Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dear Everyone: My Holiday Letter

Dear Friends and Family,

So, another year has come and almost gone and it's time to relieve my guilt over not staying in touch or visiting, or calling or wishing you Happy Birthday on Facebook by catching you all up on our lives over the last 365 days.

Where to start?...?

We began last January with a goal of paying down our holiday debt by March; a worthy goal as of yet unrealized. We did manage to transfer it all to a no interest credit card that will help us realize our goal by March...of 2016. On the financial upside, I managed to save enough promotional stickers at my local grocery store this Fall to acquire two lovely Cuisinart stainless steel pans, and all for doing what we already do, buying food that nobody's in the mood to eat, which forces me to buy more food which gave me more stickers. It's a cycle made less vicious by the shiny new cookware.

Teenagers 1 & 2 are embracing their adolescence with a fervor that were it spent on homework would guarantee a full ride at the Ivy League of their choice. They do pursue their interests with commitment and curiosity which could logically lead to an eventual Assistant Management position at Gamestop or an unpaid internship at Youtube as a "Video Entertainment Tester." To say we are proud would be a thing to say.

Teenager #1 took the brave, and mature beyond our expectations, step and moved to a new school for his junior year. The move has initiated a massive reshuffling of lifestyle which includes our family living apart for a good portion of the week. We have discovered that this is both hard and better at the same time. Initial results yield the following data:

  • Teenagers 1 & 2 like each other more when they see each other less.
  • Grocery shopping for two households is about twice as much fun as it is for one.
  • Pajamas and socks seem to be the number one forgotten item in the weekly packing process
  • Passive aggressive miscommunication increases at the same rate as logistical details
  • Teenager #1 is empirically happier which makes it all worthwhile until the next time he pisses us off
Teenager #2 has discovered sarcasm and is still unlocking the secrets to its comic effects and limitations. He has shown refreshing independence in adjusting to his freshman year in high school, is arguably more mature than the rest of us and will likely be taking over the world as long as no one messes with his free time or takes his Doritos. These strides can obviously be attributed to superior parenting skills, and Husband and I are eager to take full credit for his success and achievements since that is why we had the children in the first place.

Husband continues to work hard at his dream job, cultivate his sense of guilt and obligation, exercise patience with an imperfect wife, perfect his excellence at sleep (which conveniently helps with cultivating his guilt), indulge his uncommonly acute and delightful sense of humor even when no one else is in the room and take abundant pride in the fact that he washes and irons his own work shirts, a task he assumes absolves him of doing any other laundry or changing the sheets on the bed.

And as for me, well, given the above, could I be any happier? Who has time to know? Am I right? Seriously, I continue my search for the Holy Grail of jobs that allows me to perform, direct, write and knit, pays me a living wage, gives me a ridiculously inappropriate end of the year bonus and sends me to exotic travel destinations at least twice a year. If you know of any openings, you know where to find me. On the personal side, I am maintaining my on-again-off-again relationship with cleaning, I am consistent in my yo-yo parenting-having moments of inspirational clarity worthy of a guest spot on ELLEN counteracted beautifully by moments of staggering incompetence worthy of an appearance  on any talk show aired by Fox or the CW. I've lost 17 pounds while still enjoying gluten, dairy, eggs, sugar, salt and processed foods which makes me a poster child for absolutely nothing. To sum up, I feel blessed and restless, motivated and tired, panicked and zen; in a word I feel human, wonderfully ambiguously, cluelessly human.

And finally, Family Dog is still adorable and finds comfort in eschewing the conventional store-bought doggy memory foam bed in lieu of the wide variety of piles of clothes which, luckily, can be found in every room on floors and chairs alike.

So, as you can see, with the joy and contemplative call of the holidays, we all keep our priorities firmly in line and look forward to relaxing days with each other marked by erratic yet predictable spikes in stress from the togetherness to which we have hitched our holiday wagon.

I will close not by wishing you Happy Holidays as that ups the ante of the potential pressure cooker that is this time of year. Instead I wish for you presence, perspective, a kick ass pair of shoes and an appreciation for the courage each day requires and each one of our unique ways to unleash that courage(which, for me, conveniently, usually involves a kick-ass pair of shoes.)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Not a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

Dear Teenager 1 & Teenager 2,

I want you to know this Thanksgiving season that I am thankful for you...but not all the time.

