Solitude

24 hours of solitude. It’s more time alone than I normally have in an entire year. It sounds dramatic but most of my time by myself is sandwiched in between work and sleep or in between other commitments for myself and my kids. And to have 24 total hours to think, to listen, to be present, well, it’s actually kind of daunting. I know most people know what they would do with 24 hours to themselves and I had a few household obligations to fulfill (dishes, groceries, light tidying up).

But I was just finishing lunch outside and I stood up and I looked at my flowers. I really looked at them. The daisies are in full bloom and though I worried the other flowers weren’t coming back, there are some Black-eyed Susans beginning to open up. I have these strange day lilies I’ve never noticed before and the rose bush I’m trying to kill is so resilient. The butterfly bushes are filling out after two years and I have tons of chives (the only herb I manage not to kill). 

I made some plans because my days need structure. And yet, as I turned away from the flowers, I paced a little in the yard. I felt a little lost. 

It is so easy to lament being busy, to feel a little crushed under the weight of stress and obligations, to feel battered by work or relationships. This isn’t that. I just don’t find or take time to feel lost. Lost to me is scary. And yet, feeling lost means focusing on what is in front of you, paying attention, noticing things. I try to notice something every day–I take pictures of the sky and the clouds and thanks to my husband, the night sky is my favorite thing. But really noticing means seeing what’s ahead. Because that’s all we have.

I would normally wordsmith and edit and polish something up that I wrote and make it truly lovely but I don’t feel like it today. And too often, I start writing something in my head and the words flow right into the air. I try and dictate it to myself or grab some scratch paper or type a quick note to myself. But that’s not happening today either. I just needed to capture this feeling of lightness–that I have responsibilities but that for the moment, I’m supposed to just be. My mother always said I was terrible at doing nothing but for another few hours I’m going to try.

I’m not even re-reading. This is a postcard to myself. 

<Publish>

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June Update

June is such a jam-packed month and July is its own safe haven that it would be easy to forget that the end of June marks the end of half the time in 2017. The year is half over. I am tempted to do a combined Q1/Q2 report but I know I have lots of things left on my plate for the year. Rather than lament what’s left to do, I’ll just jump right in….

Things I want to do weekly:

  • Exercise 4x a week: 22! It’s a new record! And in the closing days of the month, I met a goal I didn’t know I had. I climbed the rope all the way to the top! I was flying high all week!
  • Give kids weekly allowance: Slipped a lot this month. Our Friday night routine has not recovered since softball season ended. Have to get back on the horse.
  • Do one act of kindness each week: Last month I said I wanted to reframe this goal. Still working on how to do this every week.
  • Read one full length article in a magazine every week: So this didn’t happen. I DID listen to all of S-Town, however. And that was like reading at least one article.

Things to do every month:

  • Regular library trips: This was a month of library stasis. We are still reading from last month–the girls have come to expect a few big trips a month.
  • 2 Yoga classes: Nope.
  • Read 2 books: Big movement in the reading department this month!
    • The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte
    • Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
  • Write 2 blog posts: Yup.
  • Choose outside: The weather is turning so we have been outdoors more often just because. I’ve been at nearly all of the girls’ softball games. I also got in a great walk with a friend.
  • 1 date night: Oy, nope.

Some other great stuff that happened this month:

  • Protest postcard writing campaign: on the first day of the month, a dear friend posted something on social media about a protest postcard project. I joined up immediately. The goal was to write 3 postcards a day for ten days to Republicans and Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee as well as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos about her dangerous education budget. Happy to report I hung in for the entire campaign–my 3 postcards were part of a barrage of 300 sent to elected officials protesting the education budget.
  • Attended all of the girls’ softball games: I felt like June was wall to wall softball. It was awesome watching the girls progress–they love a good catch!
  • External writing projects: Finished book chapter due July 1st. I know edits are in my future but I am really excited about how this turned out.
  • Pinterest success: As the room parent, I was able to execute an amazing Pinterest-inspired gift for our daughter’s kindergarten teacher.

