Um, Hi

Being on hiatus sounds fancy, doesn’t it?  So academic.  Go on with your bad self, actin’ all fancy and on hiatus and stuff. I hadn’t felt that pull, that need to write here since I declared last month that it was time to take a break.  I’ve been a little emo, if ya know what I mean, and not the up, energetic kind of emo–the crawl under the covers, binge watch TV, and tell anyone who asks you’re just fine, just happy to sleep late kind.  Since I stepped away from the blog one month back, I’ve been bunny-hopping around the yawn of the rabbit hole.

I finally nailed my six-word memoir, writing tells me how I feel, then stopped writing.  Smart.  I stopped at what I felt was a pivotal moment: my kid was entitled to a certain expectation of privacy.  He is.  But I’m  also entitled, entitled to a certain expectation of not losing my mind.

While on break, I read a ton, discovered podcasts, celebrated nailing every word to “My Shot” from Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda, you are a genius), and I wrote a lot of stuff with zero intent of hitting publish.  The writing wasn’t good, nor did it check the compartmentalizing brain box for “writing it down-getting it out.”  Blah most succinctly captures the fun I’ve been to be around.

But if I had been blogging this past month, I’d have chatted about my new television BFF, Midge Maisel.  I am in love with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, starring Rachel Brosnahan as a ’50s-era housewife, living the Upper West Side life.  Midge’s husband was a schmuck whose indiscretion led to her on-mic rant on an underground club stage which led to her double life as a comedienne.  Her timing is surgically precise, off-the-cuff comic genius at its finest during a time women were strictly barred from the boys’ club.  She’ll never win a mother of the year contest, but MAN, do ya root for her!  I’d D.I.E. to play dress-up in her wardrobe, just once.  Those dresses!  The hats!!

If I had overshared my days and nights with you here as has been my pattern, I’d have shared with you this grocery store telephone exchange with my oh-so-attentive husband. 

I’d have told you my Yellowstone National Park otter story.  You have to read this in “John Cleese as hushed/whispery narrator of a nature documentary” tone until the end, where my tone totally prevails:  So they’re highlighting winter animals in the park, then of course, snow melts, the seasons change, and the river otters are seen frolicking in the spring mountain runoff.  We see that the male otter is looking to git a little somethin’ somethin’ from his gal pal because it’s his spring awakening, though the female’s a little meh about his advances. Enter John Cleese:  The male ottah (because he’s British)  attempts to woo the female ottah, but the female seems a bit distracted.  Me: Yeah, you know why she’s distracted?  Because she’s thinkin’ she’s gotta get groceries, make dinner, clean the house, do the laundry. . .  My husband:  Silently stares at me for a second, then admits it was pretty funny.  He didn’t admit I was accurate, but I’m sure it was implied anyway and I’ll take the victory.  No Mrs. Maisel myself, but my timing here?  Impeccable.

I’d have told you about how my freshman (and about 1/4 of his classmates) positively crushed their first semester grades.  There’s about a 98-way tie for valedictorian so far, and that is not typical Wendy exaggeration, but the incredible effort of these hard-working, high-achieving teens.  The child comes home, tends to his schoolwork promptly and without prodding.  If he coasted the rest of his years (and he had sure as heck better NOT), I’d still be knocked out by grade nine, semester one.

I’d have made mention of a little professional revelation I had that suggested to me it might be time to hang it up. When you’re ineffective, be it by circumstances external or within, you’re ineffective. Even I am tired of hearing my presentations and opinions, so too I would guess are the bulk of my colleagues. The beauty (beauty?) lies in knowing it before having to be told. The “quit before they fire me” school of thought. No, I’m not quitting or likely to be terminated, but I am evaluating my state of affairs anyway.

I’d have told you about my “little” kid’s first basketball game, which, in a real nail-biter, they took 27-1.  And yeah, everyone cheered for the kid who sunk that free throw.  My child is the one with arms like a spider monkey’s.