I know, I know, this is not warm and cozy and Charlie Brown Thanksgiving-y. But, to be fair, our dog doesn't sleep on top of a dog house and our lives are not underscored by jazz.

When you guys were babies other parents kept telling me "this is the best time." And then 6 months later when you were crawling and smiling, once again "this is the best time." Until eventually they'd just burst out with "every time is the best time." Their hyperbole, as is the way with hyperboles, was bullshit. Teenage years are not the best time; not as a teenager, not as a parent.

You are lazy, you are misguidedly entitled, you have a casual relationship with academic responsibility and consequence, you eat too much, want too much, think you understand what tired is (you don't), you practice gratitude as a means to an end which is frequently a trip to the video game store, you are slobs, you are myopic(look it up and use it in your next essay), you think you deserve easy, you are sometimes quite mean and you ate the last donut.

You frequently make me want to join the witness protection program.

Wait, wait, don't get offended. Yes, I love you beyond reason. Of course I would do anything to keep you safe and insure your happiness. So stop rolling your eyes convinced that you have wisdom you do not yet possess and that you've discovered a negotiating tactic you can use forevermore. Be fair. There are plenty of times when you wish I would just leave you alone and shut the fuck up. Sometimes you even tell me straight out; and, ironically, in that instant we suddenly both want the same thing.  Because, let's face it, I'm a pain in the ass.

I won't shut up about homework and how you should be doing it, I ask you to do stuff-then get frustrated when you don't do it-so I do it myself-and hold it over your head and use it as a negotiating tactic the next time you ask to go to the video game store, I forget to buy that thing at the grocery store you wanted, I'm a horrible housekeeper, I often don't serve vegetables with dinner, I overreact-frequently-about the wrong things, I expect you to work hard on things you don't care about, I say things that I think are encouraging that actually make you feel like I don't believe in you and I buy you clothes for Christmas.

This is not "the best time."

And, begrudgingly, that is what I'm thankful for.  Struggle is inevitable, it's realistic and it's essential. I'm not talking about struggling with you, I'm talking about struggling with me. To be clear the love I have for you has transformed me into a fierce self-doubting controlling terrified well-intentioned idiot. The thought of failing you makes my stomach turn. So I struggle with how much to let go and how much to interfere, when to be your friend and when to give you the mommy look, when to be firm and when to be flexible, when to show you my heart and when to give you the comfort of control, when to let you see me struggle-fail-and try something new and when to let you believe I am strong, and when to leave the last donut for you even though eating it would make me forget the struggle for a minute.

So why the hell would I be thankful for that? Because the result of the struggle is often a take your breath away moment of triumph, a moment which reveals in a blink and you'll miss me instant that you really will be okay. Struggle is essential not just so you know you can survive it but because it unlocks another part of the mystery of the universe, and your glasses just got a little more 3-D and life just got a little cooler and you just got a little more grown-up.

So I am oddly thankful for this "not the best time." And I am thankful for you both because you are extraordinary and horrible, vexing and transformative, perfectly imperfect. So Happy Thanksgiving, and I'm returning the clothes I got you for Christmas.



Monday, November 10, 2014

Parent › Teenager Dictionary

It has come to my attention that there is a bit of a language barrier between me and my kids. By all appearances we seem to be speaking the same language, yet I often find myself at a loss to understand or be understood. So, it feels like it's time to create a Parent › Teenager translation dictionary.

What I say

What I want to say

What they hear

What I actually mean

“Time to Get up”
“Get your ass out of bed”

“Get your ass out of bed”

“Put your dishes in the dishwasher”

“Please offer to do all the dishes out of your inherent kindness”

“Put your dishes near the dishwasher

“I’m not your maid.”

“The better you do in school, the more options you’ll have in the future.”

“Please bring your grades up to A’s & B’s.”

“Grades are more important than anything.”

“Don’t sell yourself short.”

“Please don’t leave your socks in the living room.”

“If I find one more dirty sock in the living room I might serve it to you as soup then watch as you don’t put the used bowl in the dishwasher.”

“Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, sock, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

“Can you for one minute remember that other humans share this space with you?”

“Is your homework done”

“Turn off the Xbox and do your fucking homework!”

“I will control you. Mwhahahahaha!”

“Trust me, just do your homework first and you will still have time to do what you want. PS: I know you didn’t do your homework yet.”

“Did you brush your teeth?”

“Eventually you’re gonna want to kiss someone, trust me on this.”

“Your breath smells and you are dirty.”

“Your breath smells and you are dirty and our dental insurance does not cover gum disease.”

“Please do your chores.”

“You wanna keep living here? Get your ass off the couch and help out.”

“Your free time is not important to me.”

“Earn your keep.”

“Make sure you meet with that teacher to go over what you got wrong.”

“You should have actually studied for that test.”

“I think you are stupid.”

“I want you to take control of your learning.”

“So how was the dance”

“Did you dance with someone? Did someone ask you to dance? Are you going out with someone? Have you had your first kiss yet? Was there drinking? Did you drink? Are you drunk? How’s your self esteem?”

“I want to invade your privacy.”

“Do you know how great you are?”

“No I don’t want to play Assassin’s Creed with you.”

“I have so little free time.”

“I don’t like what you like and I don’t want to spend time doing what you like to do, but I do expect you to like going to the museum with me.”

“I love you, I don’t enjoy video games.”

“Please don’t talk to me like that.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

“You upset me, I am vulnerable to further attack.”

“You upset me, but I’m still your mother and if you expect to eat again, you’ll shut up now.”

“I love you.”

“I will literally do whatever it takes to help you become who you are meant to be.”

blah, blah, blah, sock, blah, blah, blah, love, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah I Love your socks”

“I got your back, forever.”

“What do you want for breakfast.”

“I’m willing to make you cereal.”

“Kitchen’s open and I live to make you any and all things.”

“Fix me breakfast.”

Well, it's a start anyway. Stay tuned for the Teenager › Parent translation dictionary:

What they say
What they want to say
What I hear
What they mean
“Can you help me find my sweatshirt?”
“I can’t see my sweatshirt from where I’m lying on the couch.”
“I’m lazy and you live for this shit.”
“Find my sweatshirt.”

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Kale vs. Cake

Hopes and Dreams...those are tricky little mother fuckers aren't they. They can give you a reason for living and be the root of all evil and self loathing. Having them, following them and having a family...well that's like choosing between birthday cake and kale smoothies for breakfast. Both can be considered good for you on an emotional and literal level, but, ultimately, it is a choice between should and could.

It's not a choice between right and wrong; boy wouldn't that make life simple. Right and wrong decisions imply a concrete and clear sense of justice and injustice.  And let's face it, we all have a well developed sense of justice when it comes to our lives. No, the swirling grayish mass that lingers between the poles of Family and Hopes & Dreams has no parameters, no regulations, an alarming lack of decency and a predictability as reliable as a teenager's promise to take out the trash.

I've got them, Hopes and Dreams. I've had them for awhile, according to my sister, ever since I sat watching Carol Burnett and turned to her and said "I want to do that." I knew it in my bones, it's what made me finally feel like "this is who I am." So I pursued that Hope and followed that Dream in all my practicality. Along the way my Hopes and Dreams grew. I still wanted to be Carol Burnett, but now I also wanted to be Emma Thompson and Catherine O'Hara and Mick Napier(look him up-genius). I loved the studying, worked the work and survived the disappointments. And despite the weird, weird, narcissistic impossibility of the weirdness of this business I chose, it still makes me happy and curious and lights me up.

The problem was, and is, I also had this other Hope and Dream. I wanted to have a family. I knew it in my bones. And despite the weird, weird, motion sickness-like impossibility of the weirdness of this parenting track I chose, it still makes me happy and confused and proud and lights me up.

Oil, say hello to water.

Now, there have been countless articles gracing the covers of Atlantic Monthly and Time and More and Seventeen about "Having it all: Is it possible?" Studies have been conducted, experts consulted, executives profiled and the conclusions linger in that grayish swirling mass of nobody fucking knows. But that doesn't sell magazines. So they barrage us with platitudes of "Yes: here's how." Or "Yes, but not all at once." Or "We're getting close."

