"they say the owl was a baker's daughter. lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be." (Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5)

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Monday, December 30, 2013

Things I Learned in 2013

Just a list to end a year in which I'm still learning things I wish I already knew.

1) All relationships are best depicted by a venn diagram.

2) "You're either with me or you're against me" is a very combative way to approach the world.

3) Reducing the world to black and white works well for people who lack the intellectual or emotional bandwidth to otherwise negotiate the complexity of the human condition. And also, they're morons.

5) Telling me that I "just have to see it your way" is not entirely true. I actually don't have to see it your way. Ever. (but I'll still try).

6) Trying to strengthen a relationship by uniting against a common enemy only works when the enemy cooperates. Don't cooperate.

7) Some people disguise alliance-building as friendship. That hurts. Walk away.

8) You're never going to do it all right all of the time.

9) You should still always try.

10) This too shall pass.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Lift Don't Lean

Here's an idea.  When it comes to women, work, and the will to lead-- or life for that matter--instead of leaning in, try lifting up.  Lean implies force. Newton's third law of physics is simple; you can only lean into something that is opposing you. What's the sense in that? Why give your energy to something, anything (anyone), that is refusing you?

Leaning puts you off balance. Leaning compromises your height. Lean long enough and you'll fall over.

Whereas lifting brings you higher.  Lift requires strength and lightness.  There is more to be gained in lifting ourselves, and those around us, up rather than leaning in to (and against) a system that doesn't serve us.

Lift implies an element of grace, a generosity of spirit, with a reach towards something higher.

How do you want to get where you're going? Lean and you'll topple. Lift and you'll rise.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Thank The Pastry

There are times when people disappoint me. Situations let me down.  Expectations fail me. There are times when my hard work does not pay off and when outcomes inflicted on me are both unfair and inexplicably unjust.  Because I am someone who over-invests--in people, in my work, in my relationships, in all that I do--these times are hard for me. 

I have limited coping skills when it comes to being let down by people for whom I have deep trust.  As someone who is usually so strong, I simply disintegrate under the weight of disappointment and crumble into bitter little pieces. It's hard to put myself back together. I'm not quite the same.

I think commitment and loyalty deserve reciprocity.  It hurts when you don’t get it. It hurts deeply.  But lucky for me, I have a talent for storytelling. And even on my darkest days, I can spin a tale of my woe into epic entertainment.  I will tell my stories.

Others, on whom we count to do the right thing, may get it wrong. They deserve our forgiveness. We are all human and mistakes come naturally. Even so, I struggle to be gracious in my disbelief. I am blind to grace when I feel slighted. I am deaf to excuses when I am wronged.

I own my reactions. I own everything that has happened to me. And now I own these stories. They can’t be given away by anyone but me. That's how I comfort myself today. The day on which the pastry platter was the star of the show and we all applauded. It's just a story now.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Absolutely True Story of My Citizen of the Month

This week, I had the distinct pleasure of attending a ceremony at which my younger son was awarded a prestigious citizenship award. As the "Citizen of the Month", Eamon was recognized with the following citation.
"Eamon, you are being recognized for this citizenship award for being an outstanding student inside and outside of our classroom. From Day 1, you have impressed us by showing incredible helpfulness to your classmates. You are the first one to offer a hand to someone in any situation. Whether we are in class, on the playground, or at any special, we notice all your great choices come naturally to you. Your responsible personality has made you a fantastic leader and role model. We appreciate how you are so agreeable and genuinely don't mind being our 'go-to-guy'. Discover Elementary School is a better place because of you!"

If you're just meeting us, you may be surprised to learn, that Eamon and I have been engaged in a battle of will since the moment he kicked me so hard that he broke one of my bones -- in utero. It's been a constant test to see who can gain, and retain, control in our relationship. As his mother, I both fear and admire his strength of character. And although our battles are too many to chronicle here, I'll share one absolutely true story from the morning of April 18, 2008.

