30 June 2006

Splashing Genetic Expression of Self

There's that quote that floats around mommy groups, about how the decision to have children is momentous because it means forever to have your heart walking around outside your body. True enough. Yesterday, though, it was not my heart, it was my genes. From time to time, the boys do something, anything, whatever, and it is so clearly the expression of a trait of mine or Jason's, we look at each other and say, "Your child!" It's our little joke. Slightly more unsettling is when one of them does something that is unequivocally an expression of a relative they've never met. More than once, I've seen my father or my grandfathers come out of the boys. We think of genes as things that control height, eye color, weight, whatever. It's a little stranger to think of them as controlling strong traits of personality, or of mannerism. My Grandpa did this little pattern-tapping of his fingers, and my heart nearly stopped the first time Rowan did it, just after he could control his fingers in the first place. But as the boys get older and more able to express themselves, they become a deeper, richer expression of all those who came before, in a dizzying and fascinating grab-bag sort of way. So I suppose I should not have been all that surprised yesterday, day four of swim class, when Rowan refused to stay in the water. Screaming with all the force of his will behind it, "I do not like that pool! I do not like to swim!", he catapulted over the side, away from his instructor, and into my arms. Sobbed like a little lost thing. "I hate it I hate it I hate it!!!" And of course, the mommy pressure was on. I made a promise to myself long long ago that I would never parent my kids based on what other parents thought of us, because at the end of the day, we're the ones that have to live together, and I have to respect my children as innate human beings. It's a great working theory, and has served me well often before. But at the upscale pool we signed up for classes in, I am surrounded by ultracompetitive liposucted fully-made-up Escalade-driving swim team moms, and I'm clearly the blob from another planet. So as Rowan came pelting into my arms, I was surrounded, immediately, by a wave of disapproval. Louis Vuitton bags were moved subtly aside so that I and my dripping, miserable kid would not contaminate them by our weakness. I got Rowan calmed down enough to ascertain that there wasn't anything particularly wrong with the pool, with the teacher, with a classmate. I got him to look at me, and I told him he did not have to go back in. He relaxed visibly, and curled even tighter into me, as if in gratitude. It was pretty incredible (even if it was cold and very wet). And about five minutes later, he whipped around in one of those toddler 180s that give parents mental whiplash, and asked if he could go into the baby pool. The point, in my mind, of swimming lessons in the first place, is so that the boys think of water as a safe and happy place, the same way I do. The reason we're doing lessons is that I have no memory of learning to swim. I remember throwing myself into our backyard pool when I was an infant. I have this fabulous mental picture of my mother's face through several feet of pool water. It's a great memory of mine; mom's version is not nearly so happy. Rowan flung himself into the baby pool, and was transformed. Put his goggles on by himself. Swam underwater (pulling himself along by his arms on the bottom) for a good 30 seconds at a time, coming up for a quick breath, and going back under. In fact, he spent the rest of the time either splashing the other kids, or face down, until he got too cold to continue. Whereupon he demonstrated the great good sense to get himself out. I was thoroughly proud of him. And proud of my ability to stand my parenting ground, as I listened to the tense reunions of kids who had been forced into the water by their parents, and the screams of the next round of kids so forced. And it was only as we were walking to the car that I recalled that I had flunked out of the only swim class my mother tried to put me in, when I was about Rowan's age. "Momma!" a little voice breaks into my rememberance, "I like the water!" Mission accomplished, memory recalled, the genetic imperative expressed.

27 June 2006

Swimming Lessons!

Yesterday, we started swim lessons with the Mighty Hudson Boyos. I was totally unprepared for the lump in my throat when a total stranger read their names out on the roll call to get them paired up with their teachers. I mean, when choosing their names, we had thought about "sounds equally good on a stadium loudspeaker and a book jacket", but I was a little unprepared for actually hearing them over a microphone. It was really, really good. Here's Rowan, in his class. Because he's bigger, he was in on his own, although the camera angle on this shot lets you know precisely how far away Jason actually ever got: Apparently, he shined. Did everything a little bit above and beyond, and was inconsolable when class was over, until we explained that we'd be coming back every day for four weeks. That seemed to help. =) Kestrel, because he's littler, was in a parent/tot class. As we bounced into the water, the instructor supervisor remarked "now that's the look we like to see!" as Kestrel giggled like a mad thing. The only bummer was that Kes got way too cold about half way through the half hour class, and we had to get out. Today, I'll be ransacking the storage bins for the rash guards, in the hopes we can stick it out a bit longer.

