Saturday’s Share: Palindromic Word Art!


Palindromic Word Art by Annalise S. Burton, at age 5.

Welcome to Saturday’s Share -Reflections and impressions inspired by and celebrating images from daily life, to add a bit of sparkle to the weekend. Happy Saturday!

Today’s Share is courtesy of my daughter, Annalise. I’ve Shared the image before, here and here, but, since it’s the last day of Palindrome Week, I thought I’d take a fresh look at it, and, of course, share it, ’cause that’s how we roll round here on Saturdays!

Annalise made this art when she was 5. She was figuring out lots of things about letters and sounds then. If she’d been in school, she wouldn’t have been home when my husband chopped kindling wood, wouldn’t have been there keeping him company, wouldn’t have been tempted, on a crisply warm early fall day, by the fresh newness of the revealed surfaces, or free to make of them what she would.

Schools have set times for studying letters and sounds. On that weekday morning, as every morning, Annalise was free to explore as she pleased.

So she noodled around with the wood for a while, chatting with her dad, taking breaks to ride her bike, and to run around the yard. She made a picture of a horse. Then, a little while later, she showed me this – one of her first efforts at spelling and word creation. I took pictures, because I don’t have smiley-faced worksheets to mark her progress toward reading, and this, let’s face it, is a lot cooler, anyway.

It wasn’t until this week that I realized she had made a palindrome.

And she herself was the catalyst for the realization.

“Hey, Mom,” she said. I was Mommy when she was 5. Now she’s almost 10, and I’m Mom. “Did you know that, if you spell ‘racecar’ backwards, it spells ‘racecar’?”

I played with letters in my head. “Hey, you’re right. That’s cool!” And then I told her that that was called a palindrome, and we talked about it being Palindrome Week- where every day’s date reads the same forward and backward (today is 4/19/14 – give it a whirl!).

And then I thought of that long-ago AXAXA.

Annalise was tickled to know that she’d made something she hadn’t intended, so long ago, and that there’s a fancy name for what she made.

And so I wanted to share it with you, as just a bit of what our brand of learning looks and feels like, and how things can connect to other things, even across the seasons and years, making them new and wonderful again!

Have you ever seen an image or memory from your past in a new way? Do things in your life often connect in unexpected fashion? Do you remember when you began playing with letters and sounds, trying to make words of them? Did you know it was Palindrome Week? If so, did you mark it in any way?

I’d love to hear your stories and opinions! After all, Saturdays are for sharing!


Saturday’s Share: Flowery Girls and Writing, Too!

A slice of happily blended life…

Welcome to Saturday’s Share -Reflections and impressions inspired by and celebrating images from daily life, to add a bit of sparkle to the weekend. Happy Saturday!

I love this photo. I was writing and making pre-revision notes on my bed, where I’ve written since my pre-teen years, when Annalise, who’d been puttering around outside, brought me this basket of flowers from our little cottage garden. She stayed a while, to hang out and visit, and we chatted.

I’m reminded of this picture, this month, as I move through two writing challenges, and prepare for a third, while still being present as a wife, mother, and companion on this journey of life.

I do want to write – as often as I can manage. Writing is more than a passion for me – it’s the way I live and process my living, my best means of sharing my life and experiences with others.

I’m not as happy a person when I’m not engaged with writing. Things that I would write about, and thereby work through, stay within me, where they can fester. That, as you might imagine, isn’t good for me – or anyone around me.

Yet, here I am – the housemate of three other people. More than that – I’m someone’s wife, and two more someones’ mother. There are times I need to drop everything and give someone a hug, a snuggle, a canoodle, a conversation. There are laundry and dishes and places to go. There are things to learn, explore, and do. There is clutter to clear, food to buy, pets and people to feed, and homeschool reports to prepare and file.

It’s less a matter of balancing than it is blending. I’ve found that the more I stop thinking of writing as something that I need to balance with the rest of my life, and instead see my life as a whole, a blending of various ingredients in varying amounts. Sometimes I write while chatting with a girl fresh from her adventures i n the backyard. Often, I plot while washing dishes, doing laundry, or showering. Places we visit can become story fodder (certainly, they’re often blogging fodder!).

