31 December 2006

Who Do You Want To Be?

Who do you want to be today? Who do you want to be? Who do you want to be today? Do you want to be just like someone on T.V.?
OK, so Danny was talking about media, and about the creation of self based on glitzy outside (unreal) models. But today's the 31st, and this chorus has been going through my head all morning.
Oh boredom is so terrible, it's like a dread disease Nothing could be worse than when there's nothing on T.V. I'd rather be a cowboy than to stare blank at the walls I've been reborn so many times I can't remember them all (And I say)
Ain't that the truth? Every year around this time, people remake themselves. Jerico, the lovely boy who does my hair, makes people sign liability waivers if they go for what he calls a "change cut" in the months of November and December, because that's the time when change is often a indicator of suicidal thoughts. No kidding; this is apparently known widely in the beauty industry. But in January, everyone always changes everything, so it's OK.
I think I'll be a teddy boy, I think I'll be a hunk I think I'll be a tough guy and I think I'll be a punk I might just be a fashion star All dressed in frilly rags Or perhaps I'll cross the other side and walk around in Drag!
What's funny is how this upcoming month of January allows people to reach to be something different, when somehow the month of December is all about Tradition (tm). Find myself wondering if the pressure of jamming yourself back into the mold your family and loved ones expect of you isn't what creates the desperate need to remake yourself the next month.
Do you like to be just like a rock in the middle of the sea Do you want to suffer by yourself in a pool of blissful misery Do you want to feel like a saint in artists' clothes With a rosary in your hand Do you wanna be crazy like Van Gogh like a stranger in a Strange, strange land
I think all of us are all of those things, in some part, at some time. Thus, the attractiveness of being that when we're in the long hard slog of being this. But ya know, better to try to make a change to something better, than to allow fear of failure to trap one into being static. Stasis is a form of death.
Would you rather push the buttons And be feared by all humanity Or perhaps you'd like to be a bum Do you wanna be stupid, just like me
Heh. 'Nuf said. Who do you want to be . . . . . .

20 December 2006


...is what I call Rowan every morning when he gets up. Mornings are not, traditionally, a good time for the members of my family. We have a long and glorious tradition of waking poorly and hostile. My own mother bought me an alarm clock when I was in junior high, so she wouldn't have to deal with my attitude until I'd gotten past it. So it is not at all surprising that Rowan is clinging fiercely to morning times as his dedicated Mama-and-me time. He sleeps late (natch). I can hear the bedroom door open, and listen to his little feet (thus, the pitter-pat) as he walks first to the office, then if I'm not there, out into the living room. He waits at the door, frowning and grumpy, for me to notice him. "Pitter-Pat!" and I open my arms. He usually hits them at Mach 3 (who knew a tired crabby kid could move that fast?), and burrows into me, hiding from the world. It's the clearest expression of need I think he still has at this point. My little guy needs his Morning Mama. Some day soon, my Pitter-Pat will wake up and want something else, like a drink of juice or a book or shower or breakfast or something. Something not me. It'll be another milestone, and like most of his milestones these days, it'll be quiet and not entirely obvious. Not night-and-day like the baby milestones were, something that could be noted in the calendar as "on this day he did this amazing thing." No, this will be subtle. I may not immediately even notice the change. But it will have come and gone, and I'll have a memory of a pitter-pat, long past when I'll have the real thing. And with how fast he's growing up and maturing these days, I know it'll be here sooner than I'm ready for it. So I'm listening even more closely for the opening of the door, these days. Listening for Pitter-Pat.

