Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Back to the Water

I've talked to you about water before.  Talked to you about swimming. Talked to you about the pool, about the pond, about the lake.

For about a year now, I've been thinking a lot about water.  About the chaos the ocean represented to ancient peoples, the total absence of control.  About suspension within the depths, both literally and figuratively.  I hinted at it in this post:  hinted at what it means to go deep, below the surface, simultaneously floating but also deliberately diving down.

Somewhere in there is a big story - deep in my writer's heart it seems clear that I'll find my story in the water.

In the meantime, I found a more prosaic way to go meet the water.  I finally sucked it up and re-joined my local Y.  What took me so long? I wondered this morning.  Swimming is an action that lives deep in my DNA, and my body does it without thinking. I sliced my arms into the water, over and over, feeling the familiar burn in my triceps, feeling an unfamiliar burn in my lungs from weeks of inactivity.  What took me so long to come back to the water? 

“Artists and athletes speak of something called “flow.” When they are deeply involved in what they are doing, time ceases to exist. So does their sense of themselves as separate from what they are doing……..Awareness blooms, as the individual self escapes its confines to become part of something bigger than the self.” – Barbara Brown Taylor – An Altar in the World
This morning, I didn't miss pounding the pavement in my Nikes. Didn't miss the iPod or my playlists.  Didn't miss the sweat streaming down my face.  I do miss running.  I may get back on the road someday, after a long season of healing.  But the silver lining has been re-discovering the place where I flow.

The water welcomed me back.  Here, it whispered.  Here is where you will find your own depths.

Diving in: Summer 2010

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Church & Chocolate: The Easter Recap

So totally missed the Stream of Consciousness Sunday post last week when all y'all were seriously on the edge of your seats waiting to hear about the reunion.  But I was still reunionioning, people!  The ladies had one last night of antipasto and drinks before everyone returned to real life.

Determined to avoid that whole strike-while-the-iron-is-cold phenomenon this week, I'm going to go ahead and give you an Easter recap so that your teeth can ache too when you see all the sugar involved in the celebrating.

Ready?  Here goes.


Top Ten Observations about Easter 2011

10) Yet again I did not get my act together:  did not produce handmade & hand-decorated sugar cookies, origami paper carrots, or homemade hot cross buns. Til next year, then.

9)  No one likes hot cross buns.  Scratch last item off list.

8)  Filling Easter baskets without buying big-ticket items like a Wii console or a pony means either 1) small pieces of plastic junk they do NOT need but are wildly attracted to for 5 minutes or 2) going with the 99% sugar, 1% high fructose corn syrup solution.  We went with option 2 this year. Oh, and pencils.  Easter-themed pencils.

7)  They can spend the morning eating sugary items.  They can be offered cookies with brunch,  and chocolate rabbits until they bleed brown, and still at the end of Easter dinner one of them is guaranteed to ask me in a stage whisper "is there going to be any dessert?"

6)  You know an Easter sermon will stay with you all year long when it includes a Wittgenstein quote that moves you to tears.

5)  Six year old boys will still wear what their mother says, bless their cotton socks. Even if it means [gasp!] a sweater vest.  [what? pictures, you say?  well that would assume that the Nilsens could keep their act together from one Major Event to another & keep track of the cable to transfer pictures.  But I'm really not annoyed about it.  Not at all.]

4)  Matching Easter dresses makes the daunting task of raising girls pretty much worth it. [picture, you say?  see above.]

3)  Girls matching? Intentional.  That the entire family wore light blue? Vaguely silly and totally unplanned. But kinda cute.  [Really.  stop asking about the pictures.  It's becoming a sore point around here.]



Gah! Just like that, we are finished our five minutes, people, and me only at Number Three.  Sorry 'bout that.  I'll just let you get back to finishing your own Easter celebrations (or not).  I myself am heading to finish off those Malted Milk Robins Eggs.  Arguably the best Low Quality High Chemical Candy Product on the market.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Oh the places you'll go!

aha... see there?  I tricked you.  You clicked over thinking you'd get a sweet post-reunion recap, didn't you?  Well that's coming friends, but tonight I'm trying desperately to write something for my fiction class, and that's not going quite as smoothly as I was pretending it would.  

There's a blog carnival going on, all about Adventure, at Peter Pollock's site, and I would highly recommend you go over there and be an armchair traveller for a few minutes.  As for me, I'm giving y'all a repost, but until I can pick just which of the many adventures Mr Nilsen's dragged me along on, this just about says it all:


Say you're a girl who likes a routine.  Say you're the kinda gal who might run the same route every day for 2 years, just because you love knowing exactly how many miles you've run, how fast you've run it, and knowing right when the hills can be expected.

Say you're the kind of person who loves to know what's happening today, tomorrow, and the next day.  The kind of person who tries not to cringe when an acquaintance casually says, "Oh, we'll just figure it out when we get there."  What? No plan? Ack ack ack ack ack.

You may be the kind of person who is mortified by these tendencies.  You may wish daily that you were a fly-by-the-seat-of-yer-pants kinda gal.  You may wish that it didn't give you an ulcer to be lost in a strange city, or to rushing for a flight, unsure if you'll make it in time.    You may watch people who operate without a wristwatch with envy, wondering if it EVER bothers them not to know what time it is, or if they're late, or how many minutes it is until their next appointment.

It's funny how life works.  Because say you're that kind of person, and you fall in love with a person who approaches life in exactly the opposite way:  someone who always flies by the seat of their pants, someone who never knows where their watch/wallet/keys are, but lives in faith that these items will turn up eventually.  Someone who hates to brush their teeth the same way twice, much less drive the same road, run the same course, or wear the same shoes two days in a row.

