Monday, July 6, 2015

How NOT To Do it

My husband and I are musicians. And we’re parents. Our “backstage” experiences with our son (our little frog) deeply affect us and our music. Recent insights: 

As a parent, I'm responsible for my kid's health and emotional/intellectual well being. It takes a lot of organizing and energy. I understand the challenges will continue (grow) as he gets older. But there is a particular exhaustion and frustration that I have found with a 4+ year old, a dynamic human with great ideas and opinions who still needs a lot of hands on attention and assistance.

So my heart goes out to ANYone parenting a little kid. I don't assume that the kid throwing a fit in the grocery store has been mistreated in any way. And I appreciate all the great/inspired parenting out there (hey, Emily, I love turning the punitive Time Out into a supportive, empathetic "Simmer Down Corner").

On the rare occasions I witness truly crappy parenting, I'm vaguely appalled. But I'm also reminded that, in fact, I am bungling through this parenting thing with some shred of grace. Two particularly sour moments I just witnessed:

#1: Beach Mom
Mom sits in beach chair, 30 feet from shore.
Her child splashes everybody in sight.
Mom says nothing.
Child splashes an older kid who patiently moves away.
Child moves back to the older kid and splashes more.
Older kid moves away again, saying "all right, buddy, this is getting annoying."
Child moves back to older kid and splashes him and lots of other little kids.
Mom finally says (to the older kid), "You need to tell him if you don't want him to splash. Otherwise he will splash you. You need to learn how to communicate."

#2: Cursing Smoking Mom
Mom sits on front porch smoking.
5 children hang over the porch railing, giggling and teasing each other.
Mom tells them not to tease each other.
5 children hang a little farther over the porch railing.
Mom tells them they are being idiots and if they fall she will not help them.
The kids tell her they are bored and want to go to the park.
Mom tells them to quit their bitching, and asks why all they ever do is complain. (She actually says this in an uglier way, but I can't bear to write what she actually said to her kids.)

Can't win 'em all. But maybe we don't all lose quite this deeply every day...

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Just Do It Badly

My husband and I are musicians. And we’re parents. Our “backstage” experiences with our son (our little frog) deeply affect us and our music. Recent insights:

Yesterday I was chatting with my new friend Beth about blogging and balance. For those of us who value connecting and sharing, we want to impart something thoughtful and reasonably coherent when we blog. We want to honor our readers and use the blog platform in a useful way, instead of just adding noise.

And we are busy and have lots of things that can get in the way of posting regularly.

For me, sometimes I just do it, even if I don't have loads of time and fresh inspiration. I tell myself to Do It Badly, a particularly great mantra for me as I move into summer. I like to be productive. I like to do lots of good work. But I really do acknowledge that the warmer months inspire a different pace. It's good for me to shift. And it's especially important for me to respect the pace of those around me during the lazier days of summer.

Wishing you gentle days of inspiration around the Solstice! I, for one, will welcome moments of doing work with just a little less attachment and reach. The Do it Badly mandate rinses away some of my normal expectations of outcome. And sometimes this is what helps me just DO my work. And sometimes this is the best kind of work.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

We Are All in Pain Together

My husband and I are musicians. And we’re parents. Our “backstage” experiences with our son (our little frog) deeply affect us and our music. Recent insights:

It was a heartbreaking drive home yesterday...

First, I witnessed a misplaced show of righteousness aka aggression. Two couples--late 50s, affluent white people--set out to cross Mass Ave. They were probably on their way to a nice meal out. They began their journey through the crosswalk. Oops: one car didn't quite yield appropriately and almost cut off the well-heeled pedestrians.

One of the women walkers yelled at the car, which had begun slowing, realizing the mistake. THEN one of the men approached the passenger's side of the car. Suddenly he was screaming at the people in the car and hitting their roof. The car began inching forward and the man ran after it! He keyed the side of their car as they drove away. Yikes!

At the next stoplight I pulled up alongside the scraped car and rolled down my window. Two elderly Chinese people looked at me and said, "sorry, we make mistake!!!" I asked them if they were all right, telling them I'd seen everything. They told me I was a good little girl and it will all be okay.

