Nothing here is promised, not one day

…We chase the melodies that seem to find us
Until they’re finished songs and start to play
When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
That nothing here is promised, not one day.
This show is proof that history remembers
We lived through times when hate and fear seemed stronger;
We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside…

I loved every word of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s sonnet when he accepted his Tony (one of many I think), but these were my favorite lines.  Especially: nothing here is promised, not one day.

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Things I Love Lately

14 Books that Connect Students With Valuable Scientists’ Struggles – I absolutely love this list (and On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein is one of my all-time favorite picture books).  Some of these are known to Grace and Whit, and others are on order.  I love the notion that kids learn from hearing tales of others’ struggle, endurance, and success, and agree entirely that there’s broader applicability beyond science.

It’s been an honor to be published a couple of times on Susan Cain’s gorgeous Quiet Revolution.  I love her work (and Matt finally read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and really liked it a lot) and find it tremendously resonant.  The two pieces that I’ve been fortunate to share on Quiet Revolution are Together For N0w and We Never Talk.

Age of Consent – I devoured Leimbach’s new novel in a day.  It is compulsively readable, combining two of my favorite things – courtroom/legal drama and the mother/daughter relationship.  As I read I could imagine the movie this might get made into.  Thoughtful, entertaining, vaguely disconcerting: I highly recommend this story.

Feynman – This book, by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick, is my new favorite childrens’ book.  A graphic novel about the life of Richard Feynman, physicist par excellence.  Whit is obsessed and so am I.

I am listening to : H.O.L.Y. by Florida Georgia Line and On Being podcasts (pro tip: I listen to them on 1 1/2 speed on my iphone when I run).

I write these Things I Love roundups approximately monthly.  You can see them all here.

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don’t count anyone out

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Whit at bat.  He is #3.  In case you are curious, Babe Ruth played #3 for the Yankees.

This is Whit’s fourth year playing Little League in our town.  For the last three years he played in the “minor leagues,” for the Giants.  They were not a winning team.  For three straight years, they were bottom of the league.  6 of 8 minor league teams go to the playoffs, and Whit never went.  This year he was drafted into the “major leagues,” onto the Yankees.  It’s not a small thing for this Red Sox family to cheer enthusiastically for the Yankees, but we have, all season.

It has not been, shall we say, a winning season. Whit’s decided he’s a bad luck charm for baseball.  Heading into the final game they were 2-13.  Some of the losses have been close and others have been heroic (12-0).  The team is great and the coaches are wonderful and Whit’s improving and mostly it’s been a great experience, despite a fairly unrelenting series of losses.  The boys enjoy each other’s company and I’m consistently struck by how they talk to each other, on the field and off.  The coaches are mostly long-time coaches, whose own kids have moved onto older teams but who stuck with it out of passion and interest in the game.  The season is short and the commitment is manageable.  The other parents are great, from a mix of schools and across our neighborhood.  I love it, and so, mostly, does Whit.

We all came to the last game of the season expecting to go out with a whimper.  Hoping to keep the game in the “close” rather than “painful” category.  But this team of scrappy, mostly rookie players turned it around.  They shocked everyone – their parents and their opponents – by winning.  This meant that the other team was knocked out of contention for the top spot.

Our town’s major league has five teams.  One goes to the “mayor’s cup” (and the team we beat in the final game no longer had that option) and the other four go to the playoffs.  So Friday’s playoff game was Whit’s first in four years of Little League.  The Yankees came back to win it again.

Tuesday is the championship game.  I’m aware that this model of play – where the team with the worst record by a long shot can be in the finals – is flawed.  Still, it’s fun, and I’m struck by the lessons that fill team sports.  And I don’t mean the lessons taught by overzealous parents and expensive club sports (I have much ambivalence about the way youth sports have developed in our country or at least in my region).  Even in local, town little league, the learnings abound.

First and foremost, never, ever, ever give up.  You may turn things around in the last game of a disastrous 16 game season, but that’s worth a lot.

Respect your teammates.  Everyone on this team contributes and it’s a marvel to see.  There are no freeloaders.  Do your best.

Don’t goad others, for good or for bad.  Over the last few years, there have been boys at Whit’s school who have teased him for his poorly-performing teams.  I always encouraged him to try to ignore this line of talk, even though I know it stung. Similarly, we have always taught both kids not to draw attention to self when playing well (for example, dramatically celebrating goals is not ok in our house).  You can feel good and celebrate with your team.  But I know that Whit’s not teasing the kids whose teams he knocked out.