So here's my answer, based on seventeen years of living it. I want to say No, because it feels that way most of the time and has the air of controversy; but that would be wrong. My answer: Yes, but it looks completely different than you imagined, and maybe I should have been more specific about what "it all" is. There's a whole lot more to 'all' than the shiny packaging reveals. And once you've opened that package and cut through those seemingly indestructible plastic ties and spread out all the parts on the dining room table, it becomes very apparent that you will never have this put together by Christmas morning.

I love my kids. And since I promised to always tell you the truth here it goes...having them has not made my Hopes and Dreams difficult to attain, the choices I insist on making has. The reality is that every time I make a choice, something gets ignored or lost or left behind. I've said no to things in favor of my kids. I've also said yes to things at considerable expense to my family. I've resented others' successes who do not have kids, and I am jealous of those who do and seem to have it figured out way better than I. And I marvel at people who nod understandingly but silently judge unreservedly my choice to help my kid with his homework instead of going to that thing which will lead to that next thing which will be the key to my success and happiness...maybe. I should add that the helping with the homework rarely ends well and is usually met with disdain and blame from whichever kid I chose over enduring fame and fortune.

Swirling gray mass putting in some overtime.

Well, I'm not Carol Burnett. Or Emma, Catherine or Mick. I have had to say goodbye to some Hopes, shrink many Dreams, and welcome ones I never anticipated. Through stubbornness and passion I have managed to make my living in the field I have chosen and I've gotten to work on some really cool projects. It still looks nothing like I imagined and the joy-to-work ratio is not always a well balanced diet.

Sometimes I am disappointed and want to chuck these stupid Hopes and Dreams because they make life really fucking hard and are they worth it and aren't I just being selfish? And here's the real kicker: my ultimate Hope and Dream is that my kids discover and follow their own. So, I will not give up yet because I do not want them to give up ever.

And now I'm going to go have some cake.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Well Played Old Navy

At the risk of being indelicate, on my way to work today I was reminded of one of the many joys that comes with being a woman. As I am a woman enjoying the second half of my fourth decade, this reminder came earlier than expected, otherwise I would not have been wearing khaki pants. Light colored khaki pants. In that moment I was instantly transported back to my 13 year old self and remembered the fear and panic associated with this potential outcome. I realized in this moment that the only thing worse than having this happen while still in the throes of middle school hell was having this happen as a a teacher of middle school students.

Since I was already running late I did what little triage I could manage, wrapped my sweater around my waist with the sleeves dangling strategically and went to teach two classes. Easy enough, right, just sit behind my desk and lead class in a relaxed yet authoritative manner. This would work perfectly as long as I wasn't a PE or theatre teacher. Well, I'm not a PE teacher, so I dodged that bullet. Unfortunately I did not dodge the other one. So I rush to class, looking over my lesson plan for the day, desperately trying to make adjustments in order to avoid absolute mortification should the dangling cardigan sleeves sway and incur disgust from the 13 year old boys and disdainful pity from the girls. And wouldn't you know it, this, of all days, is when my division director pops by unannounced to observe my class. So, my option of conducting the entire class in the dark had to be quickly discarded.

I somehow make it through the class by lurking in pockets of dim lighting and standing with my legs crossed masking my utter panic with an air of relaxed authority. Thankfully I have a two hour break before my next class. I jump into the car and go to the one place I know I can buy a pair of pants quickly and cheaply...Old Navy. I certainly do not need any more khakis and lord knows I shouldn't be spending any more money until that fictitious book deal comes through (hint, hint, please share this so Simon & Schuster will come calling), but desperate times dictated a new pair of pants.

Two criteria:

  • My budget was $20 or less
  • The color had to be similar to the ones I was wearing (You know since everyone who saw me so far obviously made note of the shade of khaki pants I was wearing. I know this because Middle School aged kids are rarely absorbed with themselves.)
To my delight, Old Navy was in the midst of their 30% off Stuff and Save sale. The day was taking a turn for the better. I grabbed two pair of khakis in my regular size to try on. One was the right color, one was just a color I always wanted. The one in the right color turned out to be "skinny" style, and I do not have "skinny" style legs, I have "Irish farm-girl" style legs. The other pair were the right style, wrong color, and just a bit too big. Huh. Weird. So, I find the right color, right style and a smaller size; a size I have not worn in 20 years. They fit. My day just got so much better.