A mile down the road I saw a woman running. She looked strong and also really tired. I smiled, remembering that over the weekend I ran with my friend Paula. We'd decided to each run for 15 minutes at our own pace, then turn around and meet up. I ran a bit ahead--ooh, I really wanted to reach the zoo before turning around! It took me more like 16+ minutes. And now I had to turn around and make up my time. It was a real stretch, and I was tired by the end. I felt the running woman's pain... and I wished her a great finish to her run.

A few blocks later I saw another runner. She was waiting to cross the road and looked so strong and joyous. It took me a few moments before I noticed her one prosthetic leg. When the light changed and I watched her start up, I saw her uneven stride, not like the smooth Olympic running I'd seen with artificial limbs. But no strain or discomfort registered on her face. I hope to channel some of her power on my next run.

To cap off a real gut ripping commute, my friend Eric Merrill's version of "Boston Blue-Eyed Boy" came on during the final minutes of my drive home. The soundtrack to my sorrows this afternoon.

When I told my family about what I'd seen, my son grabbed a piece of paper and wrote D. "Mom, the guy who scratched the car TOTALLY gets a Demerit."

Yeah, we really don't win when we lash out. But it's hard not to vent and rage sometimes, when the world is getting us all down. Hang in there, gang. Let's do our best this week and aim for some gold stars...

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Glorious 30 Day List

My husband and I are musicians. And we’re parents. Our “backstage” experiences with our son (our little frog) deeply affect us and our music. Recent insights: 

Happy May! At the start of this month, my family reviewed--and partially redeemed--our 30 Day List. This was an inventory of various stuff we had each expressed wanting or needing throughout the month, but had agreed to WAIT 30 days before acquiring.

You see, the month of April was all about clearing out excess. I orchestrated a thorough review of the contents of our home. And my husband Matt and I ended up donating or selling a lot of things that seemed redundant or no longer joyous.

After all this work, I was determined to be deeply thoughtful about new purchases. After all, it has become exciting to live with less, enjoying what we have and pining less for what we don't (a home with a driveway, walkable to a business district...)

We all decided on April 1 that anytime one of us had a yen for anything that is not essential, it would go on the 30 Day List. (We decided to not be stingy on groceries and to also allow wine/beer so we felt decadent and satisfied enough during this spending lockdown.)

And on May 1 we reviewed what we still really wanted on that list. Of course some of the stuff didn't seem as pressing/desirable. And we had the time and patience to make a budget for some of the A list items on the list.

Acquisition day was fun, especially because we got to purchase a few things we'd had to WAIT for. But it's not disappointing to have to wait another 30 days (or more) for some of the other items on the list. Now it's a game--and a pledge to be thoughtful and disciplined about our desires.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

What's LEFT is What Matters

My husband and I are musicians. And we’re parents. Our “backstage” experiences with our son (our little frog) deeply affect us and our music. Recent insights: 

As some of you know, I've been gradually working through Marie Kondo's home 'sorting' program. It's a thorough approach of decluttering by category vs. room by room; so the purger is forced to confront, say, ALL her linens or ALL her papers, all at once. With possessions on comprehensive display, it's easy to see the need to be ruthless.

I love the mandate: if a thing doesn't 'spark joy' (even if it's simple joy of the usefulness of an item), it's out!

It takes time and effort to assemble each category. But so far, once I've tackled a category--edited and then decided how/where to keep my yes pile--the order and neatness has stuck, for me AND my family. It is clear for all of us to see where everything is supposed to go, so it's easy to put things back after using them.

 I am enjoying more home order, less stuff to clean/put away. But above all, the biggest payoff is how I am using and enjoying the good stuff that remains. I'm really LISTENING to many of my favorite recordings. Inspired by my favorite books that line the bookshelves, I'm spending more time reading new recommendations.

And I loved my friend Rachel's comment that she actually ENJOYS putting things away now.

Savoring my stuff is easier to do when I have less of it. A simple notion, of course. But it's one I've practiced more lately. And cleaning up, like Rachel commented, is more satisfying when everything has a purposeful home. (Also, Kondo has good ideas about how to store things--I follow the vertical folding exCEPT for this lovely stack of quilts that looked better folded horizontally.)