I’d have written about having seen The Book of Mormon, and the especially offended young woman who steamed through the lobby shouting “Sacrilege!  It was sacrilege!”  Ummm. . .  you bought the ticket with no clue that the dudes who created South Park wrote the libretto?  Were you expecting a fun little evening actually learning about the missionary work of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints?  Really???  I have an absolutely profane sense of humor, and even I blushed at some of the language and imagery.  Oh sure, I laughed until my face hurt because it’s wrong in all the right ways/right in all the wrong ways (and frankly a little terrifying in some of the truths which underlie the basis for the musical).  A super badass friend of mine is an ex-Mormon, and I respect and admire her all the more for her strength in having left it, but not Utah.  That’s her story to tell though, not mine. 

I’d have written a new mystery á la Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys with the working title The Mysterious Case of the Broken Staircase Spindle. It wasn’t me and it wasn’t my husband, and the dog doesn’t go downstairs. . . so, yeah, SO WEIRD that nobody broke it.

I’d have written about the kick of having discovered Snapchat’s ridiculous filters. Because while I LOVE my hair purple and my eyes blue, there are limits to the type of look a 50-something professional woman should want to cultivate in real life.  I don’t actually share snaps (am I saying that correctly, kids?), so if I die and someone goes through my phone’s saved photo roll, I’ll be judged for eternity as someone who thinks a little too highly of her self-portraits.  

It’s our family’s four-year MD anniversary, or crap-iversary if you’re my friend Cindy, who reaches out every year at this time with some wise or comforting words.  Or cake.  Four years. 

January 21, 201–still the day for me that began after. 

Four years of wondering if his outcome would’ve been different had we waited even one millisecond longer to have a baby.  Four years of tears striking at the most unexpected (and those you can totally predict) times.  Four years of gearing up and freaking straight the hell out at the MDA Muscle Walk.  Four years of meetings with school administrators, counselors, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and teachers.  Four years of friends and strangers putting their best, kindest, most generous sides forward.  Four years of reluctantly raising funds for my kid and others with muscular dystrophy, to advance the science as well as social opportunities for kids with disabilities.  Four years of dreams dashed, then reconfigured and revised. 

Four years of writing these random musings.  I need this place to deposit the bad stuff in my head to lighten the load, to be me. Writing tells me how I feel. I want to feel more up–maybe I can write myself a happy ending.

 

#47

Before I left for work this morning, I posted errantly on Facebook, “celebrating” my forty-sixth first day of school.  Today was, in fact, my forty-seventh.  Poor Mrs. Goldberg, my kindergarten teacher!  I left her caught in the cobwebs of my aging memory.  How could I forget my first-ever school experience?  Kindergarten–one-half day of nickel pints of milk, graham crackers for snack, and PASTE! Man, I loved how paste smelled and felt (no, not tasted!)–laid the educational foundation for all the learning that followed.

One year of kindergarten, plus grades 1-8, high school, college, graduate school, and now, twenty-eight years into my career as a school speech-language pathologist equals forty-seven.  I began five-year-old kindergarten when I was four years old, FYI, lest you tack another birthday candle on my cake.

In that incorrect post, I remarked that the first day of school was cooler when I got a new pair of shoes and a bunch of new clothes to mark such a momentous occasion.  And OK, mock me, go ahead, I loooooooved school supplies.  Still do.  I looked forward to the first day of school with gleeful anticipation every year.

Now?  I would like to sleep just a short while longer each morning.  I only cried once on my first day of school, after hitting my head on my desk.  I am certain that individuals employed by Google or IBM don’t have to sit on the filthy floor below their desks, struggling to shift fully loaded file cabinets in order to plug in their computers, but I do, and I bonked my head on the way up. I dropped the first of many, many, many workplace profanities for Fiscal Year 19.  Starting strong, yo.  My mouth that is, not my head.

I don’t have much new to say, friends.  My dog is sick again, I’m home for good from my (for me) long stretch of travel, I’ve read a number of books, though nothing life-altering recently, I’m still riding my bike, getting back into yoga, baseball season is over and we await callbacks from tryouts for next season, my big kid gets braces Wednesday, and starts high school in a week.  I’ve hit the end-of-summer blahs like a switch.  Can malaise have a switch?  ‘Cause it feels like malaise would be more like an ooze, you know?

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Apropos of absolutely nothing but blahs and malaise, here’s an extreme close up of my goofnut dog’s snout during the height (or maybe the abyss?) of yet another round of “I have a weak stomach.”

