Thank You to All the Teachers on Earth

Today Google posted one small line of text on their home page that was an ode to teachers.  “Thank you to all the teachers on earth”.  And it linked off to a video about space and how teachers bring it alive for their students.  It really got me thinking as I have always held teachers in the highest regard.  I appreciate the work they do and I know how dedicated many of them are to their profession and the children in their classrooms every day.

I had a conversation recently with a dear friend who had come to see a play that I was in.  The play was Working, and it is a collection of vignettes based on a series of interviews that Studs Terkel conducted with real working people.  The experience was a joyful one for me for lots of reasons.  The community of actors and behind the scenes folks was wonderful.  There were lots and lots of kids in the show and like many teachers I love being around kids.  I got to make Rainbow Loom bracelets with some new friends who were 9 and 10 respectively.  That’s how much fun I had.  And while the show captured so many touching stories about the people who keep our world on track- the fireman, the trucker, the waitress, the mill worker, the mom..  The role that I played was the teacher.  She was a 3rd grade teacher who had been teaching for 40 years and was pretty worn out from the whole thing.  I think her real story was that she had watched the world change and was struggling to keep up.  She wasn’t all that endearing as a character.  She opened her monologue talking about what she would do when she really disliked a child.  I had trouble with this.  I had trouble with the whole thing- truth be told.  The monologue was challenging and the song I sang even more challenging.  But I am an actress and accepted the role. Here’s the deal about actors- their job is to bring  their characters to life.   I was coached by one of the directors to really own the part, to not be ambivalent about this teacher who believed in the rote method among other things.   Just to be clear- I do not believe in the rote method.   I am way too right-brained for that.  But that was the text and that was the role, so I did my best to own it.

So back to my story.  My friend, the retired teacher, expressed to me how upset she was that Studs Terkel had chosen that story and that character to represent “teachers”.  She said that she thought my character was the only “unlikeable” character in the show.  This upset me.  It did not feel good.  It was not that I felt maligned as a performer.  I feel pretty confident that I did the best I could do with the role, but I felt sad that a member of the audience felt that way.  I especially felt sad because I so appreciate teachers.  I remember teachers that I have had along the way and am so thankful for the ways that they have shaped my life.  There was my college writing professor who literally taught me how to write a coherent sentence.  There was my 4th grade teacher, Miss Smith, who was very strict, but who taught me so many of the basics.  There was my English teacher in high school who introduced me to so much great literature.  I remember vividly the day that he introduced our classroom to the Myth of Sisyphus.  That was a shocker.  Seriously, are we all just rolling a rock up a big hill and never getting to the top?

I could go on for pages about the amazing teachers that I have known and not just in the classroom.  What about the extraordinary people who have taught me new skills and amazing things about our world and yes even painful lessons .   I myself have been a teacher in a variety of settings- at a camp, at a children’s theater program, in an elementary school music class.  I like to think that I am a teacher in my work life.  That I am sharing what I know and helping people see things in a new way.  This is hard work, folks.  This is not for the faint-hearted.

So today when I saw Google’s simple line of text, it made me stop and think and appreciate all of the teachers that I know and have known.  And even if I had to portray a teacher that made my friends uncomfortable and dare I say, unappreciated, well.. I was playing a part.  I was not expressing my personal beliefs.  So thank you Google.  And thank you to all the teachers on earth.

Letting go hurts

Sometimes it seems that life is just one big process of letting go.  Letting go of what was.  Letting go of the things in your life you once cared about.  Letting go of old relationships and old expectations.  Letting go of your once youthful figure (yea, that’s really looking back)  Letting go of your picture of where you live and who comes home for dinner and where you spend your holidays.  Letting go of being a Mom with a houseful of kids to a house with just you and your husband.  Even the dogs are gone.. (boo hoo)

I learned a very powerful lesson from a wise man some years ago who told me if things aren’t working, then change your picture.  Create a new picture.  Create a new set of expectations.

This last weekend was a roller coaster of letting go and celebrating what once was.  My siblings and I came together from three different places to help my Mother weed out the belongings that filled  the Vermont house that our family has owned since 1973.  This was originally a second home where we went for holidays and ski vacations.  It became the full-time residence for my parents when they began their retirement.  The memories attached to this house are so rich and so meaningful, I am overwhelmed by them.   I celebrated my 30th birthday here.  There are stories.. oh yes.  There are stories.  There is a classic story of dear friends lounging in a jacuzzi tub, overflowing with bubbles and hilarity.  Yup, that is definitely going back to my younger, svelter self.

