JoCoWrites

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By Emily Amstutz

“No push-ups in the bathtub!” my mom yelled at my 4-year-old brother, Spencer. Why he was doing push-ups in the bathtub was a mystery to the rest of us children. My brother, Chap, age 9, ran into the bathroom to get a closer look at Spencer's antics and hurriedly joined the workout routine from the tub sidelines. Elouise, my younger sister by two years, caught my eye and we burst out laughing. Our pre-teen selves simply couldn't comprehend the absolute absurdity of the situation, and we fell to the floor in a fit of giggles.

My mother, a kind-hearted yet often overworked woman, cracked a smile, and we watched as her decorum shattered and laughter spilled out in glorious peals. The volume of our laughter rose to an ear-shattering pitch when Spencer attempted a handstand, lost his balance, and fell into the bathtub with a 'plop' that splashed the four non-bathing members of the family with bathwater.

Damp and out of breath, we slowly wiped the tears from our eyes and helped little Spencer out of the tub. Our hair wet, our hearts full, and our family a little bit closer than before.

To this day, we still yell, “No push-ups in the bathtub!” at family events, and it never ceases to cause hearty laughter and a few happy tears.

“What you don't eat gets rubbed in your hair” has been a part of my family's lexicon for as long as I can remember. Where did this saying come from? Why do we still say it? What are things your family says and what do those things tell us about you?

By Anna

Spring is never silent. It may seem quiet at first as soft breezes rustle through new and tender leaves. It extends like a good morning stretch, reaching out as shooting stalks. Then come the geese. Then comes the thunder.

Spring is the rude awakening of sunlight streaming in through the windows. Accompanying those harsh rays is, of course, the chirp of a cheeky bird right outside said windows. Just as good bread needs to rest for a glorious rise, so too do you. Though the world outside seems to think you’re over-proofed.

Spring is well-loved; she brings many gifts. She courts away the chill of Winter until even the ground itself softens. Spring’s hourglass ends the icy stasis that holds the world still. She invites all colors to court through various fleeting, fragrant flowers. Spring puts all manner of magic into the air: motes, pollen, seeds, and spores.

Spring is fickle and cruel. She’ll never tell you her plans, instead coming and going as she pleases. She’ll play all manner of jokes on you, from tickling your nose to painting your car yellow and green.

Spring comes unannounced. When Spring is in the air, she wears many faces. When she glides down the mountainside, you may recognize her as Landslide or Flash Flood. Across the plains she is known by Derecho or Tornado. More common are her other aliases like Hail and Snap Freeze.

When Spring introduces you to Summer, she is all but forgotten. Summer is brighter and bolder – but don’t tell Spring that you said she is better. Summer is ample without anger, hotter without hubris, plentiful without pouting, sumptuous without spite. Summer enjoys a long reign, but for now Spring is the May Queen.

By Maeve Webb

Spring is a time of rebirth, a time of rising from the melting snow like a mossy phoenix as the Northern Hemisphere begins to bloom with possibility again. Baby birds learn to sing in the trees and spread their wings for the first time. I love to hear the sound of crickets after a winter of just plain snow. For a small moment, I even welcome back the wasps as they zip through the sky again. Spring is a time for life, after all.

By Charles

I have to get this out of the way up front: Spring is the second worst season of the year. True, it is not as bad a summer, but it is always a harbinger of doom; the onset of some of my least favorite parts of the year. -Allergies. If you have them, you know, and if you don’t then consider yourself blessed. Living in a constant self-medicated state and wondering when it will be safe to walk out the door without feeling my throat instantly turn into sandpaper is one of the signs that spring has arrived. -Mowing. It’s loud and dirty and kicks up the aforementioned allergies. The weather also has to be just right at the right time when you are available to mow, or you have to hack through a forest of grass a week later when you finally are free again. -Heat. While not a constant oppressive force yet like the latter parts of July and the month of August, the pleasant sweater weather and snuggly pajamas while sipping hot tea are gone and replaced by a constant sense of everything being slightly warmer than I am ready for it to be.

I am not just a curmudgeon though. Spring does have a primordial surge of energy that I can’t help but appreciate. For example, a lazy spring weekend always feels like fishing time and I often am tempted to cast out a line and see what bites (despite my intense displeasure for touching both worms and fish). It also is a time for the neighborhood critters to have their next generation, and while I am a little skittish about squirrels, seeing a baby bunny hopping around the yard is heart-melting.

So I try to grab some of these fleeting moments: A puffy white tail hopping madly back to its warren, my kids running free and wild in a game of tag, the sunset across the lake. I hold them close as mental armor to cool me off through the trials of summer, until October when I can once again pull out my lightweight jackets and pumpkin spice, and live again.

