An August hiatus

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Last weekend on the ferry on our way home from Shelter Island.  I might do a little of this – napping, resting, closing my eyes – over the next month.

Like I did last year, I plan to take August off from blogging.  I plan to spend the month living the vast design, and really paying attention to it, and I look forward to returning in September!  I hope you will be here.

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The Goop Questionnaire

 

My love of random questionnaires and of the minutiae of our lives is well-documented.  I do think that it’s in the tiny stuff that we can see glimpses of the entire, shimmering whole of life.  I also think that random details are just plain fun.

I found the Goop questionnaire recently and thought I’d close out July with my answers to the (lightly edited) questions.

Go-to weeknight recipe?

Have been toying with a whole post about this, actually.  We have some family favorites that include pulled chicken sandwiches, Asian stir-fry chicken with rice, maple candy pork chops, fish tacos.

First job?

Management consulting.

Next job?

I hope, writer.

Mentor?

My high school English teacher, Mr. Valhouli.  A couple of people in executive search I won’t name.  My first friend from my first job, A.A.G.

Hometown?

Cambridge, Massachusetts

What would you put on your neon sign?

Be here now.  Same thing I’d put on my tattoo, if I had one.

Wouldn’t leave home without?

Something to read.  Lip balm.  A hair tie.  My phone.

Essential beauty products?

Lip balm.  Moisturizer.  Mascara.

Wouldn’t fly without?

Something to read.  Lip balm (are you sensing a theme?).  A sweater.

Things you buy in bulk?

Perrier.  Toilet paper.  Frozen waffles.

Favorite book?

Ooh.  This is hard.  Novels: The English Patient, Light Years, Gilead.  Poetry: anything by Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry, Adrienne Rich, Stanley Kunitz.  Memoirs: Devotion, The Gift of an Ordinary Day

First celebrity crush?

Hmmm … an 80s rock star maybe.  Peter Cetera?

Favorite movie?

Stealing Home.  It’s sad that that’s all I can come up with, I recognize that.  Movies are a real weakness in my cultural vocabulary.  As is television.

People on speed dial?

My mother, my husband, my two or three BFFs with whom I speak on the phone.

Preferred form of exercise?

Running and yoga.

Drink of choice?

Coffee.  Water.  Occasionally, wine (red, white, or pink depending on the mood and occasion).

Proudest moment?

The births of my two children.

Perfect Sunday afternoon?

A walk around the neighborhood, dinner at the dining room table, and reading in bed with a child on each side of me.

 I’d love if you wanted to do this questionnaire and share your answers!  More generally, are you as fascinated as I by the random detail, by the mundane minutiae, by the ways light catches on the tiniest corners of a life and seems to, momentarily, illuminate it?

 

 

 

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Excited and sad at the same time.

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A short-lived smile, by the flower garden next to her cabin.  Cosmos always remind me powerfully of my maternal grandmother, Nana, and given the proximity of them to Grace’s cabin, I like to think she’s watching over her great-granddaughter at camp.IMG_6039

Right before the final goodbye.  Right before I took this, he looked at me and said “after this you are leaving, really?” nervously.  I nodded, and we took the photograph.  I don’t know if you can see his apprehension in his eyes. 

Last Thursday we dropped Grace and Whit at camp for 3.5 weeks.  This is her 5th summer and his 3rd.  I know, I know, I’m a broken record, but seriously?  It feels like we just took her for her first summer a week ago, so how is this possible?  As usual, I drove away in tears, and as usual, my heart was heavy for days after leaving them at camp.  Not because I doubt they’ll have fun, not because I worry about their safety or joy while away from me.  Not at all because of other of those.  Not even specifically because I’ll miss them, though I will.

But, mostly, the sorrow is due to the realization that I am already here, already at this point teetering on the edge of something very new and very scary, already at the day that many more years with children at home flutter behind me, like prayer flags in the wind, than do ahead of me.