My husband and I chose to get married in this picturesque town.  We spent a number of winters in this house when my parents had moved back to their retirement community for the winter.  We shared the house with several other families- teaching our kids to ski and to play board games and to compete in an epic cardboard box derby every winter. We went on tubing adventures in the summer and watched spectacular hot air balloons float by overhead.   The family fun that took place in this house does not get much better.  As I sit here and remember, I am filled with such gratitude that I could have been so blessed to have such warm and wonderful memories.  It’s not really the house is it?  It’s the house as a vessel to shape and contain the memories.

There were other memories that transported us this weekend.  We discussed who should take a special chair.   It’s a solid chair that has stood the test of time.  My Mom asked us if we remembered where it once sat in our childhood home in Massachusetts.  None of us remembered until my Mom reminded us that it sat in our “telephone room”.  What?  You heard me right.  We once had a special room for talking on the telephone.  It was right off our front hall and was really nothing more than an oversized closet with a small desk and a solid chair.  This is hard to comprehend in the world we live in today.  It is hard to imagine going to a special room to talk on the phone.  But these are some ancient memories here folks.

I can’t say that I miss having a “telephone room”.  But I do miss those wonderful family weekends with the games and the skiing and the fabulous meals.  I miss the weekends when we came together with many combinations of friends and family.

Is there a graceful way to let go?  I’m not sure. My strategy, as in most emotion-laden circumstances, is to cry my way through them.  I did plenty of that this weekend and it’s not over yet.  But I aspire to let go gracefully.  I aspire to embrace what is next.  I aspire to jump into the next chapter, the next place where memories will grow.  Anyone want to join me?

Me and My Health Club.. Not So Much

This is the ultimate “Remember What You Know” post.  The irony is not lost on me that the title on my blog is living out loud today.  Why can’t I remember what I know?  What keeps me from knowing deep down inside the most important stuff?  Why can’t I remember how good I feel when I actually get out and move my body.. these aging, worn out bones.  Seriously.  What is the deal??

Let’s take this story back about 5 months.   That would coincide with the beginning of the endless winter that those of us in New England have endured. The snow began to fly early and just simply did not let up.  The drifts outside my house in Vermont are still about 5 feet high. For some weeks, I chided my fellow New Englanders for complaining about the snow and the cold.  “Buck up”, I said.  We chose to live here.  So let’s get out and enjoy it.   But let’s face it.  It’s really hard to get out and enjoy this part of the world when the temperature hovers below zero and the snow does not let up. I must acknowledge that there are the young and energetic and hearty folks who are not deterred, who are out there no matter the weather.  But there are also lots of us who are more easily put off.

This post was inspired by a visit to my health club today where I actually exercised.  Can you hear the virtuous tone in my voice?  I actually exercised!  I got in the pool which is my exercise of choice and I stretched and panted and did my thing.   I had threatened to do this multiple times over the last month or so but every time, I found some way to talk myself out of it.  How lame is that?  What is my problem?    How can I leave my office with the conviction to head straight to the health club and then simply turn off the road at my usual exit to my apartment.  Somehow the promise of a glass of wine and some mindless, dumb TV show seems to trump my original plan.

This voice, by the way,  is probably the same voice that lets me down when I am trying to give up sugar or stop drinking diet coke.  This is a voice known to many of us.  But sometimes, the benefits are not as obvious.  I mean, I really love the refreshing taste of a diet coke in the afternoon when my energy flags.  So giving it up feels like something that is probably good for me but the benefits are a bit invisible.

Not so with working out.  The benefits are so immediate and so startling that I can’t understand how I can talk myself out of it.  Believe me, I will talk myself out of it again and again.  I will put it off and rationalize why something else is more important. I will choose sloth and wine and stupid TV.

But I do yearn to find the secret to keep myself motivated.  To keep myself moving.  I am encouraged with the change in season as that does add a spring to my step. I know that in the summer, I do move more.  I love the pool, the pond, the ocean.  I love walking in the woods and working in the garden. It’s the long, cold winter that conspires against me.

I admire those friends in my life who have found the discipline and the motivation to keep moving, no matter what else is going on.  My hat is off to you.  I celebrate your resolve and your conviction.  Feel free to share your secrets with me.  Perhaps we can walk together or swim together,  or maybe we can just spend a quiet evening drinking wine and talking about how good we feel when we move.  That works too.