During this busily creative season, this way of seeing my life is especially important for me. Rather than choosing between writing or other things, I can blend them, and have elements of both.

How do you handle varying pulls and parts of your life? Are you a balancer or a blender? Do you have a different approach? I’d love to hear about it – after all, Saturdays are for sharing!

Please allow me to share a bit more – one of my all-time favorite songs, in honor of the flower girl in my life! =D

Coffee and Conversation: Monday Morning Magic, Redux

Grab a cuppa and a comfy seat, and let’s chat a while.

It’s Monday again - time for Coffee and Conversation.

When I was six, my familywas driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own…

Hey there! How are you, this fine Monday?

I’ve been productive, in a relaxed way. I’ve taken some walks with the kids and the dog; I’m moving and hometending more. I’ve made some tiny steps to welcome spring into our yard, and I’ve spent one-on-one time with each of my beloveds who lives here with me.

I’ve spent a little time in my study, making some improvements…

But, mostly, I’ve been writing. As I’ve mentioned here before, I am involved in two writing challenges this month, and have another planned for next month.

Rather than skip my regular Coffee and Conversation post, or try to come up with something fresh when my mind is filled with fiction, I thought I would share this post from a Monday morning in January 2013. It involves a late night when I chose a more peaceful path with my children, and magic happened…

I’m learning, now, well into my forties, that this just doesn’t apply to life with my children-it applies to everyone. It can be tempting to try to make someone do what I want, because that would be most beneficial to me. Sometimes I forget that the other, too, has a perspective, and quite possibly a way they’d like me to be, too.

It’s a fine art, and a new one, still, to me. I keep peeling back layers and learning more about how to meet others where they are, to state my own position without imposing it on the other party as the “right” one. It’s a process, and it’s still not natural, sometimes.

Want to join the conversation?

Have you had the experience of meeting someone where they are? Has it been rewarding, or frustrating? Do you have other challenges, when relating to others? Areas where you’ve grown? Particular skills that make human interaction more pleasant? Surprising or eye-opening interactions with others?

I’ve got a nifty little single-cup coffeemaker in my study. I’ll make your drink to order, while you get comfortable. Let’s chat!

Where she was, a year ago….

Saturday’s Share: Dem Bones!


Hanging out with a deceased friend!

Welcome to Saturday’s Share -Reflections and impressions inspired by and celebrating images from daily life, to add a bit of sparkle to the weekend. Happy Saturday!

Today, I hearken back a ways, to the first time I was brave enough to take the kids on an overnight trip without bringing backup (my husband or a friend who didn’t yet have children.)

It was also our first unschooling adventure – a gathering of a few families on a former dairy farm – camping in a meadow, celebrating an Orthodox Shabbos under a full moon (even though our family isn’t Jewish, we were welcomed to join in); playing with chickens, goats, and each other…

And then there were Dem Bones.

Our host family found them when exploring their new property, and left them there for visitors to discover.

They are the bones of some unknown horse…and, when Annalise found them, during a game of Explore the Forest with her new friends, she fell passionately in love.

That was no surprise:

  • For her third birthday, she asked for….intestines! No lie. That’s what she wanted. Telling her she already had them didn’t help – she wanted intestines she could explore and play with. Anatomy was an early favorite interest of hers.

  • She’d recently shifted her favorite animal allegiance from gorillas to horses, and she had a fondness for puzzles and mysteries.

In a single day, she visited these bones 5 times. Each time she lingered, and explored. She had many, many questions:

  • Are these bones plastic, or real?”

  • What do you think the horse looked like?”

  • What part of the horse is this?”

At one point, she decided to try to put the pieces back together. She was very focused on this process, although most of the skeleton was missing. She spent about 20 minutes arranging and rearranging, narrating her thought processes as she went along.

She was five years old, but she’d already had years of practice on the mastodon skeleton puzzleat the New York State Museum by that point, and she was confident. Eventually, she got that collection of skull vertebrae, ribs, leg, and a partial pelvic bone sorted out and arranged.

She opened the jaws as wide as they would go (considerably wider than the horse would have been able to). She talked to it, sang to it, counted teeth, and checked their condition when I told her that horses’teeth got longer as they grew older. She wondered what the horse had been like, how old it had been, and how it had died.

