Monday, September 30, 2013

It really is all about perspective.

Tonight, at dinner, we went around the table and—when Julian called upon each of us (the boy is big-time into school rules)—we shared something good that happened to us that day. This is the stuff you read about in books: the warm fuzzy family moments that come together when everybody's good moods and energy levels align.

Jules told us about his two "Terrific Tickets." These are tickets, Julian has told us many more times than once, that you get in Ms. Emily's class for being "terrific"—using your manners, being a good friend, listening well. Today, apparently, he earn a ticket for offering up his spot to a friend and then another for saying thank you when he received that ticket (that second incentive seems too easily earned if you ask me).

Jon shared that he'd had an exciting day cause he won an award for doing good work.

Then it was the turn of the "person... with the white shirt that has black things on it... the person with the black hair... and the blue eyes..." Note: I am the person with the white-and-navy dress, with the (dyed) dark-brown hair and the eyes that are sort of more green than blue. But Jules, obviously, was referring to me. So I took my turn. "I was very lucky today to get the hole in my tooth fixed. Very lucky that now it's all better." And I couldn't resist tacking on a lame lesson: "But my dentist said I need to be more careful: I need to brush my teeth better and eat less candy." Lie: What the dentist said was I need to stop clenching and grinding, or I should buy a $1000 mouthguard, or I should plan to keep coming back for the same missing filling (not to mention the worn-down molars). But never mind that. Kai was up.

And excited to go. "I got pushed down on the playground and hurt my foot and I cried and cried," he said.

Jules, the moderator, points out that we're sharing good things.

"No, no," Kair corrects him. "It's OK, because I'm a tough guy."

God love this boy. Kai had an apparently awesome day despite the fact that his friend pushed him down. And made him cry and cry. (Jon says I can't ask him which friend... Why the hell not?)

And, actually, I had a pretty awesome day too. Truly, I was grateful that the tooth situation was so straightforward, that the dentist got me in this afternoon, that my job is flexible enough that I could jet out and back - a little late lunch if you will. Yes, half my face was numb, I had some sort of rubber dam in my mouth and someone was suctioning away my saliva, but I got to close my eyes, lean back and listen to not-bad jazz for 45 minutes or so in the middle of my workday. It wasn't yoga. But it wasn't half bad.

Now, I sit down to work (quick blog diversion). Tomorrow's dinner is bubbling on the stove—it's got coriander instead of cumin and basil in place of oregano, due to a delayed shopping trip. No big deal - I'll hit City Market soon. Coltrane is playing. Another night, I'd be cranky to be having to work after the boys are in bed. Instead, I feel grateful to have this work—work that I like, work that draws upon both my writing and my nutrition worlds, work that I can do sitting on one of great-Uncle Frank's Barcelona chairs, drinking coffee and then Moroccan mint tea, while all of my boys sleep.

These kinds of good days—days when everything feels just fine, great even, despite "emergency" fillings—are, I think, the best days of all.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

When my body says run, I must obey. Immediately.

Another note to self: When all the world around feels sad, scary and fragile and your mind can't seem to settle on the tasks at hand because it keeps swirling around situations that can't be solved, go for a run. Don't let the turbulence tornado into an emotional cloud that leaks tears mid-meeting (sorry, mates). Go for a run. When your brain keeps spinning, spinning—like the rainbow circle of death, don't rage against the machine. Don't keep hitting keys. Leave. Run. Restart.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Crazymaking on a Sunday night is a sin.

Note to self: After spending an incredibly fun weekend catching up with awesome old friends and watching your kids become awesome new friends, don't ruin it by walking into the house and ordering everyone around. Do not try cram a week's worth of obligations into as many hours as you can stay awake: grocery shop, do 100 loads of laundry, make dinners for the next five nights, complete "emergency" work tasks. Savor the Sunday-night. Let the boys play for awhile in the tub with the blue Lush soap. Snuggle them for an extra song. Have a glass of wine, read a book, check in with your sis. Wake up at 4:30 if you must. But don't ruin a great weekend by acting like an idiot on Sunday night. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Running to work rocks.

I got to run to work today! I live close now and didn't have any after-school kid-pick up duties. Coincidentally, it might be the most beautiful day of the year. Score.

I haven't been running enough. Perhaps my body senses that and is instructing my brain to make up running-related mantras. Things like this just keep popping into my head:
  • No run, no wine. (This is a set-up for failure.)
  • No run, no whine. (This is a good rule.)
  • Slogging isn't sprinting but it's better than sitting. (I aspire for my manifestos to ring more Holstee than Dr. Seuss but hey...)

