Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Watch my cool poops!
legs wide as can be,
one scalloped with pink trim
cuz he's a little brother and all.
I'm really strong and I make
really cool poops!
he reminds me again
as I continue to shuffle about
in my pre-dinner,
lunch box disassembling,
early evening dance.
Come back! I want you in HEAH.
I lurk in the doorway,
Put down the swim bag.
Actually, I want my privacy, Mama.
I NEED my privacy.
So I shuffle on,
disappointed that I have to return
to the meaningless tasks of
assembling this life,
preferring to settle into
the push and determination
of a growing boy.
Monday, February 25, 2013
I stepped out of my life for a few blissful, sunny, love-filled days. It had been too long since I'd seen Mazzy and Hilary worked her magic to fly me home to Lalalandia. Lalaland that was eighty degrees and sunny and fragrant and lovely. The blossoms all plump, just like May here. But it's February. Golly moses. It was quick -- forty-eight hours. Quick and bittersweet and full. My mom has decided to move into an independent living facility so if all goes according to plan, this was the last time I'll sleep in her condo with her in it. It felt so sad on my last morning as I went in to kiss her cheek in the dark to imagine we wouldn't have these private, quiet moments any more. But life moves along and it may be time for her to change the title of her chapter. She's ready for companions, ready for more physical safety and security. So we sorted table linens and colored glass vases, all the things in her house so beautiful and just right, our aesthetics so similar like that. I rolled up keepsakes in my clothes and made the trek back across the rocky mountains, stepping, ever so gently and just a bit more sunkissed, back into my little life.
A few things hit me on this trip. After ten years of comparing my life in California to my life in Missoula, it became so very clear to me that there is absolutely nothing to compare. I can't compare. They are both full of beauty, full of blessings, full of positives, full of people I love, things I love to do. They are both my home. And as I look at the gray, bare trees out my window I try not to curse this cold day but instead remember that these are our seasons here. This is one reality. California is another. I need to keep them both pure and lovely in my mind. With that attitude, I felt so much more capable of fully enjoying myself. Slowly but surely I'm learning a few things.
We'll return to California for spring break where I'll continue to try and integrate and appreciate without getting trapped in strange emotional hiccups. We rented a house with some of our buddies on the coast and will sandwich our beach time with two weekends in Pasadena. Integration is happening all over the place.
I think I'm getting better with age.
Excerpts from "How to be Perfect"
by Ron Padgett
Eat an orange every morning.
Be friendly. It will help make you happy.
Hope for everything. Expect nothing.
Take care of things close to home first. Straighten up your room
before you save the world. Then save the world.
Be nice to people before they have a chance to behave badly.
Don't stay angry about anything for more than a week, but don't
forget what made you angry. Hold your anger out at arm's length
and look at it, as if it were a glass ball. Then add it to your glass
Wear comfortable shoes.
Do not spend too much time with large groups of people.
Plan your day so you never have to rush.
Show your appreciation to people who do things for you, even if
you have paid them, even if they do favors you don't want.
After dinner, wash the dishes.
Don't expect your children to love you, so they can, if they want
Don't be too self-critical or too self-congratulatory.
Don't think that progress exists. It doesn't.
Imagine what you would like to see happen, and then don't do
anything to make it impossible.
Forgive your country every once in a while. If that is not
possible, go to another one.
If you feel tired, rest.
Don't be depressed about growing older. It will make you feel
even older. Which is depressing.
Do one thing at a time.
If you burn your finger, put ice on it immediately. If you bang
your finger with a hammer, hold your hand in the air for 20
minutes. you will be surprised by the curative powers of ice and
Do not inhale smoke.
Take a deep breath.
Do not smart off to a policeman.
Be honest with yourself, diplomatic with others.
Do not go crazy a lot. It's a waste of time.
Drink plenty of water. When asked what you would like to
drink, say, "Water, please."
Take out the trash.
Use exact change.
When there's shooting in the street, don't go near the window.
I've always loved this poem. Loved the simple language. Love the list format. Love how some of the lines are so serious and almost new-agey but are quickly juxtaposed with something close to hyperbole.
February is, "I love to read poetry" month at my school. I had lots and lots of awesome things planned for my students, including an anthology of contemporary poems that I made for middle schoolers. These would serve as a springboard for discussions and get the kids, hopefully, jazzed about language. Padgett's poem was one that I chose for the packet. We read it together in class the other day. The kids laughed. We talked about lines we enjoyed. We discussed the tone and the choices he made with language. Caught up in the moment of the poem, I spontaneously asked the kiddos to open up to a new page in their writer's notebooks. I told them to do their own list of, "how to be perfect" inspired by Padgett's piece. I didn't say a whole lot more than that.
Fifteen or so minutes later their hands started to shoot in the air. "Can I read mine, Gillian?" "Can I?" The children began to share their poems with the class. They were absolutely fabulous. So adolescent and honest and pure and thoughtful.
How to be Perfect
Eat a strong breakfast.
Sleep at least six hours every night.
Be positive and friendly.
Have a good spirit. Hope.
Take a position of leadership when needed.
When feeling mad, sad or distressed,
take a walk in the peace of nature. Feel the severe feeling
flow away. Let your imagination wander.
