I’ve spent a good part of this past week learning about energy and electricity. This unit of study was not my choice, but the by-product of quizzing my daughter in preparation for her science test. And while I enjoyed re-learning the finer points of energy and electricity, I enjoyed far more making connections between the physics lessons and real life. The idea that some resources are finite (time) and some are infinite (love); The idea that if you can reduce resistance, you can substantially increase the amount of energy that you transmit; The idea that some materials (people) are conductors of energy and others are insulators; These ideas all rolled around in my head quite a bit this week.
Of course, no study of electricity is complete without leaning about some of the greatest innovators in the field, including Thomas Edison, the inventor of the incandescent lightbulb. Edison received only a few years of formal schooling, with. most of his education taking place at home, under his mother, who it is said allowed him to follow the ideas in which he was most interested. Not surprisingly, he was most interested in chemistry and electronics and performed countless experiments in the lab he set up in his home.
As an adult, Edison became a prolific inventor, and even set goals to have minor inventions every 10 days, and major inventions every six months. Perhaps what I find most fascinating about Edison is his seeming complete lack of concern about his failures along the way to his successes. It is said that he developed over 3,000 theories in the process of developing the incandescent light, and tested over 6,000 fibres before he found the best one for the filament in his lightbulb.
This post isn’t meant to be a physics, or history, or biography lesson though – it’s meant to be about the role of the parent and how the concepts of energy, electricity, and invention can be applied to the real world. As a parent, I have to use the finite time I have with my kids, and the infinite love that I have for them, to guide them and to teach them, and to encourage them to follow that in which they are most interested. Of course, the temptation as a parent is to remove as much resistance as possible for your kids, and to insulate them from any and all failures or negative experiences. But we have to resist these temptations, and instead focus on supporting our kids though each their failures, of which there may be many, while hoping that with each failure they come closer to finding their own kind of incandescence.
This week has been all about welcoming the new year. From re-establishing old habits to forming new ones, this has been a week of transition in many ways.
As I put away (or got rid of in the case of holiday treats that were still left in the house) the straggling holiday decorations, my mood turned melancholy. Perhaps influenced by the book I was reading last week, Bomb Shelter, by Mary Laura Philpott, I kept thinking of how few holiday seasons I had left with both kids living in the house with us, and not just home visiting over a school holiday. Just as quickly as our family has transitioned from having little kids at home into having a teenager and an almost-teenager, we will transition into having just one kid at home with us, and then to no kids at home with us. These are not a transitions I am eager for . . .
My low mood was not helped at all by the weird weather we have had so far this winter either. Last week consisted of day after day of dark clouds, damp cold, and rain. With temperatures well above freezing, there has been no snow, the grass is practically green again, and it seems as though we have missed out completely on the normal transition to winter. Not that I like winter. In fact, I despise winter. The cold does bother me. And I would much rather exist anywhere where boots are never necessary footwear. However, this lack of winter is almost as bothersome as actual winter is for me. And it certainly meant that in this last week of Christmas holidays, the kids were kept cooped up indoors – there was no tobogganing or snow-man making – there was only hot chocolate to be consumed while we watched the rain fall.
And then of course, there is the fact that the Husband and I have both transitioned into a Dry January, along with other dietary improvements, including a severe reduction in sugar consumption and an increase in our trips to the gym. While I actually feel about a million times better after just one week of this “healthier” regime, I find it very difficult knowing that the only things I have to soothe my nerves are fruits, veggies, and a good workout – reaching for a glass of bubbles or a handful of chips was far easier and one could argue far tastier!
While I will admit to spending most of this weekend searching for ways to escape the dark, damp, dreariness of this week, there has been a lot of good that has come out of this week of transition. By facing my feelings about the kids growing up so fast, I’ve been able to appreciate the time I’ve had to spend with them this week. From watching movies together as a family to family walks and even an outing to the Disney Animation Immersive Experience this morning, we have had some fun adventures that we can always look back on fondly.
Since there is nothing I can do about the weather, and moving to a warmer clime isn’t in the cards for our family, all I can do is learn to endure it. I have tried valiantly over the years to find ways to embrace this season – and came close after reading Wintering by Katherine May last year – but I think these past few years of lockdowns and quarantines have ruined any chance I had of embracing this season of slowing down and enjoying hibernating. However, my inability to embrace winter does tie in nicely with the improvements the Husband and I have been making to ameliorate our dietary and exercise habits. I have decided that at the end of each of these winter months during which I am able to stick to my dietary and exercise goals, I am going to buy myself something. I haven’t quite decided what that something will be (shoes, jewellery, a purse?), but it will be something that brings a material kind of sunshine to my life, and warms me from the inside out. Knowing that I’m 1/4 of the way through this month and that much closer to choosing my reward will hopefully make the next 23 days go by that much faster and make them that much easier to endure.