As the time to go home neared, she cried, because she wouldn’t be able to take those lovely bones home with her. So I took some pictures, so that she would have them to look at later.

I was reminded of this last night, when I took the kids toJourney Through the Body, an annual event held at a local mall. Annalise is still interested in anatomy, although not as intensely as she was at five.

She still likes the bones, but she was more fascinated, by far, at the safety tent and the giant colon. Best lines of the night? “Look, Mom! I’m advanced colon cancer!” She said she was hanging out with her colon friends (yrs, I took a picture, but I haven’t edited it yet).

One gentleman volunteer chatted with her, then looked at me and said, “Future doctor.”

I shrugged, and answered, “Future happy person.” I mentioned several of her other lifelong passions – fashion, wildlife, art, storytelling, and performing. No telling yet which will flourish and blossom into a way to make a living, or which combination. It might even be one she hasn’t discovered yet. And we aren’t inclined to push any over another – her life is her own, and we trust she’ll decide what she wants, when she’s ready. She’s nine, and there’s absolutely no rush.

The gentleman looked at me, then past to where Annalise had moved on to another exhibit, and was laughing as she chatted with someone else. There was something new in his eyes.

“Current happy person, “ he said, with a smile.

And yes – that’s the point of creating a life with time for noodling with newly-discovered bleached horse bones, or a giant inflatable colon, or supplying a nine-year-old with makeup so she can satisfy a passion even when I don’t wear makeup and don’t really understand it.

That’s why we do it; why our lives are arranged around our passions. Engaging freely in passions makes happy people, no matter their ages.

And happy people make a happier world.

What do you think? Do you make time in your life for indulging your passions? Did your parents nurture your passions, or treat them as frivolous? If you’re a parent, do you make space in your life for your childrens’ passions, as they grow?

I’d love to hear your stories and opinions! After all, Saturdays are for sharing!

See more of Annalise and Dem Bones!

See more of last year’s Journey Through The Body event!


Coffee and Conversation: What Are We, Invisible?

Grab a cuppa and a comfy seat, and let’s chat a while.

It’s Monday again time for Coffee and Conversation.

When I was six, my familywas driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own…

 A few years ago, there was a commercial a lot of people might identify with. It showed a series of routine activities being performed by – well, no one, apparently.

As our world becomes more technologically advanced, it seems that everything can be seen instantly, and that all of life has become transparent. But there’s something else that happens – we get so used to some things, that the process which creates them can be invisible.

A bag of corn chips, for instance, seems simple enough- but the corn and other ingredients were grown, and harvested, and brought to a factory for processing, and packaged, and shipped to the store, and stocked, and sold, and possibly inventoried – and it’s not likely that we’re thinking about all that while we’re pulling a chip out of that bag and putting it in our mouths.

Maybe we’re like that, too. I think every life has its invisible places; the deeper currents that run beneath the surface. And it’s in these places that the richest life, the most vital stories, lie.

In my own life, I can see it clearly, because, well, I’m living it! But to others, who live differently, and have their own deeper currents, sometimes the surface is all that can be seen.

We homeschool without curriculum. By its very nature, much of what our children learn is beneath the surface, their own concern more than mine. Still, I live in a state that requires me to report on their progress five times each year.

So, I find myself paying attention to what lies beneath; when we talk, how they play, what they read and watch, enjoy or dislike. I’ve become more aware of how learning works, not only for them, but for myself, as well.

Recently, my daughter brought me a children’s dictionary. Her reading has improved markedly over the last few months, and she’d been through stacks of books over the few days before that.

“Mom, let me read to you about wallabies!”

She did, and then went on to show me her name, first spelled in American Sign Language, then written in Braille, from reference charts I hadn’t known were in the back of the dictionary.

Then, in far less time than a single school lesson would take, we explored the cellular structure of a leaf, guide words and alphabetization, and other words and images that interested her.

It might have been invisible. There was no lesson plan; no homework, worksheet, test score to prove that she knows what to do with a dictionary. She explored the book because it interested her; then brought it to share with me, because she likes sharing cool things she’s discovered with people she loves.

Photo courtesy Amazon Click for link.