Got any running mantras to share?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A single act of kindness still inspires me.

We all have memories. How could we forget? No way. But as the years have worn on, some of my vivid images of the day have given way to memories of memories, rituals of remembrance.

It happens every year: the calendar catches me a little off guard. Maybe it's an a meeting reminder, or it's a quick glance at the clock on my phone. And I see the date: September 11, whatever year. Sometimes, on a perfect blue-sky day in August or September, I'll be walking through a lot, or driving in my car and have a deja vu moment. I get confused. Is today the anniversary? It's not. But it's close.

And when it does come, I've noticed, in the last few years, the same—or very similar—mental cycle starts. First I notice the weather. Blue skies. Mild air. My kinda day. That's just what I was thinking when I walked the few blocks from New York Sports Club to the Conde Nast building, feeling fantastic after a morning workout. Today was much balmier. I note that.

Then I remember my reactions to what was happening before anyone was totally certain what was happening. Watching the second plane hit on the television in Meg's office, my first thought was, "what the hell is going on with air traffic control?" Terrorists weren't on my radar. This response still scares me. Am I that clueless, so slow to catch on in a crisis?

I think of how hard it was to find out if people were safe. The lines were all tied. Then I text my friend Todd, tell him that I'm glad he's alive. I do this every year.

I think of how lucky I am, not to have lost anyone I loved. I think of how much it must suck to be one of the people who did. I cry. I cry for those people. I cry because I'm not as grateful as I should be for the lucky life I have.  I cry because on most days, I'm too busy trying to get shit done, or too distracted by the small stuff, to stop and appreciate how beautiful the sky is. To laugh. To have a real conversation. To call my mom, or K, the friend with whom I emailed back and forth about the Pentagon on fire on the morning of 9/11. We were inseparable in college and I still consider her one of my best friends but we rarely talk. But that's life? Or is it?

I stop crying. And I think of Molly. We'd met just two weeks before when I started my job at Self.

"I know you're just getting to know everyone here, and I know you live in Queens," she said. She hugged me. "I live on the Upper East Side. You're coming home with me." We evacuated minutes after that, and she and I walked side-by-side and, at times, hand-in-hand, from 42nd Street to her apartment. From a sidewalk outside a TV store, we watched the second tower fall. I stayed at her place until late in the evening when the subways opened and I felt safe enough to go home. (I think. This part is fuzzy.)

How do you become the person who—when the world seems to be crashing down all around you—thinks to go over to the new girl in the corner cubicle to make sure she's OK? I want to become that person. And every September 11, my memory of Molly's kindness that day inspires me to try harder.

Crying again.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sales goals start early.

"Mom! I gotta show you something."

He is so excited and, in turn, I'm eager to see what he's got to share. These last eight days (he's so precise about quantifying how long he's been a kindergartener), getting information out of him hasn't been easily. I'd been warned this would happen. That's OK. I respect that he's got a life of his own. But I'm so curious. I try not to bombard him with questions but I'm trained as a journalist. I probe: Who did you sit next to on the bus? Did you play with new friends? Did you have art class today? He's actually quite generous in his answers. But offering unsolicited info about his time at school has been rare.

So this "something" had to be good. He's shuffling his backpack, his lunchbox, trying to find what he's looking for—and here it is:

A pamphlet full of prizes—we're talking Jelly Eyeball Flashing Rings, Sneaker Key Chains (for his all of his keys, natch). Prizes you win for asking relatives to give you money in exchange for expensive cheap-looking wrapping paper and "fancy" bad-for-you packaged foods and magazines that you can get for free because you work for them. (Yes, yes...  I am a bad parent. I promise I'll make up for it by happily baking cookies for soccer tournaments and handing out water at fundraiser runs.) 

"You show this paper to everyone you know," he tells me, waving the prize pamphlet. "Like your Grandma and your Papa and everyone. And then they get things and you get things." 


"Yes, a special guest came to our classroom and told us all about it." 

At this point, Julian's stuff is all over the floor. He's talking with his hands, excited, waving the paper under my nose. I try not to rush him—he's really into this—but I'm getting antsy. Jon's stuck at a job site, so I am on (unexpected) double pick-up duty. If we don't leave, um, now, Kai will be standing solo on the playground with the preschool's director. Even though I left the office half an hour early—rushing out of of a meeting, ironically, about how to meet next year's aggressive sales goals—I am somehow late. 

