Saturday, July 31, 2010

On Play

We're headed to the mountains for the day--everyone is finally on the mend, and friends have invited us to sleepover in Keystone.  So we're off for a day of music, maybe a beer or two, and playing with some very cute little ones!

But before I go, from my morning reading in Martha Beck's The Joy Diet.  You know how I feel about Martha. every professional discipline, there seem to be two types of extraordinarily successful people.  On one hand, there are those who absolutely believe that the game they're playing is Real Life, who would kill or die to win.  These people may dominate their games for a time by sheer force of will, but they often seem stressed and joyless, unable to feel satisfied by their amazing achievements.  On the other hand, there are the people who see very clearly that their profession is a game, but who simply love playing it.  These people enjoy their successes with wholehearted delight and joke about their failures with sheepish good humor.  They care about their work, but it is not the foundation of their happiness.  They seem to dwell in what Roshi Shunryu Suzuki called 'big mind.'
To exist in big mind is an act of faith, which is different from the usual faith of believing in a particular idea or being.  It is to believe that something is supporting us and supporting all our activities including thinking mind and emotional feelings....  That is the feeling of pure being.
Call it whatever you want--God, truth, the consciousness of mortality, your real self--this ground of pure being is where you can stand to find peace when you are in danger of mistaking this or that game for your real life.  Remind yourself of your true priorities at least once a day...and you'll gradually learn to return to this stable foothold more quickly and more often.  Once you feel grounded, you can move on to the next stage:  testing to see whether the games you're playing are serving your real life.

The games are important, right?  It's no fun to play a game that nobody takes seriously, or doesn't make an effort at.  "Games" is not meant as derogatory here.  It's meant as a point of perspective.  As you know, I've always been very caught up in my games.  It's what people mean when they say I'm "ambitious."  But that ambition, I discovered really quickly, was not making me happy.  Seeing the game, and trying to play it well while also knowing it wasn't my life, was the key to happiness.

This is what my therapist was getting at those many years ago when he asked me, "What will you be when you are no longer 'mother'?  'Professor'?  'Wife'?  What is your value then?"  What he was asking was:  what are you, really, outside of the games you've chosen to play?  What are you outside of your labels?  Who will you be if one, or God forbid all, of them fade?

I had no answer then.  I couldn't fathom what he meant.

I have an inkling now.  It's easy to forget.  Easy to lose sight.  But I have an inkling now.

Friday, July 30, 2010

What's New

Alright, so I got over yesterday's ennui and worked for most of the afternoon.  But while working on this morning's Morning Pages (which I am insanely fastidious about doing) it occurred to me that maybe yesterday's boredom and frustration came about because I had kind of hit a wall with work.  I did allow myself ten minutes to rearrange the kids' art room yesterday, but that really just amounted to cleaning up and moving a table.

I needed more.

Yes, I realize I have a cushy life.  Yes, I realize that the wall I hit with work isn't too far out there.  But rather than just ignore it by shopping/overeating/pushing myself until my back seizes up, etc., I'm getting better at noticing when I actually do hit it, and saying, "Hey, miss jenny-jen, how bout giving yourself a break today?"

And why not?  I work a lot.  I do good work.  And it's okay to rest and play.  In fact, it makes me better at work.

So that's what I did today.  This post is just a smattering of things tickling me fancies lately, things about play and rest.  Here goes.

Guilty broadcast pleasure:  Jillian Michaels' new show Losing It.  I haven't really followed weight loss shows, but somehow saw this one on tv one night, and now I've seen all of them On Demand.  I think, secretly, I want Jillian to come and yell at me.

I mean, hello.  Also, I like how she yells at people until they breakdown and start screaming at themselves and their spouses.  It pleases my more sadistic parts.

Those pelvic bones are a bit scary, though.

Also, and this is a little embarrassing, I've been kind of motivated by the show, and have been "hitting the gym."  I'm not really a person who says or does things like that, so much, but here you have it.  My new best friends:

The weird thing is that, for the first time in my life, I'm enjoying running it.  I did it for a while last summer, but didn't really like it.  Or don't remember liking it.  But I'm kind of liking it now.  Though I make no commitments.