She knows she can use a dictionary because, well, she used one. I know she can, because I saw her. Time and experience will help her to use it better, should she want to.

If I didn’t put it on the report, or write about it here, no one outside our home might know that she had any idea at all what a dictionary is, or what to do with it.

Writing is like that, too. I am currently moving through a major revision of one of my novels. I know that the work will be all but invisible, to those who read the book when it’s done. All the effort I’ve put in – reading and learning, writing, rereading, making notes, planning backstory and character arcs and subplots – none of that is going to announce itself in the finished product. I will likely have invested hundreds of hours in these invisible steps, before I hit “Publish” and commit the book to the wild blue yonder where readers live – readers who may be invisible to me, too.

Considering the parts of my life that can be invisible from the outside helps me to see that we’re all invisible, in some way. Judging one another based only on the surfaces of their lives that we can see is as unrealistic as assuming that those corn chips just appeared on the store shelves, whole and effortlessly.

We’re all invisible, in our own ways. But we can shed light on some of those places – by sharing some of our deeper, hidden lives, and by understanding that everyone else has their own version of those places, and, whether we see them or not, they are there.

We can never know all of another’s soul – but we can be open and respectful of each other, and those invisible depths they carry within them, in everything they do.

How about you? Do you ever feel you are invisible? Are there parts of your life do you feel no one can see? Parts you don’t want to share, because they are deeply personal. Pull up a seat, and I’ll pour you a fully visible cuppa, and let’s converse. I want to see you more clearly!

(Not Quite) Flat Surface (Not Quite) Friday: Valentine’s Pax


Yes, I know – it’s Saturday, again. I’m still working out the kinks that allow us all to use one internet connection. It’s amazing how many devices around here use it rather covertly. I was attempting to edit, here in my study, last night, and, meanwhile, Jim was quietly watching  Adam-12, using the Roku.

You can counsel me to get better at finding clear Internet pockets,, or laugh at my first world snarl-up…or remember that this blog is called Lovely Chaos for good reason, and just c’mon in and have a slightly belated peek into one of the flat surfaces in my life!

I love the life I live with my family. Every day is filled with laughter, connection, learning, negotiating, projects, and people I love. We weave a tapestry of affection, dissent, discovery, and growth together….

I want to celebrate these years – these years where the children we’ve shared our lives with journey into adulthood. I want to spend less time grousing, and more time paying attention to Right Here and Right Now.

So, on Fridays (and sometimes Saturdays!) when it seems fitting, I will share a flat surface in our home, and maybe tell a bit of its story…

Today’s surface isn’t exactly flat, but since it just kinda fell into our lives, I’m going to share. There’s not much to say, beyond that it snowed. A lot.


And then, it snowed some more…and this is the result.

Annalise tends to see virgin snow as a canvas…maybe, so do I!

Did you see the snow angel?


What was your weather like this week? Did you get so much snow that these photos are laughable? Do you live where snow is a rare occurrence? Is it summer where you are? I’d love to see your weather pictures, and hear your stories.

Wishing you all a slightly belated Valentine’s Day, and piles and piles of love and laughter along the way!

Do you have a flat surface you’d like to share? Feel free to add a link or photo in the comments! =D

Coffee and Conversation: “I Am Me!”

Grab a cuppa and a comfy seat, and let’s chat a while.

It’s Monday again Tuesday already!time not too late! for Coffee and Conversation.

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own…

Last Saturday, Annalise came to me with a small notebook, and showed me what she’d written in it.



I am me and only me

And you are you

So love yourself!

You are who you are.

-Annalise S. Burton, age 9

I thought she had intended to write a poem, but she held it up in front of herself, instead.

 “Here’s my sign!” she said, with a big grin. “Will you take my picture now?”

We’ve talked a few times, in the last months, about the current trend of public child-shaming, especially on social media sites. We’ve chuckled at Elf-on-the-Shelf shaming (she finds the elf creepy at best, and the idea of parents using it to coerce their children offensive). We’ve laughed outright at the hilarious “animal-shaming” parodies.

And then, a week or so ago, I was invited to a Facebook Group which invites kids and their parents to turn the entire concept on it’s ear, and, rather than shaming a child, to celebrate what makes a person one-of-a-kind.