I did want to share a non-blah blast from my big kid’s College For Kids Young Writer’s Academy a few weeks back.  I’m not a poetry gal.  Never was.  But I discovered a new genre at parents’ day.  It’s not something I’m likely to pursue (because, poetry), but it’s a neat little conceit: found poetry.  Ya see, whatcha do here to create a found poem is take an existing piece of literature or news article, select snippets containing powerful words, and lay them down.  You can leave the found poem as is, or use it as a basis from which to edit.  The instructors provided a variety of texts, including the Shepherd Express, a local weekly not penned with the arch-conservative set its target demographic.

I opened the newspaper randomly, also randomly choosing an article.  Here’s my found, unedited poem (guess what was big news mid-July?)

My children are just broken

My kids distraught

Lessen the number of families being separated

We saw it in slavery

We saw it in internment camps

No religion anywhere

Treated like an animal

People need to come together

Supporting each other

Ta-da!  The best poem I ever/never wrote.

Course instructors again hit us up for a six word memoir, and this year, unlike the my introduction to this kickass exercise, I was pleased to share mine:

Writing tells me how I feel

#nailedit

Today, writing tells me that I’m a little sad to be back at the 40-hours-per grind.  I feel as though I’m missing some critical pieces in my kids’ lives, like being at work right now means I’m denied some of their secret dreams and hopes.  Writing tells me I’m anxious about my kid getting braces and starting high school in the same week.  It tells me that while I’m taking strides toward better physical health, I must continue to seek outlets for supporting the health of my heart and mind as well.  I’m not sure that a new pair of shoes or a fun new outfit would serve that purpose, but surely they couldn’t hurt, right??

I Live In A Van Down By The River

Just call me Matt Foley.  If you have no idea who he is or why it’s funny, come out from underneath that rock and check it out.  Click here to view a Saturday Night Live masterpiece. You surely will not regret it.  

And then check these.  These are my boys, then ages 3 and 5, turning up their very best preschool impressions of the hilarious Chris Farley character.  And yeah, we let them watch the skit when they were tiny.  Because we were terrible parents.  Or maybe awesome parents–depends who you ask, I suppose.

Matt Foley is the world’s least successful motivational speaker.  Well, maybe second least successful.  Probably I win (lose?) that designation.

At the close of our speech-language department’s monthly meetings, I or another of my colleagues end the meeting with what we call Closing Thoughts.  These presentations, not truly “motivational speeches,”  but a short 1-5 minutes in duration, are meant to impart a message of positivity.  Sometimes the messages are hopeful or gushy, some contain sentiments of gratitude or mindfulness, but always the objective is a moment of contemplation about our place in the SLP world.

I’m up for next week Friday’s meeting.  It’s our opening meeting for the year, and this meeting above all others, is long with procedures and policy.  It’s where our speech paths learn what the new mandates are (there are MANY!), and how much more of their time will be co-opted by paperwork and administrative crap over what really matters: speech-language therapy.  No one ever leaves procedural meetings uplifted.  Beaten?  Overwhelmed? Inert?  You betcha!  But not quite enthusiastic.

Being the senior (not in age, but in experience, ahem) program support teacher, I volunteer often for the jobs no one else really wants to do.  I’m no martyr or anything; I just feel at some level responsible for the success of our entire department, and especially for the happiness and contentedness my four office mates, so if I can relieve someone of a stressor or inconvenience, I do try to do that.  I think I’ve developed a pretty good opening message for this year, but revealing it here would be anti-climactic.

Instead, I’ll leave you with how I opened last year, which actually borrowed heavily from a blog post I’d written here, but people seemed to like my talk, so the message bears repeating.  This back to school stuff is killing me.  The shoulder-induced lack of sleep is one thing when you’re just hanging with your children, but when reality forces you to wake long before dawn and be smart on command all day long. . .  #epicfail, y’all.

 

Familiar with the six word memoir?  The story goes that a magazine editor challenged Ernest Hemingway to write the shortest narrative possible.  He submitted “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”  Six words.  Six words that provided character and conflict, that told a complete story.  A simple Google search returns this version of the tale along with 1.24 million more hits confirming or denying its veracity.  Whatever the truth, SMITH magazine supports a website dedicated to the six word memoir and its role in creative writing and self-reflection.