Full disclosure? I have been working on losing weight. Hurrah hurrah, good for me, whatever. I'm proud to say I have accomplished this without giving up gluten, dairy or sugar (no disrespect to those who walk that path. You are, in fact braver than me, as I would need my life threatened to give up any one of those much less all three.) My assumption was always that I would simply enjoy my regular sized pants fitting more comfortably. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would go down a size. And I am still not convinced that I have.

This is why. Designers, in a stroke of genius, have started to design pants for different shaped women. Thank you designers. I know that this smaller size in a "skinny" pant would not fit me, but the "relaxed through the hips and thighs" size fits great. The other gem I know of is that a size # today is actually larger than a size # years ago, because designers also know that vanity is a powerful motivator. If I tried to fit in this same size in the 1930's, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't even be able to force my arm into one pant leg. Since the criteria for sizes has changed, however, as evidenced by the existence of not only size 0 but size 00, folks like me can enjoy a bit of deluded euphoria.

Regardless of the reality, I definitely walked taller today since I was walking around in a size "late 20's version of myself" pair of khakis. Whatever the reason these pants fit, I'm enjoying it for as long as it lasts. As a matter of fact I have just decided that khakis make great pajama pants. From mortified self-absorption to joyful self-absorption all in a days work.

Well played Old Navy. Well played.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

What Nobody Tells You

Dear Expectant and New Parents,


Here is what nobody tells you:

-Forget college, start saving now for the $100+ Graphing calculator your kid will need anytime from 7th grade on.

-Breast milk vomit stains.

-Your child will hate you at some time(s). It only lasts until they need something.

-You will hate your kid at some time(s), even for an instant. You will. It'll pass, but you will.

-Eating food they left on their plate is not only okay, it is economical.

-Being tired isn't the worst part about parenting

-When other parents judge you(and they do), it's just because they are desperately trying to feel better about themselves. Oh, also because you're doing it wrong.

-Purell and its like are placebos; your kid is gonna get sick.

-Once your kid starts walking it's not just a milestone, it means their hands are free for other things.

-The moment your kid starts talking it means they are one step closer to saying "I hate you!"

-You can ban toy guns, but they will still make one out of an orange.

-They're going to see an R-rated movie at their friends' house.

-Until the age of 9, their birthday parties are really just a way for you to show off.

-When they offer to help it's usually because they want something.

-Your friends are not as interested in your kids as you are.

-Kids are really expensive. No, I mean seriously expensive. Invest now.

-You will be taking care of all pets, but only if you want to keep the animals alive, otherwise, let your kids learn a valuable lesson.

-You will be depressed sometimes. You will feel like a failure often. You will, at least once, question why you became a parent. You are still a good person.

-Get a 529 plan and have your parents or in-laws put it in their name so it won't count against you or your kid for financial aid.

-From here on out, the clean laundry will never fit neatly anywhere despite any and all Real Simple advice. It will spill out of drawers or be piled on top of chairs only to fall on the floor and become dirty laundry again.

-You won't watch all those videos you took of them because you're too busy picking clean laundry off the floor.

-It's okay not to enjoy every moment.

-You never realized how often your spouse/partner/co-parent is wrong.

-You will cry at animated movies.

-You aren't the only lucky one, that kid(s) is lucky to have you too. (See, there's more to me than cynicism.)

This list is still under construction since it seems this building of a person is never quite done. And this person I'm referring to, surprise surprise, it ain't your kid.  So, please feel free to add what nobody told you.

In the mean time, welcome to the cult, good luck, and always remember: nobody's done what you're doing-raising your child. So cut yourself some slack.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ikea Instructions: Step 5

I have a lot of keys on my key ring. The sheer amount could be mistaken as a sign of status or importance, and that assumption would, in fact, be a mistake. My many keys could also be misconstrued as metaphoric; you know--there are many doors available, many options from which to choose, endless possibilities--a Robert Frost rip-off waiting to be exploited and put on a poster. That's not it either. I have many keys because life is complicated.