I did not play team sports as a kid, and so I’m learning all these things alongside Grace and Whit.  Hockey and cross-country have provided powerful lessons, and this season of baseball has too.  I’m grateful.

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Poetry is where we are ourselves

Poetry, I tell my students,
is idiosyncratic. Poetry
is where we are ourselves…
Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,
overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way
to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)
is not all love, love, love,
and I’m sorry the dog died.
Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,
and are we not of interest to each other?
-Elizabeth Alexander, Ars Poetica #100

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Grace Without God

I am so happy to have review of Katherine Ozment’s gorgeous Grace Without God: The Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Belonging in a Secular Age on Great New Books today.  You can read my full review, and I hope you will, here.

In short, I loved Ozment’s book.  I hope you’ll read my review, but I also wanted to share a few additional quotes here.

“When we begin to tap into that connectedness, we sense the potential to participate in some bigger purpose that both humbles and elevates us.”

“I felt the rush I always get when I see my family before they see me, as if I’m holding a precious photograph. They are my solar system, my closest and most lasting tribe … I had felt a bit of what I thought of grace – an abundance of gratitude for something I never asked for – that day gazing at my tulip and, later, at my family from across the street.”

“What was sacred was that very moment.  I wanted to celebrate the smooth skin of my children’s curious faces, the roof over our heads, the rich traditions and great good fortune of being alive here on earth in the first place. I savored the way our voices, however unsteady, lifted as one. If I was going to celebrate anything, it was going to be the crooked, imperfect path of life that I and my part-Christian, part-Jewish, mostly nothing family had found ourselves on together.”

“Whether we call it science or religion, we’re all after a framework for understanding the mysteries inherent in being alive and the wonder we experience when we start to grasp them.”

“The key is not to flee ambiguity, shutting the door because we can’t answer the questions of why we’re here. Instead, we consider how we are here, how we exist in the world. We do this by embracing the messiness, the poignancy, and the knowledge that life will end.”

“I still don’t have answers to all the big questions. But I’m starting to see that becoming more comfortable holding the questions is the only way that makes sense to me.”

“Meaning came from the intense awareness of the moment itself, from my reverence for her, for this life we were joined in as family. I simply needed to remain still enough to notice.”

I loved this book.  My review is here at Great New Books.  I hope you will read the review and then order Grace Without God: The Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Belonging in a Secular Age, which comes out next week!

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What do people thank you for?

My friend Aidan recently asked a provocative question: what do people thank you for?

I’ve been pondering this for the couple of weeks since I read it.  The answer does not come to me that quickly.  That may be because I handle compliments poorly and generally react with redirection and discomfort or maybe it’s because the entire topic of being thanked makes me feel self-indulgent.  Even writing about it makes me feel a little uneasy, like I’m tooting my own horn.  But I’m forging ahead, because I do think there’s a lot of value in this question.

The value, of course, is in being aware of that which we do to which others respond.  And using that awareness to guide how we spend our time.  What people thank us for is probably something we ought to do more of.  At least that’s how I think about this.

People thank me for talking openly about my experience of life.  That is diffuse and hard to articulate, and sounds both enormous and tiny.  But more often than not, people say thank you for sharing my heartache at life’s small passages, for being honest about things that are hard, for keeping my finger on the pulse of that which hurts in daily life (for me, that’s time’s passage).

People thank me for taking pictures of the sky.

People thank me for talking about books I love.

What’s interesting, when I think about the things people thank me for, are they are all things I worry I do too much of.  I fret that I’m a broken record: another blog post about feeling sorrow mixed with joy at the world’s smallest experiences?  another Instagram photograph of the sunset from my office window?  another time asking “so, what are you reading?” at the baseball field?  And yet these things I worry I do too often are the things that people seem to appreciate.

This worrying about saying or doing too often that which objectively the world seems to appreciate is a dissonance I experience at a very deep level.  It reminds me of the feeling I have, more often than I like, that I am just too much myself.  Gail Caldwell called it feeling like “the volume of the world had been turned up a notch” and that has always made sense to me.

Even as I write this, with a cloudy, pale sunset to my left and my son and husband in the room to my right, I feel slight goosebumps up and down my arms.  Is this too messy to share, too self-congratulatory?  Am I revealing all the ways in which I’m too heavy, too serious, too sensitive, by sharing this?  I’m going to go ahead and hit publish because I think this is precisely the kind of honesty that people seem to react to, but for what it’s worth, it is still a complicated thing for me.

