Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mechanical meltdown

I have never been a hardware lady.  Give me a broken stapler and I'll tell you to throw it away and buy a new one.  Or throw it in Jell-o.  Software, yes.  I love tinkering with computers, although I'm far from being what in the bookstore where I used to work we'd call a guru.  Mechanical problems, not my thing.  And when things start to break in my life, I let them pile up because I'm so not a hardware lady.

Look around me and you will find a sad industrial graveyard:
  • just had the plumber out to fix the disposal after my mother-in-law ground up a plastic bottle
  • just had the HVAC guy come maintenance our heater and the heating unit broke in his hands
  • today I am waiting for the insurance adjuster to come look at a puzzling leak in our basement that has sat long enough to mold a box of dress-up clothes
  • I still haven't called the roofers to get a bid on the 4-month-old hail damage
  • our gutters look like haunted house gutters (and have since we moved in -- 4 years ago)
  • my kids' broken toys sit on the kitchen counter long enough to bug the crap out of me and then, like the stapler, I secretly throw them away (or throw them in Jell-o)
  • I have a pile of sun dresses and shorts laying on a chair in the family room waiting to be sewn, even though summer is long over
  • my car driver's side window hasn't functioned in two months
  • my car driver's side front parking light/blinker hasn't functioned in two months (Hint: I think they're connected to the window)
I did replace the toner in my printer, so we'll call that a win.

And just like my outer world crumbling at my feet, my body seems to follow mechanical suit:
  • I've been sick with a cold for two weeks
  • I've had a Crohn's flare up for two months (hmmmnnn, what happened two months ago that is causing all of this mess?  Oh right, I started teaching again.  I'm going to blame the university for my car's mechanical meltdown, too.  So that's a medical specialist AND a auto mechanic I need to visit.  Where do I send those bills again? The Bursar or my students' parents?)

(Photo courtesy of
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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tiny Dancer versus Mental Sludge

The great dance marathon has ended.  For now.  Fiona and her friends did a great job.  Mostly I'm impressed with their maturity and composure, but being 8-11 year-olds, they probably didn't realize what a big deal dancing with the Dance Theatre of Harlem . . . in a WORLD PREMIERE BALLET . . . actually is.

That's what parents are for.  I'm sure my Facebook friends are now saying, "Oh yay, Amy posted yet another photo of her daughter with a bun.  Surprise.  Yawn."  No matter.  I'm a-burstin' with pride.  I even sent a photo of the girls with the company to Fiona's principal!  Here it is:

Fiona and friends with Dance Theatre of Harlem
-->Let me just say that the ballet, "Gloria," was a tribute to church traditions in Harlem, but also symbolic of the Company's rebirth, with (I was told) the girls symbolizing the next generation of dance.  Chills.  The last thing you see as the curtain falls is the girls walking between the Company dancers, silhouetted against the fading light.  Hold on.  Tissue.

So, what now?  No rehearsals, no rushing to get from my classes to Fiona's school to retrieve her early and speed to the Kentucky Center for the Arts.  Dance Mom is still in business, my friends.  Nutcracker rehearsals have already begun.  In fact, I raced between Dance Theatre of Harlem rehearsal to Nutcracker rehearsal to DTH performance all on Saturday.  Sunday, I crashed until 10:00 (thank you, Husband) and then raced my girl to rehearsal and performance in Frankfort.  There is also my son who is on the chess team at school and taking drum lessons.  This morning, before he left for school - he's 5 - he reminded me that piano and karate are on the horizon.  My kids need benefactors.

My husband and I are assessing all of this busy-ness.  It's not working for us.  While I finally had a moment to clean off the dining room table and kitchen counter last night - booyah! - I also just discovered a leak in the basement that caused a box of dress-up of clothes to go bad (mildew, people.  It's serious.).  I had to secret away the spoiled Cinderella gown that smelled of year-old-urine to the trash while my daughter was doing homework.  Today, my husband realized he forgot his father's birthday.  Too much STUFF can include activities as well as material items.  It crowds the brain so that normal things like cleaning the bathroom occasionally and making sure your kids have clean underwear tend to slip beneath the moldy carpet, obscured from view.

I wish I could say that I'm spending my day taking the dogs for a walk in the park to relieve this case of mental sludge, but I'm still playing catch-up: grading, finishing work on my own graduate work, calling roofers (4 months after the hail damage, thank you) . . .  .   Yesterday, after class I couldn't even deal with obligations so I took my hungry, lunch-skipped self to Target and retail therapied clothes for the kids.  Dear Lord, I can't even retail therapy for myself!  Time for a metal douche.

What do you recommend?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Getting out of my kids' way

Sometimes I have moments of realization, like I did last night.

It was 9 PM and I was just getting my tired eight-year-old home from two hours of ballet rehearsal for an amazing performance opportunity with the Dance Theatre of Harlem.  As I dragged out her ballet bag and my purse and the envelope of student papers I took to grade while she rehearsed, it occurred to me: my parents would never have done this for me.