Here's to getting more out of life... with less.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Pig Shoes and Lightning Shoes Bring Balance

My husband and I are musicians. And we’re parents. Our “backstage” experiences with our son (our little frog) deeply affect us and our music.

Spring is here in New England. Nearly ALL of the snow has melted, the crocuses are up and baby animals are being born. It is ON.

We celebrated the fine weekend weather with a trip to Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln, MA. Our son loved looking at the "puppies" (brand new kids in the goat field). We watched a momma sheep clean her newborn lamb. And we frolicked in the wood paths.

But the sun really came out for young Nigel when we came across tractor tire tracks. "Let's play in the MUD!!!" We weren't prepared with boots--in fact, Nige was wearing his beloved Lightning Shoes, which he did not want to 'spoil.' But we did have an extra pair of shoes in our bag. So we took off the dry socks and put the spare shoes on, rolled up the pants.

There was gleeful mucking in the mud with the 'Pig Shoes' for an hour. And then we used the last of our drinking water for a quick mud rinse, dried off wet little feet with our hands/jeans and changed Nigel back into his dry footwear.

This reminded me of my trek around Mt. Auburn cemetery (without a bag filled with kid gear). It was simple to make do and accommodate our kid's request to play in the mud. We ended the day running up and down the (steep! tiring!) lamb barn hill. And we all slept very, very well that night.

I am grateful for the season change. And I am mindful of the restorative power of getting outside right away,  of really building the habit and yen to be in the mud and in the woods right as it's warming up. When you've got a happy home set up with lots of engaging toys and great books, it can take time and effort to connect with the deep dirt.

So here's to balancing the intellectual/cultural interests and the indoor play with outdoor sojourns over the course of, say, a week. (i.e. EVERY DAY doesn't have to strike a perfect balance). Some days can be heavy on outside fun; and some days can be given over to involved indoor projects. A good reminder that our days are so profound and so very small picture, all at once!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Exercise is a Blast!

My husband and I are musicians. And we’re parents. Our “backstage” experiences with our son (our little frog) deeply affect us and our music. Recent insights: 

I can't wait for my run tomorrow! (Really.)

Now that it's Spring, I'm doing more running outside--with friends, in the woods. It's such a nice connection with people and with the season change.

After my accidental five mile solo trail run a few days ago (I got lost in the woods..), I realized that my motivation for exercising is evolving. What began as a concerted effort to schedule running and yoga each week in order to keep perspective and good humor has turned into a genuine enjoyment of sport!

I didn't always make time for exercise. Things would get in the way. But I found that building regular exercise times into my weekly schedule and then being public about my plans (telling friends, posting my schedule on our family whiteboard in the middle of the house) solidified the habit. I committed to a weekly yoga class--if I don't plan to attend, I have to send regrets. It's usually "easier" to just go.

As my fitness level rose, which was already a good feeling, I also found ways to make exercise more fun. Through the winter snow and ice, I hit the gym treadmill. And with a Netflix app and a couple of cliffhanger shows, it turned out this was a totally fine way to get in some entertainment, escapism and sweat.

My attitude about running in the cold shifted a bit, too. When the roads were clear but the temperatures were challenging, social running allowed me the feeling of banding together against the cold. We faced the discomfort together, which was supportive and powerful mental exercise.

Now that it's getting warmer and it is easier to schedule running meet-ups, getting exercise is a side benefit to what has become a truly uplifting habit. It's a reward to take time and just be in my body and in the world. It's a nice solo break. And it's fun and even easier with with friends. Who knew I was finding a fun pastime?!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Just Do Something

My husband and I are musicians. And we’re parents. Our “backstage” experiences with our son (our little frog) deeply affect us and our music. Recent insights:

Nick Offerman is hilarious. His Parks and Recreation character Ron Swanson is even funnier. And the mandate in Offerman's book spurred me on to action today:

"Choose your favorite spade and dig a small, deep hole... Bury your cell phone and then... do something with your hands instead of kill time on your phone device."    

Of all my bad habits, compulsive phone fiddling is fairly low on the dysfunction meter for me (especially since I took my Facebook App OFF of my phone!). Still, I do check email more than I need to and I love the reminder to DO and MAKE stuff.  And I appreciate Offerman's passion that MAKING stuff brings a sense of accomplishment and involvement, that "the people making stuff are generally less wealthy but much happier overall. Less bored, less bitter, more satisfied." 

