Sunday, July 27, 2014

sometimes you get a little lost in the narrative

This summer has been glorious and it has been terrible, and all through it, I've been telling you about it, narrating in my head, but never finding the moments to transfer words from neurons to fingertips to "publish" button.

Chapter 1: Me

I'm in the middle of something, I think. I don't need this space like I used to, those years when my brain scratched for more. This new iteration of my career is the most challenging I've ever faced by incomparable measures, and it's mostly exciting, and it's extremely engaging, and it's occasionally severely frustrating. But never, anymore, at the end of my day is my brain calling out for more attention. It's spent. And I tell stories all day long now, making them, building them, defending them, canonizing them, and so my quiet me voice that was often my loudest voice is turning inward, I think, and still narrating, beat on and borne back ceaselessly, but it doesn't demand to be noticed, because now I spend my day being noticed plenty. 

Also, it's possible, I don't know, is this something one can notice in the moment? or only backward upon reflection? that I'm fulfilled. This work + this life it adds up to enough, maybe. I am busy enough and challenged enough and tired enough. I was always loved enough but that wasn't enough enough. But maybe, I don't know, this is what the absence of needing more looks like. 

Chapter 2: Them

I don't want to jinx anything, but this is, so far, the most collectively-emotionally-well-adjusted season of the kids' existence. Everyone seems in a pretty good place. This is not the same as smooth sailing, please note, but how could it be if we are to be boats beat against the current?

Chapter 3: Us

In our family, war in the Middle East is not an abstract faraway thing. And these weeks have been tense. And I am but a big ol' naive peacenik, but I would like everyone to behave themselves now; and also stop seeping their damages into my consciousness. 

I was listening to a Radiolab today; it's not online yet or I'd link for you; it was about the self, and what is that - what neighborhood of your brain your self lives in, and how your self changes after a stroke or amnesia, and what is the self chemically, spiritually, figuratively. We are who we tell ourselves we are, the hosts concluded. The only definition of self is the extended narrative we compose and retell. 

How is your summer going?

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Not everyone's a winner

We just got back from a few days away in Pennsylvania, the highlight of which turned out for our kids to be Dutch Wonderland. It's a child-oriented amusement park and our littles are at the sweet spot in age where all three liked most rides. {And that, dear friends, is amazing.}

G has a passion for toy snakes of any kind, and the bigger the better, and you should have seen him lose his sweet mind with excitement when he saw the snake prizes available at the carnival games. The park wasn't very crowded and I thought he might be able to win a little snake for himself at the whack-a-mole game, but the game operator wouldn't let G play as a solo player. I agreed to play, too, figuring that G would get the win either way, and this much snake happiness was worth $4 as much as it was worth $2.  

But then -- two little boys about E's age came to play. The stakes were raised, literally, because now three little boys had laid their happiness on the line, but also because with four players, the prize was upgraded from small to large.

I felt somewhat sad, looking over at those boys, but did I have a choice? No, dear friends, you know I did not. I whacked those moles with no compassion for their rainbow heads nor for those stranger boys spending their allowances to my left.

I don't love to ruin lives, but my boy had his eye on a snake. A mama has to make tough decisions sometimes.

And our boy? He's in love with a four-foot guy now named Mr. Purple-Green Snake. They've been inseparable since yesterday. 

You can't mess with true love.

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels

My summer interns have arrived at work, a crew of really bright college students from Texas and Pennsylvania and California and New York. I was explaining how best to reach me yesterday to the newest of the lot. She's going to be working mostly in our DC building and I spend most of my time in one of our Maryland buildings so I was showing her how to access my Google calendar and mentioned that I'm hard to reach by phone because of my heavy meeting schedule but that I always have my Blackberry with me and suggested that she should email me as questions arise.

"Oh, yeah," she said. "My mom is just like that, too. I can only catch her by email. I understand." Now, record scratch: did that girl just compare me to her mom? Okay, wait: I'm technically old enough to be her mom. Hmm.

[She's an excellent writer, even if she thinks I'm ancient. Repeat: she's an excellent writer, even if...]


School lets out this week for my kindergartner and my second grader, soon never to be called by those descriptions again. The treasures have been trickling home all week, decorations from their lockers and their math workbooks and art portfolios, first day photos and writing samples cleverly mounted by teachers next to photos and writing assignments from this week. Those girls, they've grown.

A painting L made sometime in her kindergarten experience after studying Joan Miro. Stuffed in a grocery bag of art treasures. 

I look at these things and those faces and I think how old they look, how grown, how much they've learned and tried and risked and stumbled and accomplished to get where they are. And 'old,' framed that way, sits quite nicely.

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Monday, June 9, 2014

The language of the boy

He wanted to give the flowers to his sister after her dance recital

The boy's language is a more mysterious one than the girls'. He uses fewer words and more body gestures. His enunciation is still in development. His body language, though, is unamibiguous, and where words fail him or he can't be bothered, he has his body-slamming hugs and his body-slamming tantrums. He is a boyishy, boyishy boy.

I have been encouraging his expressive language, and where the girls have no hesitation at spilling their hearts' daily catalogs of experience, he is just realizing the application of words to these outbursts. He says now, Mommy, can I tell something? And wanting to set a lifetime's expectation, I answer always, "you can tell me anything." And he now says:

I have a feeling.

He doesn't mean it the way you or I would say it, that you have a sense that {dot dot dot}. He means he has one. He's found inside himself a feeling, and he'd like to discuss it. Or if it's come and gone, he says, I got a feeling. He's adopted the girls' language, too, for asking for private conversation, and he asks for a meeting in my office. We curl up in my bed and in the safety of a snuggle, a warm cocoon that necessitates no eye contact, he tells me about his feeling. And having expunged the feeling through the power of words, he usually concludes the meeting by jumping on the bed.

He has a poem, lately. I don't know where he learned the word 'poem' or the concept but he uses it with conviction. He says, it's time for me to do my poem.

And then it has no words, but it's melodic, mediatitive, inarguably poetic. He stands solemnly, holds his palms up and facing each other, and slowly moves one arm up and the other down, reverse, down and up. He's conducting energy, air currents, ions and butterfly effects and magnetism tweaking our orbit around his attention. And when he's done he brings his palms back to center and smiles slowly. You hear the unspoken namaste in his serenity and command for your gaze. And he smiles and asks each time, did you like my poem?

And I did, every time, and I tell him so, even when I don't understand everything he's said. Because I love the way he says it.

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Year's end

This afternoon was L's tap dance recital.

Goodness, those teeny earnest tippety tappity feet were cute.

My car is going to cross the 100,000 mile mark on Friday, I think.

We have picnic plans for later this week. We had six kids in our sprinkler yesterday afternoon. There are eight more days to this school year. It's time for summer and I think this family is ready.

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