Since the world didn’t end today…..

gone fishin

Well, the truth is I’ve neither gone fishing nor have I been to the beach, but I have been far away from this blog. Um, obviously. I don’t know what happened — kids, illness, holidays, more germs, writing, work, writing, work, more kid stuff, more drama, more, more, more…..I loved meeting so many new people with my OAB post, and feel so bad that I didn’t follow up with posts of awesome. Most of you are probably kinda irritated you followed me!

I hope in the new year to get back to my old posting habits. Until then, I wish you the very best of holidays!

snowmen

New Year’s Non-Resolution

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions.  I don’t make them.  Not just because they are doomed to fail, but it’s the sort of have-to pressure that I don’t want during the most stressful time of the year.  But here we are two weeks into 2011, so I guess it’s safe to set some goals, somthing I do periodically anyway, whenever I find that the status quo is no longer working.

Here is my goal for the next few months:  BALANCE.

Parents wear a lot of hats during their days.  Moms especially — yes, I know this is a generalization, that there are exceptions, but no matter who is at home or the primary caregiver, most kids instinctively turn to Mom for what they need.  My own, for instance, will seek me out in my home office to ask for some juice, even though their very involved, hands-on dad is in the kitchen with them.  Go figure.

Back to parents and their hats.  Every day we assume any number of responsibilities — wage earner, chef, chauffer, tutor, playmate, negotiator, mediator, friend, spouse, etc.  You know.  The trick is to do them at once, and well.  This sort of thing has always been called “multitasking.”  A often-used metaphor is juggling. 

I prefer the metaphor of crossing a high-wire between two skyscrapers — while carrying cups and saucers carefully stacked on one another.  Balance is crucial.  One misstep and everything, including you, tumbles.

So my non-resolution is to be better with balancing.  My old strategy of trying to do everything every day has failed.  Even when I tried doing just a little of everything, because by the end of the day I’d be left with tasks partially completed, worries that not enough time was spent with the kids, and resentment because I never did get back to my writing (which is almost always the first thing to get sidelined.)

Balance  – my new strategy.  How about this?  Schedule my days to focus on one thing (I should clarify that I’m really only talking about when the kids are not home, because once they are….well, you know the chaos).  Monday, volunteer in kindergarten classroom.  Tuesday, picture book writing.  Wednesday, essays.  Thursday, house cleaning.  Friday, long fiction.  (All this is taking into consideration that there are just some things that have to get done every day, like 2 loads of laundry, dishes, errands, kid stuff, etc.).  Maybe if I can walk that tightrope with fewer cups, I’ll be less likely to fall.

How do you balance?  I could use some advice!

Enlightenment

We seem to be living in a greener, more enlightened world. Or at least, in a world that wants to be greener and more enlightened.

I used to be earthy, crunchy. I did yoga daily, hiked, and took long walks. I held memberships in the Sierra Club and the World Wildlife Federation. Sadly, as my life unfolded, these passions got lost in a small-city shuffle after I moved to Boston. Getting married and having kids somehow overshadowed my guitar-strumming, mantra-muttering self. I guess I wasn’t someone who could readily reconcile those identities, though plenty of fine women do. All right, I was also a little bit lazy.

But this past year taught me a little bit about staying true to who you are, as well as spending some time on enlightenment. Well, if not enlightenment, then spending some time on clearing a little mind clutter, stepping outside of yourself to the bigger world. Doing this may mitigate some of the daily stresses we all feel, or so I’m told.

Lately I’ve revisited yoga and meditation and some old, familiar writers like Natalie Goldberg, who in her search for her writing self stumbled across her true self — through writing practice and Zen Buddhism, Natalie embarked on a lifelong journey we all must face at one time or another. Or something like that. “Be here now,” wrote Ram Dass in his book of the same title. (My cousin Marcello gave me this book about 15 years ago, when we were both exploring the same world. Alas, it was lost in a basement flood a few years ago.) The message is, of course, to be mindful of the moment, do what you’re doing. Make a peanut butter sandwich without focusing on the bills to be paid or what you need at the pharmacy.

I’ve been trying. It flies against every modern thought of multi-tasking, the fuel on which we contemporary moms thrive. Once upon a time, moms were applauded for their ability to talk on the phone, help with math homework, cook dinner, fold laundry, and look beautiful, all at once. These days, while multi-tasking is a necessary evil of parenting, I have been striving for a more peaceful, Zen approach to my daily duties.

For instance, today, while changing Joanna’s diaper, I think only of the tush, the rash, the cream. I actively ignore the sound from the living room, the smack of hand slapping on arm, as Ellie defends her toy from her brother’s grasp.

I sigh, apply cream. The cream is white on red rash, I think. Yelling erupts from adjacent room. Be here now, I whisper, aligning diaper with rear end. Something heavy lands with a thump nearby; lack of cries indicate object is inanimate, not human. I fasten diaper, put legs in pants. The sound of sobs, soft and sniffly, waft to my ears, hallmark of a fight ebbing. I stand Joanna up and give her a kiss, send her on her way.

Natalie Goldberg’s teacher Katagiri Roshi, in response to her description of an overwhelming emotion she was having, told her, “Pay no attention to that. Continue to feel your breath, bow, drink tea.”

Having finished the task before me, I pay no attention to the noise from the other room, which has resolved itself quite well without me. With an almost undetectable bow, I head to the kitchen and turn on the stove to boil water for a cup of tea.

Of course, as students we often fail. Not all days am I able to watch my breath, meditate, and allow the chaos of parenting to flow around me. On many days, I sit on the couch after tucking the children in their beds, a glass of red wine by my side. Recently, I stood by the counter and mindfully swallow bite after delicious bite of the chocolate birthday cake we had for Cooper last Saturday.

I haven’t decided which way is better. But whatever way, I hope that I can be present in my life, the moments that flow too quickly. Breathe, drink tea. Be grateful and bow.

New Year’s Resolutions

Well, I had good intentions with this blog. But some stuff happened in 2007 and I didn’t manage to get a single thought written.

I found the lump in my left breast the week before Christmas 2006, and rang in the new year waiting to see the doctor and agonizing over my discovery. In the six months that followed, I had a mammogram and a series of ultrasounds. Eventually in June 2007 a biopsy was performed, and the good news finally came. Benign tissue. One bullet dodged.

A month later I caught a cold. I got a sore throat and thought I felt a lump when I swallowed. Another three months, a trip to a specialist, a CT scan, and two “nodules” were discovered, one on my epiglottis and one on my thyroid. Surgery was scheduled for the beginning of October, and once again, good news followed. Bengin tissue. Bullet number two, dodged. A biopsy on the thyroid nodule had the same result. Number three.

You can’t ask for better gifts than that.

So, I figured after getting luckly three times, it was time to shape up my act. During the throat issues, I quit smoking (again) but have managed to stay clean since the end of August 2007. As so many do, I made a few resolutions for 2008, mostly the usual ones.

Eat better — more vegetables and more fruit. Mostly I save the good stuff for the kids and eat carbs.
Exercise — More yoga (even bought a DVD for the kids to do with me); Ray and I bought a treadmill.
Get organized — an uncluttered environment leads to uncluttered mind.

But here’s the thing. Every one of the doctors I saw last year told me point-blank that I was too stressed, and most of my health issues (lumps notwithstanding) were directly related to that stress. So, here are my bigger resolutions:

Laugh every day.
Get to bed earlier.
Kiss my husband as much as possible.
Tell people how I feel.
Focus more on the accomplishments and less on the mess the kids make on the journey.

Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat as often as necessary.

Three passes last year, three misses, three gifts. It is a new year and I hope to make it the best yet.