Teachable moment about “gay”

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The phone rang and I hit dismiss because I didn’t recognize the number. A few minutes later I  listened to the message.

“Can you please meet me after school with your child,” said my seven-year-old’s teacher, “because he has been acting out today in ways that are just not like him. There were a few incidents in the classroom, and then he was calling kids names, including calling someone gay.”

Needle across the record: He WHAT?

We are a relatively progressive family. We talk openly about equality and tolerance and people being accepted for who they are. Heck, today, when I couldn’t find shoes to match my pants, he sighed and told me, in his most bored pre-pre-teen voice, “It doesn’t matter what you look like, Mom. It matters how you treat people.”

So when I heard that my son had teased other kids, including calling someone gay, I prepared to give an epic lecture.

As I thought about the impending conference, though, I wondered if my son even knew what the word gay meant. Both my boys know all kinds of families look different from ours: we know families that have one parent, others with two moms, some with two dads; we know families that include one child, three children, pets, no pets, humans with dark skin, light skin, everything in between, and some of all of the above. There are so many kinds of normal constituting our village that I don’t know if my son knows what to call any of them. We don’t label our friends, so maybe he was just repeating a word he heard at school. Maybe.

So I planned how I would approach The Talk.

First, obviously, I had to ask what happened and why?

Second, I had to ask what he thinks the word gay means.

And the rest would pivot from there.

Except that it shouldn’t, I railed inside my head. Even if my son didn’t know that “gay” has been cruelly hurled as an epithet to make people feel bad or not, he will learn today. I’m going to tell him that trying to make someone feel bad by criticizing who they are is mean, not just to the person called gay, but to all the people nearby who hear that word and infer from the context that gay must be bad. Because there is nothing bad about gay. This is indicative of a culture that demeans with words like “girly” and racial slurs precisely because words buttress power structures. When child calls someone gay, it begins a process where an entire peer group learn to categorize gay in the “thou shalt heed this word and feel shame or disdain when you hear it” category. And all I can say is, “no way.” Not after all the hard work the LGBT community has done to fight for civil rights. Oh, hail no.

All human beings deserve respect and fairness. So my family will not use words that make people feel less-than. A new mantra was brewing. “There are no greater-than or less-than symbols in human interactions, children. We will not even practice using wavy lines to hedge our bets a bit and suggest that some humans are ‘approximately equal to.’ No. We will only use straight equal signs in all our interactions, so help me Math!”

“WAIT! I didn’t mean straight!”

“Wait again! I didn’t mean that straight’s not okay. Everything is okay! Different is good! I’ll just wear these shoes because they’re closest to the door!”

Sigh. My mantras need work.

Ahem.

We will not try to gain power by making others feel bad about who they are.

And that is the righteous banner I held aloft as I marched to my child’s school. The doors swung open and I prepared for an epic lecture on historical repression with…my small, tired, slumping little guy with the too-big backpack and the bedraggled hair.

Oh, pumpkin. I think I’m doing this wrong. This isn’t a battle. This is a talk about kindness.

Reboot parent mode. I climbed off my high horse and sat in a tiny chair at a tiny desk so I could listen to my sweet, sensitive, wonderful little guy.

What happened?

Teacher: I was at the sink when I heard voices saying, “Quinn is gay. Quinn is gay.” When I turned around, Peanut was one of the kids saying it.

Me: Why did you say that Quinn is gay?

P: What? He is gay.

M: What makes you say that?

P: Jason told me he’s gay.

M: I see. Um…what do you think gay means?

P: I don’t know.

M: Oh. Well, gay is when a grownup wants to start a family with someone of the same gender. So our friends M and K are gay, J and N are gay, and M and L are gay.

P: Oh. [beat] But G and K don’t have kids.

M: Family doesn’t mean kids. Family means who you love. But who we love is not all we are. When we go to M and K’s house for dinner, I don’t say “we’re going to our gay friends’ house,” right? I say, “we’re going to our friends’ house.” And when someone is meeting T, I don’t say, “This is my gay friend.” I say, “This is my friend.”

P: I know.

Teacher: If you are kind of teasing, saying “Quinn is gay, Quinn is gay,” he might think there’s something wrong with being gay, and there isn’t. We don’t tease. Just like you don’t say, “Quinn is blond, Quinn is blond.”

M: Right. If you did say that, Quinn would think there might be something wrong with being blond, but he can’t change that. And if you say that he’s gay, he might think there’s something wrong with being gay. And all the people around you in class start to wonder if blond or gay are bad things for them to be. So calling someone blond or gay might not hurt their feelings, but it might teach other people to feel bad about being blond or gay or tall or thin or whatever the tease is. Gay isn’t who someone is. It’s part of them. Like their hair. Brown or blond or gay doesn’t change, so teasing about those things is making someone feel bad. And it’s not okay to do something to make someone feel bad.

P: Okay.

M: May I also point out, really, that the things Jason tells you usually aren’t true. He told you girls aren’t allowed to play soccer. He told you that boys should like dogs because girls like cats. He told you “every single person in Mexico, even the old people and babies have machine guns.” None of those things is true. In fact, they’re pretty ludicrous. So I’d do some serious fact checking before I believed anything Jason said.

P: Okay.

We left the whole discussion at the door. I didn’t bring it up again, which took a lot of restraint. I still had many, many words I wanted to use. But I have to let the poor child breathe.

And I have to breathe, too. I don’t think he was trying to hurt Quinn or to cement hatred against the LGBT community. I think he was trying out a new word. And I think my son just learned that some words are simply unacceptable. I still remember my mom walking me through a whole list of racial slurs I may not ever use, including definitions and an explanation of how horribly each group had suffered under that epithet. Looking back as a parent, I wonder if she unleashed that lecture because I had used one of those names. Or someone said one to me.

So can I maybe relax and realize this is just a rite of passage, just the first step in a long series of conversations about how words have power, and how some people use powerful words to bully other people. A long, evolving conversation about finding your own power rather than taking it from others by devaluing them.

I take really seriously…perhaps too seriously…okay. definitely too seriously…my job of raising people who make the world a better place. I really hope my sons and their peers grow up knowing there’s more to people than their skin color or sexual orientation or gender. Allowing people to be more than the single words we use as labels builds the holy grail of attributes: kindness. Thankfully, that one comes from nurture.

Or lecture. I’m not sure which, nurture or lecture, but I’m going to try both.