Springtime. Warmth returning. Rain falling. Flowers budding. Spring is a time of renewal and new growth. Talk to us about this glorious green season. What about Spring excites you? What do you look forward to? Or is Spring your least favorite time of year?

By Charles

I consider myself a member of many communities. I am a musician and a gamer; a father and a son; a midwestern boy with established roots in Kansas soil. All of these and more contribute to my sense of self and shape the communities I find myself in. I also am a naturally reticent person. I express my feelings in the written word, but in person I struggle to overcome the oppressive weight of social anxiety and am constantly trying to read non-verbal cues to know how I should mold myself to avoid rejection. As I grew up, I developed routines; habits that helped me fit in. I even led groups in my communities: a section leader in band and a community organizer for the local game store. I felt more comfortable. No second-guessing interactions, just going from task to task and day to day with a plan for it all.

COVID-19

The disease that broke routines. It made me question why I was doing the things I was doing. Was I really interacting? Was I part of a community or just going through motions engrained bone deep in my consciousness? How do I fill my days, and if I don’t fill them to the top and pour on a dose of podcasts to fill the gaps, how do I sit with it? The silence. Standing still.

Three years in and life has ramped up again. I am reconnecting with friends and family. I am volunteering in a jazz band and attending conventions. I am taking family outings and smiling at neighbors at the annual summer cookout. Am I connected? Am I engaged? Have I just replaced old habits with new? Switched around the routines and convinced myself that this is really what I like? That this is my community? Who can say?

Maybe I will figure it out in the next pandemic.

By JocoWrites

What's your favorite way to engage in community?

By Mia Justice

A boo here, a cackle there, a growl, and maybe even some rattling! Who goes there? Perhaps it's just someone you know? Could it be a ghost, a zombie, a vampire, OR MORE? Deadly, scary, giving you such a FRIGHT...OH MY!!! What if they want to be your friend? It might want to hold your hand! Next to your sweater that you wear in cold weather. Wearing your shoes, your new red squeaky shoes! Maybe it's wearing your hat? You floppy black hat! Is it wearing your costume? A cat, a giant bat? What's in your closet? What's in your room? Could you scare it away with the flick of a broom? You should leave your room, or perhaps, it'll leave itself soon... But before you take a peek, try and catch it sneak... Sneak... Sneak... Creak... BOOM!!! JUMP OUT OF YOUR ROOM! RIDING A BROOM! WRINKLY GREEN FACE! GIANT FLOWING ROBES! She has a small black CAT! A scary cat, AND a little baby BAT! A witch, where? A witch...OVER THERE!!! 'Happy Halloween,' she smiles, she laughs! 'Thanks for playing my game,' she soars, she claps!

By Charles

My love of music is a lighthouse. It shines out over the sea of my life, and no matter where I go or what I do, it is there. A constant beacon on the shoreline, guiding me past rocky shoals and into safe harbor.

Some of my earliest memories: • My mother playing the dulcimer; the hammers ringing against the strings with sudden brilliance, and the ghostly echoes resonating in the copper toned wooden frame • Pounding on the keyboard of the console piano at my grandma’s house, being yelled at for not treating the instrument with respect, but not before the booming jangle filled me up with joy • The pressure in my chest every time a band marched by in a parade, and the inability to judge whether it came from the booming bass drums or my yearning to join them

I thought music would be my life, so I chased it, following its siren call wherever it led. I skipped school to play Christmas music at the mall. I have ridden in a van with people I just met at a vocal recital for a chance to sing in a barbershop choir for a night. I tried to cover six different parts for the pit orchestra to Into the Woods, experiencing the joy of pushing my abilities to their limit and the devastation of the reality of my failure.

More memories: • Smoothies after a concert with friends who made each other laugh so hard that the coffee shop employees told us we had to leave • Ice cold pizza with crust like cardboard tasting like magic as my body tried to contain the excitement and anticipation for my first performance in front of 50,000 college football fans • The emotional intimacy built with colleagues who are now spread out across the country but live forever just a downbeat away in my heart

A lighthouse isn’t a life. It is a tool. People work there, and I can visit. I can even stay and direct the light for other people in my life. I can shine bright and cast away shadows and fill myself with purpose and passion for the light. But as I learn more about myself, I find balance to be key.

I can build a house on the shoreline.

I can give my love to my family and my friends.

I can work and play and create.

But I also can bask in the light from time to time or take a trip around the bay. As long as I have the light in my life, I can find my way to joy.