Summer Series First Third: Adventure

a little boy + miles of ocean and sand

a little boy + miles of ocean and sand

Today marks the beginning of the 2nd third of my summer vacation sabbatical. A little swell of panic rises up in my throat when I think that it’s one third over, but then I give a little sigh because that means 2/3’s is left! It got me thinking, though, about breaking the summer up in thirds, rather than trying to make the summer into ONE BIG THING. Case and point, the first third of the summer was full of: ADVENTURE!

Not that the next third, or the third after that, won’t be full of adventure, but I noticed that my desire right after school got out was to PLAY! We took two vacations to the beach, which meant a lot of travel, a lot of routines being broken, and a lot of coffee. It was lovely and exhausting all at the same time. The tag-line “makin’ memories’ sticks with me from a conversation I had with my mom while sitting on a driftwood bench.

Even just writing about this summer’s thirds reminds me of a book group my mother-in-law went to, which broke life up into rough thirds. I guess because they were retirement age they were in their third third? But, I think, with the birth of Potamus our life switched from the first third ADVENTURE, to this new phase of figuring out and settling down and beginning to establish a tentative routine with some tentative stability. I mean, I’m hardly running off to India for a 6 month solo trip anymore. So I wonder, maybe if the 2nd third of the summer won’t be like that a little bit? I’ve noticed, even in this past week, now that daycare is back in swing and I’m starting yoga, that we’re getting into a comfortable (albeit slightly boring at times) routine with a nice ebb and flow. So maybe this 2nd third will be called ROUTINE, or RESTING, or HEALING? I won’t know how to really categorize it until it’s over, I suppose…

So, what would you title your summer so far?

The Mom Stays in the Picture

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The internet is blowing up with the story (originally found on Huffington Post) about how moms aren’t found in their children’s pictures, for whatever reason (self-esteem, they’re the ones taking the picture, etc.), so there’s this campaign to get mamas into pictures.

I saw the original article and thought it was interesting, but passed it by, since I find myself often mugging for a shot with Potamus. But then when I saw the article featured on Offbeat Mama, I knew I had to comment:

“Maybe I am just a narcissistic cow, but I freaking LOVE being in pictures with my baby. And I shamelessly ask people to take photos of us, even when it annoys them (because I also shamelessly ask them to re-take it if its blurry).”

AND write a little post, showing the evidence from many of our self-portrait shots.

I wonder…where are YOU in the pictures? Do you tend to be in more shots than your child’s other parent? In our family, Boof is less predominate, preferring to mostly stay behind the scenes. If you aren’t in pictures, why not?

Bucket List Letter

I heard this article:  James K. Flanagan: A Grandfather’s Last Letter To His Grandkids on the radio yesterday, and knew that I had to present it in class to my students. Not only is it poignant and full of really great advice, it also fits right along with our This I Believe essays that we are writing. As I re-read this letter to my students in class, several of the pieces of advice stuck out to me:

Everyone in the world is just an ordinary person. Some people may wear fancy hats or have big titles or (temporarily) have power and want you to think they are above the rest. Don’t believe them. They have the same doubts, fears, and hopes; they eat, drink, sleep, and fart like everyone else. Question authority always but be wise and careful about the way you do it.

I’ve reasonably gotten the ‘question authority” bit down, however, it is more recently that I am learning to do so in a respectful way. As a teenager I would yell and scream or sulk or pout, all that showed a lack of maturity in my rebellious questioning. Though I would like to thank my dad for working in radio and showing me the truth behind the fact that everyone, even celebrities, are just normal folk.

Be kind and go out of your way to help people — especially the weak, the fearful, and children. Everyone is carrying a special sorrow, and they need our compassion.

