Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Declaration of intention

I have blogs in my head. Some seeds of ideas, some partially written out in my mind. Most bloggers have this, I'm sure. I need motivation to get these ideas from my cerebellum through the keyboard and into the universe.

The idea that somebody out there might enjoy the writing doesn't motivate me. Probably because there are too few people who read my blog and too many people whose writing far surpasses mine in abilities to entertain and engage. It's discouraging.

I'm not motivated by the personal satisfaction that I do often gain after completing a decent blog post, since I know self-criticism and doubt will be more immediate.

What does motivate me is deadlines and purpose. I am a task-oriented individual, and so when faced with opportunities to choose the next activity to fill the moments in my day, I always go straight to my to-do list. I find it quite difficult to sit on the couch and read--even if I am engrossed in a great story--when necessary responsibilities are hanging over my head. I use the personally fulfilling activities like reading, and even some of my more enjoyable work tasks, as "rewards" for accomplishing the less-appealing "have-to-do's." And making the representative check mark next to a task on my list fills me with joy.

Because I don't always feel a genuine or significant benefit from writing on my blog, it is not usually the activity of choice when I do find free time.

But by giving my blog deadlines and purpose, I am more motivated and find the writing more enjoyable as well. The more I write, the more people read, which feeds the entertainment value, which is all it's about, really. I did glean a "lousy sense of accomplishment" (see sidebar) after completing NaBloPoMo last November, and even kept up with frequent posting for quite a while after that. Challenging myself to blog every day really did motivate me, and the positive feedback from my enthusiastic reader kept the excitement alive (okay, there might be enough to make it plural).

So, as I learned last year that National Blog Posting Month does not occur during any one month in particular, I've chosen to take my 2009 NaBloPoMo Challenge in October. It wouldn't be as much fun to blog daily in the same month each year; a new month provides new topics. Plus I'll be out of town during November. Here is my October NaBloPoMo badge, but don't expect too much related to the suggested theme for this month:

To my blogging friends and family, I issue an invitation to join the endeavor: 31 posts in 31 days! Come on, don't let me go it alone. And keep the comments coming, or I just might pout myself out of contention.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


My grandmother knows her way around a computer. She is comfortable with email and organizes her vast files of digital photos like nobody's business. I respectfully celebrate the folks of advanced age who appreciate and assimilate with the wondrous technologies our lives are blessed with these days.
Recently Gram has been scanning old photos into the safety of jpeg backups. You know, just like those boxes and boxes (and boxes!) of film prints in your closet/attic/basement containing all of your precious moments which occurred pre-digital? I am so pleased that she is taking on such a big yet immensely important project, and envy her those enchanted hours revisiting cherished memories from a well-lived life.
One daughter of this technologically savvy grandma emailed a few of the recently digitized pictures to all of her siblings, including my mother, who described it to me. Mom and her six siblings lined up in the family backyard with their parents, taken sometime in the late seventies. She explained that she distinctly remembers posing for that picture. At the time she had a couple kids of her own, and some of her sisters were also married and had started families.
My mother then proceeded to share the oddly poignant experience of realizing she is now the grandmother in our photos just like this one. Her family circa 1979 is not very different from ours in 2009, only she has graduated to the next generation. She is now about the age her mother was then, her kids are now the young parents, and she now has the slew of grandkids running around the backyard. Thankfully, this awareness doesn't make my mother sad or regretful in any way. In fact, I know she is proud of her family and I don't think she would trade being a grandma to go back to her days as Homecoming Queen at SHS. But she gained a strange, new perspective on the progression of life from exposure to this photographic recollection.
I listened politely to her explanation and even offered a supportive "uh-huh" where appropriate. Her feelings seemed logical to me, but not the foundation of any kind of epiphany. I mean, we all get older; I was a kid, now I'm a mom, one day I hope I'll be a grandma too. It's just the way it is.
And then Gram emailed more pictures. These featured her lot of young grandchildren on a trip to the zoo. At the time only 11 grandkids had graced the family scene; eventually there would be 32 (I come in at number 17--top of the second half!). One of the photos I had seen before. It had been in frames or passed around at gatherings on occasion. Here it is, showing all the kids lined up in chronological order:
My older brothers are numbers 5 and 7 from the left, and my older sister is second-from-last, in the stroller. I've always thought it's a cute picture, and especially enjoy a glimpse at the current fashions, including my oldest cousin sporting a (gasp!) bared midriff, and the utilitarian strollers.
But this next photo is the one that affected me.
In the summer of 1978 my mother (left) was 27 years old. In this photo she is just a few months younger than I am right now.
This is nearly the same scenario as what my mother described: I see that I am now the woman in that photo, pushing a stroller at the very same zoo. Except for me the poignant discovery is not so much in the realization that I have moved up a generation, as the recognition--more palpable than ever before--that my mother was once me.