Side note: heaven help me when I have to explain that sometimes, when people are old enough and their hormones tell them to, they change their hair color. Then all my metaphors are going to crumble and with them my authority over empathy and tolerance. Maybe.

Midlife realities

When I marked the new year in 2012, I was excited about having a whole year in which to contemplate turning forty. There is so much excitement and hope in that number, I thought. I planned for several months how I would celebrate and what intentional shift of priorities I could orchestrate to begin the second half of my life.

I remember my mom’s friends celebrating her fortieth with black balloons and over-the-hill nonsense. Baby Boomers are not known for either perspective or subtlety and over-the-hill parties were very chic. Also the life expectancy was much lower back then and people really thought that 40 was more than halfway to dead.

Now, we are told by dreadful checkout-line magazines and gerontologists alike: fifty is the new forty.

Well I happily anticipated forty, hoping with the milestone that I’d get my life together, get a few more adorable grey hairs, and finally think of myself as adult. I thought a midlife crisis was impossible for me, not just because of this delightfully plucky attitude, but because I have at least three midlife crises a year, and my brain must certainly have hit all the low points of existential crisis by now.

What I didn’t foresee about 40, what I didn’t appreciate about midlife until I got there, is this: the inescapable and rude reality is forty isn’t about goals and perspective and living your best life for the rest of your life.

Forty is about everyone around you slowly dying.

Parents. Friends. Colleagues. The people I care about are having surgeries and tumors and divorces and memorials, not babies and graduations and new jobs. The downward slide of forty isn’t about “oh, boo-hoo I’m not vital anymore.” That’s ridiculous. The reason behind many midlife crises, I’m now finding, is that forty seems tips life from waxing to waning.

We all know mortality as a fundamental truth of the human condition. But we don’t know it as intimately as we will. I remember when my grandparents were in their seventies. Three of four died.  And their friends died. And to me, in my twenties, that was something that old people did.

And they do. Don’t get me wrong. Old people do, in fact, die.

But the shock of forty was that grandparents aren’t the reason we’re at funerals any more. Parents are dying. Contemporaries are dying. Forty is a slap in the face that says, “Guess what? There is very little distance any more between you, those you love, and death. We’re going to fall off this cliff together, and soon.”

Forty is about certainty and camaraderie falling away as one by one the people we know intimately, not the loved ones removed by several generations but the people we need and enjoy and talk to every day, get divorced and sick and sad and angry and, eventually, dead.

Forty means everyone gets dead? Certainly that’s not what I’m saying, and not just because it’s grammatically clunky.  There are still graduations and births and marriages and joy and life left in life after forty.

But we’re not having those moments. We’re watching younger generations have those moments. We’re bystanders. We’re wise, knowing, grey, and wonderful. And we’re attending other people’s joys while engaging in our contemporaries’ decline.

It’s a long march, this life. And there’s a sharp turn at forty after which we must choose to constantly pivot one way to support those we love as they struggle and age and die, then the other to watch those we love grow and become adults and choose their own way and then age and die.

Being the sandwich generation makes it sound as though we’re smothered and gooey and limited on two sides. The reality is much more like standing at the top of the diving platform. To one side there are people climbing and progressing and anticipating. To the other there is an exhilarating plunge into darkness. Forty is standing on that high dive and looking right then left then right then left thenrightthenleftthenrightthenleft and knowing there is limited time to choose. There is no option of climbing back down. The only choices are to enjoy the leap or to clench everything and hit way too hard.

Please don’t tell me that there is plenty of life left after forty. I know that. I’m genuinely happy with the priority shifts I architected before my milestone birthday, the progress I’m making toward goals, the willingness with which I’m ditching expectations and emotional detritus from my life, and the care I’m showing friends and family who are sick or dying. Of course there’s time left for some of us. Lots, in fact.

Somehow I thought rounding that corner of forty would make me grownup.

It did. But not in the way I’d hoped for.

Now that I have glimpsed the reality of growing up, I am watching through tiny cracks between my fingers as we all slide, slowly at first and then more quickly, to the craggy rocks and alligators and piranha and icy waters below.

 

Win

I just remembered, with no reminders at all, that my campus library books had to be renewed today.

And I actually remembered my password.

These books that I haven’t read have now been successfully renewed. On time. For the eleventh month in a row.

I have one month, seriously, seriously, seriously, to read them. And take meticulous notes. And write the paper that’s been hanging over my head for four years.

But none of that matters today, because I win at renewing books.

Success!

Missing: brain

Someone hit fast forward on my life and this month is flying by as though someone is playing a 33 at 45. (I’m reasonably sure that 85% of my readers know what that would do, which we can all pretend means we’re cultured not old.)

I have three new clients this week. Three. They all need something right away, which excites me and also makes we want to cry wee little baby tears. There is a fair number of gifts and donations and cards and foodstuffs to handle this month, as most of your know from your own experience with MP3s becoming MP8s. I also have a set of reviews to write, research to summarize, surveys to analyze, emails to compose, packages to mail, and four small creatures to keep off the table.

Shall we take a kitten break after all that? Let’s.

IMAG4361

kittens in Peanut’s lap

 

 

kittens in Butter's lap

kittens in Butter’s lap

kittens in my lap!

kittens in my lap!

And in this sped up world where voices are veering toward the chipmunk end of the spectrum, I’m not doing so well.

A week ago, when one kid threw up all over the jogging stroller and killed my rare opportunity to exercise, I took him home and promptly forgot that I was substituting for a colleague for an hour, completely spaced a conference call, and blanked on my promise to bring something for the elementary school teachers’ lunch. Totally forgot my whole day because one kid barfed. Rookie move.

This week, I rushed home from dropping off at school to make a lunchtime conference call. Still in my coat I set up what I needed, plugged in all video call whozits and whatsits, tidied a bit, and nervously checked the fridge. After I shut the door I pushed the button in my pocket to lock and set the alarm. And then I actually paused for a moment to figure out why the fridge didn’t respond to the car’s key-fob lock button.

That’s more than operating on autopilot. That’s operating on autospacecase.

This weekend, when I was taking my son and his friend to fencing, I missed an interchange and went 15 miles out of our way on the wrong freeway. Thirty miles extra driving because I was so oblivious to the world and so lost in my head (one kid was telling me about arrowheads and I was brainstorming with him what type of stone it must have been made of) that I totally forgot where we were going. Signs pointing towards brain dead.