14 December 2006

New Post at LWOS

Wheee! A seasonal post, even! Hope you guys like it. http://lifewithoutschool.typepad.com/lifewithoutschool/2006/12/paper_chain.html

13 December 2006

Expanding to Reach the Edges of Myself

I made the leap. I bought the extra-huge Monarch Franklin Covey Planner. In the past, I'd always stuck to the compact size, reasoning that it would fit easily in the backpack, and therefore I'd carry it and use it more. Two years of not doing that, has led me to realize that smaller is not necessarily better, and that I cannot squeeze myself into 3.5 x 5" pages. My life is bigger than that. I'm lucky enough to have a FranklinCovey store not too far from me. So I went, in order to test-drive the pages myself. I have a bone to pick with FranklinCovey. The extra-large pages are all slanted towards business execs, and the "balance family with work" pages, clearly designed for women, are all the smaller pages. Clearly, these people have never encountered the lives of most of the working mamas I know. I'd write to the company, but I suspect that people who are basing an entire corporate marketing platform on the notion that women juggle these things and men do not are probably not going to want to hear from some upstart Californian looney. Maybe I'll take this on some day when I have no other bigger windmills to tilt at. I still have the same desktop graphic on my laptop that I put up on Nov. 1, that some creative soul offered up in the NaNo forums. It's an Aquarian clock, with a calendar, and the Scottish proverb "What may be done at any time will be done at no time," then lower down, it says, "Now's the time." I have been resonating with that for over a month now, and haven't changed my desktop, because every day, I remind myself that now's the time. I am reminded of one of my favorite Rachel Carson quotes:

One summer night, out on a flat headland, all but surrounded by the waters of the bay, the horizons were remote and distant rims on the edge of space. Millions of stars blazed in darkness, and on the far shore a few lights burned in cottages. Otherwise there was no reminder of human life. My companion and I were alone with the stars: the misty river of the Milky Way flowing across the sky, the patterns of the constellations standing out bright and clear, a blazing planet low on the horizon. It occurred to me that if this were a sight that could be seen only once in a century, this little headland would be thronged with spectators. But it can be see many scores of nights in any year, and so the lights burned in the cottages and the inhabitants probably gave not a thought to the beauty overhead; and because they could see it almost any night, perhaps they never will.
She's right, of course, in this as she is in so many other things. We miss stuff, because we focus on that which is blaring in our face, and therefore the little mysteries slide by, sideways, taking with them that which makes the richness of a life. How does this tie back to the planner?
For the happiest life, rigorously plan your days, leave your nights open to chance. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966
So here we are, back at the king-sized planner pages. I find myself wondering how I ever tried to make do, get by, stumble along through the smaller pages. I'm finding both my plans, and my ability to execute now, today, to be increasing, simply by the virtue of allowing myself to expand to the very edges. It's a good feeling, a nice stretch; planner yoga of a sort. With bigger scrawls come bigger hopes and aspirations. I'm not living in shorthand any more, which feels pretty good. Who knew that planning in complete sentences rather than bullet points greases the imagination? We're heading into one of my favorite times of the year; the season of the re-creation of the self, the zone of the New Years' Resolution. The first 21 Days of January, wherein new plans, new people, new selves and new habits are created. But before the slog on changing ruts, comes this beautiful prep time, where people envision the selves they want to have in the new year, and freed of the burden of execution, they imagine bigger, more expansively. So here's my advice to you. When you're thinking about creating your year, go for the big pages.

10 December 2006

Four-Hour Watch

On one of my Mommy Lists, someone is complaining about not getting enough sleep. And it's hitting my buttons. Americans who spend their entire youths living on no sleep and chocolate-covered espresso beans at their own choice, suddenly become hostile and whiney when they're getting more sleep on average, but broken up on their baby's schedule instead of theirs. It astonishes me how many people don't think about this when they decide to become parents. And it astonishes me even more how many crackpot schemes are out there for "managing baby's sleep". Fercryingoutloud, get over yourselves. In my Coastal Navigation class the other night, we were discussing the notion of ship's watches. Most people do something like four-hour watches, round the clock. You're up for four, sleep for four, up for four... and so on. Because someone needs to drive the boat, you know. I realized that I have never once ever in my life heard a sailor whining about missing sleep. So I asked the instructor about it. He just shrugged, and said "well, that's part of the deal. Watches are a seamanly thing, you just do them." Well, ya know what? Sleep in fragmented bits on odd schedules at unique times are a parently thing, you just do them. He went on to talk about how night watches are some of his most magical memories; where it's just you, and the sea, and the sky. Hey, even Crosby Stills and Nash did their realizing on a midnight watch, in the Southern Cross. There's a ton of literary and musical reference about the mystical revelations to be had on a night watch. I read a book recently about a woman who singlehanded a boat around the world in a race. She slept in 10-minute snatches, here and there, as she could. Now granted, I don't think anyone really wants to take it that far, but the point is, when someone's doing something utterly amazing like racing a circumnavigation, sleep deprivation is seen as cool and worthy. Well maybe, just maybe, sleep dep due to meeting your child's needs in the best way possible for the fifteen seconds (OK, maybe three or four years, but trust me, it seems like fifteen seconds when it's over) they're little, is something cool and worthy. Maybe if we all just stood up and said "I am one of those gnarly extreme round-the-clock parents", people would back off and oooh and ahhh. Or maybe, just maybe, you get rewarded at the end by your happily adjusted and fabulous child. And that's enough. So I'm heading off to take my turn at the Watch, with my babies. While I still can.