I Unplugged, But What Happened to Everyone Else?

Spoiler Alert:  I am about to reveal myself as a bit old school and traditional.  I can feel it coming on but I beg your forgiveness and ask for an open mind.

 I can say unequivocally that I have defined myself in my career and in my life as an early adopter.  I was early to the internet, early to mobile, early to social networking.. the list goes on.  I  was truly there in the very earliest days of the internet, working for AltaVista, the world’s first and greatest search engine.  I worked for a company called Bolt that created one of the first online communities for teens and young adults.  I was at the very first meeting of the Mobile Marketing Association.  You get the picture.

I share this to say that I do not shy from technology or gadgets.  I jump right in early and get the latest, greatest iPhone, iPad, whatever gadget is au courant.   Some will think me traitorous when I confess that  I was so adventuresome recently that I actually crossed over to the Samsung Galaxy 4.  All it took was seeing how sexy the big screen looked and the features that were available.  Sign me up.

I have an iMac, an iPhone (which I use as an iTouch), an iPad and a Samsung Galaxy 4.  I’m on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest.  Believe me folks, I’m into it.  I embrace technology and I embrace the connected world that we live in.

So now let’s take this story to the beach in Mexico.   I recently was lucky enough to take a much-needed break and spend 6 days in Playa Del Carmen with my husband.  We justified this lavish excursion by pointing to a recent big birthday for me and to our 30th wedding anniversary.  Are you impressed?  I hope so.   30 years together certainly deserves a celebration.

But when I am not lucky enough to be on vacation,  I toil each and every day at a very busy job.  Like many of us, I work long hours, slog through endless emails every day and am on high alert most of the time.. looking for the next opening, the next opportunity, the next place to break through.

Because of all that, when I actually do take a break and carve out a vacation, I choose to unplug.  I need it.  I want it.  And I am committed to it.  I announced to my team that I was unplugging.  Happily I got support from my CEO to do just that.  Whatever was going to happen during the 4 days that I was out of the office would be there when I returned and/or could be handled by someone else.

So we arrive at a lovely resort, with great anticipation and expectations.  My expectations?  Sun, water, exercise, books to read, time to dream, bellying up to the swim-up bar.. oh yes.  That is what I yearn for.  And I dearly yearn to be unplugged and to slow down.

So imagine my surprise when I surveyed my fellow travelers and vacationers as they lolled in their beach chairs or by the pool or better yet, in their Bali beds.  (These Bali beds, by the way, could be the greatest invention in napping ever! )  But back to my surprise.  As I observe the crowd, I notice that almost nobody is unplugged.  There are Smartphones on almost every chair, there are iPads.  There was even a woman in the pool holding her phone out of the water while she scrolled through her Facebook feed or her Pinterest page or God knows what else.. Seriously?   What is this?  Why doesn’t anyone else want to unplug?  Am I such an outlier?  I get it when you are traveling on business and need to stay connected to the office or to your email.  I get it if you want to keep your phone nearby in the event there is an emergency at home.  But do we really need to keep these devices attached to our person every second of every minute, no matter where we are?

It is not just the beach where this phenomenon is so obvious.  I was in a production of an A cappella opera version of Midsummer Nights Dream a couple of years ago.  There was a small but mighty group of singers who accompanied the actors on stage with 700 pages of  A cappella music.  You can imagine that this was no small feat.  One of my fellow altos was a young woman who had not one, but two phones on her music stand at all times.  I really have no clue what she did with each one but I do know that every time the conductor laid down his baton, she would pick up her phone and check her texts, her Facebook page, her who-knows-what.  Needless to say, I did not have high confidence that she was going to be there on the alto line when I faltered.

This worries me.  This is where I really begin to sound old school.  But is there a risk that we are so caught up in the digital devices in our lives that we are truly missing out on the people in our lives or the beauty in the world?  What is the cost of this attachment?  How can we treat what is surely an addiction.  I believe there will be a swing back the other way for some of us.  There are those who will never unplug.  I do not judge but I do worry that they will be missing something essential and important in our time on the planet. I applaud the people and places that encourage unplugging.  The summer camp when I worked for years and where my children still work believes in unplugging.  This is a gift to the children who are lucky enough to spend time in Vermont in the summer.

