Sleepovers, Silliness, and the Terrors of Technology

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Light as a feather, stiff as a board. Light as a feather, stiff as a board. Light as a feather, stiff as a board. I remember lying on the floor in a friend’s bedroom, or perhaps living room. I might … Continue reading

I’m the Worst . . .

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I’m the worst parent because I expect my daughter to treat me with respect, and don’t allow her to blame me for her own mistakes. I’m the worst professor because I expect my students to read, do the work, think … Continue reading

Morning Moments

I wake, early as usual, torn between relishing the moments of silence and yearning to return to sleep.  I glance over to my daughter sleeping beside me, after a middle of the night journey into my room.

“I can’t sleep,” she said.

“Climb in,” I said, too tired to fight.

I didn’t notice until this morning that she brought my old teddy bear blanket with her, remnant of my college days that has now become her safety zone, her comfort.

Warm, Cozy, Safe

Warm, Cozy, Safe

I know sleep will not return, so I take a chance and turn on the light. Nothing wakes her. I open a book, inspirational, beautiful, awe-inspiring. Written by my former professor, the prose makes me aspire to become a better writer, but at the same time makes me doubt that will ever happen.

“Feeling better than she had for ages, she watched Aidan tramp toward the woods. Before when she’d tried to catch even a little ole breeze, it’d just blown through her hand. She sighed. A magic man for sure, he was tall and handsome and wild–eyes the color of Spanish moss and hair as dark as coal. He carried a scent of hard work, strong drink, and heavy sorrow. Aunt Elisa and Uncle Ladd watched him too, ’til he was a streak of light among the dark pines. She had someone to believe in her how. And didn’t that make all the difference?”  (Andrea Hairston, Redwood and Wildfire)

I yearn to find my voice.

The alarm goes of to the same song that wakes me every morning with its gentle tones. I should listen to that CD more often, I think. It soothes me. It calms me.

I wish for a few more moments of silence. Of peace. But I must get Sarah up and moving for a non-stop day that starts with a “Pirate Picnic” at school, ends with a dress rehearsal for her dance recital on Saturday, and also includes an orthodontist appointment, trips back and forth to school, and the unpleasant cleaning of the refrigerator that must happen before trash day tomorrow.

 

Pirate Captain Sarah with a visiting Pirate at the Pirate Picnic. Do pirates have picnics?

Pirate Captain Sarah with a visiting Pirate at the Pirate Picnic. Do pirates have picnics?

We spent yesterday afternoon getting ready for today, or so I thought. “Why don’t you pull out your pirate outfit so its ready for the morning?” I said.

She did . . . she pulled out a shirt. I guess I should have checked.

“What should I wear under this shirt? Where are my undershirts, I can’t find them? I don’t know where I put them! What pants should I wear? I wish I could have the right earrings? What do you mean hoops, I don’t have hoops?” {she does, including my old ones} ”Can you tie my shirt better? I need my bandana, I wish I had one that looks more like a pirate. What do you mean I do? Oh, yeah the one with the skull and the cross bones and the ears. I don’t think we have time to remove the ears.”

“We would have if you had done as I asked yesterday,” I point out. My comment falls on deaf ears.

Meanwhile, amidst the chaos I manage to get her fed, dressed, and out the door where she stops and says in a voice that contains the mystery of the universe, a whisper of awe and power:

“Bunny!”

I look over to see a large rabbit sitting and watching the world from the center of my yard. Of course, I don’t have my camera, and it’s time for the bus. The rabbit is still sitting there, in a slightly different place when I return, but by the time I get my camera he is gone, of to do his morning rabbit duties. (I say he because I imagine that a mother bunny is somewhere with her little baby bunnies, but I have no idea).

He sat there for a while contemplating the world, watching the morning, finding peace.

The view the rabbit might have seen.

The view the rabbit might have seen.

For a moment I envy the bunny. While still at alert, he sat for for a long time, enjoying the moment, morning, the sunshine, the peace without worrying about the chaos to come. Or at least I imagine he had no worries. I wonder what rabbits really think about.

Tomorrow morning I think I’ll aim to be the bunny.

How was your morning?

My Daughter’s Future

My daughter is in fourth grade. Her elementary school decided to have a college day today, as I believe the high school is holding an actual college day with visits from colleges. In Sarah’s school, they wanted the kids to wear college paraphernalia to celebrate college day. Sarah wanted to wear something from the college she plans to attend, although how she has any idea at 4th grade is beyond me. ;)

Future Smithie

 

Okay . . . Okay . . . perhaps I’ve influenced her a bit, but I would never pressure her to go to Smith just because it’s my alma mater. I want her to go to the place that suits her needs and her goals. I want her to pursue her dreams, and not feel obligated to follow in anyone’s footsteps. If that means taking time off before college, I’ d support that. While I appreciate my time at Smith, I would never claim it was the perfect school. It wasn’t even my first choice. But, since my first choice put me on a waiting list, Smith was an excellent alternative. There are, however, some things I would have done differently with my Smith education, and sometimes I still ask myself “What if?”

