When Pencils Move: A Short Story for Mothers

I found an older short story of mine and thought I would share it here: 

While Pencils Move

               It’s that time of day again. It’s two o’clock in the afternoon. The laundry smells fresh from the scent of my fabric softener I used this morning. A warm spinach and feta cheese aroma lingers in the kitchen from our pizza we completely devoured. The cats have settled into their comfy spots for an afternoon siesta. My children are stretched out in the floor in front of me. One has an open math book. The other one has her history book opened to a section on World War II. She is reading and taking notes.

               These moments are times I cherish. I look over my computer screen and watch my children learning and growing. I remember when their legs didn’t stretch out this far. I also remember when their homework involved mostly coloring or cutting and gluing. Now they think intensely as the wrinkle their brows over historical facts and mathematical fractions.

               I close my eyes for a moment and listen to the sounds of their pencils moving across their papers. I wait for this sound every weekday afternoon. To me it is a sound of togetherness and stillness. The sound of pencils moving across paper ties me to the memories of their earliest days of learning. I picture myself writing a letter on lined paper and asking them to copy my work. With wiggly lines, they began the assignment. We clapped when they completed the task.

               Now they don’t need me as much. They start and complete most tasks on their own. I am more of an observer and a motivator these days. Occasionally my children get stuck on a problem and call my name. I can tell when that is about to happen. First, one of the pencils stops moving across the paper. I glance in that direction, careful not to jump in too quickly. I watch the eyes and brows to see if tension rises or clarity pops in. If tension rises, soon I will hear, “Mom, can you help me for a minute.”  I move over and look at the problem. We chat for a minute about the question at hand. Then I hear, “OK, I’ve got it now.” That’s my cue to move back to my seat so the pencil can move freely across the paper again.

These moments never last long enough for me. I want to sit next to them for hours as they conquer the challenges before them. But all too soon I must move from the scene to start dinner or pay bills or take a phone call from a client. The mail waits to be opened. The flowers need watering. I need to check in with a friend and a few relatives who need a call. Sometimes the moment ends when one child gets restless and can’t sit any longer. They usually don’t admit that. Instead they provoke the other child into an argument so they can claim to be the victim and get a break.

But when I hear the sound of pencils moving across paper, I feel a sense of peace and hope. I feel secure about their futures for a moment. I can set aside my worries that arise each time I hear a news report about another mass shooting or teen who died while texting and driving. I can stop worrying about how I will pay for their college tuition. I relax and soak up the moment as we all sit in one room with our minds exploring new thoughts or new approaches to the past.

I hope when I am older, they return home for a visit and sit next to me with pencils in hand. I will ask them to jot down to-do lists or items I need from the store. They may need to write dates of appointments on my calendar for me. They will think I am old-fashioned for not putting it all on a computer. They may also think that the tasks are mundane. But as they write, I know that I will close my eyes and pictures all of our moments together when they were younger and I heard pencils moving across the paper.        

©Chris Pepple 2013 (This story may be forwarded or reproduced with credit given to Chris Pepple as author. This story may not be sold or edited by any other person other than the original author.)             

Cultivating…new opportunities

I can’t believe how quickly the month of February has gone by. I’ve been working on being my best self for two months now. It’s a journey that has many twists and turns. It’s a journey with both humbling moments and much joy. In processing who I am outside of who others have told me I was and outside of “the boxes” society tries to put us in, I have found that I can open myself up to new opportunities that I had never considered before.  These opportunities have come in the form of what I teach, where I speak, what I read, and what I write. They have come in the form of where I choose to shop or what I choose to eat.

Thanks to a friend’s advice, I’ve eaten raw honey. I’ve hiked new paths. I’ve learned that I like to cook fresh veggies. I’ve discovered flavors of hot tea that I like. I’ve found aromatherapy lotion that makes my hands feel so much better. They are usually so dry all winter. I’ve found new neighborhoods to explore. Last month, I picked up a used book by an author that I had never read before. I’m even starting season three of my podcast soon with a new approach to familiar topics and found new freelance opportunities for writing.

Sometimes in life we have to look for the “newness.” We have to open up to new ways and new possibilities. It’s not that we have to get rid of the old. Many things and many people are worth hanging on to. But we can’t stop growing and learning. We shouldn’t stop exploring and hoping and dreaming. It’s when I explore and grow that I find new joys and new aspects of myself that I had never known before. I rediscover interests and talents that I had packed away years before.

This poem was in my first poetry book and addresses both my personal growth and my spirituality that I explore as I grow. I hope you are “awakening” this year to new opportunities.

In Celebration of Our Awakening

We awaken from our deep slumbers
arising from long winters
which buried us in sorrows and burdens
that froze our soul
and in this season our spirit hibernated
out of the instinct for survival
but now we awaken
and rediscover ourselves—
we find in us a child
celebrating dawn as if it were the first…
we find in us a lover
embracing all things beloved in us and around us…
we find in us a warrior
charging forth with courage
as if no one could stand in our way…
and we discover our roots
which seek out sustenance
as they are caressed by the rich soil
through which they move
and we celebrate our new growth
as we reach up to you, Holy Mother,
and we feel your warming powers
which have awakened us this day.

–Chris Pepple ©2019

Cultivating…new thoughts

So, it’s February, and I’m still hanging in there with my process of cultivating new things in my life in 2020. I wrote about cultivating new relationships in my last post. I want to share with you something I’m working on along with that: cultivating new thoughts.

I’ve carried a lot of thoughts with me through the years that I have had to learn how to toss out. Most of these thoughts were handed to me by toxic people in my life. Unfortunately, I didn’t just dismiss those thoughts. I allowed them to become part of my daily journeys…part of what I thought about myself and the world around me. As I have grown through the years, I found found a place of strength and healing where I have learned to let go of those words. If someone judges me or places their own negativity on my path, I can now recognize their words as toxic and know to leave them there on the path to be washed away by the next rains.

But if I am getting rid of thoughts that I don’t need to carry with me, what am I replacing them with? When I’m waking every morning or walking or meditating with my dog beside me, what thoughts do I allow to settle into my mind? Where do I look for new thoughts that will offer me hope and will carry me instead of pulling me down into their treacherous waters?

There’s not one place alone that I search. For me, I often turn to the words of Scripture, not to the toxic interpretations handed out by people seeking their own comfort and wanting to control others, but to the words as they were written…words of love and hope and a call for peace and true community.

I also turn to poetry and music. Today, I have read through several poems written by Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou, Audre Lorde, and Mary Oliver. These words fill me with hope and sense of being a part of a larger community and a world full of beauty. I can relate to their struggles and find comfort in their understanding. I am given a new glimpse of the beauty of the world around me.

I also seek out the words of encouragers in my community. There are people who can say such kind things and offer words that make me laugh and make me feel such hope and joy. Sometimes I just listen in on conversations in restaurants or as I walk along a busy sidewalk. People can be inspiring as they help others along the way. The kindness doesn’t have be directed toward me to appreciate it.

The more I cultivate new thoughts, the more I find that I can be an encourager as well. When I was with these new thoughts in my mind and in my soul, I find it easier to share them with others. I can spread hope and love when I am walking with both of them.

What thoughts are weighing you down? Can you find a way to leave them on the path and walk with new thoughts? Don’t let others pull you down with their harsh judgments or their negativity or desire to control or harm.

Cultivate thoughts that will bring you hope and healing, that will make you strong and help you see your own worth and your own gifts and talents. You are loved and have much love to offer. Let that thought soak in. Share that thought with others.