I wish more people in high places would insist on shedding our devices some of the time.  Let’s give everyone a day a week to truly unplug.  There is nothing to lose and much to gain.

If you disagree or have something to add, just text me.

A Day of Simple Pleasures

It’s a Saturday morning in Vermont in the dead of winter. The holidays are behind us, the gardening season is still months away.  There is a stack of books on my desk and a list of tasks for work that are always waiting for attention.   Most days start with a very long list of things to do, chores to check off the list, people to see, things to accomplish.   But on this day, there is nothing that demands attention.   It is unexpected and unfamiliar.  So I wander around the house feeling unfocused and unproductive.  I resist making a list but instead sit down at the piano and read through some music.  I sing a bit, playing some familiar songs that make my heart swell.

Next I head to the kitchen to make a “mash” for our chickens.  This is a hard time of year for the chickens who spend happy days in the summer, pecking around the garden, wallowing in the dust and dirt under the lilac bushes and just generally entertaining themselves and us.  The mash consists of leftovers- some squash, some kale salad, some over-ripe pears and some yogurt.  Yum.  Does that sound delicious or what?   It’s hard to believe how much pleasure I get in concocting a mash like this for my “girls”.  I empathize with them during the long cold winter months when they are literally “cooped up”.  They seem to take it all in stride but I know how much they appreciate some treats and also a break in the daily routine of the long, cold winter.

The day is sunny and bright and despite the cold, I revel in being outdoors.  With the chickens fed, I invite Sydney, the wonder dog, to come for a walk in the woods with me.  We tromp through the deep snow and Sydney runs on ahead, sniffing out all of the scents that bubble up from the trail.  Perhaps she smells the deer that walk along this snowy trail or the foxes or coyotes who live in these woods.   It’s very peaceful and I am energized by the fresh air.

We return to the house newly invigorated and I decide to make some broccoli soup.  I always enjoy cooking and especially love making a hearty soup in the winter.  If only we had grown the broccoli in our summer garden, then I would have been doubly grateful for the pleasure of making this delicious, nutritious soup.

I spend a bit of time trying to get on top of the clutter and chaos that my husband and son are able to create.  Sadly, the boys in the family don’t seem to care about the orderly house that I so value.  Of course it would be better if they would pick up after themselves.  But I have learned that sometimes it is better to take the time and do some clean up myself for my peace of mind. God knows nagging them to do it never works.

I head out to do some errands and to shop for the food that I will prepare for dinner. Sydney is my traveling companion which makes me so happy.   I take the scenic route, driving along the frozen Connecticut River.  What’s the rush?  There is nowhere that we need to be  so I can take whichever route I like.  I remember how the river looks in the summer.  I drive by the Whippy Dip, the popular ice dream stand that attracts droves of visitors in the summer months.  It is shuttered for the winter, but it’s not hard to imagine it back in business a few months from now with happy families and groups of friends, enjoying a frozen treat at the outdoor picnic tables.

We return to the house and prepare a hearty dinner to share with a dear friend who is coming for dinner.  I even fit in an hour or so of reading.  So many books, so little time.  A crackling fire, good conversation and the Winter Olympics keep us entertained for the evening.

There is something about the ebb and flow of the seasons that makes living in New England such a delight. It’s nice to slow down for part of the year and to enjoy simple pleasures.  That’s the kind of day that I have had.

Play Piano-  Check
Feed the chickens- Check
Take dog for a walk-  Check
Make some soup-  Check
Shop for dinner-  Check
Read a book-  Check
Cook dinner-  Check
End the day with family and friends over a meal-  Check

Now that is a nearly perfect day. Come Monday, I’ll be back to my very busy and demanding schedule. But I’ll be warmed by the simple pleasures that I shared with a wonderful dog, my dear husband and son and a close friend.  Anyone for some hearty soup?

What Does a Facebook Movie Say About Your Life?

I am always pondering questions about self-expression and how people choose to share themselves with the world and with their circles.  Much has been written about the differences between extroverts and introverts.  Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, is a wonderful book on this topic.  A very visible way that we see how much people want to share their stories, their ideas, their journeys is on today’s social media sites.

So, today while the snow swirled outside and I hunkered down for a glorious snow day, between emails and meetings, I have been captivated by the Facebook Movies that have been coming through my Facebook newsfeed.  What a simple idea and what a great way to celebrate Facebook’s 10 years.