Gotta get some movement on:

  • Kitchen savings
  • Guitar lessons
  • Run (like a race or something)
  • Podcasting oral histories

July, July, July……

 

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(Long overdue) Dance recital postmortem

On the way home from the Jewish Community Center a few weeks ago, we traced our recital history back to my oldest daughter’s first time on stage by recalling the songs for each dance. “There was Wildside then last year Yellow Submarine then the year before that and the Lava Lava song….”

This year marks the fifth dance recital for the big sister and the third for the little one. I was admittedly nervous about the first dance recital and I was too busy riding a high horse about femininity, the patriarchy and sexualized bodies to see that my own daughters were having the time of their lives. After that, I made no apologies for how hard I fell in love with a tutus, sequins and stage makeup for my own tiny dancers.

It was not as bad as I thought it would be.

That was five years ago. Those two little women are taller and bolder. They love to dance, and they loved their moment in the spotlight.

Watching them do something they love is a supreme honor. I can see their earnest faces trying hard not to count out loud, focused on getting the steps right. We have practiced endlessly in the kitchen (during and) after dinner and every time their dance recital songs cycle up on the car stereo, we all squeal and do the steps, belted into our seats.

On the big night, I gaped at them, their long legs and bouncy ponytails and sparkly costumes. How could they be mine? How did they get to be so tall and proud and full of sunshine?

For most of the recital, I was breathless because watching them this year, I felt like I was stuck in place while the world pulsed around me. Were my little people ever as small as the peanuts who took the stage before them? Were they ever so wild or timid? The range of emotions on stage from sheer terror to total joy further disoriented me.

Sitting in that dark auditorium, I felt small, walled off from the chaos of the world. And in that cozy space, I could fully focus. Nothing in the world matters when you’re watching 20 four-year-olds live out their dream of performing on stage, clad in sequins while their favorite music blasts in the background. There is an incredible sense of reassurance that if the world ended tomorrow, we did something right raising these little bouncing people.

The best part of the recital, though, was when a friend pulled me aside to tell me that she snapped a photo she had to share. And later via text, I saw it. It’s gray and fuzzy and you can hardly make out the shape of my husband and me while we wear the widest smiles. My hands are clasped in total delight as I watch them. Our friend caught us fully present in this moment, adoring our children and radiating love.

I remember the moment she snapped the picture–though it wasn’t a singular moment. It was a series of moments strung together watching my girls. I got lost in watching my children mixed in with everyone else’s children because I love and adore those children, too. It is my favorite part of the dance recital–feeling like I am a part of some bigger community of people, seated in the dark, cheering for the future. I feel your pride, your worries, your anxieties. And I share in them. And in the middle of every song, I remember feeling fully present and happy and if I could bottle that feeling, I’d take it like medicine every day.

We lose focus. We get lost. But these little slivers of life should center us, bring us back, and remind us what’s important.

Sequins. Tutus. Smiles. Music.

And dancing like no one is watching (except we’re all watching, and we love every minute of it).

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Seamless transitions for happy campers

The benefit of blogging for almost five years is the perspective you have on the way you have lived your life. When I started Rogue Cheerios, I was one year away from finishing my PhD and struggling how to be a mother and scholar. I felt like am imposter in both spheres. And summer was like proof positive of all my anxieties and insecurities.

Summer has always presented a unique challenge for our family. When the girls were very little, in the summer I was a part-time parent. I always felt a little unsteady in that role at first but by the end of the summer, I found a balance between scholarship and sunshine and I managed the guilt I felt when I felt my focus was misplaced. When I shifted into a new role two years ago that required me to work full-time, year-round, I struggled again with the added burden of managing childcare and summer arrangements for the girls. And yet, I feel lucky that we have options because I know summer care for children is a struggle for so many families.