Although I wasn't sure then if it was all worth it, I can say now with absolute conviction, "Indeed it was." There is no person who loves, and challenges, me more than my younger son. And as his pediatrician once encouraged me, "Channel his energy. He has a spirit that will one day rule the world."

My passionate spirited son, I am so proud of you. You were blessed with many talents, and you are using your powers for good. This December, you are the Citizen of the Month in Discovery Elementary School's third grade, and you will forever be the Miracle of Every Moment in my life.

April 18, 2008 (Eamon, 3 years old) 

This morning, Eamon pooped in his pull-up. I told him to take off his shoes and his jeans and sit on the potty and I would be with him shortly (I was doing my hair). He screamed in my face, "I WON'T DO IT!!!!!!!!!!!" so in my slip and my hot rollers, I calmly took him by the hand and walked him to his room, told him he could come out when he was ready to be nice. I shut the door and locked him in.

He proceeded to scream bloody murder for about ten minutes, which was perfect timing because it allowed me to finish getting dressed and coordinate my jewelry.

I knocked on the door that he had not yet broken down and reminded him that he could come out as soon as he was ready to be nice, and also, that he needed to take off his shoes and his pants and sit on the potty OR he was going to have to go to school with poop in his pants. It didn't matter to me, it was his decision.

He responded by telling me, "That's stupid!" and threw a stuffed animal at my face. So, I shut and locked the door and proceeded to pack Liam's lunch. All the while listening to the gentle soundtrack of fists beating a wall and the tune of "Mama, let me out of here RIGHT NOW!!!!!" This melody eventually turned to, "I NEED A TISSUE RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!!' to which I replied (via intercom this time, to avoid projectile objects being aimed at my face"), "As soon as you calm down I will give you a tissue."

Well, things escalated when when Liam and the neighborhood girls started playing in the driveway. Eamon climbed onto his dresser to holler out the window to them, "GUYS, stop playing without me!!!!" Now, my heart was breaking a little bit, but all the experts say that you musn't give in to the temper tantrum, so I left Quasimodo in his belltower and finished doing the dishes.

Alas, for fear of missing the school bus, I gathered all of the backpacks and encouraged the other children to pick up their scooters from the driveway and get in the car. I then went and asked Eamon to hold my hand while we walked to the car.

This quickly turned into a World Wrestling Federation match, whereby I had him in a full nelson, strapped over my shoulders, every bit a lady, not raising my voice or breaking a sweat. I gently jammed him into his car seat and turned on my very high heel to close the garage door. Eamon seized this opportunity for escape, undid his seatbelt, opened the car door and ran up the driveway, across the cul-de-sac and into the woods behind my neighbor’s house before I had even turned around.

I was not going to be foiled by the great Houdini, so I calmly meandered in my Ann Taylor dress across the lawn and into the woods (aerating the entire cul-de-sac lawn as I went with my heels), peeled back the branches so as not to disturb my carefully coiffed hair, and reached in to pull out my thrashing, screaming banshee of a three year old.

This shortly became a unilateral shouting match of "Put me down, you're CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!" with flailing arms and a few sneakers to the mouth. Determined to not fall out of character and remain every bit the loving mother that I am, I simple hastened the child to my breast and carried him across the lawn, quietly calculating the amount of money I just wasted on dry cleaning my perfect-for-any-occasion little-black-dress. I made a mental note to write to the marketing team and ask if "chasing your three year old into the woods" was among the occasions for which they considered this dress perfect.

Eamon was now safely man-jammed back into his carseat with the door adequately locked. I proceeded to round the car in order to enter the driver's seat when I heard a thrash and a scream and an "I HATE SCHOOL!!!!!!!" only in time to turn my head to see the great Houdini escape once again, this time over a retaining wall, across my backyard, over the garden, and under the deck behind the swimming pool.

Unsure how to retrieve my child without damaging my new high heels beyond repair, I simply decided to get in the car and drive away. As I started the engine, the little demon emerged from beneath the shadows of the pool and came running towards the car screaming, "Open my door!!!! You can’t leave me here!! You’re CRAZY!!!!" So, I exited the vehicle, opened the car and attempted to assist my toddler's ascent to his car seat. This turned sour on me very quickly when he swiftly bit my forearm, and screamed into my face "I HATE SCHOOL!!!!!!!!" This earned him a good heist in the seat of his drawers and a good slam of the car door in his face.