That's an interesting word that gets a bad rap--complicated. I don't see it as a negative, I see it as a synonym for intricate. Merriam Webster defines it as "having many parts or steps." They also define it as "hard to explain or define." That's all. But when we hear something is complicated, we instantly share a reactive look of concern mixed with wincing. We fear complicated because we crave easy. We want things that are easy to understand, we want the world to go easy on our kids, we just want everything to go smoothly. That's why we both love and loathe Ikea instructions; they seem easy until about Step 5 when the diagram doesn't quite make sense-it's just a little too Scandinavian.

Well, this year I acquired two new keys which brought me to Step 5 of my life's Ikean schematic. And you want to know the ironic thing, it all honestly felt like the simplest thing to do.

The nuts and bolts of it are: Teenager #1 wanted to go to a different High School. He came to us and said he was miserable and we remembered that quote about the definition of crazy. So instead of making him repeat the same thing over and over, we let him search for a new school. One thing led to another, we needed to establish residency, we needed to notarize papers about custody and now I have two more keys on my key ring. It's far less August Osage than it reads. It's just a different solution to a problem with many parts and steps. We're still one big happy weird family, we just live in two different places, go to two different schools and are all together only on the weekends.

Complicated. Some might even say crazy or irrational; yet it is surprisingly freeing. The world has opened up. There is no longer just one right school or one right path, or one right way to be a family. In the first week alone Teenager # 2 successfully negotiated public transportation home on his own. Teenager #1 has done more homework in the past week than I saw him do all last year. Husband and I have gone out twice, one more outing and we'll break last year's record. It's possible we're all growing up.

When our kids are babies, and even before, we see how clearly their lives will go. Even the most buddhist of us see clearly that our children will go to school, get their driver's license, go to college, get an apartment with friends, find a job, fall in love, visit on holidays, etc. We talk a good game of letting them become who they will be, but we still see the path lit before us like an airplane landing strip. That is why we panic when they want to land somewhere else. We cannot clearly see success and independence and happiness on that course, we must stick with the flight plan we logged.

Except that we don't. We can let the world be bigger than we imagined. We can entertain the ridiculous. We can revel in the complicated. We can put the wrong bolt in the base of the book case and the bookcase will still hold books. And that is why I have a lot of keys this year.

Some people have told us that we are good parents for doing this. Some people look at us with a mix of concern and wincing and simply say "Wow." I don't know if it's good, or bad, or strange or crazy; it's simply the next of many steps we continue to take as parents. Some of these many parts are bound to go horribly awry, this is an experiment not a cure. It is scary and exciting and wakes up the senses because it is uncharted. It is an adventure we're ready to suit up for.

It is complicated, and makes for a cumbersome key ring, but sometimes life asks us to go a little Scandinavian.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Another School Year: Once More Unto the Breach

The start of school is imminent and I am filled with dread and anxiety.  How will I parent my children through another year of High School? This time of year always used to be one of parental joy as I released my children joyfully to the care of their teachers for seven glorious hours a day. Now the first Wednesday after Labor Day marks the onset of an unpredictable campaign of seemingly overwhelming odds comprised of rocky social terrain, precipitous homework climbs, fractious wake up battles and extra-curricular pressures which seem to exist solely to beef up the mole hill's status. I'm sure there are parents among you who feel the same; who fear the future and the unknown perils that lie ahead. This year I truly feel I might not have the strength for this; I am a coward who's chief desire is a full on retreat into denial and familiarity.

I am a mother in need of a locker room speech. So I will seek strength and resolve in the original locker room speech, from Shakespeare's Henry V, St. Crispin's day.

Do not click away for fear of esoteric literary pontification. You must know me better than that.  No, I beseech you lie in wait as I lower the dignity and majesty of Shakespeare's verse to fit my puny insignificant anxiety.

