Monthly Archives: June 2014

One Hundred Seventy Eight: Same Post. Different Day.

“Man… probably the most mysterious species on our planet. A mystery of unanswered questions. Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? How do we know what we think we know? Why do we believe anything at all? Countless questions in search of an answer… an answer that will give rise to a new question… and the next answer will give rise to the next question and so on. But, in the end, isn’t it always the same question? And always the same answer?” – Opening line, Run Lola Run

Friday, June 27th

This blog has taught me one thing and many things. One, that although life is always changing and dynamics are different that the basic questions and answers are always the same. Each and every day offers me (and all of us) a new roll of the dice, a new choose-your-own-adventure novel to pursue. I will likely keep searching for the answers to so many of my questions outside of myself, but they are and always be inside of me.

What patterns do you see in your own life?

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One Hundred Seventy Seven: No Plans

“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”  – Lao Tzu

Thursday, June 26th

One week into summer vacation and I was feeling that winging it every day would not work for the kids and I. So our first order of business was to make schedule cards. We printed out a number of cards and laminated them so we could stick a different schedule up on our fridge every morning. A schedule is great because as soon as you have one, you can bust away from its constraints.

A typical schedule reads “Breakfast-Reading-Art-Lunch-Buddies-Library”. It’s vague enough that we can read whatever we want and make any sort of art project we want to happen. But most importantly, when the kids close the door to the playroom and pull all their toys out I can back off and just let it be what it is.

Do you try to regiment too much of your life?

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One Hundred Seventy Six: Go-To Girlfriend

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”  – Anaïs Nin

Wednesday, June 25th

I love my friend Holly. We met at a tai chi class and over the years we slowly got to know one another. Our daughters were slated to be in  kindergarten at the same school, and our husbands met randomly at a summer playdate where our girls hit it off. The first day of school, we sat back and watched as our sweet little daughters held hands and walked to the classroom together. There has been a natural congruency in our lives which has made it very easy to get along with her.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m harassing her by asking her to do anything and everything with me. We pal up at school events, class field trips, meetings, and then I had been asking her to join me on adventures as soon as we’d drop our daughters off for school. It dons on me how out of practice I am with having a go-to friend who I confide in regularly. I have some amazing friends in my life from different periods of my life and I have held them close as my life direction has taken me away from my mother country, out of the workplace, and from the traditional spheres where people meet (wherever those are).

Being 39, I find that my friends are have their own little lives carved out. We’re not potlucking every Friday, and that’s okay. It has allowed my husband and I to spend time with a variety of people. What we have lacked is a family that we could potluck with every Friday. I think it’s worth pursuing as the nature of friendships evolve in my life, and I have a greater need for my friends to be a family of friends.

Do you approach friendships differently as you get older?

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One Hundred Seventy Five: Shutdown

“Life is more fun if you play games.” – Roald Dahl

Tuesday, June 24th

…But even the most playful people get a little too tired to keep playing sometimes. The kidlets and I had been invited to a neighbor’s house for our daughters to have a playdate. The first red flag was when the mother texted me to let me know that she’d been having a rough time communicating with her husband that morning and needed space. She apologized profusely, but I felt like the best strategy was to move forward and not let it affect the children’s morning.

The second red flag was the presence of the exuberant little house pet. He’s a great dog and I’d love a little pal like that, but my children are outright terrified of dogs and so his sweet little run to greet us was taken as a massive safety threat. A child in fear does not accept logical explanations until the perceived threat is removed.

Still, the kids bounced their hearts out on the trampoline and snuck into the big tent set up in the backyard. Then my daughter opened the door, the dog got out, and she boiled over. It was one of those tantrum moments where it became apparent that we had to leave. I’m glad I did because once we got home, she climbed into bed and promptly fell asleep for two hours. So about my post about choosing fun over sleep, that’s if you’re over the age of 20!

Do you know when to remove yourself from a situation before things spiral out of control?

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One Hundred Seventy Four: Good Service

“Good service is good business.”  – Siebel Ad

Monday, June 23rd

I am a stickler for great service. Heck, I’d settle for mediocre service but most of the time I find I am in the middle of a transaction where I’m providing customer service to the business person. What’s up with that?

So Monday was the day that my husband was going to take our car in to get checked out. I am not entirely sold on the idea of using Yelp to find service providers (since I’ve had terrible experiences with highly recommended businesses and met amazing people who had no online reviews at all), but this mechanic had 5 stars from every single person who wrote in.

