Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What do I really need to know?

I am caught between liking technology and really just hating it.  I miss the old days when I would anticipate handwritten letters from my college boyfriend or $5 dollar bills from my Grandma. I would nearly have a heart-attack at the sight of them in a mailbox.

The world moves far too quickly for my brain.  Not your brain, just mine.  I see people who read the news, email, work stuff, craft stuff, fun stuff, sport stuff, kid stuff, fashion stuff all on their phone in the span of like 4 minutes.  They synthesize it all and it actually makes sense. They talk about it. They have smiles on their faces. They don't look as if they were hit by an information train at all.  Like I do.  All this "stuff" puts me into a catatonic state of drooly rocking.  I'm trying to synthesize and glean personal meaning from the influx of data.  But I just realized that 99% of it is meaningless to me on a personal level.  If this information does not help me:

1) clean the kitchen (over and over and over again)
2) keep the kids fed, clothed and off of each other
3) do the laundry
4) service my car
5) shop
6) pay bills or
7) vacuum
8) go graduation card shopping
9) do my banking
10) clean up the excrement of my various dependents

then sh^%, I don't have time for it.  I know that we're all supposed to be well-informed, well-read, well-groomed, well-preserved, well-intentioned, well-dressed, well-meaning, etc. but I'm just over WELLmed.  I have enough on my plate.  How am I supposed to live at a dead run and know everything all at the same time and have an informed opinion about it while being perfectly coiffed, bejeweled, manicured, pedicured and made up? Who am I like Ann B. Davis,  La Femme Nikita and Jason Bourne all rolled into Brooke Burke?

I don't have a wife!! I think I touched on this last summer. Wives are frigging awesome. Don't kid yourselves, guys. You got it good.

If I had a wife, I'd be all those well-things.  Wives make these things possible.  Ah, the patriarchy.  More on that later.

Does anybody else think that there is a limit to what we can process?  What has happened to me is that the meaningful stuff has gotten lost in the noise.   I can't tell if I need to know about Kanye West's North baby or do I need to feed my 7 year old something besides Dominos?

I can't tell if that cute handmade thing on etsy is going to make me #thecoolestmomever or make me look like a total fat-ass wannabe dork.   My authenticity quest is under attack by an onslaught of information!

What is really realz?

What do I need to know?

That's when I look up and pray, 

Lord, what do I really need to know today?

The answer:

You are beloved.  Now go forth and give it away.

Everything else is just noise.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Sum, Sum Summertime

This is what happens when you don't make a lot of plans.

 The Space for a little Summer Boredom

So I didn't sign my kids up for a single day of camp this summer.  Not one. I may still but I haven't yet.  I figure I have saved gas, obviously camp fees, worry, travel time, having to pack lunches, gym bags, wet bathing suits, lost flip flops and my voice.  Last summer, camp got to feeling a lot like, well,  school.  Every day I'd drag them out of bed and haul them to soccer or swimming.  I'd be yelling, "get in the car!!" with exactly the same degree of irritated meanness that I do during the regular school months.  This makes me hate myself deeply beginning right when I walk back to the truck after dropping them off.  This self-loathing used to fuel my desire to have a glass of wine in the evening to numb my feelings of parental inadequacy.  Then I would fall asleep early and miss reading time (more parental inadequacy) and then I'd wake up early (like the middle of the night). Then I would finally actually fall asleep (like real sleep) again around 3:45 and wake up at 7:45 groggy, angry and ready for my Sisyphus boulder push all over again.  Yeah, so I stopped the wining/whining.

This year I thought who the hell is enriched by this routine?  You see,  midway through last summer (after signing everybody up for camp and actually pre-paying for the discount),  I realized that I would rush them off to camp so that I could come home and vacuum. Whaaat!!!????!! Yeah, nuts. I realized I could get their little tushes behind some hardware and get them making the neat and tidy little lines in the carpet. Hell, if they were Johnny Cash's kid brothers, they'd have been working in a mill for 3 years by now (we skip over the ending of that story, btw).

No need for guilt.

In all seriousness, the kids have so many wonderful toys from their birthdays and Christmases.  The problem is that they never would get to play with them.  During the school year, they're never home in the evening.  We had soccer on Saturday, mass on Sundays, Kumon on Monday/Thursday and martial arts (until that debacle ended in March) on Tuesday and Wednesday.  And this is Kindergarten! What insanity.  Thank goodness we freed up some time when we let go of Tae Kwon Do, or as my brother Marc used to refer to it "Take My Dough."