I don’t want to jump to any conclusions, but maybe I need to slow down a bit. Fewer clients? Lower expectations? More kitten time? Because we did have one heavenly moment, the boys and I, where we all cuddled up on a couch and let the kittens walk from lap, trying to decide who has the warmest place for a nap. I never win that game. Something about always wearing my coat, just in case I need to lock the car. Or the fridge.

Decembexpectations

Maybe it’s the lack of vitamin D. Maybe it’s the cold, the dark, the crush of humanity in every corner, as though the calendar hits December and millions of residents normally housebound show up and get in my way.

Whatever it is, something has put me in a MOOD.

I don’t much care. I stumble upon moods regularly. They sneak up on me with surprising regularity and it’s only because I am oblivious to the rapid passage of time that I’m shocked. Oh, look!  A rotten mood! Why, it’s been ages, since…oh, well, yeah. That makes sense. My moods are rarely perky or cheerful or celebratory. The best I do is grateful. Grateful and industrious are my two best moods. My worst moods are downright malignant. I don’t think I technically reach down to depressed, but I definitely mood along like a fungus, infecting everything in my path, nurturing morose and disaffected as though they were teeny tiny balls of cynicism and depression in need of snarls and unreasonable reactions to survive their nasty infancies. Oh, how I coddle those moods.

So I readily admit that I get malignantly depressive often enough.  But I believe I save my genuinely misanthropic worst for December.

It’s not my fault. Everyone else’s is culpable for my mood. They‘re the ones driving through parking lots and stopping just because someone else is walking, maybe toward a car, maybe to get in the car, and maybe to leave. That’s a lot of maybes, jackalopes, so drive your stinking car until you see white tail lights.

Everyone else is the problem in part because they feel they have to be out of their dens, forcibly creating merriment and cheer for their own families but in the process obliterating all the joy and peace in my life.  Get out of my way, people. Don’t frown at me. I summoned all my social-expectation training and smiled at you, bastard.  The least you can do is smile back. Or look down. Don’t effing sneer at me or I will break off my own femur at a dangerous angle just so I can use it to CUT YOU!

[Did I tell you the lovely story about New Year's in Boston? New Year's Eve morning I'm in California, and walk to the post office. I lamely wait in line until some nice people point out that I can take my stamped letter to the slot over there. I thank them, note embarrassingly that I've forgotten to wear my glasses, and drop my mail in the out-of-town slot. On my way out the door, two stop me.  "Since you don't have your glasses, we can drive you home. It doesn't seem safe if you can't see." Thank you, you delightful people, but I walked. I'll be fine.
Fast forward fourteen hours and I'm in Boston walking to the T from a performance. Red light, all revelers stop and look around at the magic that is Newbury at 2am the first day of the year. Green light, walk. And I hear someone say, "Why the hell are people smiling? Can't they look down like the rest of us and get on with their day?" Ah, Boston. Would it kill you to lighten up a bit? Say, for instance, spew grouchiness about the people who don't smile, as I'm doing so well in this post?]

Everyone else ought to try just a bit harder in December. I’m not talking the poor people working retail and food services. There’s a special place in the Universe full of sunshine and purified Martian water for people who have to work with the public in December. No, when I demand more effort, I mean the jackasses who are barking coffee orders and complaining about stores’ blazing temperature and sneering about tips and generally making humanity look bad. Yeah, I’m talking about that guy, but I’m also talking about all the people around him who ignore that he’s being a jerk.

Look, people, it’s time to step in. When someone’s yelling at a clerk, please, for the sake of all that’s hopeful about December, ask that rude s.o.b. politely if it would help for you to find a manager. When he says, “No, it’s not that big a deal,” please tell him, “Yes, it is, because you’re being abusive and I want to help that poor clerk.” When someone is whining about being in a line, please, for the sake of all of us who have to be in the crush of humanity this time of year, tell that whiner that even though it’s frustrating, everyone else tries their best not to make the situation worse and could she please put a sock in it before you take a poll amongst the other residents in the world’s longest line whether to vote her off the island right now.

I’m so tired of people! I want all them all home, shopping online, giving to charity online, shipping packages online, paying bills online, and socially interacting online. I’d like more of them to consider grocery delivery. And muzzles.

Because seriously, y’all, humanity is working my last nerve this December.

Christmas fight

christmas

 

To be honest, it’s the same silly fight, more or less, every year. But being predictable isn’t the most ridiculous part of this debate.

“This can’t be all the lights. We’re, like, a foot from the top of the tree!”

“This can be all the lights because it is all the lights.”

“No way. They worked last year.”

“Smaller tree.”

“No way. Same size tree.”

“Are you going to fix the lights?”

“No. There’s no way…”

“Just fix them.”

“Easy for you to say. I always do the lights.”

“So shouldn’t you be better at putting them on right?”

“They are on right, smartass. They just don’t go all the way up.”

“Oh. I see.”

“Fine. I’ll finesse them a bit. But it’s going to drop even more needles if I go around and around taking the slack out of the lights.”

“So move the tree away from the wall.”

“You. It’s too hard to move.”

“Then why would I do it?”

“Because I said so.”

“Please fix the lights.”

“Fine.” Takes ten minutes to rewrap the tree. “Is that good?”

“If by good you mean closer to the top.”

“I do.”

“Then, yes, it’s ‘good.’”

“Don’t finger-quote. Just…fine. You do it.”

“I’m not doing it. You’re the lights person.”

“But why? Why do I do this every year?”

“Because you do it wrong every year then want someone else to fix it. So if you have to fix it yourself, nobody has to listen to you control-freak all over them.”

“I don’t ‘control freak all over…’. Damn it. I want to rewrap this.”

“Go ahead.”

“This is the last time, though.” Fixes lights on tree, which is still against the wall. Lights are perfect, tree is perfect, life is perfect.

“That looks great.”

“It does, doesn’t it. Thank you. Now you sweep up the needles.”

“No way.”

“Why not?”

“Because you made the mess and you have to clean it up.”

As ridiculous and childish as this fight is, I find it more ridiculous and childish that I’m having it with myself. Because my husband won’t get within 50 feet of the tree when I’m stringing the lights.

Mostly because he knows I’ll have this fight with or without him, and he prefers…greatly prefers…that I have it without him.

Descriptive linguistics FTW!

Last night after a Board meeting, I was talking with friends and one expressed shock bordering on horror that I text using abbreviations and conventions created and commonly accepted within that linguistic space.

“I’m rather surprised to find out you’re an LOL and OMG and emoticon person.”