How great to create. How important it is to be in charge of how and what you think! Heavenly on a sunny Spring day, and life saving during times of darkness and despair.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Lightness of Less

My husband and I are musicians. And we’re parents. Our “backstage” experiences with our son (our little frog) deeply affect who we are. Recent insights: 

Now my son is four. With a stellar vocabulary, charm (i.e. bargaining skills) and physical dexterity, he is well able to move around in this world. It seems like he could still use a chaperone, more thoughtfulness for others and more sophisticated problem-solving skills. But he's already independent, helpful and happy in this world.

When my friend Norman lost his apartment, his wallet, phone, passport, photos and letters, laptop/work, all his home stuff (in the NY apartment explosion last week), he was immediately grateful to be alive. And he was also quick to admit grief at losing all his worldly possessions.

Of course it will be a long, tough challenge for Norman as he bounces back from the losses and sets out to rebuild his identity in the modern world (hours at the DMV, Social Security office, etc.).

But as young Nigel and I walked around our local zoo yesterday, I felt a touch of lightness that Norman could occasionally feel after losing all but the (sweaty) shirt on his back. (He was at the gym when the explosion happened.). If Nigel lost all his stuff, his reality wouldn't change much. He'd make more art, we'd stock up on library books, and friends would donate a few toys.

As I continue to sort through the contents of our home category by category (I'm on to media/books this weekend!), I am grateful for the CHOICE of what to keep. Norman didn't get that luxury. But no matter how many or few things we end up with, there is joy in walking lightly through the zoo!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Deep, Lasting Home Organizing for Spring

My husband and I are musicians. And we’re parents. Our “backstage” experiences with our son (our little frog) deeply affect who we are. Recent insights:

My friend Jessie is moving. My friend Laura is Spring cleaning. And I am hanging onto the promise of a few hours on Friday, which I've set aside for an initial blast of Spring cleaning and home clearing. After this rough Boston winter, welcoming warmer days is a major mandate.

For all three of us, I floated the idea of sorting/purging by CATEGORY vs. by room. I got this notion from Marie Kondo's Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing (amazing title, equal to Nick Offerman's Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living). Instead of tackling one dumb corner of your living room, go through ALL your books. Gather them ALL up in one place and sort/purge once and for all.


Kondo recommends a specific order for going through your things, which you can find in her book. She is passionate about following this order, which is basically easy to more sentimental (harder). And she insists that if you ruthlessly move through each category--if you dump anything that is really not worthwhile--you won't need to KEEP going through this process and will be less likely to reacquire goods that don't truly serve.

I like her idea of really dwelling on each thing within each category and asking yourself if you really need to keep each thing. Simplify, yes. And also, really set up your scene with stuff that you love. Don't keep yucky things that make you mad.

Another real zinger for me has been how she urges you to store clothing. At first it seemed crazy and obsessive. No flat folding! Instead, fold shirts, for example, into rectangles. And nestle them all in your drawer side-by side. Wow, who has the time? And I laughed out loud when she explained that you must NEVER ball your socks into little potatoes. It stretches them out and doesn't allow them to 'rest'! But after my husband actually did the drawer re-order and gained a third more drawer space (and has managed to keep his clothing drawers completely tidy for a month!), I tried it. Um, it's totally magic!! You stay well-ordered, and it doesn't take more time to fold this way.

Well, gang. Here are the first three CATEGORIES, in case you want to try along with me on Friday!

1) Clothing.. in this order:
    - shirts, sweaters, all tops
    - bottoms
    - hanging clothes (including coats)
    - socks (no more potatoes)
    - underwear
    - bags (ALL at once)
    - scarves, belts, hats, jewelry, all accessories at once
    - sportswear, swim suits
    - shoes

2) Books and magazines: Take ALL books from everywhere in the house, put them in one place, and touch the spine of each. Only keep the ones that truly spark joy. OUT with the rest. For REAL!

3) Papers... in this order:
    - files
    - envelopes, office supplies
    - bills, notes on fridge, etc
    (set any sentimental stuff aside... that's later)