This day is called the feast of Crispian:
(The first Wednesday past Labor Day will do, 
for this irreverent bastardizing
of the Bard of Avon's hallowed verse)
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
(When all are put to bed and wine is poured)
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
(Or shall I clarify, reach older age,
As each year brings more wrinkles
faster than Loreal can erase )
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbors,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
(Shouting "we did survive another year!)
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
(To psyche and self-confidence alike)
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
(And, frankly since the day that thou wast born)
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
(Unless thou art a teen who holds a grudge
for future guilt and bribery anon)
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day
(Like refraining from crushing the XBox)
Then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
(Yes all those names will show up on the test)
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd
(Let's face it they will be forgotten e'er
Ink has dried on said wretched exam)
This story shall the good man teach his son:
(Unless his son tells him to fucketh off)
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
from this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
(Unless you have a name like Salisbury)
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
(Oh shit that's right he has to practice vi'olin)
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
(For the love of all that's holy take a sho'wer
E'en don some Axe body spray, I beg you please)
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
(Get up! Get up! the bus has come and gone!)
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
(I'll take being accursed if only it will mean
I can escape this den of teenage angst)
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
(Assuming thou and I art still speaking)
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
(June cannot cometh soon enough for me!)

My apologies Mr. Shakespeare.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Why I'm Listening to Skrillex

I've recently become obsessed with the song Level7 by Avicii, the Skrillex remix of course. Have you heard it? Genre of dubstep? Probably next to Love Me Do on your favorites? Anyway, it started simply, as all obsessions do. I was listening to music on my phone on shuffle and this song came up. Contrary to the hip vibe I naturally give off, this was not a song I downloaded, it came from teenager #2. Since I have ICloud and haven't filtered my songs, because I'd rather spend my free time knitting, drinking wine, watching the BBC's Musketeers or doing all three of these at once, Level7 came on in my shuffle as I was heading to work. And it touched on a memory, teenager # 2 dancing dubstep in 7th grade in the Middle School Talent Show.

What's dubstep? It's actually pretty amazing. It is commonly defined as "A form of dance music, typically instrumental, characterized by a sparse syncopated rhythm and strong bass line." Skrillex is a popular artist in the form. Dancing to this music is also syncopated, a little bit of pop and lock, a lot of syncopation and there's a fluidity to it that is beautiful and often mind-blowing. Here's an example.

It's probably useful to note that teenager #2 looks like an overgrown leprechaun. Curly red hair, skin so fair it's almost see through, blue eyes, about as Irish as you can get. At first look, not your typical dubstepper. Rewind a year and a half ago, I'm out of town visiting a friend, I call home to say Hi and it is actually Teenager #1 who tells me that Teenager #2 apparently was great in the Middle School Talent Show. What? I didn't know he was in the talent show. What? He never told any of us. I email all my colleagues at the school and see if a video exists. It does. I watched it.

WOW! I'm not sharing that one, that's his call. But I'm just saying, WOW!

And I kept thinking, this is a thirteen year old boy who just got up in front of the entire Middle School and danced. The risk was huge. But all you saw on the stage was a thirteen year old boy having the time of his life. No fear, or if he had it he certainly did not show it, just joyfully, skillfully sharing something he was into. I was impressed by his skills, I was blown away by his guts.

So, fast forward to my current obsession of listening to Aviccii's Level7, Skrillex remix. This was the song Teenager #2 dubstepped to. I'm listening a lot. You see, I'm currently working on a project that is a great challenge and I'm honored and flattered to be a part of it and I am capable of the work ahead, but I am fighting my life-long nemesis Lord Self- Doubt. So I listen to Level7 and remember my boy's fearlessness. You get the picture.

There's a common question that is posed to us all at some point, sometimes several points in our lives. We usually get asked this question when we're kids and the answer is often Fireman, Wonder Woman, Optimus Prime. Then we get a little older and learn a thing or two and the answer sometimes changes to Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Optimus Prime. And then we get blown away by a video, or a hard-earned B+, or a beautifully written thank you note to a grandfather and the answer changes to my children.

It almost feels arrogant and self-serving to give that answer because that might insinuate that I made one or two okay moves while parenting. But these children of mine, they are becoming people I like. They are taking what they know, what they like, what they are curious about and what they fear and they are becoming their own quirky, funny, brave and smelly selves.

They are becoming my Heroes.

Well, them and Optimus Prime.