Next week will see even more transitions in our house, with the kids going back to school, and regular activities for all of us starting up again. However, with a week of practicing our new habits, I’m sure each of the transitions we face next week will seem much easier compared to those we faced this week. Wishing you a wonderful week ahead with nothing but smooth transitions!
This past fall was supposed to be my term of “rest and relaxation”. Yes. I am being slightly tongue-in-cheek when I say that, but hear me out. With some of my more time-consuming volunteer roles coming to their natural conclusion and the kids back in school full time, I envisioned large stretches of time in which I was going to live my best life. Rather than settling into the rhythm of this new time in my life, I spun around like a toy top for most of September, October, and even November. To be honest, I’m not sure what I accomplished in those fall months other than devise elaborate plans for how I was going to accomplish all the projects I wanted to tackle and then proceed not to follow a single one of those plans.
As American Thanksgiving rolled around, and with it the start of the holiday season, something in me shifted and I moved into high gear, working to finish 2 projects that have been cluttering my mind and my office for years. The first involved actually assembling memory books for each of the kids. Since 2008 and the birth of my son, I have been collecting ephemera in the from of school and team photos, certificates of achievement, and various programs for concerts and plays and performances. I had always intended to put all of these bits and bobs into proper “scrapbooks” along with photos taken at each of the events, but had just never gotten around to it. And the longer I waited to start the project, the bigger the pile of ephemera grew, and the more daunting the project became.
The second of these projects involved making a Christmas quilt for each of the kids beds. Again, this is something that I’ve wanted to do since both kids were in big kid beds – but a surfeit of Christmas quilting cotton left over from the mask-making endeavours of the past few years and this discovery of a super-cute and relatively easy quilt pattern left me with few excuses not to get started.
Of course, taking on both of these projects that were so deeply steeped in memories and nostalgia during the insanity of the holiday season left me yearning for something soothing to read when I wasn’t gluing, cutting or sewing, which lead me back to Hand Wash Cold by Karen Maezen Miller. This in turn lead me to listening to some of her Dharma talks, which then got me to thinking a LOT about living in the moment. As in, I tried to remind myself to live in the moment an focus only on the task at hand when my brain started to swerve off into the endless abyss of “what-ifs” (what if I don’t finish these projects in time for Christmas, what if I just abandon them all together, why do my kids need Christmas quilts anyway … they’re essentially both teenagers and they won’t even like them). To my great surprise, this little act of focusing on exactly what was in front of me helped to silence the what-ifs and renew my concentration on what I was doing.
Which, in a very circuitous way, brings me to today, and the start of the new year. As I have done for the past several years, I have chosen a word for my year ahead. This year, I wanted a word that I could truly use as a mantra whenever the “what-ifs” threatened to take control, that would remind me to ground myself in the current moment, and not in all the moments that could follow. Of course, I also wanted a word that felt special, or had a certain “je ne sais quois” about it . . . and so . . . my word for the year is:
Without getting into the etymology of the word, a twinkle is defined as “the duration of a wink” (a moment), but twinkle also has so many wonderful connotations – when has anything malevolent ever twinkled? – that it just seemed perfectly perfect as a word to guide me and ground me this year.
I’m sure you all are desperate to know, before I close off this post, what happened in the end with those projects I was working so furiously to finish and that required so many reminders to ground myself in the present? Well, I finished them both. The quilts (which I actually made into duvet covers for several practical reasons and also because my kids prefer to sleep with duvets over quits) were finished in the first week of December and put on their beds on the first Friday of the month. They were both THRILLED with them (I had somehow managed to keep this project and what I was doing sewing about a million present quilt blocks with Disney-themed Christmas fabric from the family the entire time I was working on them) and equally sad to see their regular duvet covers return the day before New Years. I am SO glad I made these keepsakes for the kids – I honestly hope that one day they can pass them on to their kids – and selfishly, it made me so happy every day of this December to walk past their rooms and see that I made one of my dreams come true.
As for their memory books, well I finished those too, and gave them to the kids on the morning of the 24th. They loved looking through all of the tangible pieces of their history and thinking back on all the happy memories that were made.
And so, on that note, it’s off to start the new year, grounded in the present and guided by my North Star for the year, the word “twinkle”.