Well, I’m a linguistically adaptable person, actually. I don’t use those conventions outside texts and social media, in which characters are constrained and, generally, keyboarding is limited. I don’t say “LOL” in conversation, nor when using a keyboard. I do, though, use LOL where it is a standard part of the lexicon, because I’m speaking in a colloquial language and don’t feel the need, surrounded by LOLers, to destroy my reputation and thumbs with “oh, wow, that is truly funny.”  Recall David Foster Wallace’s review of Bryan Gardner’s Modern American Usage (which review appears in the nonfiction essay collection Consider the Lobster, and which review reiterated the annoying grammatical tic in which Wallace uses “which” in ways that make me itch ), in which Wallace explains that, when talking with Midwestern friends he uses expressions like “where you at?” because conditional, situational lexical conformity performs significant social functions including masking an erudite prescriptivist snobbery amongst those who disdain such ridiculousness. You know the type…for instance, the raised eyebrow of disdain arched toward a friend who fully embraces emoticons in text messages.

My friend last night seemed to believe that my using LOL and winky emoticons made me shockingly deviant in my linguistic standards. But am I actually failing the language because I OMG when I reply to a text about how awful I am at karaoke? Of course not. (I am, however, failing both George Michael and Rick Springfield when I belt their songs in a key somewhere between those singers’ ranges and my own. Said performances deserved several horrified OMGs.)

The older I get, the more I tend toward descriptivist linguistics. I have been out of academia long enough to know we can’t stem the tide of language shifts, texting enough that I appreciate the culture’s willingness to embrace an abbreviated language parallel to government employees’ acronym dialect, and old enough to know that my pedantic “kids these days are ruining the language” tendencies unveil a knowledge that kids these days are actually going to rule the world. And I, for one, I don’t want to be railing against their language from my rocking chair, cane aloft, countering every miscast objective who with “it’s whom, you linguistic hoodlums!”

Okay, yes, I do.

But I am in my old age moving toward the point of linguistic early adoption, at least within technological theaters.  I gleefully read the Atlantic’s piece about the new preposition, used in online English. Though I was late to OMG and LOL and LMAO, I have jumped on the prepositional-because trend, thanks to my social-media bestie, Twitter.

I love Twitter. I don’t read my feed as much as I used to, for in the land of “may your days be merry and bright starting next week with a rare Thanksgivukkah,” I don’t have time to get my Twitter fix. But I’m quite fond of the prepositional-because.

I do plan, however, on shaking my cane from my rocking chair and bellowing, “it’s not a ‘because-noun!’ Because grammatical naming conventions!”

Go check out the article, whether you find my texts irritatingly colloquial or not. The Atlantic has posted as pleasant a read on descriptive-linguistic developments as possible, and that’s saying a lot.

Which language deviances do you commit in limited settings? Do you eschew LOL unless you’re actually laughing out loud? Will you text a “K” to avoid all those messy characters in “okay”? Do you reject all emoticons or employ them with reckless abandon? Have you crossed into “srsly” and “pls” to save characters or do you share Steve Martin’s insistence on proper spelling in Tweets?

Batkid’s Mom

Oh how I cried today following the escapades of the miraculous little boy whose leukemia is in remission and who asked the Make a Wish Foundation to make him Batman.

batkid

San Francisco complied in muthafugging spades, y’all. Told they could make a dream come true, the best city in the world said, “oh, we can do better than that.” The red carpet was rolled out for the caped crusader, and his family watched as more than 12,000 of our desperately kind residents played along and cheered for mocked up superhero situations.

cityhall

The Department of Justice joined in. The FBI. The S.F. Giants. The President of the United States. All cheering for a boy who pretend-saved the city, because we all knew that he actually made it through a terrible, life-threatening disease.

And in every photo, I sobbed at two particular images: his family and the crowds.

I started crying when I saw Batkid’s brother, dressed as Robin, because leukemia is hard on siblings, too. Like all major illness it puts parents in a precarious position of needing to give one child 150% and needing to find another 100% for the healthy sibling. So I cried for Batkid’s brother, whom I’m positive is loved and doted upon, but who also went through family turmoil with that leukemia.

I wept for Batkid’s father. The guy who wanted to be Batman all along, to have superpowers and carry his family away from the pain and the fear and the chemo and the private life lived publicly in a hospital. I cried for how powerless they probably felt during the whole, terrible, awful ordeal. And for how fear probably creeps in at night, reminding both of the adults that remission is a wonderful but terrifying word.

And how I sobbed for Batkid’s mother. Just as powerless as dad and just as hopeful for a superhero miracle. Full of love and fear and anger and hope and exhaustion and sadness from the moment of diagnosis. Oh, I can’t imagine. Batkid was diagnosed with leukemia at 20 months and just finished his last round of chemo. One single minute of your child with cancer is too much. Even one minute of waiting for test results and waiting for donors and waiting as hospital takes blood from your kid to tell you if he’s going to live is just too many minutes. One is far too many for anyone to endure. So I cried for Batkid’s mom and for all the moms.

And I cried for our friend who went through a similar diagnosis and terrifying year of medical upheaval, too. And who now has a wonderful, healthy family and for whom I can’t even articulate my joy and sorrow and pride because it’s all just too big.

Yes, it’s glorious that a whole city put aside business to cheer for a child. We have heard so much of bickering and governments paralyzed with petulance, death and destruction and famine and global weather catastrophes…it was heavenly to just cheer. And cheer and cheer and cheer for a classic triumph of good over evil.

But damn I cried for Batkid’s mother and father and brother. And for him. I cried for Miles. I’m so glad Make a Wish executed this amazing feat. I’m so proud of San Francisco for transforming from a warm, welcoming city to the model of compassion and heart. I’m so thrilled for Miles and his family that he’s healthy.

I’m just so grateful for something to cheer for.

Go donate to Make a Wish. And to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. And to the typhoon victims. And contribute to every bit of kindness you can in this world, because gawd it was nice to have Batkid Day today.

Sulking

I mentioned a few weeks ago that life is settling into a quite lovely reprieve lately. The boys are old enough to hold their own, to help, and to navigate life with a level of alacrity that informs our interactions. They’re people more often than actors playing needy little whelps, and I enjoy being with them.

Client work is winding down, as it typically does before the holidays. I’ve been looking forward to this window so I can work on my book. I don’t participate in NaNoWriMo because I’m participating in NaNoWriDecade. My novel needs at least two more huge overhauls before it’s decent, and I want to do that work.

