Priming the pump when your well runs dry

In our day to day whizzing about, our feet hit the floor running. Work; kids; relationships; meal planning, shopping, and preparation; laundry; cleaning; errands; ferrying people about; making and keeping appointments; volunteering; providing a shoulder to cry on… 
We give and give and give, sooner or later to have nothing left to sustain ourselves, let alone anyone else. Then where are we, and all of those who depend on us? 
The problem is that we think we don’t have the time, the money, or deserve to do the types of things that are indispensable in keeping us sane. They need not be time consuming or expensive. And it’s not necessary to resort to alcohol or other chemicals for relief or relaxation.
  • Pamper yourself. Light some candles, put on some relaxing music, and luxuriate in a bubble bath (you’ve seen what a nice bath will do for wound-up kids).
  • Go to a beauty salon just to get your hair washed, or find someone willing to sit quietly and brush your hair or rub your feet.


  • Visit a library or book store. Browse an area that is of special interest, be it travel, art, garden, cooking, poetry, inspirational, or some other topic of wonder. Children’s books are great fun to look at. You may come across one from your childhood; certainly, you will discover some new ones with stories or illustrations that will take your breath away or bring tears to your eyes.


  • Allow yourself daily contact with nature. Smell the flowers, the fresh-cut grass, the soil. Lookup through the branches of a tree and drink in the many shades of green as the sunlight filters through the leaves. Revel in the gentle breeze, the bird song, the crickets, and cicadas making their music. Watch the squirrels and their antics, the sparrows tormenting the crows. Visit the spider that is bound to be spinning a web someplace in the yard. Wonder at how all of life has its own routines and boundaries…
  • Get yourself some really nice colored pencils and a coloring book geared toward calming the frazzled minds of adults- Roger Burrows’ Images, OptiDesigns, Mandalas, Coloring Books for Women. Coloring is very relaxing.
You may notice that I tend to suggest things that seem more appropriate for children. We all have an inner child and being able to access him/her is very useful in connecting on a deeper level with the children in our lives. Not only that, but we can give ourselves the nurturance we wanted and may not have gotten as a child. 
That said, it is my firm belief that even adults should have a stash of toys of their very own. I keep a drawer of toys in my office: bubbles, slide whistle, magic wand filled with glitter, slinky, kaleidoscope, magnet sculpture, Jacob’s ladder, Koosh ball, and a snugly stuffed animal that is actually a comfort to me when I am sad or lonely. My personal favorite is a handheld labyrinth that serves to collect my thoughts when they scatter following intense and extended concentration or spending a few hours in the company of several children all vying for my attention. 
Make your own list of ideas for when you just can’t take it anymore! In the end, we must rely only upon ourselves to provide the nurturing our soul so desperately craves, to fill our spirit so that we can care for those who need us, and stay on top of the many other demands in our lives. To expect it from someone else leads only to disappointment and resentment.
RDW (2007, revised 2010)