Don't get me wrong.  I love and loved my parents.  They were good parents and did so much for me.  Plus, when I was growing up, there just weren't as many opportunities for kids.  You joined the Y or the JCC or you did things with your church youth group.  Maybe little league and swim lessons in the summer.  I took piano.  I did free art classes with the Louisville Visual Arts Association (LVAA).  Theatre camp and music camp two different summers.  But running me downtown five days straight during the school year for ballet?  I don't think they would have done that.  My dad worked two jobs and my mom was afraid to drive at night.

I'm not trying to say that I'm the best mom ever - WINNING! - and I'm not trying to espouse a particular parenting philosophy.  I just want my kids to thrive.  To grab every opportunity presented to them with gusto.  To feel empowered to try new things, meet new people, go new places, all without fear, like I had.  And so what if next year my little ballerina decides she's done with dance and takes up water polo or welding?  So.  What.  My son has already switched from soccer to chess and drums and has informed me that next up is karate, piano, violin, and guitar.  I say: try it!

Last Saturday, I drove home from the grocery listening to From The Top, the classical performance show featuring super talented kids.  An eleven year old boy stepped up to the mic and talked about the 16th century Strativarius he was playing on loan from the Stradivari Society of Chicago, "It's older than my dad!" He was charming, adorable. And then he lit bow to strings and I started weeping.  Weeping, in the car, alone on my way back from the grocery, because this child - this eleven-year-old boy - was playing the most gorgeous, nuanced solo I had ever heard.  Because he explained that he was inspired by cellist Joshua Bell.  Because this week he has the opportunity to play Bell's signature piece  - in front of Joshua Bell.  This boy followed his dreams and his parents supported him along the way.

I doubt that I have two little super star kids and that's not really my goal.  I just want to get out of the way and let their talents grow and shine, nurturing them with attention and love and the permission to bail out whenever they feel it's time.

Here is a link (with video of eleven-year-old Nathan Meltzer) to last week's From The Top:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Do Less

Did you come out to The Writer's Block Festival?  I hope so.  If you didn't you missed some good conversations, great people, inspiring readings -- I feel like a schoolgirl, OMG, Anis Mojgani, I heart heart you.  That's right, double heart.

I bolstered my nerves and even sat on a blog panel (shivering with illness, so who knows what pearls of wisdom I imparted) and read an unfinished, unpublished essay about shoes.  It was dope.  I.  Am. White.

Moving right along, this is another nut job week in Casa de ADD.  My eight-year-old has been invited to perform with The Dance Theatre of Harlem.  Yes, this is a BFD and yes, I realize she, like me, is also white.  How long has she been rehearsing, you ask?  Negative one day.  Rehearsals start tomorrow, go for three days, then dress rehearsals and two shows this weekend.  Because, who needs rest, right?  I'm attempting to jumpstart her homework (which, coincidentally, is a poster/paper project entitled, "Got Talent?") so we don't end up in tears later this week.  All of this scheduling is hard.  Hard for the typical parent.  Harder for the ADD parent (who is also sick with multiple maladies thanks to overdoing it last weekend.  This should work out great!).  I actually collected 44 student papers yesterday and said to myself while smiling at each student's face, "I'm not reading these.  Ever."

I keep thinking, if I can just make it to next weekend . . .

And then 5 squillion new invitations and obligations arise.

My motto for the new year, because I need to have a goal and that's just far enough away that I'm not sabotaging myself: Do less and enjoy what I do.

What about you?  What do you do when you get overwhelmed with your life?  Your kids' schedules? Your spouse's anger at the dog trainer that leads to subversively whispering to your puppy to "fight the power"?  Do you look ahead and make resolutions or pacts with God?  Do you scribble down hopes in a journal or vent to a friend? Do you start making martinis at 2PM?

I think I will just repeat my mantra until I either accomplish it or go crazy with repetition.

And to leave you with a smile, Anis Mojgani:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Get Ready to Rock the Block at The 2012 Writer's Block Festival

My life has felt particularly pulverized, blender-style, as of late, but today is my first "day off" in a month and I'm feeling the love, Tuesday.  I still have my jammies on.  My cup of coffee is full (but I did run out of soy creamer - curses!). My pile of student papers has dwindled to a do-able final four.  Kids are at school.  Both dogs are snoring.  Ahhhhhh.  This is what it's all about.  These moments of quiet reflection and focus.  Rare and intoxicating.

All of that calm will come to a crashing end this weekend, but in a good, writerly way.  It's time for the Second Annual Writer's Block Festival in Louisville, Kentucky!!  Woot, woot!  I have served on the planning committee, designed the program, will be volunteering in multitudinous ways on the day of, and will be representin' for Bloggers everywhere on a panel of local bloggers! Can I get a "What, what!"?

Here's the sweet info. 

The Writer's Block Festival
 If you are local or regional, there is still time and room to register for workshops (and let me just say that the workshop leaders are award-winning professionals like my fellow Earlham alum - and OA resident circa 1986 - Maurice Manning, Frederick Smock from Bellarmine University, and the illustrious novelist, my buddy and most excellent former downstairs neighbor, Kirby Gann).  You don't have to pay to attend readings and panels, if that is more your thang.  Do come, though.  It's going to be a great time.  Plus, the Flea Off Market is happening around the corner, meaning shops and restaurants will be open and festive.  It will be a regular NuLu fiesta!