This, then, is what Annalise feels, at nine-and-a-half, and what she wants to say to the world.

“Here’s my sign!”

Compared to my nine-year-old self, Annalise has a tremendous amount of autonomy. Her wishes are taken as seriously as every other family member’s. She eats what she’s hungry for, when she’s hungry for it, she chooses how to spend her time, what to wear, when to sleep, what to read. She has the freedom to follow her passions, to indulge her imagination, to speak her mind, and to challenge herself in the ways she chooses.

I was no less an individual than she; I had big ideas, things to say, hungers and aversions, just as she does. I wanted to stay up late, to free my imagination, to dive into all the things that fired my spirit and set my mind racing.

Sometimes, I could do what I wanted. When I could, there was often sneakiness involved. I learned to be covert, to keep many things hidden within my mind, guarded against discovery.

It wasn’t a great situation for trusting myself, or feeling that I was all right just the way I was. Honestly, what I often felt was a vague shame that I couldn’t, by my very nature, live up to the expectations my parents imposed upon me, with the good intention of making me into a “decent adult”.

I grew up still carrying that shame, still trying to appease my parents, still feeling like I had to sneak and hide aspects of my life and my self that they would not approve of. Still, not loving myself, but asking myself what was wrong with me.

Learning how to help Annalise and her brother gain the skills and knowledge they need to meet their own needs; to honor, trust, and love themselves, is a journey I’m still taking. My own childhood doesn’t offer examples, and neither does most mainstream parenting advice, which seems to see raising a child very much in the same way as tending a garden; prune away the undesirables, enrich the soil with schooling, maybe also sports or extra lessons, demand they meet expectations.

Our children are more like wild meadows than well-tended gardens. They live according to their own natures, enriched by love and honest interaction, and expected to be – well, who they are. When there’s conflict, we do our best to work it out in a way that allows for everyone to get what they need, a “Win-win”. When feelings burst forth, we accept that, pay attention to what lies beneath, and then find our way back to peace.

“I am Me!”

Given the choice between what happens when a child feels shame, and when they feel at peace with themselves, I choose peace.

And maybe that’s why I have a nine-year-old who chose to write this message, and share it with anyone who reads it. Maybe it’s behind her wide, confident grin, in her easy assumption that we’re all who we are, and we should just love ourselves.

Maybe, if all children could feel this way, there wouldn’t be parents who feel that publicly shaming a child – or anyone else – is a good way to attain a goal. Maybe there’d be a lot more of love, and peace, and self-acceptance.

Now, please go out and love yourselves! =)

How have you loved yourself lately? Treated yourself to something you wanted? Really looked at yourself in the mirror? Indulged yourself with a gift of time? I’ll replenish your cuppa and listen, and the hugs are free; let’s converse! =)


Coffee and Conversation: May I Have a Compliment, Please?

Grab a cuppa and a comfy seat, and let’s chat a while.

It’s Monday again – time for Coffee and Conversation.

When I was six, my familywas driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own…

Last week, my friend Julie Persons posted this new picture featuring Claudia, a sweetly sassy little porcelain doll.

Image cedit: Julie Persons. Used with permission.

I always love Claudia – but this photo struck a nerve.

I know what it is to fish for compliments. I can still remember the day I learned that phrase. I was thirteen years old.

I had recently begun developing an embarrassing case of acne, and I was plagued by typical teenage self-consciousness as I entered the awkwardness of early adolescence.

When I was younger, she had once complimented my “peaches and cream” complexion. Thinking of the spreading rash of pimples, I asked her, “Mom, do I have a peaches and cream complexion?”

She turned from the stove and scowled at me. “Don’t go fishing for compliments. What are you, conceited? Wait for someone to give you one.”

I didn’t know what exactly I’d done to make her angry, and I knew better than to ask, because that might be seen as “talking back”. I bit my lip and tried to keep the tears from gathering in my eyes.

Conceit hadn’t motivated my question. Uncertainty had.

That’s natural at times of rapid change. My own body and mind seemed suddenly strange, and I wasn’t sure who I was anymore. I was, at once, excited at growing up, and trying to cling to the younger girl who didn’t worry about so much, and whose skin had not turned traitor.