This repairman claims that if you can beat him at a freestyle rap then you can get a free oil change. Okay, I’m sold on this guy already. To boot, my husband said that he narrowed our car trouble down to the most likely three causes and spec’ed out what that might cost. Although our car fix was the least troublesome, he took the time to fix a major leak in the oil pan and get our car working like new. I’ve got to put the word out about this guy!

What do you do to acknowledge good service?

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One Hundred Seventy Three: Running on Empty

“It’s better to be a lion for a day than a sheep all your life.”  – Elizabeth Kenny

Sunday, June 22nd

I had gusto when I was young. I wanted experiences so I tried a lot of new things. Was it a love for life or a fear of being sheltered? I don’t know. At some point, I slowed down and became a whole lot more sensible about things. Wearing sensible shoes. Going to bed at a sensible hour. Dancing like a sensible person. There is not a whole lot of fun in the completely sensible life.

But this year of paying attention to my life has helped me to fill my days with both the mundane and the insane. Sunday was a double-whammy of being over-tired from a general lack of sleep from the previous night’s campout and an evening volunteer gig helping out at another concert. But I stormed ahead. In fact, I was the first volunteer to arrive only to find that I hadn’t actually been added to the list at all. But I stayed on to help anyway…and it was great fun to have another night of people-watching and music-grooving. It was going to take me a couple of days to catch up on rest but I’m alive and I’ve got the time for that. It’s time to be a lion.

Do you agree with the quote, “Everything in moderation. Even moderation.”?

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One Hundred Seventy Two: Campin’ Solo

camp

“The good thing about flying solo is it’s never boring.”  – Steve Fossett

Saturday, June 21st

I signed up for a sponsored urban camp-out months ago as a back-up if there weren’t enough low-income families in subsidized housing who registered. We got the call a month ago that we were in, and it was the first summer event to look forward to. I intentionally did not sign up my husband so he could have the night off, and so I could try my hand at camping solo with my little dears.

The kids didn’t really have a firm idea of what we were doing until we had our backpacks in hand standing in line to get checked in. We would be sharing a rustic cabin with two other families and participating in a variety of outdoor activities with a half a dozen more families. When we got to the cabin it donned on my children that this was their overnight home…and things really got fun. They were climbing all over the bunk beds, running in and out of the cabin, and marking their territory with giggles and hijinks.

We went to the big open meadow in the center of the park and saw some familiar faces – our librarian friend and the early childhood educator who works at the community center where we registered for this event. We met some of the other families, but really had a lot of time to roam and explore at our leisure before dinner was served. I checked our cabin every hour or so to look for evidence of our cabin-mates’ arrival, to no avail. By dinner, I figured that they weren’t coming and we would have the cabin all to ourselves. It felt like a complementary upgrade!

I tend to keep my children relatively close since they are still so young, but when I am parenting solo there are situations where I need to put more trust in them and loosen the reigns. It’s good to ask them for help. I have great kids and they like to be helpers. I was sure that after dinner they would be really worn out and want to go to bed, but once there was talk of smores it became clear that this adventure would continue on into the night. So off to the fire pit to sing songs and play nature games we went. After the smores there was a nighttime nature walk, so we joined that too. By time we got back to the cabin it was 10:00 pm, but bedtime went smoothly and the only struggle was waking their sleepy heads the next morning for breakfast.

One thing I had been mulling about was that we were one of two Caucasian families. Issues of race had been on my mind since my daughter had asked the day before (at an end of school community party) why we were the only Americans there. I explained that Americans come in all colors and from all countries of the world, and asked whether perhaps she was meaning ask “Why are we the only family here with white skin?” It was a rich conversation to have with a five-year-old, and reminded me that even though these families live about five blocks away from me that there were a lot of social and economic barriers that kept us from mingling. It is the reason why I have taken my children to the playtime in the neighborhood with subsidized housing since they were babies, so that they could meet children who may look different and speak a different language but who play and laugh just the same. I felt as comfortable as I ever am in a new situation (slightly awkward and nervous but open to talking), but it struck to me that there would be a difference in my experience from the other families of color. Race does matter. It felt important to acknowledge that since it is not something I usually think about while my neighbors of color have to think about this every day – mainly in the structures of inequality across our society.