06 December 2006

The Escalation of Lights

'Tis clearly The Season.

My neighborhood, eight square blocks at the foot of a venerable old Catholic Church, is intensely competitive in the Domestic Decoration Front. For Halloween, people start planning months in advance, and end up doing dioramas of graveyards that span three houses’ worth of lawns. Last year, six houses pooled their funds and rented a dry ice machine, and flooded the entire street with low-creeping ground fog. It was absolutely spectacular. The entire city I live in buses kids into this neighborhood for Trick-or-Treat, because we’re known to be both safe and enthusiastic, which is not something easily found around here.

But you ain’t seen nothing until you’ve seen Christmas. Decorations started going up this year before the Thanksgiving turkeys had even been carved. Literally; the guy two houses down was wrestling with figuring out the blower machine for his inflatable snowman while his wife was in the house angling with whether the aluminum foil went shiny side up or down, as she does every year (it’s down, in case you were wondering.)

But this year, the annual competition has gotten a little more aggressive than normal. The folks that used to live next door were definitely keeping up with the Joneses. And the first year we had this house, and did the full-on light gig, they went out and bought just one strand more than us. Which was fine; they have two sons that are four years older than my sons, and very aware of the holidays in a way that my sons are not. Also, no one in this neighborhood was used to lights being on this house; the previous owners were, to quote the Redoubtable across the street, "frugal". Which means that in 40 years of living here, they never spent the money on lights, and this house was always dark for the holidays. The contrast alone got us compliments, our first year, so the expectation bar for this house was really, really low. Through a set of pretty astonishing real estate gymnastics, our old next door neighbors moved across the street last year. And a new family is next door. Well... several families are next door. It's a multigenerational hispanic family. They are loud, boisterous, full of life and color and enthusiasm. It's been a real joy having them here; they've added spark to the street. And when their decorations for Halloween were kinda subtle, I didn't think much of it. But this? This is Christmas. You should see the lighting on the house next door. I'll post pictures just as soon as I figure out how to get it to turn out well. Every single edge of the house is covered with running multicolored lights. At least fifteen strands are crisscrossing the lawn from the house to the two large sycamores in the parkway. A string of running-lighted stars spans the front porch. Multicolored icicles hang from every gutter surface. The chimney is wrapped. And every night, new lights go up. One or two strands at a time, subtly, so you don't really notice they're augmenting. Except that the whole display just becomes more fabulous and over the top and wonderful, by bits, every night. Makes you want to shout "Feliz Navidad!" at the top of your lungs just to look at it. Our old neighbor wandered over the other day to chat with Hubby. He's clearly feeling the pressure. Despite pre-wired reindeer in the lawn, wreaths on the large flat surfaces, inflatable snowmen, and white icicles, his spread simply cannot compare to the multicolor extravaganza across the way. So he keeps augmenting, but it isn't having the effect. Jason consoled him, encouraged him, and then chuckled vindictively as he found his keys and his wallet, and headed for the car. ...because we needed just a few more feet to really do the sycamores justice.