I don’t want Sarah to live her life asking “What if?”

As she celebrated her shirt today, though, I began to think about her future.

What kind of future does my daughter have in a world of “rape culture” where victims are blamed and where public media figures can say that a woman should just be grateful toward an adulterous husband, because he’s a man and men have the tendency to stray?

What kind of future does my daughter have when the image of a strong, brave girl is made sexy for marketing purposes?

What kind of future does my daughter have in a world where there are daily attacks on the rights of women to think for themselves, choose for themselves, control their own bodies, and earn the same amount as men for equal work?

What kind of future does my daughter have in a world where even other women don’t recognize the importance and value of feminism, and where some women hypocritically challenge the rights of all people to equal treatment while living lives of privilege? (For an excellent discussion of why feminism is important to both men and women, visit “Feminism will no longer be needed when . . . ” at Think Banned Thoughts.)

Luckily, despite all the struggles, I believe that change will come. With each story that frustrates and saddens me, I find another one to inspire me and give me hope. Change is slow, but I believe it will happen.

So the answer to the question “What kind of future does my daughter have?” is simple: she will have the future she wants and creates. My job is to help her get there with confidence, hope and joy.

That’s a job I intend to take seriously.

Us three

“Put Your Own Oxygen Mask on First”

 The logic of this advice given by most airlines makes sense. You cannot help your child get her oxygen mask on if you are gasping for breath yourself.

Yet how often do we ignore this idea in our own lives? I am guilty. I have spent many years giving everyone else the oxygen they need, little recognizing my own blueness of face and gasps for air.

Yesterday, as Nathan and I took a walk in nature lit by moonlight, we talked about the future and what this upcoming move meant for us as a family and for me as an individual. We had just finished watching Crazy, Stupid, Love which, while fun and funny, also hit a few nerves in some ways. The fact that this couple going through a mid-life crisis of sorts were supposedly only a year older than I am, shook me up in many ways.

After all, I’ve sort of been going through my own  crisis for a while now.

As we walked, I realized that my choice to continually give my family oxygen first has ultimately served no purpose. It has been a crutch of sorts. My responsibilities to family are a convenient excuse for not taking chances or opportunities that come my way. If I start putting myself and my needs first, one of a few things might happen:

  • Option 1: I could take chances and then fail in a blazing crash of destruction, without anybody to hide behind or anyone to blame but myself.
  • Option 2: I could succeed and become completely engrossed in my own world to the neglect everyone else.
  • Option 3: I could take chances, find balance, and show my daughter that a woman can follow her dreams and still be there for the people she loves.

I’m choosing Option 3. By not giving myself oxygen first, I haven’t been doing what is best for all of us. I’m not saying every choice I have made is wrong, but I have not been living to my full potential–and ultimately that isn’t good for anybody.

Yesterday, Sarah told me over ice cream that she wants to spend the whole summer at this “summer home” next year. She and I came up about 6 weeks after Nathan this time, partially so she could be in a show and partially because I had several projects that I was working on (some actually paid).

“It’s more fun if we come for the whole time,” she said.

“Well,” I answered “It depends on if I have work or not. I have the right to work too. But you could always come up with Daddy first, and then I will join you later.”

She looked sad for a moment and then said, “I understand. But what if you get hired here?”

I smiled, “Then that would solve the problem, wouldn’t it?”

I’m interested in seeing where my new take on oxygen leads me. Perhaps it will simply lead me to some new, fresh air. I just have to remember to breathe.

____________________

Today’s Quote

“Self-worth comes from one thing – thinking that you are worthy.”
Wayne Dyer

I Didn’t Think This Would Happen So Soon

Maybe I should have seen it coming. Even when she was an infant, the bond with her wasn’t instantaneous like some mothers claim. Of course I thought she was beautiful and precious, but I didn’t fall in instant love. To be honest, with this little bundle of  squirms brought with her joy, terror, and a form of torture I could never have imagined. Seriously, if  the government wants to pry secrets out of someone they should just have them spend time raising a newborn with all the sleep deprivation and exhaustion attached.

The first person she fell in love with was her Daddy.  She came out of the womb, she heard his voice, and she smiled. She is still Daddy’s Little Girl.

Tiny Sarah

She needed me though. For the milk. For comfort. During the day, she wouldn’t nap unless she fell asleep on top of me. It made for some difficult times, but at the same time it was wonderful.

Only eight years have passed and she has already decided that she doesn’t need me. She wants to spend time with anyone but me. I don’t know where I went wrong, but it seems that I never offer enough fun or stimulation or frivolity to satisfy her. Despite the fact that she does fun things with me all the time, I’m never enough.

And now I am alone with her for the next six weeks. I was hoping it would bring us closer, but it seems like my 8-year-old is going on 18 right before my eyes.