Always let your heart expand,
whether possible or impossible.
Let your heart beat truly.
when frantic or extra excited,
take a deep breath and plow ahead,
calm and free of any worry.
No one is horrible, nor perfect.
even when you are scared.
I left my middle schoolers and decided to try the same exercise with my second and third graders. The results were equally fabulous. I sat down at my desk in between classes reflecting on how much fun I was having. I wanted to tell Ron Padgett how inspired I was by his words, how fun and heartfelt and satisfying he was making my day, my job, my career path.
And, on a whim and with a huge shout out to the Internet, I dropped Padgett a line. I'm good at the spontaneous act and before I could think myself out of it, I'd composed a little letter of gratiutde and pushed send.
A few hours later I was back at my desk. In my inbox, a letter from Padgett. He was so thankful for my note, he taught poetry for years to adolescents, he loved Missoula and, because this town is so dang small, we have a mutual friend. I felt all blushy and goofy, like one of my students getting an email from Justin Bieber or Adam Levine. And then I took my crush to the greater purpose.
It's sort of hit me over the head lately, how much I love my job. How much I love our school. How cool it is that I get to teach so many things that I love, to be a specialist in English in an immersion school. I never planned on being a teacher, never took a course as an undergrad in education, it just always came my way. Teachers and friends said I'd be good at it. It was the first full time job I got, fresh out of school at twenty-two. Seventeen years later, here I am.
The working mama struggle has had me in various stages of angst for the past six years. But lately I am just full of gratitude. Gratitude that I have a job that I love to go to everyday. Gratitude that I get to share my days with my husband and child. Gratitude that this amazing, cutting edge school exists in Missoula, Montana.
When I was in LA last weekend, I went to observe another IB school. A few old colleagues from the school where Jeff and I met work at this school. I wanted to check out the IB in the public school environment. The IB is such a progressive, forward thinking, child-centered program. Part of the reason I left teaching in the Pasadena Public Schools was because my job was becoming scripted. We spent way too much time teaching kids how to fill in bubbles correctly for their standardized tests. There was no room for creativity, for whole language, for thinking outside of the box.
Saturday, February 2, 2013
I know I've said it before. I'll say it again. I send a huge, heartfelt, jaw-dropping shout out to the all the single mamas of the world. It is just not easy going it alone. Especially after a really, really full work week. Especially with a Solomon and his wild ways, tests, strong will. Eliana is actually becoming a help. She's learned how to wink and we use it to converse behind Soli's back. That and speaking Spanish. She tricks him into being agreeable with me. She tricks him into doing what she wants. It's really quite wonderful.
I don't have anything epic to report. I had a highly functional, big, replete work week. I had a twenty four hour getaway last weekend...maybe closer to thirty, but it was definitely long enough to reset my energy button. My three amigas and I escaped to Idaho for the night, cozied up in a cabin, electric fire raging, stories flying like flames. The plan was to head the ten miles up the road to the pass and ski beneath the full moon. After wine and snacks, dinner and wine, it was hard to motivate to do a whole lot. That said, this is Montana and the girls are badass. So we geared up and skied around the cabins, down the icy road, past the snowy creek, quiet and calm. We slept like babies (a term I really don't get. What I mean to say is, we slept because we were So Far from our babies), rising at a miraculous 9:45 on Sunday morning, giddily flabbergasted to have actually slept in. Gita and Robyn had to roll back to Missoula, but Kay and I had all day. We drank lots of coffee and devoured omlettes and huckleberry pancakes. I have these fortieth birthday travel fantasies. As I get close to the last year of my thirties, it seems to be time to actually form them into something tangible. Kay asked me to dream big, money not an issue. It was a pretty fun way to luxuriate over brunch. I returned to Bahia, to dances and drumbeats, roaring waves and cachaca. There is so much of the world I've yet to see and it seemed silly that I so long to return to Brazil. But the idea of connecting to my soul the way I did so deeply when I was there fifteen years ago, well, that sounds pretty awesome. I love dreaming with my girlfriends.
We made our way to the pass, Indigo Girls busting, sunshine reflecting on the white snow. I indulged in my favorite sport. My only "real" sport. I heart cross-country skiing. I really do. Lolo Pass is my favorite place to go and I don't make it there very often anymore. Ah, the small town life. Even an hour out of Missoula, in a whole other state, no less, we managed to run into a gazillion people we knew. We'd be on a little ski roll when we'd pass another set of friends. Stop, chat, ski some more. Stop, chat. I saw seven of my work colleagues. Seven! Separately. And my staff isn't all that big.
Which brings me to my next theme of the weekend. Which is I heart Missoula. I know I've been all over the map with this one, but when it comes down to it, I love how easy everything is. How accessible. How kind and welcoming and mellow. My day alone with the kids was exhausting, but perhaps that is because we chose to do so much. The free National Eat Ice-Cream for breakfast day at the Holiday Inn (who thinks of these things?). The free gymnastics demo, the kids wild, the echo cacaphonous, the sugary toppings extensive.
The day continued. We stopped in front of the Artist's Shop to write love notes to one another for their Valentine display. Eliana made two: 1. Solomon loves Eliana and 2. Eliana loves Solomon. Mama.