Jillian wouldn't like that last part.  She'd yell at me until I broke down and committed.

Also, our new carpet looks hideous in that photo.  I'm realizing that it might, in fact, be hideous.  But it hides dog puke, coffee stains, cat hair, and kid detritus.  So it works for us.

Next.  A tiny, wee addiction to Land's End Canvas.

This is particularly weird because I had mostly given up on buying new clothes, hated the idea of buying clothes on the internet where you can't try them on, and always thought Land's End was kind of boring.  But their Canvas line isn't boring, it's cute, and they just had a gnarly 75% off sale, and you could ship everything back for free, and so I did, in fact, buy some new clothes.  And when I want to veg out I go and look at their website.  Their new fall stuff is there.  Sadly, it's a little boring right now.  But I bet it will get better.  And cheaper.

Don't even get me started on how I veg out on this site.  I even tried to copy this dress, though I'm not sure how well I did.

I did some sewing today, and have a new box ready for Nest, including some final summer dresses like this one.

Sorry the color is weird.  I'm still figuring out the photo software on this new thing:

My brand new, finger-print covered macbook pro.  No, smart-asses, I am not a designer, or hip.  But I did get tired of my old PC, which only lasted two years before taking twenty minutes to load websites. I'm not kidding:  the day after I got this thing set up, the Outlook on the PC shuddered and died.

And you know how I need my Outlook.

But I like Entourage even better, and the Mac better, and it has made my life better.

Not that new things always do.  They don't.  I'm wary of the shine on the new.

But sometimes it's sweet, too.

Hope you have a sweet weekend, with a little shine.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Void

Ugh.  Ugh ugh ugh ugh.  What is wrong with me?  I feel like doing nothing.  NOTHING.  Not sewing, not reading, not working, nothing.  Do you ever have these times?  Where you're totally restless?  Man, they make me cranky.

I got a new computer for work (a Mac, thank you very much) and in the process of moving everything from our external hard drive onto the new computer ran into some very sweet old pictures.  Like this one:

My God.  Where has the time gone?  Look at those little babies, that soft white skin, those pudgy little fingers.  Lord help me.

Or, heavens, this one:

I have to stop now.  It's overwhelming.

Also, does anyone ever feed that child in the back?  You could see her ribs then, you can see them now.

The one in the front is doing okay.

I'm going to go and rearrange the living room.  I'm beside myself.

Forgive me for all these pointless posts.  My brain is empty, a void.  Furniture moving is the only cure.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Found Her

Here's what she was doing while I was blogging, that little troublemaker:

How rude, to put herself down for a nap like that, without using my carefully outlined sleep strategy.  I'll have to talk to her when she wakes up.  She even put on her jammies without my help, and shut her door!  But she didn't put on her music--I'll point that error out later.

My goodness.

New Sleep Strategy

Addie and I seem to have finally recovered from the bronchitis/sinusitis that would not end, but now poor Nolie and E. have it.  E. didn't feel good all weekend, and we wondered if it was altitude sickness, or West Nile virus, or worse.  He went into the doctor today, who warned him that if he gets pins and needles on his face, he better scoot to the emergency room right away because it's meningitis.  Those doctors.  They really know how to soothe a girl.  Not that I'm prone to worrying about the worst case scenario, or anything.

So today was all about shuttling people to and from doctor's appointments and picking up antibiotics and now, for a quick moment, writing here.

I don't think Nolie minds being sick too much.  Any excuse to sit in Mama's lap all day is okay by her.  I don't do so well with it.  Nolie, though sweet and magical and lovey in so many ways, also talks non-stop.  And I mean, non-stop.  It does not cease.  No break.  No quiet.  No peace.  She commands attention at every moment.  It's sort of awe-inspiring.  And also exhausting.  Though I'll miss her lots, I will also be a wee tiny bit happy to see her go back to camp in the morning, if she's well enough, if only to have a moment of quiet.

I don't actually know where she is at this very moment.  All I know is that it's quiet, so maybe she's laying down with E.  I haven't gone to look for her.  I think this makes me a terrible mother.  I'll go in a sec, I will.