Last summer, my big kid attended the College for Kids Young Writers’ Academy at UWM.  On the showcase day, audience members, mostly parents and other family members, were invited to participate in a challenge much like the students had been doing all week.  One of the instructors threw down the six word memoir challenge.  I absolutely froze with writer’s block.  Not everyone did, and from the room came a handful of charming mini-bios.  Among my favorites:

I found you; I found me.  (And the “awwwww” went up from the entire audience.)

I am not good at this.  The audience bust out laughing at this young lady’s clever spin.

Life sometimes strides; Life sometimes sucks.  This one also drew laughs from around the room, and I couldn’t have been more surprised at its author:  my son.

Around this same time, I’d just returned from one of my Barenaked Ladies concert road trips.  The refrain I hear often from those around me after I return from another show is, “Don’t you ever get sick of it?”  That, “don’t you ever get sick of it?” would NOT be MY memoir. If I continued to do something that bored me to tears, I wouldn’t continue to do that something.  It’s why I have the ever-changing career I do.  It’s why I do the creative writing project I do.  It’s why I’m a people person, because my brain isn’t wired to be a tasks person.

You want to ride horses or buy your own spray-tan machine?  Cool.  You are captivated by Lularoe leggings or have 34 pairs of Toms shoes?  Good on ya.  Enjoy them!  I won’t judge.  And therein lies the difference–I won’t judge you for spending money and time in ways that make you happy.  I might not get it for me, but I don’t have to.  If you get it for you, it should be enough.

Try as I might, my six word memoir remains unwritten. How does one capture one’s essential self or perception of self?  Including one attribute eliminates space for another. I’m a mom. I’m a wife. I’m a friend. I’m a speech-language pathologist.  I dabble in many roles, but star in none. But getting back to my son’s memoir: Why was he, all 5’10″ of twelve-and-a-half years of him, able to crank it out in the allotted time frame and belt it out in a roomful of people?  I wondered, does it accurately reflect how he views the world?  He nailed it–life does sometimes stride, and it most assuredly sucks at others.  It’s profound.  Alternately, it’s middle school shallow.  It is balanced though, right?  Much can be revealed in six words.  Maybe that’s why getting it right matters so.  Have you written your six word memoir?  I can’t do it in six, so here’s seven:

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Image found at kikki.k Stationery

As you move forward this year, do more of what makes you happy here in your work as a speech-language pathologist.  If it’s creating cutesy, Pinterest crafty stuff in your therapy activities, do it.  If it’s mentoring students through an activity such as robotics or Girls on the Run, do it.  If it’s developing a laser focus on strategies for working with students with autism or phonology, do it.  If it’s taking a break at lunch time and walking around the block to get your steps in, do that.  Do it even if you get weird looks from your staff.  Do it even if it’s inconvenient or forces you to step out of your comfort zone a little.  Do it even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone but you.  I don’t have to get it for me, but if you get it for you and it makes you happy, that should be enough. You being happy will very likely make you a better, more effective clinician.   So though it’s one word too long for a six word memoir:  Do more of what makes you happy.

 

Six Word Memoir

Familiar with the six word memoir?  The story goes that a magazine editor challenged Ernest Hemingway to write the shortest narrative possible.  He submitted “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”  Six words.  Six words that provided character and conflict, that told a complete story.  A simple Google search returns this version of the tale along with 1.24 million more hits confirming or denying its veracity.  Whatever the truth, SMITH magazine supports a website dedicated to the six word memoir and its role in creative writing and self reflection.  Click the link above to check the Six Word Memoir site.

At the close of my big kid’s College for Kids Young Writers’ Academy a few weeks back, we audience members were invited to participate in a challenge much like the students had been doing all week.  One of the instructors threw down the six word memoir challenge.  I froze–instant writer’s block.  Not everyone did, and from the room came a handful of charming mini-bios.  Among my favorites:

I found you; I found me.  (And the “awwwww” went up from the entire audience.)

I am not good at this.  The audience bust out laughing at this young lady’s clever spin.

Life sometimes strides; Life sometimes sucks.  This one also drew laughs from around the room, and I couldn’t have been more surprised at its author:  my son.