Grace was weepy at drop off.  Truthfully, it was the hardest camp goodbye yet.  Well, maybe not harder than the first time, when she was 8.  But I was a bit taken aback by how sad she was, and by how hard it was to walk away.  Part of that was because we were early and many of her friends hadn’t arrived yet.  Part of it was just because she seemed to be in a cabin without counselors she knew.  And part of it is probably just because of this particular moment in life, which is marked by closeness and intimacy which both makes me anxious (should I worry?) and glad (I am grateful for our bond).

Within 24 hours I had decided, though, that it’s all fine.  Maybe it is better this way.  Perhaps the benefit of camp is not in spite of her finding it challenging this year but because of it.  That was quite a flip of attitude for me and it felt like something heavy had been lifted.  Yes.  Precisely this: the discomfort may be what makes it so valuable.  The uneasiness and tears speak to the growth.

On Tuesday night before we left, I tucked Whit in. He was quiet and visibly wistful. I flicked the light off and climbed into his narrow bed next to him and whispered, “It’s almost time for camp. How do you feel about that?  Excited?  Sad?”  He swallowed and, staring up at the slats of the bunk above him, said quietly, “Both.” I looked at his profile in the faint glow of the Bruins zamboni night light Grace gave him for Christmas, and it occurred to me that’s how I feel about camp too.  And, actually, it’s how I feel about every new vista of this parenting journey.  It’s how I feel about life itself: excited and sad at the same time.

Excited and sad at the same time.  Always.  The goodbyes and the hellos keep coming fast and furious, inextricably wound together.

Previous posts about camp: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014

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what consoles us and what redeems us

Our hermitage is the act of living with attention in the midst of things: amid the rhythms of work and love, the bath with the child, the endlessly growing paperwork, the ever-present likelihood of war, the necessity for taking action to help the world. For us, a good spiritual life is permeable and robust. It faces things squarely, knowing the smallest moments are all we have, and that even the smallest moment is full of happiness…

What we need, and what we love, what consoles us and what redeems us, is here each moment, already within us. It waits for us to recognize its presence. We have only to give ourselves up to it, and our one life, and all life, welcomes us into its arms.

~ John Tarrant

Yet another glorious quote that I found on A First Sip.  Have I convinced you yet that you need to be reading this blog?

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Things I Love Lately

 Have Kids, Will Travel – this post by Annie Flavin is full of beautiful photographs and deep truths.  She has younger children than I do, but has the same approach to life: choosing the top right quadrant, where both adventure and exhaustion live.  Yes, yes, and yes.  What did we do before them?  I ask myself that all the time.

This is 35 – As you know I love “this is X” posts, and some of my favorite writing has been structured that way.  This post by Dina Relles on Commonplace brought tears to my eyes. “Thirty-five is facing the frailty of family and friends, coming to terms with the truism that every day on this earth is a gift.  Thirty-five is not the end of the story.”

Tinker Crate – I have mentioned this subscription service before, but Whit continues to passionately adore his monthly boxes that contain a science-related project and I wanted to reiterate how much we love it.  Just this morning I found him in his room working on a project.  There are other services for younger kids or those interested in other things.  Highly recommended.  A great gift idea!

I’ve been reading a lot of very light novels lately, and nothing I feel merits a mention specifically here, to be honest.  For some reason, that’s what my heart seeks right now: lightness.  After publicly acknowledging that this had been a difficult first half of the year, I’m easing into the second half with optimism and as much ease as my not-very-easy personality can muster.

It’s worth noting that some of my favorite writers have books coming out this fall, which I am eagerly anticipating.  I’m specifically thinking of Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert and Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed.  I would give my arm for ARCs of either and am counting minutes until they are released.

I’m writing postcards and letters to camp (the children go tomorrow, and I ache already, if I’m being frank, which I always am).

What are you reading, listening to, thinking about, and anticipating these days?

I write these Things I Love posts approximately monthly.  You can find them all here.

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They are not long, the days of Percy Jackson and nail art

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These are days so swollen and wonderful I can barely look at them directly because my heart aches.  It feels like staring into the sun.  I’m so aware of time flying through my fingers even as I grasp at it.  We’re more than halfway through the summer.  This week the children go to sleepaway camp.  Where did it go?