She changed diapers, kissed boo-boos, and sang stupid nursery rhymes. Of course I knew she did these things; I witnessed some myself. But my mother has always seemed "older" than me. Even in this photograph where I could be a comrade standing to next to her with my own stroller, I struggle to see us as equals. This may partly be due to those waist-hugging pants that have a tendency to make anybody look 50 (no offense mom, you're gorgeous!), but even without them, my mom always looks to me like my mom. Clearly this has nothing to do with aging.

Now I am a mom, but I still feel like a kid. Well, it's not that I feel childlike, it's just that the essence of who I am and what it essentially feels like to be me has not altered much since I was literally a child. I've always been intrigued by this indescribable concept. I remember being 7 or 8 years old and feeling smart and tall. Yet I had so much to learn and so many inches to grow. And as I learned and grew, the substance of "me" expanded but I never felt taller or smarter. This is an abstract idea that is difficult to put into words. Has anybody else pondered what I am trying to convey?

So my big epiphany, gleaned from the way my reaction to this photo built upon my mother's anecdote about the other, is that she once felt like a 20-something-year-old woman with babies too. Not just did the same things that I do, but actually was the same in so many ways. Felt the same--possibly kind of like a kid herself. And now that she is older, she doesn't feel any different. And when I step into the role of grandma within my family, I will probably still feel like a kid. And I will look around and know that I am old only because of the evidence surrounding me.

A few more notes about the photo:

I left the image un-cropped because I enjoy the background setting. It's pretty special to see this crossroads near the tiger exhibit where I now take my own child, but occupied with folks sporting bell-bottoms and big plaid pants--and not because they're retro chic. I need to remember this when I'm editing my own photos: that sometimes leaving the background details visible will make a picture more precious in the future.

The other woman in the photo is my mom's older sister, heightening its similarity to dozens of pictures I have of me and my own older sister with our own babies. This adds another layer of intrigue considering how my mother and my aunt probably related in much the same way that I do to Diana. If I think about all this too long it starts to make my head spin.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The first day

I've known this day was coming for a long, long time. I didn't think I would be the crying type. I am thrilled for Madelyn to go to school not only for the valuable experiences she will draw, but also for the break it provides for myself!

For several weeks we have been preparing Madelyn with the concept that she will have to go to school all by herself. We practiced giving hugs and saying, "Bye-bye Mommy and Daddy!" I predicted that it wouldn't be quite that simple, but I wasn't entirely ready for her to lock her arms around my neck when she realized we were abandoning her at the doorway of a strange room full of strange people. Her cries of despair made me weep in empathy.

I appreciate the Montessori School's administrator, Kathi, for having the calm ability to firmly but tenderly pick Madelyn up and carry her into the classroom so she wouldn't witness my lapse in composure.

I know that Madelyn is ready to experience learning in a whole new way. She is ready to interact with friends and have the opportunity to respect caregivers other than her parents. I know that it will not be long before she truly loves going to school.

Walking back to the car, wiping tears, I realized I still had Madelyn's jacket in my hand. I wanted to give it to someone so that we wouldn't be judged for sending our child to school without a coat. The classroom door was closed and I could hear Mr. Tarnowski already addressing the children, only two of whom were crying. One was undeniably Madelyn.

"Our classroom is a happy place." A gentle, caring voice.

Today was an emotional day. A brand new world for Madelyn's inexperienced little self. For me, the transition from baby to child became very poignant, as I realized that Madelyn's journey into her education has now officially and irreversibly begun. It's just primary school, but from now on we will be at the mercy of school schedules and backpacks and eventually homework and grades. It is a pretty big milestone, and I guess I hadn't fully recognized all of its implications.

Friday, September 4, 2009

How embarrassing

Is this the automotive equivalent of having TP stuck to your shoe?
I wonder if this transporter had the common decency to rip off the tissue exposed to who-knows-how-many miles of smog and bugs, or if he (/she? Doubt it.) rolled it back up and had himself a good chuckle at the expense of the next unfortunately oblivious bum.


Related Posts with Thumbnails