I once wrote a post about what a Facebook birthday says about your life and today I reflect on what a Facebook Movie says about your life.  To be clear,  this snippet of images shown in about a minute may have very little to do with the real fabric of your life, unless you have chosen to share it on Facebook.  But it’s a proxy.  It’s a signal of what your network of friends choose to share.  What are the share-worthy moments and what compels us to put them out there?

Of course, we all know that many folks cannot resist sharing photos of babies and dogs.   As a complete sucker for both, I am always happy to see those sweet faces coming through my feed.  As someone who long ago hung up the diaper bag, I find myself often consumed with pangs for those sweet, sensual early days of motherhood.  Since I have also sadly hung up the dog leash, at least for now, I look longingly at wonderful pictures and images of dogs of every size and shape and dream of the day when I will have another devoted companion.

But today I reflect on more than that.  I reflect on the values that come through these movies.   There are  friends who share nothing but pictures of their spouses or their families.  There are the friends who are shameless self-promoters, who promote every achievement, book published, play they’ve been cast in, award they have been given.   Sure, why not?  It’s a great place to do it and is undoubtedly why so many of my most active Facebook friends are theatre people.  Who doesn’t want to spread the good word about our good work? And truly, nothing makes me happier than celebrating with these friends, their achievements and their great moments on stage.

One can learn a lot about what people value by the images they share.  Are they often surrounded by large groups of family and friends?  Are they sharing glorious photographs of beautiful outdoor spaces or settings?  Are they doers?  Are they thinkers?  Are they creators?  What are they passionate about?  The Red Sox?  Politics?  Fashion? The issues they champion?  Are they grabbing their life by the horns and living it or are they settling back and just savoring it?  Are they sentimental or are they serious?  Are they adventurers or just plain fun-loving? What a kick to have a peek into so many people’s interesting lives. So today I celebrate the full and rich lives that so many of us have.. A happy snow day indeed.

Actors are like Children

I love actors.  I love everything about them.  I love the energy that emanates from them and the spirit that surrounds them. At a recent dinner party with some actor friends, I was both delighted and stunned by the force of the energy in the room.  This, on a wintry night when the temperature outside was literally 15 below zero.  Perhaps it was the contrast that made the evening so completely enjoyable.   The house was warm, the fire was crackling, the food was hearty and wholesome.

One of our dinner guests that night was particularly captivating.  He caught himself early in the conversation sounding a bit self-important and rather than pull back, he made fun of himself in a way that none of us expected.  He went completely over the top in pretending to be so self-important that nobody else in the room could possibly compete for all of the attention that he thought he, in all his self-importance,  deserved. There is very little so entertaining as watching someone make fun of themselves with such abandon.

Actors are like children.  They are taught to open themselves up to the world and to the people around them.  They learn how to be present and to be open.  You’ve heard about “theater games”?  Well that’s exactly what they are.  They are exercises that allow actors to play, to imagine, to make believe and to let go.  Children of course don’t need to go to school to be this way.  They are naturally open and present.  They are often completely unabashed in their excitement and enthusiasm for the world.  And actors often share this quality.

Mind you, not all actors are such fun to be around. Not all actors have this childlike exuberance.  But the best of them do.  The best of them know who they are and are incredibly generous with sharing who they are with the people in their life.  They have a vulnerability that is captivating.  Perhaps this vulnerability comes with putting yourself out there in auditions over and over again.  After doing many auditions myself, I have learned to “take the plunge”.  This has required that I let go, that I give myself to the material or the song or the scene.  Sometimes it has worked and sometimes it hasn’t.  But often when it hasn’t worked, it’s because some part of me did not let go.  Some part of me was self-conscious and was doubting myself.  Some part of me was not present but was worrying about work or life.  Some part of me had not “shown up”.

For all actors, no matter how successful or talented, there is an enormous amount of rejection that comes with the territory.  If every actor allowed every missed role or disappointing audition define who they are, they would give it up.  They would fold up their tents and do something different.  But they don’t do that because deep down, they are passionate about what they do. They are at heart, open and generous human beings who don’t feel fully alive when they are not doing theater, when they are not putting themselves out there.    I observe many people in business freeze up and become incredibly anxious when they are asked to get up in front of a group and present. Putting yourself “out there” is not for the faint hearted.

There is something magical, at least for me, about being with people who are so willing to put themselves out there, who throw themselves into  conversations and situations with abandon.  This is why I love being with children so much.  Children and actors.  You know the dinner table party game that asks if you could pick anyone to have dinner with, who would it be?  For me, It would be an actor or a child.  It would be an actor or a child who is present, and who is open-hearted.