But, chattiness aside, there is some very good news on the Nolie front.  And that is that E. and I finally, finally, FINALLY are on the same page with bedtime strategy, and Nolie actually fell asleep by herself last night before 9pm.  This was not easier for her, but it has been even harder for us.  I would decide on a bedtime strategy, but E. wouldn't necessarily be on board, or we would think we agreed, but then find out we didn't, and then one of us would end up giving up and laying down with her until she fell asleep, only to wake up hours later, groggy and passing out stink-eyes like they was pate. 

Then we'd do the whole thing again multiple times during the night when she wakes.

Not good.  Not good for us, who are always tired.  Not good for her, who is not learning to soothe herself to sleep or put herself back to sleep when she wakes.  And she turns four in two weeks.

So, the new plan:  we sit in her room while she listens to two songs on her favorite cd.  Then we tuck her in, give kisses and hugs, and leave her in her room with the door open.  If she gets out of bed, cries, or screams (most common), then her door gets closed, which she hates.  So the incentive is for her to stay in bed quietly and talk to her animals and magical friends and get sleepy.  We check in every few minutes to pat her and kiss her and eventually she whimpers and cries quietly and falls asleep.

It's not perfect.  But it's progress.  If I can get her to do it a few times this week, then get E. to do it while I'm in London next week, I think we're set.

I think.

Mostly, I know that she is stronger of will and temperament than either of us, and may take it all.  We may be left by the side of the road, shattered, mere shells of our former selves. 

It could happen.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Return from Rico

Hey.  If you think I haven't been blogging because I've been sewing, or hanging out in our new patio nook resting, or playing with my children, because, you know, I HAVE THE SUMMER OFF, then screw you.

I mean, you'd be wrong.

Because I've been working!  But guess where I've been getting to work?  In the mountains!!!  The beautiful, green, gorgeous Colorado mountains.  The San Juans, to be precise.  Yep, last week I got to work in Aspen (seriously) and this week, I headed to Rico, Colorado, population 250, which is near Telluride. 

I am one lucky mofo. 

But it was still work.  In Rico I was interviewing people and reading master plans and writing a paper on geothermal energy development and mining history in Colorado, which sadly leaves horrible legacies like this:

and this:

and this:

all over the place.  "Colorful Colorado," indeed.

I also carried some very heavy cable and hiked about a thousand miles in my old hiking boots with a young troop of geologists, geophysicists, geochemists, and other nerds.  Nerds, by the way, is the highest compliment I can bestow on anyone.  I love Nerds.  Truly.  I consider myself one, on good days.  But you should see the blister on my heel (which Nolie pronounces "blisturd," and that's about exactly how it feels), which I got trying to keep up with those gorgeous young whippersnappers.  It's a damned shame.  I thought about posting a picture of it but even I can't get that grotesque on the blog.

Anyway, that's what I've been doing, and why you haven't heard so much from me.  I'll try to post more in the next day or two, but then we're taking a little family vacation up into the Rockies, and then a week after I head to London to present on the above mine-mess.  Cheerio, toodle-oo, and check back in again over the next few days for more.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

About Nothing

Listen, I'm feeling better today, but that stinking illness went on for about four days longer than I thought it would, and it killed any creative urges I've ever had.  This is disappointing because I was in a very productive manic phase there for a while:  I was blogging just about every day, sewing everything in sight, shooting papers out for work like they were free sneezes.  You get the picture. 

Then along came that stupid bronchitis and, BAM!  All I'm able to do is watch The Hills and The City marathons on MTV.  I actually tried reading one day, I did.  But my brain was incapable of doing anything other than watch Kristin chase after Brody and see Olivia stab Whitney in the back (again).  I'm coming out of my mental fog today, finally, but part of me longs for that week of brainless activity in front of the television.  It was exceptional.

And now I don't want to sew or knit or do anything.  I've been writing for work, which has been fun, but that's it.  And it doesn't count because I have to do it.

Mania?  Where are you mania?  Come back to me.  I miss you.