While I don’t necessarily go out of my way to help people, like I’m “not looking for trouble,” I do find that I am surrounded in many ways by people who seek me out for advice or solace from life’s shitty storms. I loved how he put that everyone is carrying a “special sorrow” because it reminded me so well of my favorite quote:  “be kinder than necessary, everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” I don’t always do a good job of this, in fact, I’m struggling right now with 2 students from a very conservative and churchy background who seem to be very arrogant in their schoolwork, that I am finding it difficult to see how young and small and scared they probably really are.

Travel: always but especially when you are young. Don’t wait until you have “enough” money or until everything is “just right.” That never happens. Get your passport today.

While I long to go back to India, I am glad for the opportunity that I did have to travel when I was younger. And I’m happy that Boof and I travelled when we were newly married and dating. Because, while I like traveling, in theory, the process wears and stresses me out tremendously, now that we have a kid. Gone are the moments where I felt rested and energetic enough to get on a plane and fly to Delhi or Manhattan or Atlanta.

Pick your job or profession because you love to do it. Sure, there will be some things hard about it, but a job must be a joy. Beware of taking a job for money alone — it will cripple your soul.

I do believe having a job that is a joy is a luxury for many, and is something that I have been striving for since I went to graduate school. While I don’t believe that my job will fulfill all of my heart’s desires, I do want to feel inspired and wake up every morning without fearing or dreading what’s to come.

Always keep promises to children. Don’t say “we’ll see” when you mean “no.” Children expect the truth; give it to them with love and kindness.

I think this one resonated with me the most. I remember hearing so many times “we’ll see,” or other vague parenty phrases, which left me confused. I know, now, that my mom/dad/grandma/uncle/etc. was probably trying to spare me the disappointment, putting it off or softening the blow, but the limbo-land was worse than just hearing the word “no” to begin with. It is almost worse than getting the answer “dinner” when I would ask, “what’s for dinner?” JUST TELL ME DAMNIT!, but I know that mom was trying to spare herself the whining that would have accompanied the answer.

What pieces of the list stuck out to you? If you were to write a letter to your children or future grandchildren, what lessons would you include?

Reflections on 16 months of crisis counseling

I have witnessed a lot in the past 16 months of crisis counseling, and as I sit on my last day, having discharged my last client last night, I feel so much hope in my move forward. But there is also this lingering sense of  heaviness from all that I have witnessed…

I accepted the job, as a Crisis Intervention Specialist, working with youth 3-18 and their families in King County, 24 hours after I learned I was pregnant. So my first 9 months on the job I was pregnant and the 2nd half of the job I was a new mom. While I have been employed there for 16 months, if you take out the maternity leave in the middle, I’ve solidly worked there for 1 year. But 1 year feels like an eternity. There are things I have seen, and witnessed, and felt that are hard to put into words, hard to describe to people who haven’t been there.

Like, how do you explain the feeling of arriving at an apartment, to find a 250 lb naked teenage developmentally delayed (can’t speak or understand language)  girl from a foreign country sitting on the stairs and realizing that she is the client. Naked. And what goes through my mind is, “my schooling did not prepare me for this.” To be body slammed and try to explain to the family through an interpreter how the mental health system works here in America.

How do I explain the smell of a pre-adolescent who hasn’t showered or changed clothes for the past 3 months because she sees a bloody axe wielding woman in the bathtub. How do I explain the condemend house infested with fleas with the family living in the basement? Or the 13 year old who was pregnant and kicked out of her house by her aunt, who said it’d be fine if she just went to live in a shelter. Or the 5 year old who put his mom in a choke-hold while she drives down the freeway. Or the meth-coke-crack-oxy-marijuana-alcohol abusing 15 year old trying to stay sober in a family of addicts.

Or what about the 12 year old prostiting herself because she heard her birthmother did drugs and was on the street and she hoped that maybe she would meet her out there, somewhere, sometime.

I have seen so much, and yet, what I have seen doesn’t compare to how much my family’s have seen. And I am leaving this position changed, in a way that is hard to put into words. Not much scared me before, but now there is very little that I am really afraid of in reaction or relation to teens or their families.