When I originally began this blog, in September 2006 (O.M.G.) it was with the express intention of capturing the details of my life I knew I’d forget.  Grace was 3 and Whit was 1 and already I sensed I couldn’t get my arms around this messy, marvelous, mundane life I was living.

So, returning to those roots, I want to try to remember things this summer, one that I know I’ll recall always as thoroughly-lived.

The season of Percy Jackson.  Whit is cruising through the series.  He tried it a year or so ago and was not captivated.  I decided in June to give him #1 again to see what happened and he fell in love.  He’s starting book 4 and taking it with him to camp.  We watched the movie of the Lightning Thief the other night and I’m smitten by the story too (fun fact: one of my favorite books as a child was D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths).

The summer of nail art. Grace is an aspiring nail artist.  Nail art is not my thing, but she’s way into it, and she’s gotten pretty good!  She has done Fourth of July themed nails and is currently sporting stripes and anchors is a blue, pink, and white color scheme.

The season of the front seat. This summer Grace is in the front seat (she was all last year, too, but it seems we spend more time driving in the summer).  I’m getting used to looking over, seeing her there, having her driving the radio.

The summer of sleeping in for Grace.  She’s been known to roll out of bed after 10:30.  I guess she’s really getting to be a teenager!

The season (another) of hydrangeas.  Our front yard hydrangeas are in riotous bloom again, after a quiet year last year with very few flowers.  I love having them all over the house and can track summer’s progression by their changing color.

The summer of Grace cooking.  She loves to cook for us and has made several delicious meals.  She’s still working on the clean-as-you-go process, which I value highly, but it’s so fun to eat what she’s made and she gets tremendous satisfaction out of it. Next up, one of the recipes I read about on Motherlode (thank you, KJ Dell’Antonia!).

The season of family tennis.  We can now have a very competitive game of family doubles.  And we do.  Such fun.

The summer of swimming to the line.  For the first time, Whit joined us on a family mission out to the far border of the area that we’re allowed to swim in at the beach.  He did great.  Now we can go as a foursome.  It’s a long swim, and a great goal-oriented activity for people who have a little extra energy to burn off!

The season of independence.  Grace and Whit loved being with my parents in the small seaside town where they can go wherever they want on their bikes.  For the second summer, Grace volunteered at the local library.  Whit really took to sailing racing.  I love watching them stretch their literal and figurative muscles, growing stronger and more confident every day.

They are not long, these days of blazing sunshine, of pink sunsets out the window and lazy days at the beach.  Of children who are still not as tall as I am and who still want me to climb into bed with them before they go to sleep to snuggle and murmur prayers.  Of family sing-alongs to Top 40 in the car and laughing so hard my stomach hurts.

What is happening for you this summer?  How will you remember it?

 

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things that don’t need explaining

It’s not about having things figured out, or about communicating with other people, trying to make them understand what you understand. It’s about a chicken dinner at a drive-in. A soft pillow. Things that don’t need explaining.

– Ann Beattie

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Family Play List

On Sunday, as we drove home from a wonderful, relaxing weekend by the ocean, we listened to Top 40.  When the four of us are in the car, music is always a topic of heated debate.  Matt prefers satellite radio, preferably the 70s or Classic Rock stations, Whit prefers country (Remember?  He’s from Texas), Grace likes Top 40, and my music preferences can best be described as boarding school, circa 1991 (James Taylor, Indigo Girls, etc).

It’s usually a battle of the guilt trip and the speedy channel-change.  All of a sudden, Matt switched channels, When I See You Again was on, and we were all singing along.  I was fighting tears within seconds.  At Grace’s sixth grade graduation luncheon they played a slide show with this song on, and I wasn’t the only parent wiping her face.  I loved that we were all singing it.  I knew in that moment I would remember it forever.  It’s normally the line about how “family’s all we got” that chokes me up, but on Sunday it was “As you go and every road you take will always lead you home.”  I glanced in the rear view mirror, saw both Grace and Whit singing along as they looked out the window, an felt a ferocious surge of hope that they’ll always remember these days, that somehow we’re creating a family and a home that they both feel comfortable leaving and know will always be there to return to.