And I’ve been contemplating going back to work. The sacrifices of curtailing my career for child-rearing smacked me right across the mouth with Ann Marie Slaughter’s article on working and motherhood…I’ve given up almost a decade of income, a decade of retirement savings to be with my children. I’ve stayed in the game by consulting, but there’s a certain point at which I need colleagues. In writing, in editing, and in brand naming (a seriously awesome niche of the linguistic world wherein companies call me to name their widget, their salad, their company) I’ve been working alone or hiring the same small group of trusted creatives for a decade.

Then LinkedIn sent me an email. “Did you know Awesome Niche Company is looking for someone like you?” I clicked, read, gasped, and submitted. Jobs like this don’t come along often, and I had to acknowledge the fit. So I applied. I got an interview. I researched nannies and school schedules and I waited, day after day rethinking my every interview answer. I talked too long on that point, I didn’t turn that back around to the issue at hand, I poorly articulated something at which I excel…If you’ve ever interviewed, you know the process.

And then I got the email. “Lovely to meet you…experienced and enthusiastic…better qualified applicants.”

I wish them great luck and I’m sure they’ll find the right person for the job. But in my head, I was the right person. And hearing they don’t agree is a ridiculously oversized blow to my ego. I should focus on the fact that clients don’t agree. I get hired quickly and repeatedly for jobs because I’m good at what I do.

But for now I’m having a good sulk.

This is the first time I’ve gotten excited about a job in a long time. A job like this won’t come around again for five years. This was the job.

Oh, goodness, am I pouting.

I need to polish my interview skills, so this doesn’t happen again. And I need to work on my book, so when I get the perfect job I won’t have an unfinished novel looming over my head. And I need to write proposals for two nonfiction books and apply to law school and write that scholarly article I’ve been promising for three years and turn down more client work and actually ditch sugar and…

I just want someone to look at my accomplishments and be impressed. And ask me my opinion on something. My children can’t and won’t fill this function. My husband can’t either. My colleagues don’t care because they have their own baggage to manage. My clients think they’re engaging in exactly this sort of supportive respect by hiring me.

So why the big ol’ pout? this isn’t high school. “You need 100 auditions to get one gig, so just go do another 99,” my acting coach always said.

Why not go and do something on the List?

The List. The List shall guide you. Use the List, Luke. Help me, List, you’re my only hope.

But I’ve written my own to-do list for more than a decade. Can’t someone else hand me a list?

Wait, do I really want that? Haven’t small people and clients and students and employers been handing me a list for twenty-plus years? Don’t I want my own list?

Yes, but that’s not possible. I have a family and bills and clients. My list will never be my own. Just as it’s not your own list when you’re under your parents’ roof, or in college, or gainfully employed, or imprisoned, or unemployed, or an elected official, or…wait, are independently wealthy, single people the only ones with self-generated lists?

Does LinkedIn send opening for that role? Single and independently wealthy?

I hope so. Until then, I have things to do.

Minimally processed experiment

Oh, heaven help me, I’m trying to eat healthfully for a month.

Actually, for a few hours I said I was going to eat nothing processed.

But I realized that someone cut the mint leaves and put them in a bag for me to make tea. And someone toasted the coconut and someone sprouted the pumpkin seeds and put tamari on them. All that is processing. I’m not going raw and I’m not doing too much work myself. So minimal processing of whole grains and legumes. Raw or sprouted nuts and seeds. No sugar, no corn, no wheat. Because I don’t like the way I feel lately. Runs are like slogs, and afterwards I stuff myself with bread and sugar. My posture is terrible, so I feel tired, which makes my posture worse. I keep myself up late with candy instead of just going to bed. As a result, my body acts as though it belongs to a long-lost neighbor who it increasingly suspects is not coming back. I don’t like feeling like a renter in my body. I like to own it.

And I feel that the mortgage is paid and I owner occupy when I make healthy choices for food and exercise.

So I finally gave myself a talking to and started this eating plan. Last night.

After two hours I wanted cocoa. Desperately. So Melissa Camara Wilkins tweeted me a recipe for cacao, date, coconut-milk cocoa. I have none of that right now, but will. I still want cocoa, but I know Melissa’s recipe will get me through. I kept on going.

After twelve hours I was mad. I wanted granola and candy and crackers and toast with jam and cocoa. I had mint tea and went running. After the run I chased some chia seeds with more mint tea. I had a handful of tamari pumpkin seeds and a small bowl of locally made granola (yes, sugar but give me a break. I’m new to this). I didn’t think about sugar or bread or cocoa for hours. And I had a handful of stupid ol’ peanuts. And I kept on going.

By then I was really, really grouchy. Not hungry. Grouchy.

Dinner was a stupid Napa cabbage salad with stupid lentils and stupid beets and a stupid french vinaigrette. And a handful of stupid toasted coconut.

I WANT COCOA. Cocoa is warm and sweet and promises good things for the morn. Cocoa is love food.

Stupid vegetables and stupid lentils are stupid growing food. It’s the stupid stuff I make my kids eat while I sneak delicious, wonderful candy in the kitchen.

Stupid October. Stupid not-yet Thanksgiving. Stupid plans to feel better about myself.

This cacao Melissa told me about had better be all that. I’m getting some raw cacao nibs tomorrow. They had better make a good cocoa. They had better blow my mind. And make me feel like Wonder Woman.

Otherwise everyone near me will hear five weeks of grousing about stupid nuts and seeds and veggies and fruit for a stupid chance to feel better and stronger and healthier. So much stupidity.

[If previous experience going off sugar is any guide, I'm going to be mean as hell for two weeks. Minimum. My poor family.]

Lockdown

We found a babysitter.

That doesn’t sound like much of an announcement, but believe me, it is. Especially given the terror of being without my children wrought by this week’s events.

I have a hard time letting go. During Peanut’s first year, I was away from him for 10 hours. Total. I still remember each hour: dentist, bra shopping, 10k, surgery, theater. Over the next few years, only trusted friends and relatives watched him, and only an hour or two at a time. And even then, only rarely. Three times a year, maybe.

When Butter was born, we tried to get out for an hour once or twice, but he cried himself purple and I just couldn’t take it. So we stayed together unceasingly until he was almost Two. Friends tried taking the little guy for an hour or two at a time. And we paid a sitter, a well-vetted preschool teacher, to stay with both boys for part of an afternoon. Four times, total.

That was two years ago.