And there was also the uncertainty of living with my mother, who was fond of assigning nicknames, particularly to me.

It seems sweet – but most of the nicknames pointed out what my mother saw as my flaws. I was more a bookworm than an athlete, and I tended, as now, toward a state of dishevelment. One of the less embarrassing nicknames I garnered was “Physical Wreck”, which had the effect of making me painfully aware of every clumsy motion, every tangle in my extremely long, thick, wild hair….

And every newly erupting skin blemish, too.

The truth is that I fished for compliments not out of vanity, but out of a need to feel my mother’s positive regard. My questions, really, were, “Mom, do you still love me? Am I worth something to you? Is there something wrong with me? Am I a freak?”

These questions are ones I hope my own children know the answer to, because I compliment them, frequently and sincerely, and because I make expressing my love and regard many times each day, and in many ways, a major purpose of my life.

My guess is that, when my mother was a young girl on the cusp of adulthood, she was told something similar to what she said to me. I don’t think she meant to hurt me with her words, or even the nicknames. As she often told me, my childhood was far kinder and gentler than hers.

And yet, at 44 – long past childhood, and far less concerned with others’ assessments of my appearance – I still remember the sting of her words, and of the tears at the back of my throat. I was searching for acceptance and reassurance, and I was told that I was wrong to do so.

Blossoming, in a compliment-rich environment.

I have a daughter. She is nine and a half, and she looks a lot like her grandmother. I find her enchanting and lovely (and I accept that I am biased). She’s bright and exuberant, physical in a way I’ve never been, and she is confident in herself, her appearance, and her place in my heart.

She’s blossoming early, this girl of mine. It’s awkward, for her, to have a body poised for puberty while her interests and experiences are more in line with her actual age. Sometimes, she needs reassuring that the moments of clumsiness, self-doubt, sadness she can’t explain, loose teeth, occasional pimples, and the like, are not Who She Is.

That it’s okay to think she is beautiful, and also okay to think she’s not. That, either way, she is far, far more than how she looks, or her stage of growth.

I never want her to feel badly when she needs this reassurance. I will not call it fishing for compliments; I will see it as a sign that I need to spend more time and attention on her, so that she knows she matters, and that she’s enough, just as she is.

And when I see her eyes return to dancing, hear the song in her voice,see the joy in her steps, and the uninhibited way she enjoys her life, I will imagine that I am also giving that to myself, when I was young, and to the girl my mother was, too.

Oh, and Claudia? You are both lovely, and an awesome angler! =)

Do you give compliments? Wish you got more? Need one? I’ll replenish your cuppa and say something nice; let’s converse! =)

You can find more Claudia (and critters in hats, too!) at Julie’s Etsy shop!

Coffee and Conversation: Refrigerator, Responsibility, Reality

Grab a cuppa and a comfy seat, and let’s chat a while.

It’s Monday again – time for Coffee and Conversation.

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own…

Now, each Monday, I strive for that understanding by offering ideas and tidbits from my life. Settle in for a while, and maybe share something of yours, too..

Okay. I’m guessing at least some of you are sitting out there, asking yourselves what these three words have in common, other than that alliterative ‘R’. Right (I know; again with the ‘R’!)? Well, let me explain… Yes, these photos are of our refrigerator. I took them last week, just after I bought my new Elph camera (it’s BLUE!!!!!!) and just before I got a nasty cold. I took them for a reason, but we’ll get to that in a minute or two, depending upon how quickly you read or scroll.

Sparkly -shiny!

Many parents assign chores as a means of ‘teaching children responsibility‘. Some make it simple and friendly. Some have complex checklists, sticker charts, and the like. When I was a kid, there were no rewards for doing chores. You did what you were told, or paid a painful price. Period. Here, where there are two children, no one has any assigned chores. I know. When I first read about this concept, I gasped too. My mind filled with questions:

Oh, and the Big Question:

Okay, so there’s the refrigerator; and we’ve chatted a bit about responsibility. Reality’s what ties it all together. The reality here is that we don’t assign our kids chores. Instead, my Partner in Parenthood and I do what needs to be done around the house and yard, and we try to do it with an attitude of generosity and service. We ask for help, sometimes – but the kids are as free to decline as we are to decide that doing that last load of laundry isn’t absolutely necessary today, or that we’d rather enjoy an evening at home and order Chinese than go to the grocery store and then cook something.