Anyway, camp. I know, I know. When the kids are home they're underfoot and messing things up--hell who am I kidding? They're breaking things, important things sometimes, let's be clear about that. The only thing is, when they go back to school in the fall, it will feel different for both of us (and I'll have several repair crews in at once to minimize disruption in our newly minted routine). It will be alien to have such stringent schedule after such a lax summer. But for goodness sake!  It's the summer between Kindergarten and First Grade!   We often only understand the meaning of experiences by contrasting them with other opposite experiences.  It seemed like they were running an ultra marathon with no rest stops.  They had no time to synthesize or metabolize what they were learning anywhere. Not at school or any of their "enriching" after school activities.  They, hey who am I kidding? IIIIIII needed the break.  I need to get to know them. The way they move through a day, an evening, a conflict, a boo boo.  I'm burning daylight here! Elliot is going to be 7 in August.  They ain't going to be hanging around Mom (by choice anyway) in a couple of very short years.  Perish the thought.

That space of boredom (right after they get too bored to wreck the drywall anymore) is the crucible of creativity.  I built entire cities including multistory apartments for Barbie and Ken. They had a hand dug, trash-bag-lined, in-ground swimming pool with a diving board made from a sponge and a balsa wood ladder.  Barbie had the latest fashions thanks to my old single socks and some Christmas ribbon.  These times of singularly building this stuff are some of my most vivid and happy childhood memories.  I was allowed to be bored and then allowed the space to figure out how to solve that-- without setting something aflame, of course.  Sometimes my neighbor Lisa would even help. (That is, before we started stealing cigarettes and setting them aflame. Shhh don't tell my parents).

So it's Camp Screaming-Mamasan on the shores of Lake I-don't-Care-Who-Started-It for the Summer of 2013.   We're going on week number 4 and everybody seems pretty stinking bored yet really, really happy.  They're still wild and mostly horribly ill-behaved. I'm often terribly embarrassed by my "parental inadequacy" (never by their cuteness, though).  But, as I have said before, good mothers are really hard to come by these days.  I'm still looking for one to parent my kids (and, of course, provide them with an enriching summer---or not).

I'll be taking applications through the end of this month.

Happy 4th of July everybody.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Work Hard and Be Nice (to Yourself)

Work Hard and Be Nice (to Yourself)

I was speaking to a beloved family member recently.  We were discussing self-critical talk of the out-loud variety.   I shared that growing up it was never anything that my mother or father said directly TO me that hurt as much as hearing them berate themselves.   Both of my parents are incredibly accomplished, driven and involved.  They asked a lot of themselves which was a great example for us.  So, I'm assuming that the self-critical talk was part of their motivating methodology. I think I started to copy the model they used on themselves much more than use what they were saying directly to me.  Interesting to own that out loud now that I'm a parent.

This beloved family member (I'm lucky to have no other sort) said that her girls recoil in visible pain when she does the same to herself--calls herself stupid or something along those lines--in front of them.  

I have reflected on this conversation for the past week or so.

Why is it that when we call ourselves something horrible (like fat or stupid or lazy--and don't lie to me, I've heard just about everybody say something along these lines to themselves) it has a profoundly negative effect on others?   Maybe 'why?' isn't the right question.  Maybe the right question is 'why don't you just stop that shit right now?!'  'Drop the knife,' as Hafiz says.  Stop turning it on yourself.  Because let's face it,  there is no such thing as 'he's only hurting himself.'

If you can't be nice to you for your own sake, be nice to you for the entire rest of the 7 billion people on the planet's sake.  I posted this yesterday: "Tug on anything at all and you'll find it connected to everything else in the universe." -- John Muir

My Dad used to have this little wooden box with a hinge on it.  The top of it had the words "The Secret to Success" and "open" on it.  When you opened the box it just said "Hard Work!"  The photo above is something that I bought at the hardware store a couple of weeks ago.   I'm always trying to distill wisdom into phrases or sentences that I can easily repeat to myself. Of course, I never remember them because I can't imagine needing to write them down, they're so wise and all, that, like who could ever forget them?  Anyway, I found this little nugget.  It's a variation on my Dad's little success box with 2 caveats.  I like it a lot.

I'm reprinting this excerpt from Hafiz thanks to Heather Kopp at

Once a young woman asked Hafiz, “What is the sign of someone knowing God?” Hafiz remained silent for a few moments and looked deep into the young person’s eyes, then said, “Dear, they have dropped the knife. They have dropped the cruel knife most so often use upon their tender self and others.” (Ladinsky)