I didn’t think this would happen so soon.

Images of Joy

Thanks to my brother, I got a little reminder of the joy found in childhood.  Sarah and I have been having a rough time lately, so I thought I would remind myself of the joy found in her. I am stealing some of the images he has taken of my daughter (plus adding a few of my own) to celebrate this joy.

Don’t call me Drama Queen and Other Rules of Interaction

A few years ago, at Thanksgiving, I tried to share with my mother something that was really bothering me. I don’t remember exactly what it was; I think it had something to do with my sister. But that doesn’t really matter, what does matter was that she actually responded with, “Lisa, don’t be such a drama queen.”

I lost it.

“I hate when you call me that! Just because I feel something doesn’t mean I am a drama queen.”

And that’s the truth.

I learned to keep my emotions to myself, to the detriment of my own health. I learned to keep things inside because letting them out leads to accusations of being over-dramatic and over-sensitive. But of course, keeping things inside add to the truly dramatic moments such as this particular one with my mother, a crying screaming fest of hurt feelings and accusations that led nowhere.

Sarah is a lot like me, in that she is emotional and is very hard on herself. Yesterday she started crying in the morning when I asked if she had practiced the piano the day before (she spent the day at the theater with Nathan, while I tried to get some things done at home).

“I forgot,” she cried. “And I have a lesson today!” The end of the world as we know it.

“It’s okay, Sarah. Michelle will understand.”

When I picked her up after school she said, “I’m sorry I got so upset this morning.”

“Why did you?” I asked.

“Because I was angry at myself.”

She is me.

So, how does one interact with a person who internalizes every perceived error as further evidence of the imperfections of her own personality? How do you comfort someone who sees the world through emotions? How do you help someone who is  hardest on herself?

How do you interact with yourself?

Here are some suggested rules of interaction with this type of individual:

  • Don’t call her drama queen. It hurts and it’s not true.
  • Acknowledge her feelings and then try to get her to look at them intellectually. “Why do you think you are so angry at yourself for dropping the cup?”
  • Allow her to feel things, but remind her that not everyone sees things the same ways she does.
  • Tell her you love her even when she makes mistakes.

And of course, perhaps the most important rule of them all:

Don’t feed the Drama Queen! It makes her fat and even more dramatic.

I’d Like to Introduce . . . Myself

“”This is Lisa Kramer, the wife of our new Technical Director.”

“This is Sarah’s Mom, Lisa”

“This is Lisa Kramer who has a Ph.D. in Youth Theatre.”

These are the ways I have been introduced lately, or some combination of them. Most often, and most disturbingly, is the introduction as “Nathan’s wife.” Not that I mind being Nathan’s wife, but around here it seems like I can only be identified in that way, and it bothers me. In parting the other day a guest theater artist actually said “So will I see you later Nathan and (pause) wife.”

His wife’s reaction to that was as disturbed as mine was. I love Nathan. I love my family. But I am the last person to see myself as a super successful wife or mother. I’m too selfish for that, and too desirous to be identified as someone or something else. How’s that for a blatant, ugly truth about myself?

Here is the thing about these introductions: THEY DO NOT EQUAL ME!!

For example, the most professional of these identifications pigeonholes me in a frustrating way. True, I have a Ph.D. in theatre for youth. But, in the eyes of many professional theater artists, Theatre for Young Audiences is the bastard stepchild of the theater world. I love it, and I love the power of arts and theater to change the world. I also, love doing theater with and for adults.  My first terminal degree is an MFA in directing. I worked as hard, in different ways, to achieve that degree. In many ways that is the more meaningful degree. (There is a long story behind that).

Also, despite those being my degrees, I have spent the past 5 years teaching research skills, writing, honors, and general education programs. Where does that fit into this definition or label of who I am professionally?

Whenever I ‘m asked to write a bio about myself, I struggle with what to put in and what to leave out. I find it impossible to define myself.

I remember going to a mini-high school reunion once (actually it was a retirement party for my high school drama teacher) and running into someone who I knew when he was a baby. I asked him what he did, and his response was “I’m a dad! I don’t like to define myself by my job.” He said that with a positive sense of identity. He was so proud of that particular role in his life. He had a good job, but chose to identify with his role as family man. I was impressed with that, because most men don’t do that. I don’t do that.

I wonder if my struggle with identifying myself as wife and mother is connected with my desire to see women as capable of anything in this world. Or is it simply my ego at work? Probably that.

I’d like to introduce myself, but I can’t because I cannot put myself into a simple definition.

So, for now, I am Lisa Kramer, a complex version of me.

Does that work?

*******

I’m adding this the next day, thanks to my friend Sue who pointed out that best thing that I can be is a friend. So . . .

Hello, I am Lisa. Good friend to wonderful people like my partner, Nathan, my daughter, Sarah, and all of the other people who make my life so rich, like Sue.