A freezer door makes a happy canvas…

We try to impart a sense that we are all a part of what makes life here at our house peaceful or chaotic, that we can each contribute to the welfare of all. Sometimes, it looks like we’re not succeeding, as clutter overwhelms us. Dishes and laundry gather so fast, I wonder if they’re breeding. And then, I get up one morning, and the front of the refrigerator is gleaming – and so are my nine-year-old’s eyes. “It was dirty, so I washed it,” she tells me. A little later, she shows me how she organized all the coupons and receipts, and put our four Claudia magnets in order, to make a little magnet biography. Somehow, the clutter seems – not so chaotic. Those receipts strewn across the floor? Well, she’s been studying those, lately, along with reading bills and bank statements. Sometimes, she just reads quietly; others, she has questions and comments. And that interest in interest might have led to the organizing, in the way watching her dad clean the fridge a few weeks before might have led her to notice it was getting grubby again. I could have coerced her to wash the refrigerator. Partner in Parenthood could have growled while he cleaned it. Would she want to do it then? Would there be tears and yelling and threats and punishment? Would it have been worth it, for something that might take ten minutes of my own time? I guess that depends. More than responsibility, I hope my children will develop a growing awareness of the needs and preferences of others, and the generosity to help as they can. I hope they will possess the judgment, to see things like dirty fridges, or that frazzled other mom at the grocery store, and know if and how they might help (frazzled moms in stores seldom want to be confronted, but giving their child a sheet of stickers,a little bottle of bubbles, or a game of peekaboo can work wonders!). I want my children to feel loved, valued, respected, and worthy of kind gestures. I want them to bestow those same things upon others. If I had assigned her a list of chores, she might think of that checklist as her job. Once it was done, she might not even consider looking around her, and deciding to make something better because it could be fun, and she was willing to do it. If I used a reward system, she’d probably be looking for her payoff. For sure, I would have missed that glowing, I-thought-of-this-and-did-it-all-by-myself-because-I -wanted-to face, and the pleasure of that surprisingly sparkling surface – and my life would be a little less shiny today. Instead, she got the pleasure and pride of accomplishment and service, and I saw her grow into more of my hopes, without force or any payoff but the kindness of her act, and our gratitude. You might call me crazy, but that’s worth the clutter that comes with chore-free and happy children, to me. Did you have chores as a child? Do you assign them to your own children, or would you? Have stories of cheerful service to share? I’ll replenish your cuppa; let’s converse! =)

One real live girl, just as she is…

Play, Elsewhere: ROW80 1/15/14 Update

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Hello again! It’s Week 2 of ROW80, and I am moving along with my playful approach to writing and life.

The last days have been filled with family, car repairs, editing and blogging – and capped off with a trip with my best girl to The Childrens’ Museum of Saratoga, where she’s been wanting to go. I took many pictures, but forgot the camera in the car Jim drove to work **sniff!**

Instead, I’m sharing pictures of our first trip there, when Annalise was a little girl of 4 or 5 and not the much bigger 9.5 year old who so delightfully accompanied me yesterday.

This week, may your sense of wonder and joy match hers!


Daily Writing Frame Progress: (beginning Sunday 1/6)

Sampling Sunday:

Reading books/blogs:

Sunday Sampler posts:

  • Read several posts from my Pocket file; starred some to use in future posts.

Play with Deep Revision stories.

  • Found in-progress story exercises.

Melding Monday:

Make and answer comments.

  • Yes. The dedicated time is helping.

Coffee and Conversation posts.

  • Posted both weeks.

Writing/Life integration:

  • A pleasant blending.

Talking Tuesday:

Twitter and Facebook:

  • Week 1:Yes.; Week 2 : No (away from Internet).


  • Week 1:Yes.; Week 2 : No (away from Internet)

Other types of real/virtual connection.

  • Week 1: Mostly online and family.

  • Week 2: Took Annalise to The Childrens’ Museum of Saratoga; mostly in-person contact.