Creativity is a Messy Business

A colleague once shared with me that he found working at an early stage startup to be very draining and that he had very little creative juice left over to work on some of the other creative projects in his life.  I reflect on this as well and ponder the time and energy it takes even to “get back to the blog”.  What about the book that I’ve been kicking around in my head for a while or the musical that I want to write.  

That musical project  got off to a fairly energetic start about 5 years ago.  What you say?  Five years?
What happened to it?  Good question.  The team that began working on this project still expect that we will get back to it and that we will even finish it.  We occasionally see stories or articles that remind us of our show.  Spoiler alert:  The concept is about a stray dog in New York City.  There was a news piece recently about a lost dog whose owners looked for him tirelessly for weeks. They checked the shelters, they put up posters, they did a social media campaign on Facebook.  Some kindhearted man eventually found the poor dog shivering under a bridge one night as the temperatures plummeted in the city.  He was alive, but weary and very cold.  My writing partners and I were thrilled to hear this story, not only because it is such a heartwarming story with a happy ending but because it reminded us of our project and gave us yet one more nudge to not forget it or give up on it. 
So what is it about the creative process that makes it so messy?  It is not a linear thing.  It does not fit the rules of a project with a beginning, a middle and an end.  Well, maybe in the perfect world it does, but not on my watch.  My creative projects weave and spark and then bubble in the background.  My creative projects wait for the right circumstances to bubble up and get some traction. 
Oh there are many small creative endeavors along the way.  From the most simple act of cooking a delicious meal for family and friends to arranging some beautiful flowers from the garden.  (Ah, the garden.  I yearn for the garden during this most bleak time of year.)  There is the music that I create with my dear friends every Sunday night.  And there are the ideas that percolate up at my company each week about the work that we do.  But I have found that being at my most open and creative often takes a back seat at work.  The relentless pressure to churn out work, and analyze the data and keep the wheels on the track saps so much energy that there is very little left for more fanciful and far flung ideation.  
So what’s a girl to do?  Is there a strategy to keep the creative fires burning?  Maybe it’s the small things that keep the engine stoked.  Maybe it’s the silly holiday video that we do every year at my company that fuels me for now.  Maybe it’s the occasional blog that I actually pen. Maybe it’s the exhilaration of being around my most creative friends, the friends who delight me with their ideas and their humor.  These are the people I am drawn to.  These are the people that inspire me.  Yup.  I think that’s it.  Play games, have fun, create beautiful spaces and prepare delicious meals.  Feed your brain and your soul with books and films and music and friends.  And then, some day.. there will be enough time and space for that book or that musical.  Just don’t hold your breath. 

Is it Dementia or is it Data Overload?

Is it Dementia or is it Data Overload?

So I find myself at an interesting juncture in my career.  I’ve done a lot, seen a lot, thought deep thoughts and worked with many smart, driven fellow travelers along the way.  Right now I work at a company that is in love with data.  This I’m certain is not unique to my company.  It is a product of our time.  We love our data.  We slice it and dice it and slice it again.  We do one analysis and that begets a whole new raft of requests for deeper analysis and more numbers and information.   It is hard for even the best of us to keep up.  So what’s a girl to do?

Cut to the scene in my house just this morning.  I was sitting working on a photo album, trying to label some of the photos of a fabulous wedding that we threw this September.  And as I am looking through the pictures, I came to one which is a picture of my sister and my nephew playing a game.   The game is one that I have played no less than a hundred times.  It is a game that was incredibly popular at the summer camp that I worked at for so many years.  It is a game that involves a pole with a rope on it and a ball at the end of the rope.  The object is to whack the ball in one direction so that you finally wrap the rope around the pole so many times that … well… eventually.. you win.  So I know this game.  I’ve played this game.  I LOVE this game.  And there I sat looking at the picture, trying to label it and I could not for the life of me remember the name of the game.  You may be shocked that I am making this confession.  Seriously?  You couldn’t think of the word tetherball?  Nope.  I couldn’t.  It took me all of five whole minutes to finally summon the word.