Try as I might,  my six word memoir remains unwritten. How does one capture one’s essential self or perception of self?  Including one attribute eliminates space for another. I’m a mom. I’m a wife. I’m a friend. I’m a speech-language pathologist.  I star in many roles, but am defined by none. Music sings my biography, but I am not a songwriter.  I’m no philosopher, but hold dear some guiding tenets and random nuggets from much wiser souls than I dare dream to be:

Be today the person future you would be proud to call a friend. (This one is WW’s)

The opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s indifference. (Elie Wiesel)

Don’t be a dick. (Me and Everyone)

A mother is only as happy as her saddest son. (Can’t quite source this)

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. (Eleanor Roosevelt)

A friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, “You too? I thought I was the only one!” (CS Lewis)

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are. (John Wooden)

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Thank you thelifestyleboutique.co.uk for this dose of happy.

Just who am I?  My husband and I had a discussion recently about the many mes–that’s a pluralization of ‘me’ by the way.  It goes against every punctuation convention I hold dear; I cannot apostrophize a plural.  I’m unable to refer to many mes as ‘us’ either, although ‘us’ is the plural of me.  Weird, right?  Mes is not a word (well actually it is a Spanish word meaning month) but ‘me’ isn’t plural, I know.  And we’ve already covered this–I write like I talk in my little blog here, so grammar and conventions are oft times unconventional in the name of creativity, judgey ones.  I know the rules of grammar, but I’m all rebel rebel like that here.  Dang it’s hard to be a grammar freakazoid when you break the rules yourself!  Deep breath.  The many mes.

I think we generally acknowledge that we are different things to different people in our lives.  180 speech paths don’t care so much about my kitchen remodel.  My friends don’t care a lick about my ethics presentations or remediation of phonological disorders.  My husband can’t be bothered with my music fandom.  My children pay no mind to me when. . .  Ah, hell, they pay no mind to 93% of me unless it deals with food, Pokémon, or hooking up to Wi-Fi.  Most of the time, most mes are poppin’.  Most of the time I feel confident and comfortable with my multiple personalities.  I think if I weren’t me, I would like me in whichever persona I need me to be.

But when I am vulnerable, all of the mes in me dive for cover.

I asked myself this question in a long-ago blog post, and vowed to figure it out: Who am I?  The bigger question perhaps is why am I no closer to figuring it out?  I’m old, I should know by now, shouldn’t I?  I’m a #baseballmom, but I’d like not to be an MD mom.  See?  No hashtag for MD mom, because who wants that for their kid?  Who wants that to be a defining element in their six word memoir?   I could just stick to mom, and call it a day I guess.  I’m a communicator in many forms–language and speech habilitator, information sharer, professional developer, blogger, cheerleader and advocate for my children, comedian, song lyrics savant.  Who tags themselves essentially as a communicator?  I’m a good and loyal wife.  Speech-language pathologist is in me, but doesn’t rate highly enough for the six words.  I laugh a lot and I smile a lot, but I can be morose.  I’m terribly hard on myself, and my husband believes I should be black and blue for the extent to which I beat myself up when I fail, especially when I believe I fail at parenting.  I’m optimistic, yet anxious; I’m the queen of hyperbole, yet quite pragmatic in fact.

My husband, who unwittingly started this post in motion, thinks I’m lots of personalities (not in the DSM-V multiple personality disorder kind of way though probably possibly, so please keep your questioning my sanity thoughts to yourselves, muchas gracias), but that not everyone gets all of me.  The discussion stemmed from one of the mes he appreciates less well than the rock star wife and mom me.  I would argue that not everyone needs all of the mes.  There’s a line in Some Fantastic that goes, “I missed out on the best of you.”  Who needs, but is missing out on the best of me, the best of the me that they need anyway?  My kids?  My husband?  My friends??  I can’t be best me at everything to everyone all the time, but I certainly can’t be failing those who matter most.  Am I?  When being right for someone’s something prevents or distracts me from being the right something elsewhere??  Damn.  Adulting is hard.

Getting back to my son’s memoir.  Why was he, all 5’9″ now, twelve-and-a-half years of him, able to crank it out in the allotted timeframe and belt it out in a roomful of people?  Does it accurately reflect how he views the world?  He freaking nailed it–life does sometimes stride, and it most assuredly sucks at others.  It’s profound.  Alternately, it’s middle school shallow.  It is balanced though, right?

Much can be revealed in six words.  Maybe that’s why getting it right matters so.  Have you written your six word memoir?  Can you write mine?

Family, friends, happiness–greater than gravity.

It’s a start anyway.