I think Aidan’s question is an excellent one, and likely points us to our true calling, or at least to the ways in which we can be most helpful to others in the world.  There’s discomfort in both the asking and the answering, at least for me, but I suspect that’s part of the value of the exercise.  Here I go.  Honest and candid, and a sunset, and a book, too (book review coming on Wednesday!).

What do people thank you for?

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Patience is as valuable as industry

Hurry is beside the point, useless, an obstruction.
The thing is to be attentively present.
To sit and wait is as important as to move.
Patience is as valuable as industry.
What is to be known is
always there.
When it reveals itself to you, or when you come upon it,
it is by chance.
The only condition is your being there and being
watchful.

~ Wendell Berry

Yet another beauty I found on First Sip.

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Farewell. Alleluia.

kids porch June 2016

Monday evening, June 6 – not the classic both-in-white photo, because they didn’t have the same last day.

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June 4, 2015, their last last day together until high school

Today, we’re out of school.  Actually yesterday was Grace’s last day, and today is Whit’s.  It is the first year in a great many that they haven’t had the same last day of school.  Yesterday I spent some time wandering down memory lane, falling headfirst into the tunnel of nostalgia where I spend too much of my time.  This 2012 post has many years of photos.  And that was already four years ago.  I can feel time whistling by my ears, I really can. A tired cliche. And an outrageously deep truth.

I don’t have a fifth grader and a seventh grader anymore.  This year is over, finished, a door is closed.

Farewell.

And, also, allelulia: summer!  tennis! ice cream! camp! sleeping in! reading books!  There is so much to celebrate and I love summer.  We consciously under-schedule our summer and make very few commitments (other than sleepaway camp, which both kids go to and love), and as a result there are long empty days and evenings on the porch with family.  I can’t wait.

But I also feel sad at what’s over.  Farewell and alleluia coexist for me in inextricable ways.  This year, with its particular drop-off routines and rhythms, was a good one.  Just yesterday morning, Grace, Whit, Matt and I were having breakfast in the kitchen.  Grace yawned before complimenting the fried egg I’d made her while trashing the one her father had made her a few days before.  We all laughed but then I said, “just wait, guys, you’ll miss these mornings, all four of us in the kitchen.”  I poured myself another cup of coffee and explained that it wouldn’t be long until they would be homesick – at least a little – for this particular morning, drooping peonies on the island, a friend egg and Life cereal for Grace and a waffle and some yogurt for Whit.

The thing is, I already am.  I am nostalgic for yesterday.

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The first last day they shared, June 9, 2010

This photo makes me physically ache.  Now they’re tall and lanky – Grace is within an inch of my height – and becoming the people they are.  Not that they always weren’t – in fact one of my primary learnings about parenthood is the way they are who they are from the minute they arrive – but they are young people now.  Childhood itself is in Grace’s rearview mirror, and it’s soon going to be there for Whit, too.

Farewell.

They are smart, and funny, and wise beyond their years.  They are sometimes also moody and irritable, and they leave dirty socks around the house and forgot where they put their water bottles.  But they are the light of my life, no question about it, and I love who they are more every single day.

Alleluia.

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Not the only language

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I grew up moving around a lot.  I’ve written about that before.  There were a great many privileges to this childhood, and one of them is that we traveled.  Hilary and I wrote our names on the Berlin Wall, saw more cathedrals than I can count, and visited far-flung corners of the United Kingdom like Northern Ireland and the Isle of Jersey.  There are still a lot of places that I want to go, though. There are also places that I have been but want to go with Grace and Whit, because I want them to experience them or because they were important spots for me (London, where Matt and I both lived for periods of time [separately], is near the top of this second list).

I’ve written before about my deep desire that Grace and Whit see the world. Whatever I can do to help with that, I will.  By traveling and seeing the grand sweep of this planet, I believe we understand both the enormity that we’re a part of and the tiny place we have in it.  We learn, both literally and figuratively, that ours is not the only language in this world.

Years ago, at a birthday dinner, the man of honor asked people to go around the table and say the one place they hadn’t been and really wanted to go.  It was a great question for a group, and I’m curious how you would answer, too.  What’s the one place you are most eager to travel to?  My list is below.  #1 is what I answered at that birthday dinner, and it’s still #1 today.

Istanbul

Saint Petersburg

Egypt

Alaska

Where do you want to go?

 

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be prepared to bump into wonder

At every crossroad, be prepared  to bump into wonder.

~ James Broughton

Yet another beauty I found on First Sip.  If I haven’t yet convinced you to read this blog, I don’t know what to say!!

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