Monday, October 22, 2012

Listening to lots of Duke Ellington, Nina Simone, Charlie Parker, and Ella Fitzgerald these days to immerse myself in the music being taught in the classes I'm evaluating. Jazz at Lincoln Center is doing incredible stuff teaching American history through jazz, connecting basic democratic ideals like freedom with jazz concepts like improvisation. The debate is going to start soon but I'm not going to watch it. I just can't stomach it. On the other hand I went door to door campaigning for Obama in South Philly this past Saturday and it was uplifting. 

Here's one of my absolute favorite songs, Nina Simone's version. "I wish I knew how it would feel to be free". Just gives you the tiniest inkling of a sense of how some people have struggled and how far they've come even though the fight is far from over. 

Monday, October 15, 2012


This is what happens when you're distracted in the morning finishing taxes for which you filed a 6-month extension and which are now finally due as of today instead of getting your preschooler ready for school. (Goody bag from weekend party raided -- helped himself to lollipop and was playing paddle ball when I found him. Sorry the video sideways.)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A friend sent me this article from Linkedin today called "How to Create Time". It has has good advice in it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

When the moon is on the rise

I remember back when my nieces were little -- both under 3 -- I would sometimes be at their apartment for dinner and then stay while my sister put them to bed. She never strayed from the schedule, and it was a comforting routine. The girls would dance, brush their teeth, change into pajamas, zip into their fleece sleep sacs in wintertime. Then Dara would read them stories on the couch. There were three books I remember on heavy rotation, all board books by Sandra Boynton: Blue Hat, Green Hat (which the girls like to "read" by looking at the pictures), Pajama Time and The Going to Bed Book. In the last one there's a page where animals go up to the roof to exercise after they get on their PJs and brush their teeth. On one visit my mom had made a comment about how silly that was -- to get all hyped up at that point in the bedtime routine. The observation stuck with Eliana. On subsequent readings when we got to that page, she would point to the pig doing handstands and said, "Mimi not like that part." 

After the books, off they'd shuffle to bed with a round of hugs for any adults present. I'd wait on the couch while Dara sang the same songs every night --  "Goodnight Ladies" and "Make New Friends", one verse of each. Then she'd shut their door and we'd chat for a little bit, maybe eat some Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Usually she had to work then and usually I had somewhere to go or at least a dog to walk so I'd say goodnight and be on my way. After the books and the cozy pajamas and the lullabies in the dimly lit room, I'd feel kind of quiet and tired in a sort of trance. Riding down in the elevator, I had the sense that it must be rather late and maybe I should be getting to bed myself. Then out on the sidewalk I'd glance at my watch. Seeing the actual time would jolt me awake and suddenly I'd feel so free like I'd just been handed all this time that wasn't really mine. Like setting the clocks back, but for several hours, not just one. It's really only 8:30? I'd think, smiling to myself. I still have the whole night? Magic.

I'd go galavanting into that Brooklyn night full of wonder, maybe calling Alex to see what he was up to. And now here it is five years later, 9:00 PM. I've set down my Princeton Review Cracking the GRE book for the night. Alex kindly cleaned the kitchen. Wally's asleep and it feels ridiculously late. I'm wondering if I'll manage to stay awake for Modern Family. 

"And when the moon is on the rise, we all go up to exercise."
The Going to Bed Book

Sandra Boynton

Friday, October 5, 2012

Where I am now

I feel I should come clean and confess to my current pre-occupations. I am due to start work at a new part-time job in the next few days. I'm also applying for grad school for next year (English Masters with Writing Concentration). The novel I co-wrote with my neighbor mom friend was ever so kindly rejected by the first agent and is now with a second. I'm working on a fairy tale for young adults, which I can't quite reign in (no surprise for any project in which I'm involved). While I still have some of my freelance projects going I feel distinctly that this current phase of being a stay-at-home-mom/freelance writer -- the one I've written about here--is coming to a close. Not that I won't continue the blog, but it will come from a different vantage point. 

I began while entrenched in that world -- schlepping Wally to therapies, mixing vodka and jell-o together in wild concoctions during naptime for this book, making my way through the strange, barren land of metal slides and wooden ladders. 

Idols have come and gone, Wally has been tamed, we finally became part of that longed for neighborhood community and while it remains loosely in place, we're scattered babies, new jobs, kids all at different schools. The kids are happy to see each other on the playgrounds, but there is no longer that day to day rhythm. Fridays at the river -- what had been a weekly even last summer -- we attended only once this year. I joined the local toddler committee and quit 8 months later. I became highly--overly--involved in the parents' group at Wally's school, and this year I'm one of those distant, uninvolved parents, dodging coffee get-togethers, not checking the meetup site. 