I was not happy about this. The conversation that was happening inside my head was not a happy one.  I was disparaging to myself.  I was frustrated. No, what I really was, was fearful that there is something really profound happening to my brain.  I was fearful that I am truly losing it.  Is it all catching up to me? Is it all of those years of fun and frivolity?  Was it the trips to Burning Man?  Have I simply tapped out what little capacity is left in my brain.  Am I washed up?  Is it over for me in the world of big data?  You can imagine, in my fragile state, where my thoughts started to take me.

And then my son appeared.  My son who is so wise and thoughtful and remarkably centered for a 24 year old.  And I confessed my deepest fears to him.  I said, “Dewey, I think I have Alzheimer’s.”
And he laughed and said, “Mom, that stuff happens to me all the time.  My friends just look at me, waiting for me to spit out whatever it is I am trying to say.”  hmmm.  The plot thickens.  Is it possible that it’s not me?   This, by the way, is a lesson I am working mightily to learn.  Most of the time-   “it’s not about me”.

Well, phew.  That was incredibly reassuring.  Really?  This happens to you kids too?  That is beyond reassuring.  It saves me from myself.  It allows me to move on with my day and get back to the office where the crush of data will keep coming at me.  There will be countless spreadsheets and analyses by very smart people on my team.  Thank God for the smart people on my team.  And I will keep trying to stay on top of the avalanche.  I think perhaps the best prescription of all will be for me to give my brain a break later this month.  I think I should let my brain slow down a bit and not work too hard.  I think I should put my computer away for a few days.  Maybe I’ll actually read some books that are fun and frothy.  Maybe I’ll spend some time outdoors, despite the cold.  Maybe I’ll sing with my friends, and celebrate with my family all that we should be so grateful for.  Yup.  I think I’ll celebrate that I don’t have Dementia or Alzheimer’s… at least not yet.

The Lull Between Parenthood and Grandparenthood.. a Holiday Reflection

‘Tis the season when the world seems to go into a frenzy of consumerism.  We are between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  There are ads everywhere tempting us to the malls and stores with sales.  One begins to feel somehow grinch-like or just plain “not in the spirit”,  if you don’t get on board.

But I am not on board.  Sorry.  I’m just not feeling it.  I know it’s early.  There is a chance I will rally late in the game.  But I sit here and reflect on other holidays and remember what it was to be so completely invested in the season.  Decorating the house, baking the cookies, planning and shopping for just the right gifts for family and friends.  In more recent years, I have often summoned a burst of creative energy at this time of year to make something homemade.  Some inspiration would strike and I would enlist my very handy and capable husband to help me make bird houses or bath salt holders or “A New Years Eve celebration in a glass”.  And it was lots of fun to share those gifts.  I still love to make things and I certainly love to cook as well.  But having the energy to do this requires time and this year it just feels that I don’t have enough of that.  With a very busy job and lots of business travel coming up, something’s gotta give.

When our kids were small, the shopping and planning was incredibly intense and elaborate. But I don’t feel that pressure any more. I don’t need to do anything that I am not motivated to do.  Perhaps that is the gift of this time of my life.

The last few years have forced us into a new flexibility about what gets celebrated when.  We have had a medical resident in the family who has had to work several of the last Christmases.  So we’ve moved it up or back.   Of course with small children in the household, it would be impossible to do that.  When kids are counting the days and everyone around them is doing the same, throwing your Christmas on Dec 24th or 26th would just not fly.  But for us over the last few years, it hasn’t really mattered. So I feel myself slowly but surely letting go of so many of the trappings of the holidays.

Will I get it back?  I’m considering that I might if I have a new generation of small fry with which to  celebrate the holidays. (By the way- no pressure kids)  I know from the friends in my life with grandchildren that the joy returns.  The holiday shopping takes on new meaning.  There is no end to the joy of buying adorable clothing or wonderful children’s books or toys. So perhaps this is just a lull between the joys of parenthood and the joys of grand-parenthood.  I like to think that’s it.

I also think that moving to Vermont has given me a new appreciation of keeping things simple, of moving away from a life of too much consumerism and excess. When you live somewhere with so much natural beauty, the need for “things” seems to recede.   So this season, whatever you celebrate, I wish you simple pleasures and the joy of doing only what you are moved to do.  If it’s all about homemade gifts, do it.  If there is some special gift that you are excited to give to someone you love, then give it with pleasure.  If you are motivated to be generous and to give to people and causes who need the help, I applaud that too.  There is so much need in the world.  However you navigate the season, do it from a place of generosity and appreciation all that we are lucky enough to celebrate.