We hurry to the car and I try to see it all through his eyes: it's a win, win. You get this, and I get this. I really should adopt a good attitude: I mean, who doesn't need a mini sandwich maker set, or a peanut butter and jelly spreader? But I can't get past that the fact there's someone—a special guest—out there who's selling my kid, age 5, on selling. I can't quite nail down, in words, just how I feel about that. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

I have more leg warmers than you.

... including these royal blue ones that bought seven years ago when I was a Crayola crayon for Halloween. Yes, when I was 30.

I also still have this "Vote for Pedro" shirt that I wore when I was Napoleon Dynamite a Halloween or two before that. In fact, I wore it to paint my living room the other night.

I have more T-shirts sporting the logos of sports teams whose rosters I know only well enough to name a player. Or two. (Gifts from a hopeful sister Kate.)

I've got an army of thrift-store-scored pants with a flattering fit that's no longer in style waiting patiently for the day when they might look cool again. And a pair or two of skinny jeans wondering if I'm going to give up my red wine habit or grabbing almonds by the handful every time I walk through the kitchen (unlikely)—or just give them up to a grateful slightly smaller friend.

I've got too many flip-flops and more boots than I need. I have warm winter coats that I keep just in case someone comes to visit and they forget I live in Vermont. Socks with acorns on them. Fleece socks with acorns. Which I keep because they're comfy—and then wonder why I feel frumpy.

I donate clothing freely but can't seem to let go of some of the most ridiculous stuff. Can anyone explain this to me?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Boys will be... balanced.

I've got a fantasy football draft going on downstairs (Jon) and a kid who won't wear a shirt unless it has a number on it. And is mesh. This one also has taken to wearing a helmet around the house. Steelers, naturally.

Both little guys are all about forts and fighting—and, tonight at the dinner table, farting. (Reprimanded big-time. Boundaries.)  They're obsessed with superheroes and pirates, dinosaurs and rocks. "All boy," people like to say. I hate that—and they're not. Whatever that means. I love rocks. And dinosaurs. Fighting and superheroes (with the exception of Batman, a real person) not so much.

My stylist admiring his teeth.
Besides, J's favorite color is pink. He digs rainbows, gems and jewels. K asks to wear nail polish, which I embrace—using less-toxic formulas, and only on his toes. He's a thumbsucker. We tint them coral and teal, alternating (a new word for him). The polish mysteriously disappears after a trip to Grandma's. The other day Kai and I went shopping for his new shoes and he insisted that I try on a pair of hot-pink leopard-print jeans, topped with green-and-blue striped tank. "You look beautiful, Mama. Wear them." Um, no. But I like your style, kid.

I always say that Jon's best qualities come from the fact that he has two older sisters. I attribute some of my more likeable traits to growing up on a dead-end street with a bunch of boys—where we played backyard ball games and raced bikes, traded GI Joe guys and baseball cards. It helped balance all the hours I spent in ballet. A bit.

I don't know where I'm going with this except to say that while people like to say I'm totally outnumbered over here I really don't see it that way. At all.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I have trouble with steady.

The other day, running (uphill), I launched into "lamp-post" negotiations: when I reach that pole...  I started thinking...  I'll walk. Then I changed my mind: No, I'll run faster. I wanted to keep going, just not at the same painfully steady pace. In this moment, kicking it up, pushing harder, was far more appealing than chugging along.

I'm sure there's plenty of science to explain that tendency but, right now, I'm too lazy to look it up. Pretty sure it has to do with dopamine. And instant gratification. And all the things that make me constantly crave new things. A tricky thing for a mom of two with a full-time job and a mortgage. There's a lot of routine in my world. A lot of Groundhog Days.

On one hand, there's daily evidence of rapid change: Soft buttery bellies have leaned out and are starting to ripple into skinny-boy six-packs. (The adults 'round here are evolving in the opposite direction, albeit much more slowly.) And, still, some definitive firsts. J boarded a school bus for the first time last week. K refused to wear a Pull-Up to bed tonight. (I deferred on that and will probably be paying at 2 am.)  Milestones—yes. But not mine.

I've just come off a big run of years marked by proposals, big plans and pregnancies, promotions and well-received pitches. Major purchases. Attention, recognition, acquistion. All exciting stuff, great for unleashing big hits of dopamine—a chemical that drives us all and me, I have evidence to believe, moreso than others. So that was good. But my cadence these days is different. My world is mostly about maintaining and sustaining, improving status-quo systems—and ones that are constantly shifting. Going with the flow, patiently, with a big-picture focus. Trusting that I'm not messing everything up without the proof of solid analytics.

I'm not naturally wired to lean into that—but I'm trying. Because I can see that "succeeding" at that effort would be a beautiful thing.