Wild Card Wednesday:

Blogging queues and posts:

  • Posts: Yes.Queues:No.

Play in many ways:

  • Time with spouse and kids, reading, gaming, and being.

Whatever feels right! =):

  • Not giving you details, but yeah. =)

Trueborn Thursday:

Edit Chameleon’s Dish and Bounded by a Nutshell; RereadBlood and Breath:

  • CD: Roughing revision plan.

  • BBAN: Pre-revision notes.

  • BAB: Pending.

Draft To Be or Not to Be;The Stars are Fire; Perchance to Dream:

TBONTB: Reread last completed chapters.

TSAF: :Pending.

PTD: : Pending.

Exploring timeline and plot tribbles:

  • Rough chronological listing of WIPs and pending volumes.

  • Plot tribbles: : Pending.

Flirtatious Friday:

Exploration of whatever kind:

  • Reading; editing; gaming; fantasizing.

Freewriting on and without topic:

  • Sponsor post; website brainstorming.

Family connection and play:

  • Yes. Mellow family day.

Sharing Saturday:

Answer/make comments:

  • Yes!

Saturday’s Share posts:

  • Yes.

Share; submit; social media:

  • Share: :Yes.

  • Submit: : Pending.

  • Social Media: Yes.

Animal care.

ROW80 Update:

2014 Blogging

Focus on layout / design aspects of Blogging Action Plan.

Tidy Master Features Resource file. On target.

  • Coffee and Conversation section tidied.

Build positive blogging habits – post regularly, build queues, answer comments, and share diversely.

Answer all comments on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. Target attained!

  • Comments answered – on Monday, even!

Return visits to all commenters, as standard practice. On target.

  • I will be fitting these in during opportune moments; usually between other projects.

Resume regular blogging schedule with Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday posts across the three blogs. On target.

Brainstorm what I want in a website; move The Unfettered Life to a spiffy new home.

Write out a one-page brainstorming session for desired website features. Target attained!

  • About 500 words written. Allowing them to settle.

  • Visit five writing websites; consider what I do and don’t like about them.Pending.

Studying X-rays with a friend – so little, here!

2014 Writing:

Complete rough drafts of To Be or Not to Be, The Stars Are Fire, and Perchance to Dream.

  • Complete rough draft of TBONTB.Pending.

Explore gestatingStar Trek: Enterprise fan fiction novel concept, as well as Last House story collection concept, as short pieces / flash fiction, during April and May.

Exploring birds’ eggs. Ever the nature girl!

2014 Editing:

Complete first revision passes for Chameleon’s Dishand Bounded by a Nutshell; make pre-revision notes forBlood and Breath.

Complete pre-editing notes for Bounded by a Nutshell. On target.

  • On-page notes: Page 225/734.

  • Pre-revision Notebook: Page 225/734.

Revise all poems for QOMIS, until satisfied with the results.

  • Read poems aloud, highlighting for revision.Pending.

Complete Deep Revision process with my three short story WIPs.

  • Read through completed exercises, and my work for “A Splash of Red.” Pending.

Weighing in. She loved shopping at the grocery store exhibit!

2014 Hometending:

Continue physical and virtual hometending plans – resetting rooms, cleaning files, inhabiting my study.

Complete family room reset. On target.

  • General decluttering/cleaning; more computer desk excavation, sorting and tidying family room desk.

Spend time daily in my study. Target attained!

  • Pockets of calm and purpose continuing to expand.

  • Clean up main documents files. Pending.

Develop new habits that support organization and productivity.

Experiment with play project schedule.On target.

  • Daily Frames update above.

Research small business establishment /administration.

2014 Lifetending:

Stretch and find new ways to blend the facets of my life with intention and awareness.

Select and complete projects from my Play Jar.On target.

  • Details above.

  • 3/80 complete; 4/77 in progress.

Seek out playful ways to move and challenge my body.

Choose one playful motion for each day in January; do it several times, with a spirit of adventure. Target attained!

  • Leg lifts, t’ai chi movement; walking.

Five year old discerning consumer from behind!

Sponsor Visits:

See what the other ROwers are playing with!

Mayyour life be filled with joy and wonder this week and always!