So to say we found a babysitter is pretty freaking huge. She has great references. Preschool teacher, summer camp counselor. Local. Loves all the things that Peanut does. Gave her a trial run and we all had fun. And we need her because on the one day a week I work at the co-op preschool, she will pick up Peanut from second grade and occupy him for two hours until I get home.

The night before her first time picking up my amazing, responsible, articulate, beautiful son, I freaked out. I wrote a long email about how, though here references are great and she promised she’s not a serial killer, I had doubts about the safety of the Universe and I really need a text when she gets him and a text when they get home.

The sitter kindly reassured me. Told me how she’s picked up kids at this school before and that she knows the ropes. Tells me she’ll text me. Tells me everything will be fine and that she does this for a living.

And she does. So okay. Trust. Breathe. Believe.

My sweet little man had our spare key on a ring in his backpack. The very thought of that violently smashes up two simultaneous thoughts: “He’s such a delightful, responsible kid, this is great for his feeling of independence;” and “OMG I’m a 1970s mom going to Jazzercise while my second grader walks home to an empty house!” The shards of my psyche that result from the idea collision kept me awake that night.

I’ve mentioned, I believe, that I don’t let go well. Also not big on perspective. Hyperbole, though? Some significant facility with that tactic.

At the designated hour on their first day together, I pull out my contraband phone and ignore the preschoolers cavorting around me for five seconds to see that I don’t have a text.

Five minutes later, nothing.

Ten minutes later, I text.

“Do you have him yet?

“Yes. Just got him. On our way home.”

[Why are you fifteen minutes late? Doesn't matter. I'll ask later.]

“Okay, home now!”

So I relax. And I smile at children and clean up after children and negotiate conflicts with children and sing with children and wonder why I’m not paying someone to do this stuff so I can go play Mancala with my eldest child.

We get home and I’m relieved. He’s happy, she’s happy. Everything is where I left it. No severed limbs, no puddles of blood, no house party.

Letting go…hard time…rather consistent theme…moving on.

I ask this wonderful creature, who has delivered unto me my seven year old, for her report of the day.

“Everything was fine. I went to the wrong door to pick him up and waited rather impatiently because there were tons of police cars and one of the parents told me there had been a lockdown but she didn’t know anything, so I walked up to another, confident looking woman and introduced myself, said I was picking up a child for the first time and what is going on?”

Having a hard time breathing, in part because my eyes are open so wide they’re sucking all the oxygen from the air and all the energy from my other muscles.

“She told me that there had been a lockdown at the school because someone had gone inside and the police were called.”

And boom, thus ended all future babysitting hopes and dreams. My children will never be out of my sight again.

Sandy Hook is geographically distant from here, but it’s not far from any American elementary school. It’s right next door to all of us.

I tried to breathe but found only hot waves of tears.

“Are you okay?” she asked, clearly concerned at my willingness to lose control of my tear ducts upon hearing about silly things like police cars and lockdowns.

I look at the stove and the fridge and the first aid kit and the fire extinguisher. And I nod. “He’s fine, you’re fine, we’re all fine, so I’m okay, but no, I’m not okay.”

“I finally figured out to go to the right door and I talked with his teacher and he didn’t seem worried that I was late. And I felt awful because you told me the right door, but all those other times I picked the kids up, we went to the other door, and…”

“I’ll ask him, but I’m sure he’s fine. I’ve been late and he knows that his teacher will make sure he’s okay. I’m more worried about the lockdown, really.”

“Well nobody knew much, and you never know if what you hear outside is rumor or truth or partial truth. So ask him. He’ll tell you.”

She left in a blur and I pretended everything was fine and casual and normal. Because I have so much practice asking my suburban, sheltered kid what happened when the sirens went screaming outside the school, right? I begin low key, because there is exactly zero benefit to freaking the kid out.

Stick to the ritual: How was your day, what was your favorite part, what was your biggest challenge and how did you address it; and by the way, what was up with the lockdown?

He shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“I don’t even really know what a lockdown is. What does it mean?”

“We were outside and the teachers all yelled, ‘Inside now,’ and pointed so we went inside and then we went back out.”

“Oh. Inside your classroom?”

“No, the cafeteria.”

“And [shrug, beat]… what did they tell you?”

“Nothing. We were trying to guess why we had to come inside and I thought maybe the police found something that a robber took.”

“Hmmm. Maybe.”

And now came the veteran move. Wait. Say nothing. Wait. I can always ask again later if I really need to know. But wai…

“I didn’t like it.”

“Oh?” Faking casual. “Why?” Pure liquid goo inside, wanting to kiss his face for twenty hours because he’s still alive, calculating the cost to my sense of self of homeschooling, and praying that he wasn’t scared at any point.

“Because we only came in for a few minutes and then went back out but it felt like it took away all our play time.”

“Yeah. I don’t like it when I get interrupted for a drill or an emergency or anything and then get less time to do what I want.”

“Yeah.”

We talked a bit more about his favorite part of the day, and we finished the night as usual. Face kissing limited to a few minutes so as not to reveal my secret baggage full of helpless liquid goo and fear and whatnot.

The second the boys were in bed I texted another parent to find out what happened.

The neighbors called the police when they thought they heard a gunshot. Several squad cars rushed to the scene. Some staff members saw the police and called a lockdown. *Then* they called the police to see if they should be concerned. The police reassured them that all was clear. Better safe than sorry, good job team, moving on, just another day.

What rings in my ears are the colliding voices of terror, “My baby knows what a lockdown is;”  and “I won’t always be there when things get bad.” Earthquakes, bad people, fires. Tragedy. Cataclysm. You can prepare and you can hope.

But you can’t always be there.

I hate every single brushstroke of that.

Item #12: Bake Muffins

I just wrote “bake muffins” on my to-do list.

maybe not a metaphor for my list making, but probably totally a metaphor for my list making

maybe not a metaphor for my list making, but probably totally a metaphor for my list making

I’m not saying I make fabulous muffins. I enjoy baking, my kids like muffins. And I’ve made dozens of recipes over the past six years or so, some much better than others.

So making muffins is not a big deal. It’s not “overturn landmark court case” or “pay bills.” It’s not “submit proposal” or “email President for advice on major issue.”

It’s just muffins.

But I’ve been meaning to make muffins for about a year. Haven’t remembered.

Let me repeat that so I can bask in my ludicrousness: I can’t remember to ask my kids to measure some flour and sugar with me. For a year. Despite intention, despite planning.

I just plain ol’ forget.