26 June 2006

Chop Wood, Carry Water

Before enlightenment chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. -Wu Li
It's been a fraught few weeks at work; horrible layoffs at Sun, and the new newsletter program launching. Guiding lots of people who are stressed out and unhappy and worried about their jobs through a brand new, highly-technical process. Joy. Not. I've been pulling 12 hour days, which is really saying a lot for me. And Jason's been looking concerned as my shot-o-clock quotient escallates (side note: no prize but lots of gratitude for the reader that submits the best mojito recipe!). Spent all day yesterday cleaning the house with a vengeance. Having spent the whole week feeling exhausted, it was a little surprising to find this huge well of energy. Course, slugging back a shot of Floradix before bed on Saturday might have helped. So. My home is in great shape. We're talking neatened, straightened, organized, aired, vacuumed, and mopped. Yes, mopped. The toys are neatly in bins and on shelves. The laundry is washed, line-dried, and folded away. The bed is made. Several feng shui cures got put up -- prism faceted crystals to move energy down the halls, white paper lanterns to juice my creativity area, red paper lanterns for the romance & relationship area. The pothos is cleaned, groomed, and re-hung. The shelves in the freaking refrigerator have been wiped down. After a week of nothing but slogging in the mind, it was *so good* to have a day of chop wood carry water, you know? I feel like my brain is totally refreshed, even though what I did was far from "restful" in the classical sense. It's far too easy, especially in a consumerist society, to get caught up in "recreational pursuits"; to be obsessed with resting and being rested, in such a way as profits someone. But sometimes, true restfulness is as close as the mop and broom.

22 June 2006

The Editor is In

Lately, I've been blessed with the opportunity to do developmental editing for some dear friends of mine. Each of them approached me, separately, with their brainchild, their creation, their work of.... fiction. Or not. =) Editing is a task of trust and faith. They trust that I will treat their baby kindly. I have faith that I can tell them what I really think without them freaking out. Each one of them wrote therapy. Their works were thinly-veiled references to themselves, their situations, their inner thoughts. And every one of them was horrified at how much of themselves they'd accidentally written into their "fiction". One of these folks, the Writer At Large, blogged about his reaction to this realization here. The rest of this post is my response to him... Your baggage shines through... but you know, that's part and parcel of your voice, the thing that makes it your writing, the thing that stamps your writing with your uniqueness. The only difference between fiction and self-indulgence is that fiction is publishable and self-indulgence, well, that's blogging. =) I have an entire readership over on my blog that's doing nothing more than reading about various facets of my personal baggage, brought out to the light of day, dusted off, given a bit of polish, and set up for commentary. The human drama is made of these little gems. And people deeply want to identify with them. They want to know that the upholstery inside your head matches the curtains they have in theirs. It makes the echoing vasty nothingness of reality seem a little friendlier, a little more populated. The thing that makes fiction superior to blogging is its generic-ness. When you're reading my blog, you're reading *me*, unequivocally. But when you're reading a story, that character could be anyone. Could be the author, could be the reader, could be the reader's neighbor; the neutrality of characterization allows people to pick up those drapings and try them on for size. It's an excellent psychological and metaphysical exercise. And it takes someone gifted to create that space and hold it, for their readers. So quit worrying about your slip showing. And just keep writing. =) =) =) ...and if you need an editor, well, you all know where to find me.

13 June 2006

FatBrain Revisited

Some days, the camera hates you. And some days, it's a totally different story. There's this great discussion in "What The Bleep Do We Know?" about how the camera sees more than the eye, because it sees "without prejudice and without judgment." You've all read my original FatBrain blog. It all started with a picture. This picture, in fact: Horrifying, no? So. Remember my blog about The World Famous Cod Hole? Go read it. And then, come back and look at this photo: Same girl. Less than a month later. Just add water. Sure, I'm wearing a PFD in this one, but I think the difference is pretty plain to see. I could call it plain vanity. But I think it's far more than that. I think it's another of those signposts; the ones that say "get the heck outta there, you fool! Your lifestyle's killing you!" I mean, really. Which of those two pictures would you rather be in? It's not FatBrain after all. It's LifestyleBrain. Who knew?