By the end of the event, the kids and I were hepped up on the entire experience. Nature walks with park naturalists. Rock climbing. Smore roasting. Bonding with other families. Being outdoors after our bedtime and having good old-fashioned fun. We proved to ourselves that we could do it without the one person who sets up the tent and cooks the beans every time.

Have you stepped out of your comfort zone to try something new lately?

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One Hundred Seventy One: On a Roll

“And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.”  – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Friday, June 20th

I fought the idea of hosting a class party on the first day of summer. One, I’m an introvert. Two, my daughter is one too. Three, the size of a kindergarten class is far too big. And four, this wasn’t exactly what I’d call a low-key week. But life is for the living, right? So come on over, Friends.

If I do personality tests, they usually spit out that I’m a visionary or an ideas person so I was more than thrilled that everyone who offered to come also offered to help. I took several people up on their offers. One friend came over and helped me make a playlist. I had access to a rather large disco ball and I intended on luring those kids onto the dance floor to kick out some jams. Another Mom did a walk-through of the common space that we’d use for the party, and helped me tuck up my plans and keep it simple. It was revolutionary thinking – offer several options for the children but understand that they will be drawn to what they’re drawn to and let it be. Phew, I could exhale now.

I’m learning that most of the effort required for these sorts of things is on the front end. Invite people and secure the location and then the rest falls into place with effective delegation. One of the moms kindly reminded me, “It’s only two hours.” So when people started showing up, the bustle started outdoors directly next to the bubble machine. It was really sweet to see how well the kids played together, and we had the space for the older siblings to branch out and play on their own.

It felt good to act contrary to my tendencies and host the party. It added something to the class experience for all of us.

Are you effective at delegating or do you take all the responsibility on your own shoulders?

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One Hundred Seventy: Farewells

“Why can’t we get all the people together in the world that we really like and then just stay together? I guess that wouldn’t work. Someone would leave. Someone always leaves. Then we would have to say good-bye. I hate good-byes. I know what I need. I need more hellos.”  – Charles M. Schulz

Thursday, June 19th

I was down to the last day of school wondering where this school year had gone. I had spent a good deal of time this year serving as the parent support to the garden teacher – a very delightful woman who has a natural knack at sharing her love of nature and gardening with our kids. I had inklings that she was going to leave, and she eventually confirmed that after marrying the second grade teacher they would be moving out-of-state to start afresh. As a small token of thanks for all they have done for the school, I invited everyone out to the garden to celebrate.

The irony is that this school year had started with a broken elbow, an international visitor, and an expired pet fish to share (and perhaps eclipse) the grandeur of this new beginning for our family. Now this party would be doing the same for the ending of the school year. Maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing, especially for my daughter who can be sensitive to transitions. 

I was fairly prepared for the event and definitely armed with the insecurity that no one might show up. But they did arrive. In droves. People were joyous, celebratory, and they brought a lot of food to share with others. Within a couple of hours, we were through and it was on to the next thing – summer!

How are you at event planning?

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One Hundred Sixty Nine: Musicking

“A concert is not a live rendition of our album. It’s a theatrical event.”  – Freddie Mercury

Wednesday, June 18th

I committed to volunteering for two concerts this summer in exchange for a free ticket to see the show. I completely forgot to write it on my calendar so was surprised to see a confirmation that both concerts were within days of one another in my daughter’s last week of school before summer break.

I had volunteered at this concert series before so I knew the drill. Sign in. Set up. Check in with the other volunteers. It was one of those nights though. A magical night of sunshine and soft breezes. Bumping into friends and making new ones. I am always struck by how vital the audience is to an event itself. The artist holds the space, but the audience chooses whether to elevate the mood.

For me, it always comes down to whether I am able to step outside of myself and go on the sonic journey with others. Protest music. Spirituals. Sacred chants. Live breakbeats. The one drop. All of it is an invitation to remember who we are to one another and to ourselves. The people watching was epic, and I default to milking that for its full entertainment value. My fellow volunteer reminded me that sometimes the best thing is to jump in and participate with that person rather than make someone an object of laughter or mockery. She approached a man I’d pointed out as being colorful, and asked to have her photo taken with him. It takes gumption to be unique and he owned it, and had all the better time for it. That energy is what heals this judgmental self-interested world. Then I was approached by someone who had very limited boundaries and it was interesting to see what a complete drain he was, dominating the conversation and bringing everything back around to him so he could share his strong opinions. It takes all types in this world, and boy howdy, do music shows ever bring them all out!

What are your favorite parts of a musical event?

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