I’ve gotten to the point where I have to jot down reminders to call my friends. And to plan the weekend. And to mail a package that’s been on my desk for two weeks.

Two weeks. And I have to write a note to remember it. Sitting right there, looking at me, and I won’t remember unless it’s on the list.

Maybe I have list dependency. Maybe I need more sleep. Maybe I have early onset something. Maybe I have childbirth-onset something.

Or maybe I refuse. Maybe deep down I know there are perfectly good muffins at the store, and I have other stuff to do without spending 20 minutes sifting and whisking. And cleaning up that which resisted sifting or whisking.

Regardless of the cause, it seems that it might be a cry for help, that “bake muffins” on my list.

So tomorrow I’ll make muffins with my kids. Or by myself, after they go to sleep. Or not at all because who really needs muffins, anyway?

Anything lingering and lingering and lingering on your list? Does it remain there because you forget or because you passive aggressively forget?

Caught a case of the fuckits

Oh, good gawd I’m in a mood.

My children are adorable. And wakeful and needy and hungry and whiny and male, and I just don’t care anymore. I don’t care if they eat complete meals. I don’t care if we remember to do our nightly meetings and our family meditation and our dinnertime highlights and lowlights conversation and our homework and our vitamins and a bath.

I don’t give a flying fig newton right now.

I got myself elected Preschool Board Vice President, and I’m going to warn you, if you don’t want to see behind the scenes of a 200-person cooperative, do not run for elected school board. Good heavens there’s some fraught interpersonal fiascos and some seriously tedious human resources stuff and some exciting opportunities that take seventeen hours of follow-up going on up in there. It’s possible for that part-time, unpaid job to be a bit more work, but I’m not sure I want to complain yet about my own insanity for signing up, since it’s only September.

And I don’t give a flaming foxtail right now.

Now that both boys are in school, I have a whopping two hours to myself, two days a week. Yeehaw, y’all. Don’t even know what to do with myself for two whole hours twice a week. Except maybe the six trillion items on my list that have been half done since my darling eldest was born seven-and-a-half freaking years ago. So I have plenty to do and four hours to do it in…and you know what?

I don’t give a frisky firefighter right now.

The process to schedule a windshield replacement for my car took half an hour, during which my preschooler tried to assassinate me. The four-HOUR window I chose for this morning was, of course, blown off by the windshield-replacement-expert-person, who rescheduled with me moments before the window expired. He offered me an hour slot smackdab in the middle of my two-hour freedom window.

I don’t care. Everybody waits for repair people. Everybody complains about the waste of time. Everybody is busy, everybody is exhausted, and everybody is just trying to get by.

So I don’t care. I’m going to pour this bowl of broken tortilla chip pieces, smother it in salsa, and eat it with a spoon. Because I just don’t see how I can, in fifteen minutes, write a book, read a book, do yoga, take a shower, set up a second-grade science project, email people for babysitter references, drive to the armorer, write get well cards, mop the floors, watch a movie, start a strategy project, update my resume, look for jobs, post useless crap on craigslist, or write a blog post.

So I’m not going to. Fuckit. I don’t care. I’m going to sit very still for one whole minute and see what it feels like.

Crap. I forgot to mow the lawn and call to reschedule a doctor’s appointment. Again. Gotta go.

Dental guilt

Raised by a dentist, I have always held dental hygiene higher in importance over most other personal hygiene. I’ll skip shampoo more often than advisable and I’ll forgo shaving. But I have to brush and floss twice daily. Because that’s what people in my family do.

And I’ve brushed my kids’ teeth since the very first one erupted July 9, 2006. I did not need to look that date up, because I know my children’s dental histories.

When Peanut was diagnosed with a cavity at age 7, I felt shock and sadness. We’d been slipping a bit on the brushing, and had remembered very few morning toothbrush communions that year. We had split parental duties a bit and I brushed the younger child while Spouse monitored and rebrushed for the eldest.

But Spouse is not as dentally retentive as I am. And he let two minutes become one. Or less.

So after the cavity was filled I resolved to do all the brushing myself.

At night.

In the morning, though, I reminded Peanut of his jobs and wrote (and drew) a morning chart as suggested in The Secrets of Happy Families. His jobs were to get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, pack his backpack, and check the weather to decide on shoes and jacket. But he rarely brushed in the morning. And I started to rely on Spouse again during the interminable evening routine. Chaos. Screaming, wailing, running, tickling chaos. So once again I brushed the little guy while Peanut increasingly took on his own dental hygiene.

Second cavity at age 7.5.

Both have been in permanent teeth.

Both, I have to note, have been without dental insurance.

And both are my fault.

Yes, I should be able to give a seven-year-old child a task and expect him to do it passably well. But I suppose there’s no need to get petulant at having to ask repeatedly and remind and plead and cajole and glare and remind again. I suppose I was wrong and it’s every parent’s job to ask seven times every single day for a basic and important task to be done, right?

Yes, I should be able to trust his father to brush him well after the initial juvenile pass. But I guess there’s no need to rely on other parents in the family to do a good job with something as important as dental health. I guess I should have to brush three mouths three times a day if I want us all to be cavity-free.

I guess.

So for at least a night I laid awake, terrifically disappointed in myself that my small child, for whose health and safety I am wholly responsible, will for his entire life have two molars that have been drilled and filled with foreign substances. And that will probably, in decades, need to be further drilled and additionally filled. It’s my fault that he will probably also have potentially toxic (though BPA-free) sealants on his teeth.

That he is broken. Invaded by bacteria. Vulnerable. Weakened. Compromised.

All because of me.

And then I woke up and thought of all the things I try so hard to do right. Food and kindness and respect and exercise and reading and science and math and listening and vocabulary and five-point harnesses and non-toxic lunchboxes and lead-free backpacks and friendship and history and family and sunshine and sunscreen and connection and nature and…

I stopped.

And thanked goodness for dental science and dentists and glass ionomer and resin composites. For disclosing tablets and timers and hygienists who teach what a child will not believe from his parents.

For lessons learned from making mistakes.

And for peace following acceptance and a plan to move on.

Maybe I’ll sleep better tonight. Right after I brush my teeth.

Beginner mind…fail

Perfectionists don’t deal well with failure.

Seems obvious enough, right?

While some people savor the lessons learned through mistakes, I begrudgingly accept my lesson and fume, often for years, over the failure.

