By Clarissa Louw
The Amazing Idea teetered nervously on the top left edge of the bookcase. Eager fingers had recently pried him out of his dust cocoon, but then hastily shoved him back onto the unstable shelf. He peered down at his weary creator who paced the worn path through the cluttered room. Another year gone by? The Amazing Idea, (or Amzi, as he no longer referred to himself as Amazing) marked the passing of the seasons by the thinning grey forest on the creator's head.
"Shh. The show's about start!" hissed Ol' Blue, the oldest of the boxed Ideas, so covered in dust, she could not see that this was going to be another re-run. Amzi heaved a deep sigh which blew off the top layer of Ol' Blue's dust, revealing she had once been fresh and green.
Three, two, one. On cue, the creator's melodrama lurched forward. "I did it! Got a view! YES, can you feel it? It's gonna go viral!" The predictable plot line always started with momentary bliss, followed up by a round of drinks, sound sleep, and the inevitable hangover of the five stages of grief.
Amzi clung to the edge of liminal space. He knew one more careless bump to the bookcase would topple this mausoleum.
"I am AMAZING! I deserve to be heard!" With a deafening scream in the creative world (a squeak faintly audible to human ears), the Amazing Idea catapulted off the shelf, sweeping up all of the boxed Ideas in one sonic WOOSH!
At this defining point in time, the creator experienced what some call, the "awakening", or "aha moment". However, worldwide publications would most often cite his famous quote, "It was like being crushed by a mad bookcase of amazing ideas."
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Not many women would admit to being enamored with an insect. However, I hope that my argument will change your opinion on one in particular: the Monarch butterfly. It is my hero for its amazing perseverance, dedication to family, and spectacular beauty.
It takes several generations of Monarchs to make the round trip from Mexico, up to Canada and back down again. Each butterfly that emerges from its chrysalis will carry part of its ancestors’ epic story on its wings. While most Monarchs enjoy a short life meandering northward via our manicured gardens, the last Monarch in the cycle is tasked with a several thousand mile trek back to Mexico. To accomplish this epic journey, she is “blessed” with an extra long life of endurance. (She must be grumbling all the way down. Why did I get stuck with this part of the relay race? I could be sunning myself while sipping zinnia nectar at Longwood Gardens!) Yet, her unique reward will be to reunite with thousands of her extended family members in one of twelve mountain-top Oyamel fir forests in Mexico. Have you seen those stunning pictures of tall fir trees heavily laden with golden wings? That is truly one of the wonders of the world, and any butterfly who makes it there must be in awe. I named my business after this unstoppable insect. She reminds me that despite life’s sometimes arduous journey, it is full of beauty, with the reward of being in our family’s embrace.
I have longed many times to kick back in the garden, absorb some sun rays, and sip on nectar (margarita-flavored). Monarch Butterfly of the Final Stretch, we ladies sympathize with you. Many moms can relate to waking up in the dark, after much-interrupted sleep, to drag your half-awake children to daycare. A chance to sit in the sun passes by as we stare zombie-eyed from inside an office window. For years, I pushed through the tiredness that comes when doing two full-time jobs, mom and teacher. It was enough to pay the bills and save some money, but I felt that my babies were growing up without me. Their environments were full of little companions and loving teachers, yet I wanted to be their main teacher. However, by the time I got home to make dinner and do the chores, I had barely enough energy to play with them. (Does lying on the floor and letting your kids crawl over you count as interaction?) Plus, the migraines triggered by this stress were getting so bad that I had to spend even more time away from home to go to physical therapy. My life had to change or I would be on permanent sick leave. I could not afford to stay at home full-time, so I had to come up with a compromise: find a part time job (which would only make enough to pay for part-time daycare) or start a business.
Our family took a giant leap of faith, and I quit my tenured position. I took aside some time for reflection and self-discovery. Several months stretched out to a year of personal “heart surgery”, confronting personal weaknesses, and rediscovering my talents (you know, those things you were really good at doing before you pushed them aside to be a “responsible” adult?) In case you were wondering, yes, the savings account was dwindling. Yet, I was beginning to feel more of a responsible adult than before I had quit.
Moreover, I relished every day of finally being mom and teacher to my kids, volunteering to assist in art at my eldest child’s elementary school, as well as coaching Odyssey of the Mind, and leading a cub scout den. My youngest and I went on many outings, like long, scientific walks through the woods, apple-picking, and swimming lessons at the Y. I passed the old daycare center every day and felt a brief sense of relief, until a recurring thought weighed on me, “What would my kids have been doing if I were still working? And what about their friends who are still there?”
I began reinvesting in my forgotten talents and reflected on what I loved doing best (art, music, and theater), but I could not shake that daycare center; it haunted me every time I drove by. Then, a moment of enlightenment hit me: combine love of teaching and art with a heart for kids in daycare, and create educational enrichment programs for daycare centers. Having been a daycare parent, I would have loved access to a variety of artistic courses to enrich my children’s early education, especially since funding for these programs were being whittled away in public schools. Therefore, creating an arts enrichment program seemed like a perfect fit. But I couldn’t stop there. (Once brainstorming starts in this brain, roll out the whiteboard and pungent dry erase markers, and open the window!)
Why not start painting murals again? What about that hobby of silk painting? Maybe I could sell those silk scarves I have been meaning to paint since I bought them the week before my first son was born. (They were still sitting in the delivery box.) The brainstorming was spreading like wildfire. To summarize, I said to myself, I can only go up from here, so I will jump off as many cliffs of uncertainty as I can.
Two years have passed by, and my new business is expanding to areas that I had never expected. Every week, another opportunity appears. There have been many challenges, but instead of giving in to each one as a failure, I have decided to go the George Castanza route and do the opposite of what my fears tell me. As a result, this year (2013) I am starting a Music Together® Center, entering into juried art and craft shows, and teaching theater and art classes around the Lehigh Valley. I also started teaching piano lessons, and I love it all! My favorite part is having time to walk to the bus stop and pick up my children, as well as working/playing together to develop new art and music lessons. They are the heart of the business. In fact, my eight year old named it for me: The Meandering Monarch. (He likes big words.)
The Meandering Monarch has taken me to a variety of gardens, from the wonderful students at Spring Garden’s Children Center in the southside of Easton, to Via in Bethlehem, making art with teens who have disabilities. I am particularly grateful to the BeSafe aftercare program in Bushkill Elementary School where I have been able to develop fun theater courses with their kids. I am now navigating my latest cliff (singing in front of others) by opening a Music Together® Center in Nazareth, where I will be singing a lot, all in the name of family involvement in music education.
My future goals are to paint commissioned murals, write a children’s story, and continue being a great Mom and den leader. Oh, and I forget. (I always forget). Try to sit in the garden and breathe. Taking time to relax in that garden, not just flitting over it, is so important. Perhaps that is my biggest cliff of all. You know who you are, you “self-sacrificing” ladies out there, nodding. Seriously, you need to give yourself a break because what good can you do if you’re all uptight and exhausted? Let’s all stop for a moment right now at the end of this blog, and take a deep breath in through the nose…… Just make sure you are standing over a lovely flower. If you happen to see a monarch go by, give her a salute.
For more information about Monarch butterflies, visit Monarch Butterfly Journey North