I thought then about the songs that remind me of this motley crew, of this family, this time in my life.  I’ve written before about the various songs that take me back – often powerfully – to specific moments in my life.  This particular season is no different.  Certainly When I see You Again is one of them.  There are the lullabyes that remind me of both Grace and Whit’s babyhoods, though those are long-gone now (sob).

One night this spring during my vertigo month, I was tucking Whit in (from my knees, leaning onto his bottom bunk), and he looked at me and sang, “the world is spinning round and round I can’t see clear no more …”  I think it was the hardest I laughed all month long.  Since that moment every single time I hear Ellie Goulding’s Love Me Like You Do I think of Whit.  I realize it’s slightly creepy that the 50 Shades of Gray song makes me think of my son, but there you have it.

When Daddy Sang Bass by Johnny and June Cash comes on, we all start belting out.  Johnny Cash is one of both Matt and Whit’s dearest loves, and I love the way this song refers to a family of four.  And the way it asserts that the family circle will be unbroken.  This one isn’t a new one; in 2011 I mused on the way Johnny’s voice comes in my head.

I asked both children what songs came to mind when I asked what reminded them of right now, and they both instantly said Let Her Go.  Why, I asked?  Because it’s your favorite song, they said.  And right now (and for a while) it definitely is.

Team by Lorde always reminds me of one morning last year when Grace and Whit were bickering at breakfast (as they do almost every day; for some reason I remember this one).  I happened to have Team on my iPhone because it was on my running mix (I never listen to music on my phone other than when I run) and I turned it on, blaringly loud.  The move shocked them so much and I’ll never forget the looks on their faces as Lorde sang “And you know, we’re on each other’s team.”

Taylor Swift is a major family favorite.  When her songs come on the radio Matt is known to exclaim, “My girl!  Tay Tay!” and to belt out the lyrics.  Grace is a huge fan.  So am I.  Bad Blood will always remind me of this summer.

One Day by Matsiyahu is the song Grace mentioned, because for so many months it was the only song we listened to in the car.  Over and over again.  Christmas carols are also on the short list, though those (and One Day) are more evergreen than right this second.

What is the soundtrack of your right now?

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Boys and girls

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May 2005

There’s one thing I totally failed to say in my post about the World Cup.  It is that one of my very favorite things about the phenomenon I observed of people falling in love with the US women’s soccer team was how it happened to both boys and girls.  Whit was as excited to watch the games as Grace was.  I loved seeing both men and women, adults and children both, commenting on the powerful example those US women set.

And I think that is crucial.  I want Whit to admire female athletes as much as I want Grace to esteem men’s sports. As long as girls only root for girls and vice versa, I think we’re missing something essential.  But when everybody celebrates everybody else, for their particular grace and grit, then, I think, we’ve achieved what we aim for.  I loved watching that around me in this summer’s World Cup soccer matches.

This transfers over into other realms, too.  It is specifically resonant, for me, in the realm of working motherhood. Quite often people comment on what it is like to be working mother to a daughter.  They say that I must be pleased to be a role model for Grace.

As an aside, I feel the need to be crystal clear here: there are many successful and elegant paths through the forest of motherhood and work, and everybody finds the one that works for them and their family.  Mine happens to be working in a full-time professional setting, and so that is what I comment on for myself.

And I am proud of the example I’m setting for Grace.  There’s no question about that.  But I’m equally cognizant of setting an example for Whit.  It’s as simple – and as complicated – as that.  I think both girls and boys need to honor and appreciate the various ways that both men and women can be in the world.  I think both boys and girls need to recognize the efforts of all adults in their family.  I have never thought equal meant precisely the same, and I don’t here – men and women are different in a million ways, but they are equivalently important (in my opinion).  I sense Whit’s gaze on me as I stumble my way through working motherhood just as heavily as I do Grace’s.

 

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to be at peace with myself

I want first of all to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can. I want, in fact – to borrow from the language of the saints – to live “in grace” as much of the time as possible. By grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony.

– Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Yet another quote I found on the beautiful A First Sip.  I highly recommend it.  I also highly recommend Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s glorious book that reveals itself further to me each time I read it.

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