There’s nothing to do…

      There is utter stillness in the heat of this steamy day. The cooling breeze of flight through the air, on a swing that burns my butt when I sit on it, refreshes me… I’m making a potion with cut grass, bits of leaves, rose petals and smooshed berries that will probably kill me if I eat them. The heady fragrance of wet earth and the icky granular feel of muck makes a squishing sound and oozes through my fingers as I create mud pies for the main course of this feast… I walk barefoot over the hot prickly grass of a field, the scent of clover, hum of cicadas, and warble of birdsong following me as we take a shortcut to the pond for a swim; the release of caked on mud as I tentatively enter the water feels so good; the cool astringent smell of green dripping from my hiding place under the the raft soothes me.
      Our most vivid memories are deeply sensual. Within the domain of electronics something is lost in our experience of the world. It’s so sad that so many children don’t know how to keep themselves occupied without a TV or computer or some other digital device.
      The beginning of summer is very much like the start of a new year- filled with possibility and promise. Don’t let it slip by without making the most of it. Call a family meeting and make an exhaustive list of everything you and the kids might do this summer.
This area offers so much in the way of it’s parks and festivals; out door concerts and theater groups. There are playgrounds and sporting events at any park or school yard, bicycle paths, streams to explore, hiking trails and nature preserves.
       But perhaps the best fun of all is within our own back yard and neighborhood. The the spontaneous games of hide and go seek, kickball, tag, and capture the flag; pitching a tent (or throwing a blanket over the clothes line) and toasting marshmallows, stargazing and catching fireflies; building forts and making secret hideouts. These are the things we remember from our childhood.
      Don’t let your kids become junior couch potatoes. There is so much more to life than remaining practically comatose for hours on end in front of a screen. Set a daily limit on computer and TV time and then enforce it, despite the fact that at times it doesn’t seem worth the struggle. It is our job as parents to teach kids how to make their own fun. This requires effort on our part.
      Get your children into gardening. Even if you don’t have a plot of land at your disposal, try container gardening or look into renting a spot at a community garden. Peas, carrots, beans and salad greens are easy to grow and harvest without having to wait for months to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Kids who might have turned their noses up at these things are more willing to eat vegetables if they have had a hand in growing them.
      So often when you ask a child where something comes from (milk, fruits and vegetables, strawberry jam, apple sauce), they respond, based on their limited experience: “the store”. Get a few families together and go to a pick-your-own fruit farm , or a dairy or sheep farm. Children are fascinated to see beyond the obvious and start looking at the world in a whole new way.
      Get the kids involved with making fresh squeezed lemonade, ice cream, jams and pies, or otherwise preparing local harvest for future use. Letting kids participate in the production of the food they eat is a tremendous learning experience, provides a healthy alternative to processed foods, aids the local economy, and helps our planet in so many ways.
      Get out the sidewalk chalk; play hopscotch or hangman, jacks, jump rope, charades.
    Have a neighborhood carnival with bike decorating and face painting; bean bag toss, drop the clothes pin into the milk bottle, and penny pitch; three-legged and sack races, hula hoop contests, scavenger hunt, wheel barrow rides, water balloons and lemonade stand.
     Find a thicket of bushes and play jungle. Press flowers and make butterfly nets and daisy chains and crowns of leaves. Play in the rain. Make mud pies.
      Kids growing up in this day and age are not necessarily aware of the great fun to be had away from the TV and computer. We can’t just tell them to go play and assume they know what that means. We have to show them how it’s done. This takes time, but it is time so well spent. And your children will thank you for it.- RDW (6-21-10)

Booking the lives of children

     When my children were young they played Little League baseball and attended scouts. Many of our friends’ children did as well, in addition to their piano lessons, dance, karate, and church school. 
     It seemed as I spoke with other parents that this level of involvement with extra curricular activities was the norm and I began to question my own instincts to let the kids have the time I thought was necessary for creative play, for discovering who they are without being bombarded with scheduled activities. In a moment of self-doubt, I asked my sons if they felt gypped because their friends got to do all of these things and they didn’t. “No! I like to play!” 
     And play they did. They built forts and went in search of stream critters and made treasure maps and played Hide and Seek and Capture the Flag. They had neighborhood Olympics and read great books, created masterpieces with sidewalk chalk, made potions, climbed trees, kept detailed notes as they spied on one another, had back yard carnivals, and played kick ball. 
     It was a rare occurrence to hear them complain that they were bored. TV time, including video, was limited to an hour per day. Computer time was limited to 30 minutes per day, or an hour after they turned ten to accommodate more sophisticated activities.
     So many kids today have little time just to be. There is so much pressure on us as parents to live up to the standards of the people around us. I want to laugh and cry when I see the Baby Einstein and educational materials designed to create little geniuses and when the children can’t live up to being the best, most brilliant, most athletic, most fashionable kid on the block, excelling at each thing put before them, then clearly they (or their parents) are a failure. What pressure they endure from the most well meaning of loved ones!  
     I have come to believe that the thing that matters most is that they are fully aware of their own inner light, that they are able to call on their inner resources: creativity, courage, contentedness, acceptance, forgiveness, and happiness. Allowing the time to discover who they are in this world without the constant intervention on the part of the adults in their lives. Guidance yes. Loving support and encouragement, by all means. But trying to mold them into the some preconceived notion of perfection, or into the person we wish we had become can only be detrimental to their well-being.- RDW (6-26-07)