I harbor residual embarrassment that I misspelled Connecticut in eight grade and am still painfully aware of exactly where I sat when I corrected the teacher for adding an unnecessary “c”. (I was also totally right. There’s no need to Connect anything in that name. It’s Conneticut. Or it ought be Conneticut.)

Mindful always of the failure implicit in mistakes, I stoke the fires of mortification at misunderstanding an attorney colleague in 1993. I had to make a joke at my own expense to hide my shame at the company softball game and I can still see the rolling fog and the skyward reach of the home-plate fence when I mistook “tort” for “tart.” And I still remember the warm wash of relief that flooded me on the third row of metal bleachers when They—the smarter, better educated, older, wiser—laughed at my cover joke. Thank goodness for the wounded-pride salve of comedy.

And thank goodness that I’m still self-flagellating over spelling and jargon errors from the 80s and 90s. Consider the world saved, y’all, because I know how dumb I was twice as a teenager.

Many of my struggles with parenting come from knowing I can do better, of knowing what kind of mother I aspire to yet failing to get there. I don’t believe I should ever yell. I should calmly explain expectations and requests and never inflict the psychological damage of raising my voice in anger. Each time one of the boys is hurting the other and I react with the panic of a raised voice, I judge myself harshly. How can you teach kindness with anger? How can you teach calm, measured responses if you don’t model them?

And how effective are cage matches as a parenting technique?

For the daily successes and failures in all that I do, I force a bedtime shrug and recall a mantra that insists, “I honestly did the best I could, I’ve thought about what could be better, and I will try my best again tomorrow with this new knowledge.” That hope and promise applies to writing and parenting and cooking and running and marriage and friendship. Though zen is a state of mind 180-degrees from my normal state of being, I do actually believe that approaching everything with beginning mind opens up possibilities for acceptable, awareness, and joy.

Of course, it’s a ruse, because I prefer to stick with what I’m really good at: cultivating a festering depression born of the self-suggestion that I make the same mistakes every day.  Since mediocrity is unacceptable, I roil in my shame and promise to work harder, work smarter, do better. Mostly as an exercise in roiling in shame, not because I actually plan to work harder, smarter, or better.

As I mentioned, totally un-Zen. Thank goodness I was born in a Western culture that digs perfectionism a tiny bit more than mindfulness.

Because my biggest failure lately is physical. Last night I left my beloved fencing academy knowing that I suck at fencing.

Oh, I have myriad excuses. When poor Spouse is foolish enough to get caught in a room with me after fencing, he hears about how few years, really, I’ve been practicing. Two years in college, a frightful amount of which was spend drilling not fencing. Perhaps three hundred hours of drills and three hundred hours of competition. Twenty years off for life, work, school, children. One full year back in earnest, practicing, training, and actively seeking bouts an average of once a week. One hundred hours of trying to stab and not be stabbed, perhaps, since I’ve been back.

Rank beginner by the numbers, I insist. Excusable levels of failure for one as new as I am, I pretend to believe. Four hundred hours of fencing really isn’t much.

Yes, I know how stupid that seems. Four hundred hours of anything and I should totally be an Olympian, right? What a loser.

“But, but, but,” I sputter, “practice begins at 7pm. Ends at 10pm. I’m exhausted all hours of the day, but being expected to have quick reaction times and good form at 10pm is ludicrous. It’s not possible. It’s everyone’s fault but mine!”

Often I spend most of the ride home plying myself with perspective, mostly to fend of the inevitable self-medication-by-desserts. “Buck up, self. You’ve been working as hard as you can, and you’ve shown marked improvement.” (That much is actually true. Some weeks I have a flashes of skill at this game that is often described as athletic chess. Teammates have watched and have cheered my successes, have noted to me that they see how quickly I’m improving. Shhhh. Don’t tell the perfectionist in the corner whose withering glare is making me eat another brownie.)

Sufficient progress eludes me. It’s not quick enough. I don’t want to be perfect…I want to be as good as I think I should be. Reasonable expectations, yo. The weeks where I surge precede, obviously and predictably, lengthy plateaus. Weeks, or recently months, of feeling as though I am not progressing. Not doing well enough. Not trying hard enough. Too slow and stupid and old for this sport.

A long, mournful ride home last night followed five bouts, each lost 5-0. For those keeping score at home, that’s 25-0. Pathetic beyond pathetic. It’s a new low. In 22 years of fencing I’ve never been this bad.

(Quick note from my pride: I did score several touches, but not when we were keeping score. We usually fence for ten to fifteen minutes before we finally say, “okay, let’s go to five.” Usually means one of us feels tired or thirsty or bored of the other fencer.)

(Do you like how, in a post about how I can’t bear knowing I’m bad at something, I have to adjust an admission of being terrible with a caveat that I’m not that terrible? Perfectionism is a disease, people. Inoculate your children now, if your physician allows it.)

So, with clarity of mind and resonant self-awareness born of a dreadful night of fencing failure, I decided I need a new sport.

The other fencers laughed, and we talked about how I would most likely approach baseball, hockey, tennis, and croquet by standing about lunge-distance from my opponent and trying to hit her with the bat, stick, racquet, or mallet.

Ha ha, we chuckled.

And I died a little inside.

Because we all knew I’d be bad at those sports, too.

I felt sorry for myself for being unathletic. Whimpered in the car about being terrible at every sport I’ve ever tried. Wallowed in the reality that I was a slow triathlete and a miserable fencer and a mediocre tennis player.

And after the self-pity waned, I knew that, as with all failure, I have two options. Learn. Or Quit.

 

attack out of distance

feint out of distance isn’t fooling anybody

searching for the blade begging for attack into preparation

searching for the blade is begging for attack into preparation

better parry that or you're gonna lose another touch

 stop counterattacking and parry, for heaven’s sake!

 

 

I can work harder and smarter. I can make running and weight training a priority, incorporating plyometrics to get some of the speed and agility lost with age; I can pay for lessons; I can take better notes to process what is and isn’t working each week before and after class. I can better plan my weekly goal, which I generally formulate on the drive to the studio, and focus on it more clearly during the evening. I can add simple carbohydrates to the evening, strategically applying calories to the work of getting better.

Or I can quit.

For a perfectionist, there really aren’t many other choices. Just showing up as often as I can and pushing as hard as I can is not acceptable. There must be Lifetime-television-celebrated moments of triumph at least every half hour or so.

Achievement isn’t called do-your-best-ment. I either have to step up my game, or I have to give up.

Now. If you’ll excuse me, I have to go speak quietly and respectfully to my kids.