And here we are. School ended and the next day summer began. Whereas in past years, we were scrambling to find care for after camp, this year, we have all of our plans firmed up. Our children will attend a summer camp staffed largely by the same kids who work at their after-school program. The transition is so smooth, I can hardly tell it has happened.

On their first morning of camp, I kissed two little girls, hair tied back in pigtails, ready for the day. And eight hours later, two bright-cheeked little kiddos bounced down the steps of the bus. They went swimming and built sand castles and captured the flag.

They are growing quickly. They have changed even in the span of a few days. It feels like I just thanked my village for their help with preschool and now we’re squarely finished with kindergarten.

We lament rough transitions and we rarely laud the smooth ones. Either way, I am always astonished at the trajectory of these transitions. They are swift and unrelenting, like a train running down a hill.

It’s happening. These little girls are growing faster than I ever imagined.

And now it’s time for summer.

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May Update

May is a month of birthdays and celebrations around these parts. My birthday, my husband’s birthday and then my father-in-law’s birthday. The girls are playing softball like every free moment. And there was the dance recital. Plus two lost teeth. A surprise leak in the basement that turned out to be more than a quick fix.

I kept my head above water mostly. And had a load of fun.

Here’s where things stand after five months:

Things I want to do weekly:

  • Exercise 4x a week: 19! That’s at least 4x a week. Pulled a muscle in my back during the last week of the month but I’m back in business.
  • Give kids weekly allowance: Slipped a little this month. We had two visits from the tooth fairy and our Friday night Shabbat dinners haven’t been less consistent.
  • Do one act of kindness each week: So I managed to accomplish 1 out of 4 opportunities. I brought flowers for the girls’ Hebrew School teachers on their last day of religious school for the year.
  • Read one full length article in a magazine every week:

Things to do every month:

  • Regular library trips: We are CRUSHING IT in the library department. This is my most favorite development. My girls have fallen into a routine where we hit the library every other week and they have been devouring every book that crosses their paths.
  • 2 Yoga classes: Nope. Lots of regular exercise but no yoga.
  • Read 2 books: Big movement in the reading department this month!
    • The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
    • The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang
  • Write 2 blog posts: I wrote one blog essay and have two in the works.
  • Choose outside: The weather is turning so we have been outdoors more often just because. I’ve been at nearly all of the girls’ softball games.
  • 1 date night: Two!! Two date nights this month. We had a super night out to celebrate David’s birthday plus a day date in New York City to see Hamilton. We snagged tickets over nine months ago!

Some other great stuff that happened this month:

  • External writing projects: Working on book chapter due July 1st
  • Beyond Prof Webinar: Very excited about this webinar I hosted in the middle of the month on the Stage of the Job Search Process. It is my second year contributing to the Beyond Prof online conference and I am so happy to could be a part of it.

Gotta get some movement on:

  • Kitchen savings
  • Guitar lessons
  • Run (like a race or something)
  • Podcasting oral histories

On to June!

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Thank you (and also Happy Mother’s Day)

Let’s face it: all of my best efforts to do something nice for all of the mothers in my life isn’t happening. I had lots of plans. I didn’t get you a card or finish that mass email or drum up a nostalgic photo of my mom and me.

So if I forget to say it, Happy Mother’s Day.

Seriously, though, Happy Mother’s Day. I know that you know that I hate Mother’s Day. I know many people think I hate Mother’s Day because I am without my own mom in my life, but it’s more than that. And even though, I have written about this day, as time passes and my girls keep doing nice things for Mother’s Day, I’m softening.

Beyond benefiting from the spoils of the day, I know some pretty incredible mothers. I can count many brilliant mothers in my village and the age of social media keeps me connected to a virtual village of mothers from all across ages and stages of my life.

And while Happy Mother’s Day is fine, I should really be saying: Thank you.

Thank you times a million.

Thank you for listening with and without judgement as I have troubled through a parenting triumph or fail.

Thank you for the all knowing look of empathy as I peeled my little daughters off the floor of the library or the supermarket when life was just too much and the injustices too great for them to bear.

