At the Pool

Memorial Day —
my son perfects
the cannonball

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Have you painted your rock today?

  When my daughter was about two, she was invited to a party with the big girls up the block. She was so excited! One of the craft projects led to the girls decorating a rock.
Now, there’s nothing exciting or special about this rock. It is plain, smooth-faced gray stone, the kind you might find all over your neighborhood, especially if you live near me. I happen to like rocks, and this one has done little to pique my geologic interest over the years.

But I was wrong about it. This stone is special to my daughter. Princess brought the whole force of her creative self upon this rock. She painted it, spread glitter on it, and glued gems to it. For five years now, I have kept this craft masterpiece in my kitchen, on the window ledge by the sink, so I can look at it when I am doing the dishes. It reminds me that things aren’t always what they seem – and that my perspective might be quite different than someone else’s.

If we are honest with ourselves, I think we all have a plain grey rock in our lives. Something that you – and maybe only you – are excited about. Maybe it’s your new fuzzy socks or a song you like. Perhaps it’s an art technique or an artificial intelligence algorithm. Whatever it is, it’s something that makes your heart sing. Something that makes you feel creative and alive and special and chosen.

Too often, I think, we let other people’s views of what we should or shouldn’t like or do color our actions. Others see our passions or interests as plain grey rocks instead of the fine igneous masterpieces that they truly are. And instead of fearlessly throwing ourselves into our passions like only a toddler can do, we walk away, a little sadder, the world less bright than before.

Now is the time to reclaim your passion. Have you painted your rock today? 

Keeping it Real

I have a confession to make. I’ve been following the reality train wreck that is True Tori. I’m not going to provide any links here – that televised fiasco doesn’t need any more promotion. Either Tori Spelling and her husband are going through an actual marital crisis and have decided to document their troubles in real time, or, more disturbing, they’ve invented a marital crisis to milk on reality TV. Either way, the idea that their children are living through this messy, murky, very public pseudo-reality is highly disturbing to me.

However, as a stay-at-home mom and writer, I have some sympathy for Tori. A couple of years ago, I wrote a weekly green living column for a local online newspaper. During the school year, with my youngest in preschool a few hours a week, the job didn’t conflict much with my mommy duties. But during the summer, with three kids under twelve to herd and a weekly column to write, I was swamped. I found myself looking for any way to combine my two jobs. Could I interview the invasive species sculpture artists that I bumped into while taking the kids to the local butterfly garden? (Yes. You can read that column here.)

My kids and I did a lot of fun activities together that summer, but they weren’t happy about it.

“It’s like you were home, but you weren’t really there,” my older boy observed.

Ouch.

I have the utmost respect for working moms. And having been a stay-at-home mom, I know what a difficult and isolating job it can be. Women who successfully combine the two are amazing.

I was not amazing. I couldn’t even handle a part-time job mixed with full-time parenting.

And so I wonder, as I watch Tori Spelling flail and founder, if she’s completely lost the line between work and home. Is she wreaking havoc in her life for the sole purpose of selling her story? Has selling reality become more important than what is actually real?

I can see how it can happen. And I was lucky – I wasn’t in very deep, just writing on nice, happy topics that weren’t personally damaging to my family. But that experience still left me wary of writing about myself.

My new rule of thumb is that I can write non-fiction, but only after it’s happened. I’m not going to warp reality in order to write about it unless I can do so in a way that doesn’t involve my kids.

How do you keep your writing life from negatively impacting yourself and your family? Do you have any writing rules to keep you grounded?

Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.