I've juggled with scheduling, alternated between letting Wally nap after school and facing the ridiculously late bedtime or pushing him cranky and begging to "sleep" through the afternoon for the sake of a quiet evening. I haven't solved the question of maintaining a social life separate from family. Rushing out the door to meet a friend -- even once or twice a week, for something easy like a walk on the High Line -- still makes me feel a bit torn and guilty, leaving Wally and Alex there eating by themselves, hungry because I didn't have time to eat with them, grabbing a granola bar on the way out the door and thinking something doesn't feel right. I am still trying to shake my impulse to run for a yardstick when someone tells me to jump. 

I've found that the more serious and committed I am to a piece of writing, the less I need to talk about the writing process to others, the less I wrestle with the demon of resistance. When focused, I am better able to tolerate bad writing days just like I used to tolerate bad running days. (Shamefully, I don't have good or bad running days now. In the balancing act of constantly shifting priorities, that one has fallen off the list.)

I battle only in small ways with most parenting questions, having been given this reprieve now: post the crazy overwhelmed exhaustion of the early years, past the toddler defiance, before the true defiance of the teenage years, which parents of older kids love to remind me is worse. Somehow I don't feel as affected by those kinds of dire warnings now. Advice and pressure from other people is still constant, and I'm still way more influenced by expectations from friends than many people I think, but I've turned down the volume on those shrill voices. I hear it only when I stop to listen. Still yesterday I read "Avoid emotional eating. No food rewards, bribes, etc." on the back of French Kids Eat Everything and wondered what lifetime of bad habits I'm setting up for Wally by doling out m n' ms for good behavior or finishing dinner. 

Not that I'm living an entirely-self directed life. But it's closer than it was in May 2010 when I began to examine it here on a somewhat consistent basis.

I am trying to focus on action. Yesterday when many people around me were all gloom and doom about Obama's debate performance (I really didn't think it was that bad!), I tried to remind them that this should just drive us to work harder: make more calls, send more money, talk to more people, jump on a bus to the nearest swing state if possible. It's not only pointless to read one more piece on huffpo or watch one more hour of Rachel Maddow Romney-bashing (as fun as it can be), it's also enervating and discouraging when things aren't going your way. Why not instead work for the cause. If you want the country to move forward, move forward yourself. 

I wonder, too, about mentioning politics on this blog (though that ship surely sailed off into the sunset last October), but then I tell myself, don't be afraid. Sure it may turn some trickle-down economists off, but I can't deny that fundamental connection between sound governmental policy and the wellbeing of our country's young people. Clean water, clean air, public education, health care, not being refused care because of a pre-existing condition, or for reaching a lifetime cap, or simply for getting sick (yes - before Obamacare depending on your provider you could get kicked off insurance just for that and Romney hopes it will be legal again), fair pay for women, promoting equal rights for gays, giving low income kids a chance to attend college, taking care of our veterans, giving people who are willing to work hard an opportunity to get ahead, cutting taxes for middle-class Americans, instead of tilting the advantage only to the mega-rich, investing in green energy, these are moral imperatives. These policies won't continue without those of us who believe in them being willing to say that we do. Refusing to engage in these kinds of discussions would be a disavowal of my responsibility as an adult lucky enough to live in a free country where I am allowed to say what I think. Remember in the president's election night victory speech four years ago he said this: "This victory alone is not the change we seek - it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you." 

In the debate the other night Obama said the first priority of the president is to keep the country safe. It seems obvious that the first priority of a parent is to do the same for one's children, and for as many other children as we can. 

Wally four years ago. A rather ridiculous picture to include  given the title's post.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Thoughts on a Rainy Tuesday

Trying to psych myself up for Obama phone bank tonight. Flashbacks to high school volunteering in the summer for Eastern Mass Literacy Program. I remember sitting in the basement calling people to ask if they'd be willing to come to some event or donate or volunteer to tutor illiterate adults. Before dialing each number I had to give myself a pep talk and swallow a bunch of times and clear my throat. And I'm pretty sure we still had a rotary phone in the basement at that time so even once I started dialing there was still a long way to go. 

The smell of baked potatoes in the oven I think is just one of the coziest things in the world especially on a chilly, rainy day like this.

Wally home from school today for staff development day. Between the Jewish holidays, this kind of stuff and Columbus day coming up it doesn't seem like there's a single full week of school. Which I know is ridiculous because when I first started Wally at this school I was bemoaning the fact that it was every day for five hours and now I'm like -- another day off or another early pickup are you kidding me? Can't a mom catch a break? 

This Obama video reminds me so much of Friday Night Lights in a really good way.

This summer in Virginia I saw someone wearing a Riggins jersey and I thought that was kinda weird, to be such a fan of Friday Night Lights (the TV show) that you'd wear a shirt with the name of a character on it (Tim Riggins) like he was a football player in real life but then it turns out there's someone named Riggins on some football team that plays in Virginia and I kind of made a fool of myself.