Thank you for sharing a laugh at the hilarity or the absurdity of something my kids did. There are so many stressful, demoralizing moments that sharing the funny times is the ultimate treat.

Thank you for that extra diaper, baby wipe, pair of undies, sunscreen, band aid, lollipop, cookie, or tissue that prevented me from getting covered with blood, sweat and tears. I’d like to think I planned ahead, but alas, I often haven’t.

Thanks for talking me off the ledge I was on when it felt like tantrums would never end or that they’d never eat food or sleep or treat each other (or us) with love and respect.  And thanks in advance for every future ledge I’ll need talking off of when I discover any manner of new realities with my girls.

Thank you to the moms I know without their moms in their life–whether for now or forever. You are always available to listen, to cry, to hug. And thanks to the moms of moms I know who mother me from the sidelines. Everyone in a while, I need someone’s mom to help me along.

Thanks for reminding me that without my sanity, health and strength, I’d be useless to everyone.

I hope that I have done these things for you in return. Restored sanity, offered a spare something, and helped you prioritize you.

This whole parenting thing is not for the faint of heart. I love watching your kids grow up in person and from afar and I love being a part of their journey. And I am so glad that whatever the universe had planned for me, that it brought us together.

So, thank you, for all of the aforementioned stuff and for helping me become the parent I am. I would be useless without you (and my husband, of course).

And, of course, Happy Mother’s Day.

No, really. I mean it this time.

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April Update

Blink. Or rather, don’t blink. You will miss the whole month. That’s generally how I feel about time. Time moves so fast. I try and pay attention to the small moments, and it still feels fast.

After slogging through March, I was determined to make this month count. And count it did….

Here’s where things stand after four months:

Things I want to do weekly:

  • Exercise 4x a week: CHECK. 17 total visits.
  • Give kids weekly allowance: Yes! I was a day or so late a few times but I stayed on top of it. And we had one trip to the toy store to use our allowance money–it was awesome! The girls are proud of their savings and they have given to tzedakah without hesitation every week.
  • Do one act of kindness each week: Time to reframe this goal. I am not sure what I meant when I committed to an act of kindness. I think I hoped I would leave flowers anonymously for my friends or send them things in the mail or surprise them at work. Just typing up what I thought I would do, I see the inherent impracticality. Plus it makes acts of kindness lumped together with consumption and transactions and that was not my intent. In April, I tried to pay attention to what was happening in my friends’ lives (marriage challenges, success and stress at work, general life challenges) and stay in touch about what was happening, checking in and lending support from afar. Does this count as a direct act of kindness? I’m not entirely sure.
  • Read one full length article in a magazine every week: I lost track of the reading this month. Truly, I think I read lots of news articles but nothing full length. So…NOT EXACTLY.

Things to do every month:

  • Regular library trips: Logged at least one trip to the library with the girls and we are still swimming in books. The girls remarked that our library time is on Saturday mornings so I think we’re on our way to having them regard the library as a regular feature of our lives.
  • 2 Yoga classes: Huzzah! Finally made it to one class. I have been watching the class schedule for a nearby studio and plan to try it out soon.
  • Read 2 books: Big movement in the reading department this month!
    • Raising the Floor by Andy Stern
    • Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
    • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • Write 2 blog posts: YES! Two posts! The urge to write is coming back the more writing I do. I was in a writing rut for much of 2016. It is so satisfying to process lots of feelings as I did in these two essays. Read more:
  • Choose outside: YES! No hikes but spent a lot of time outside as soon as the weather turned sunny. Anxious for spring and summer…
  • Savings: No movement on this yet.
  • 1 date night: We did have dinner our with friends–does this count? I didn’t initiate any date nights which means we didn’t have any.

Other goals:

  • Got back to Duolingo after a two month hiatus. Still working through the beginning of basic French but have to commit to regular engagement.
  • Made my second blood donation on the last day of the month!

May is a month of birthdays and celebrations and hopefully sunshine. And productivity….

 

 

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