Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Family Camp "Compliments"

Last weekend was our home school family camp. Every year a group of us gather to swim, eat, hike, talk, lounge, pray, craft, play, worship, sing, develop friendship bonds, make great memories. We corporately celebrate life and friendship and the beginning of another year of our family schooling journey.

I often have quirky ideas, which is the curse/blessing of creative people. I have always been creative. My mom encouraged me by saving all my childhood pictures from the time I was 2 or three. I went to college for art for one year and quickly realized that I would not be doing the kind of life or art that would earn me a living wage. Besides, I had Husband. I finished my formal schooling with a semester of school as a horticulture major, and then a 6 week course to become a florist. All was finished smartly with an eye to Husband's final graduation and our wedding two weeks after school was done.

But still, quirky. When the three big kids were small, and I had youth's energy, I would stay up late into the night working on whatever creative project was my favorite at the time. Cross stitching, needlepoint, embroidery, scherenschnitte, pysanky, clay. The kids were trained to "not bump" when Mama was working. Husband was trained not to worry too much as it got later and later in the evening and I was still hunched over my work. It kept me sane-ish.

By my 40's, with our last three born and the first three teenagers, I found myself not doing a lot of creative work. No matter how much of a blessing the kids are, a family with teens and a newborn just naturally has a worn out mommy. I had been parenting for 18 years, six kids. I am not a high energy person, and my personality runs to melancholy. I have trouble with depression. And, I need a lot of sleep. So the quirky creativity was a ball that often got dropped.

Now in my 50's, I have been actively parenting for almost 32 years. We are in our 27th continuous year of homeschooling.There are three at home still. The baby just turned 13 this week! Somewhere in that 40's decade, I lost my ability to make my creativity happen.  I somewhat "lost" myself. It was a barren time for me. It was all I could do to parent teens and infants, and the ones in between. It was survival of the fittest at my weakest. As time passed, I had to make some readjustments. Slowly, things got incrementally easier. I dropped some things that had been important to me in my younger life as I saw that I could not maintain it all in my older life. This is a tough thing to do, and a tougher thing to help others understand that you NEED to do it to survive. In our home school co-op, I began to teach some art classes, following a curriculum, and eventually winging it. My creativity could breathe again. I had slowly lost the energy for my creativity and in the same way slowly gained it back. And I began to feel better.

Which is why, when we went to camp last weekend, I checked with my kids about a quirky idea I had. I have been making recycled t-shirt yarn the past few years. I 'm able to cut most t-shirts into usable yarn with very little shirt left over. But there were these little areas, usually along the edge of the shoulders of the sleeves that were wasted. I thought I should be able to use these for something so I started to cut them into slim strips. When pulled, they roll onto themselves and make a little string. Multi colors. No cost. Usable waste. Just how I like it.

But how to use this usable waste? What if you tied a string to some one's wrist while telling them something nice about them? The 13-year-old thought it sounded like fun. The other girls thought it sounded OK too. But it was such a quirky idea. Was it just weird? I took a big bag of t-shirt strings along and told the kids to tie them on to someone and tell them something nice while they did it. Oh, and be sure to look for people who don't have a string. It worked. The kids spent all weekend with t-shirt strings stuffed in their pockets looking for people to compliment. And that's what they began to call the strings: "Compliments." I knew the kids would find a good name for them!

And that worry about if my ideas are quirky? (Read: weird?) It was assuaged by this lovely post from my friend. I have read it and read it and sniffled each time. Thanks Ana.