Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Back to the Grind

Some of my regular readers may have noticed that I haven’t blogged much recently. The holidays were a bit overwhelming this year, for some reason. Perhaps it’s because I’m homeschooling for the first time; perhaps it’s the stress of having an unemployed husband at home; perhaps it’s just the “ebb” phase of the normal ebb and flow of creativity. Whatever the reason, it’s well past time for me to get my act together and write. About something. Anything.

I’ve always found that the most difficult part of writing, for me, is coming up with a subject. Once I have a topic, I can nearly always find something to say about it. (Sometimes it’s even an interesting something!) My writing ebbs are nearly always due to a lack of inspiration of subject rather than an inability to get the words I want onto paper (or, to be more technically accurate, onto screen). For that reason, breaking through my personal kind of writers’ block is best solved by finding a list of topics and forcing myself to attack one every single day.

You know what that means, don’t you? If you’re a regular reader, I bet you do: It’s Photo a Day time! For those of you unfamiliar with the Photo a Day challenge, the one I prefer to use is posted monthly by an Australian mom who blogs under the (fabulous) name of FatMumSlim. I’m not sure how long she’s been publishing Photo a Day lists, but I’ve been using them periodically for a number of years. Here’s the January 2016 list of subjects:

1 – Black + white
2 – What I did today
3 – Water
4 – Circle
5 – Leaves
6 – Something blue
7 – Reading
8 – Landscape
9 - Shoes
10 – Lucky
11 – Outdoors
12 – Something I wore
13 – Three of a kind
14 – Close-up
15 – Mail
16 – Chair
17 – Faceless
18 – White
19 – In the hand
20 – Patterns
21 – Morning
22 – Night
23 – Play
24 – Window
25 – Numbers
26 – Simplicity
27 – Telephone
28 – Smile
29 – Home
30 – Flat lay
31 – Me

I’m not a great photographer by any means, so the point is not so much the photograph itself, but rather the explanation or the discussion of it. I try to find images that relate to my life, or my ideas about the concept, or memories that come to mind when I see a particular image.

Obviously, since I’m starting this on the 6th day of the month, I have a few images to catch up with. So today I’m combining the first 6 images into one discussion. In fact, I’m going to attempt to work them all into a single concept, so stay with me here. 

1 – Black + White

2 – What I Did Today

3 – Water

4 – Circle

5 – Leaves

6 – Something Blue

What could these six disparate photographs possibly have in common (other than that they were all taken inside my house)? How could I possibly pull all these images into a single concept?

It’s actually a lot easier than you might think. My life, like that of many other mothers of young children, particularly those of us who don’t work outside the home, revolves around my children. And all of these images evoke something about my daily life as a stay-at-home mom, some aspect of how I see my role as a parent.

The image of the angel and the star of Bethlehem reminds me that I am not alone in the daunting task of watching over my children. I believe that God and His angels are constantly guarding my children, and guiding me as I watch over them. There is a shadow behind the angel, as there are always shadows of fear and danger in my children’s lives. My daughter nearly lost her life at age 2, and I will always see that shadow over her head. But I will also always see the angel that is between her and that shadow. And just as God sent a warning to those who followed that star, which protected the Child who was born under it from harm, I know that God will help me to protect my children from harm.

The second image, “What I Did Today,” is a perfect illustration of the end of my average day. I collapse, exhausted, onto the stained carpet, surrounded by a wardrobe’s worth of discarded clothing and broken furniture. But the destruction is a sign of great fun, much hilarity and lack of inhibition, creative play, crazy games, and love and laughter and learning. It may require some work to get everything back the way it was, but every minute of memory is worth it.

The water is symbolic of how quickly the time passes in my life. For good or for ill, the water splashes down in beautiful patterns, but it doesn’t linger. It vanishes down the drain so quickly that the beauty is a memory before it even registers. That’s what days are like with my children: I get caught up in the swirl and have to force myself to take the time to see the beauty in each moment before it disappears.

The circle is also symbolic; in this case, symbolic of the circle of life. My children are the age I was at my own earliest memories. The interactions and discussions I have with them are the same ones I remember having with my own mother. And I remember my mother talking about having them with her mother. My children remind me that I am a link in a chain of motherhood that goes back to the beginning of humanity, and that will extend forward for many generations to come. It is a thought that is at once humbling and exalting.

Photo 5, the leaves, remind me of the care that children need. This poinsettia has been somewhat finicky. Its leaves wilt, begging for water, but when I give it that water, it overflows. I often need to ignore its pleas and give it only what I know it needs, not what it dramatically begs for. Like my children, what it thinks it needs is not always what it actually needs. I need to balance my compassion with my wisdom, and trust that I know its needs better than it does itself. I need to offer tough love, and when I do, the result is invariably healthy growth.

And finally, my “Something Blue” is the uniform of one of the Nutcracker soldiers marching across my mantel. Like the angel, he stands guard, proud, prepared, and ready to sacrifice his own life for those he has been charged with protecting. I am a soldier – no, I am a warrior – for my children. I will teach them, I will protect them, and I will give my life for them.

This is my motherhood: angels, joy amidst destruction, transient beauty, a link in a chain, trusting my own wisdom and instincts, and protecting what is most precious to me. 

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