All of the other children, now seemingly terrified and uncertain who was more crazy, this Houdini-like Quasimodo with the stinky pants or the Ann-Taylor modelesque woman who was manhandling him across all of Mallard Drive. I have my opinion, but I will keep it to myself.

Down the street we go and due to some divine intervention, we do not miss the bus. The children grab their backpacks and run to Bus #9 while I calmly lock Eamon in the car, engage the parking brake and remove the keys. His harmonious screaming can be heard through the entire town via my open sunroof. Many of the other bus-stop parents cast knowing glances in my direction, but this moment of commiseration is precluded by the incessant blaring of a car horn. I turn to see my angel child bearing down on the steering wheel of my Subaru, drowning out the lyrics of his most common refrain, "I HATE SCHOOL!!!!!!!!! THIS IS STUPID!!!!!!!!!!!!!" I run back to the car (a good 100 yards in my sling back heels) pressing the unlock button on my remote control as I go.

I realize my mistake a second too late, for as I frantically rushed to unlock the car door to remove my child from atop my blaring steering wheel, I also provided him the perfect opportunity to escape, once again, through the now unlocked driver's side-door. In a flash, he was out of the car and running, this time up a newly mulched hill (three cheers for landscaping!) and into the woods .... again.

My calm, cool demeanor now nothing more than a thin, shattered veneer, I lean forward and charge the hill to retrieve my offspring. I manage to grab hold of but one of his arms, which throws both of our bodies off balance, and our descent from mulched mountain becomes nothing more than a well-dressed, tumble of recently-tanned legs and elbows.

Don't give in!, I repeat to myself as I softly shove Sir Handsome back into his car seat, lock the doors, round the car, unlock my door and swiftly enter the vehicle. I have no choice but to deliver this child to his daycare now. I cannot reward reward these atrocities by giving him what he wants (a tissue and a popsicle ... I think?)

I begin the short drive to Route 111 during which time my son unbuckles his car seat and attempts to escape through the open sunroof, all the while screaming, "YOU CAN'T MAKE ME GO! I WON'T DO IT! IT'S STUPID!!!!!!!! I HATE SCHOOL!!!!" I yank him down my the leg and promptly close the sunroof, saying a silent prayer of gratitude to the genius who placed these power buttons on my steering wheel.

Eamon will not be deterred. Realizing that a sunroof escape is no longer a viable option, he proceeds to climb into the front seat to grab the steering wheel, all the while screaming, "TURN MAMA!!!!!!!!! TURN, GO BACK HOME!!!!!!!!!!" I attempted to reason with the boy, "Eamon, the policeman is going to send Mommy to jail if you don't get back in your seat." but my calm, rationale voice could not derail him from his mission. Using my right hand, I swept him into the back seat. He took this opportunity to cleave to my forearm with his formidable incisors and gnashed on my arm until I released it by pinching his nose.

Mind you, this is very difficult to do without driving off the road, but I am supermom, and I can do many things at once. Seeing that devouring my perfectly sunless tanned arm was not going to be my breaking point, the boy began to beat me about the neck and face with his fists. I admire his tenacity.

After this ride of terror, I exited the car and tried to lovingly retrieve my son from the backseat. This was more like chasing a rabid dog around a very confined kennel and I met no success. Frothing at the mouth, Eamon removed himself from the car by crashing out of the passenger side door and onto the pavement. He quickly returned to an upright position and ran off across the parking lot. I managed to get one slippery grip on one of his arms, which led us through a circular dance of entanglement and violent despair across the parking lot, until he crashed through the door and lay on the floor, a heaping pile of snot, poop, sobs, and screams. I brushed myself off, kissed him on the head, told him I loved him, held my head up, and walked away.

Now, I ask you, was this worth it?