded in its own way. Plus, since it was a grassy area rather than gravel or pavement, I could comfortably sit down on the ground and look at the lightning bugs that I had caught. For me, the evening of catching lightning bugs was over when I was tired and yet completely content. I didn’t base the length of time that I was outside on how many lightning bugs I caught. If I did that, I probably would have stayed outside until my parents would have to come get me for bed. I never cared how many lightning bugs I was able to catch. As long as I had one, I was happy.

For me, one of my favorite parts of catching lightning bugs was after the whole experience outside was over. Then, I’d get to curl up in bed and place the jar of lightning bugs on my bedside table. When my mom or dad would turn out the lights, I’d star at the green flicker in the jar that meant life, looking at the simple insect that had the power to hold my childhood concentrate for hours outside. And after one last look at my lightning bug treasures, I’d roll over and let the hum of the cicadas rock me to sleep, anxiously awaiting the next evening to arrive so that I could once again, however briefly, catch a little bit of magic.

What Are Your Writing Triggers?

7 Apr

As I’ve said in previous writing posts, I’m a firm believer in “writing triggers,” or certain objects/locations/pictures/people who remind me of certain memories. Throughout writing my book, I’ve had to look for things to trigger certain memories of my childhood….or more specifically, the memories associated with physical therapy, Shriner’s, my CP, and just the different obstacles I’ve had to overcome.

Most people would naturally assume that my childhood home would be a pretty big trigger, but it’s not. Except for maybe the fearful times of attempted to get into the bathtub after my first surgery in 2003 and being terrified of my legs bending. See, I had just gotten out of wearing long-legs casts for eight weeks, and when your legs have been straight for that long, even minor movements could be painful. Anyway, my childhood home isn’t much of a writing trigger. I feel like most of my writing triggers have come from unlikely places…like seeing my knee immobilizers for the first time in years…driving past the places I’ve had physical therapy over the years…simply saying the word botox…or seeing Grace, an 11-year-old girl I know with CP, during her physical therapy sessions.

Over the past month, I have gone back and forth as to whether I want to go visit Shriner’s again, where I had all of my surgeries and intense physical therapy, and where I spent some solid chunks of my childhood. I haven’t been back in a number of years, and I remember how when we used to drive up to Shriner’s I used to get really nervous when we would take the White Horse Road exit, and then I’d get even more nervous when we were about 20 minutes away from the hospital. Knots would form in my stomach, and I’d look out the window and notice as much as I could….knowing that for the next few months my views would be confined to the walls of the hospital, despite the large amount of windows that didn’t give much of an “earthy view.”

Even though I think walking into the main lobby of Shriner’s wouldn’t have too much of an impact on me, I know that things would change when I’d go up to the second floor, and especially more so when I’d sit outside of the therapy room….realizing just how much pain a single room could hold. Part of me is thinking of waiting to visit Shriner’s until I’ve written the majority of my book because then I won’t have as much emotion aching to be released. I will have already released all of the really intense emotions. However, I am thinking of visiting once I finish my book to see if I could maybe give some type of talk to the kids there or try to sell my book to some of the families there.

I guess part of this writing process for me is channeling my pain and fear into something that can help others. I wish I would’ve had someone like me now to guide me as I was growing up…to show me that I was not alone…that what I was facing was painful and scary, but being reminded of the little things. Like how good it felt the first time I walked on my own, or what it felt like when I found my passion through writing, or the day that I realized I didn’t have to be defined solely by my Cerebral Palsy.