This post isn't about anything, in case you're waiting for it.  All I really want to say is that my grandmother (Ruby) just called four times in a row (I was on the other line) and talked to the voicemail like it was a real person.  I'm talking about minutes of going on about this and that.  Then she'd get a warning from the voicemail police that she was about to be cut off and she'd say, "Oh, God, Oh goddammit, I'm about to be cut off, I have to hurry, it's so stressful knowing you're going to be cut off."  Then she'd be cut off but the next message would have her just rambling on from exactly where she had been before.  It's all kind of mind-blowing.

Meanwhile, I'm talking with someone from work and thinking there's a real emergency, you know other than the fact that my grandmother always loved my father best and how she stays in touch will all of my mother's old boyfriends, and isn't that nice, and she's going to go downtown and take a picture of a painting of an old sawmill my family used to own, but she'll ask first because she doesn't want to terrify anyone because she's not a terrorist she's courteous.  Which apparently is quite some urgent information deserving four voicemails.

And, now, a blog post.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Typhoid Jenny

I had to give a talk at a certain national lab this morning, and was very, very nervous about it.  Turned out, it was no big deal.  The group that showed up was nice, and only one person closed his eyes and tried to sleep for a minute, but then I amped up the entertainment level (look at me dance, ma!), kicked him under the table, and watched him perk right up.

Correction:  I was very, very nervous about the talk yesterday, and the day before.  This morning, I was not nervous.  I was just trying not to feel completely miserable.  Because I have that old one-two combination of bronchitis and sinus infection, yet-fucking-again, and feel like death warmed over.  On top of that, the doc prescribed a "z-pac," which is some form of nuclear antibiotic that has left my stomach a barren wasteland. 

Some of you know how I get when I haven't eaten.  It's not pretty.  I'm frantic about eating regularly, I tell you.  It's a full-blown neurosis.  I can be completely vomiting like crazy, and still be thinking about what my next meal is going to me.  It's disgusting.  I'm a foul, foul human being, whose satiety impulse is completely absent. 

But these antibiotics, I tell you.  I do not feel like eating at all.  Sure, I wiped out a tofu scramble at the lunch after the talk today, but I chalk that up to the adrenaline that got me through the talk and also yesterday's stretch of fasting.  Because when I got home in the afternoon, all food looked like poison to me.

I should be happy.  I've been wanting to drop a few pounds (nothing drives that desire home like swimsuit shopping.  I know it's cliche, but it's just f'ing true.  Suck it).  But I'm not happy.  I'm grossed out.

AND, my lovely children just pranced in the room with jars full of mystery substances.  One game we play sometimes is we put a bunch of ingredients on the table for the kids to play with (flour, raisins, mustard, seeds, whatever) and then they get to mix them up and make "recipes."  So they just brought them in to show me and I almost crawled out of my skin.

Over it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Celebrate Something

Celebrate Something
by Emily Wheeler

If only the absence of the co-worker whose life's dull plot you know by heart,
or the shiny nose on the tiny bust of the great dead man on the lobby wall.
Lean away from the desk, instead toward the window, its view of a bend
in the tracks where the bullet trains whoosh by, blurring
present and past and the many years you hope to have ahead.
Then walk home at a loll, letting the lush profusion of nasturtium
and the sound of the prhase itself re-instill the loyalty of beauty
that work downplays, savor the way trout tuen their flex to turbulence
to surve the whitest water, as well as the triumph of mystery
in the stutter-step flight of a common butterfly,
which evades understanding and so ensures the simple questions
will continue to be asked, for example, how does it fly and did your wife know
by placing the pot of night-blooming tobacco at the back door
in her absence its perfume would moisten your sleep
until her return; and isn't it luck that each ladder in the cherry orchard
wedges so safely against a tree of almost any shape,
long marraiges are like that;
and the urge to be wholly known, the places it takes us,
the villa among the black pines where the table out back is laid for two,
you and a beloved, sweet cakes, warm milk, and ten sorts of dates await you
when you rise refreshed from the blue dreams of early morning that waft
like smoke out the bedroom window, open to allow the breezes of love
to envelop you all night long--can you recall the way?

(published in Orion Magazine, July/August)