These two opposites might get married, might delight in this particular element of opposite-ness, and might make a darn good life from it.

And then might come a cosmic event where the kids had a day off from school, the Farmor would be in town from Norway, and the forecast for the beach would be sunny sunny sunny. 

Then the Seat of Pants Man may come up with the bright idea of taking off for the ocean - driving into the night, and then spending tomorrow at the beach.  Mrs OCD might struggle mightily with ditching her schedule, with leaving all of her routines at home, with just "throwing sleeping bags into the car" and driving off towards the coast. 

But she will do it. 

Because man oh man does she love the adventures that Mr Seat of the Pants comes up with.  She loves that he has passion for possibilities as-yet-undiscovered, and loves that he ignores (in the nicest way possible) her protestations of practicality. 

So we're off, dear readers.  Off on our next adventure.  Look for photos of the Not-Plan soon.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Reunions: A Spanx-free post

With the whole boot thing, and a handy little running hiatus along with it, I've been joking with people at church that I gave up vanity for Lent.  (This is screamingly funny to a Presbyterian, maybe a Catholic; the rest of you can just nod and smile politely until I get to the real post.)

Here's the thing. I have my 20th High School Reunion this weekend.  And instead of heading into the weekend in the best shape of my life with a big half-marathon race a mere 3 weeks away, I'll be limping into the festivities with my fancy cast and sucking in my gut along with the best of 'em.

I totally forgot to crash diet or to get a boob job before this reunion thing.  I even bailed on buying a new outfit.  How's this for profound insight:  I haven't seen most of these people since the Ten Year event.  They won't know whether or not I wore this outfit 6 days in a row last week!  Pure genius.

I did buy new shoes:  the timeless and go-to salve for the pride of anyone who may or may not have gained a pound a week in the time she wasn't running and ate a lot of Easter candy instead who needs a little boost.

But here's another stunning revelation:  the people I will see this weekend are not attending because they've heard rumors that Kirsten Nilsen nee Schneider bought new shoes.  It's true.  In fact, to preserve what little shred of self-dignity I've got left after this boot wearing incident, let's not even reflect on the percentage of people who are [gasp!] turning up to the reunion not even remembering that Kirsten Nilsen nee Schneider was in their class.

A classic yearbook shot, c1990:  Yours Truly is bottom right with my ladies Clare & Andrea.

Which is all to say this:  reunions are so not about me, or about you.  Pride schmide, vanity schmanity.  We are all going to look twenty years older.  Those of us who spent our high school years lifeguarding are probably going to look twenty four years older.  Lisa Lang will probably look as stunning this weekend as she did the day we graduated.  Some people are just like that.

What this reunion will be is about connecting:  revisiting those small moments in high school when you shared a joke with someone in Chem Lab, when you felt profound empathy for someone's embarrassment, when you watched someone navigate a crowded hallway with an inner grace that had nothing to do with their grades or popularity.  Checking in with people who have lived unusual, adventurous and brave lives and admiring their moxie.  Checking in with people like yourself who have lived entirely regular lives, the lives that probably could have been predicted in June 1991, but have made that their richly embroidered story nonetheless.

So remember this, all of you who feel that you don't want to go unless you're 20 lbs thinner, one marriage happier,  2 gorgeous kids richer.  It's not about you, not really.  It's about connecting as human beings - humans who knew each other at our most-raw, least-evolved time of life.  There's gotta be something said for that kind of knowledge.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I think they call this 'Adventure'

Sucking my teeth, I look down at the brown mosaic tile.

Mommy!!!!!  I is STUCK! A three year old face peers out at me in the crack between door & stall frame.

Really sweetie?  No.  Just turn the handle.  Yep, just turn that silver circle, right there.

No I can't, I STUCK!

I walk away to set down the handsful of stuff I'm holding for her.  Cue panicky small voice:  MOMMEEEEEE!!  Where IS you?  Note to self:  will not be walking out of here to find a small-scale sibling to help.

I go back to the door, and to surveying the industrial brown tile.  Considering the elementary school bathroom stall, scaled down to accommodate even the smallest of kindergarteners.  Eyeing the 9 yards of fabric in the skirt of my Norwegian folk costume, worn for World Fair Day and our 'Norway' table.  Fully conscious of the walking cast on my right foot.


I drop all 6 feet of me onto that elementary school bathroom floor. grab the door frame and slide myself underneath that small-scale stall.  Good news:  door so low that I can reach up and unlock it - easily.  Bad news:  door does not open out.  Instead it swings in and cracks me on the noggin.  Must slide myself back out.  And promptly slam my cast against the opposite bathroom wall.  Ow.

Ms. Three is unscathed, and giggly:  I not need to pee, mama.  I change my mind.


Fifteen years married to Nilsen, and 8+ years of mothering: here's me thinking that climbing on my roof to break into my own house, flying to England with 2 kids under four, and breastfeeding on a speedboat in the rain might have filled my quota of mothering adventures. How foolish of me.

Anyway.  Here we have my favorite part of the week these days:  Stream of Consciousness Sundays.  A 5-minute brain dump is right about my speed.  Y'all should totally do it.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

TV? We Don't need no Stinkin' TV!

Alternative post title:  Oops I Did it Again.  You can read about my previous experimentation with this here.


One request.  There's only been one request in 48 hours.

This from the three kids who start every day with GoodMorningMomCanIwatchashow?  The kids who happily could spend 3 hours in front of the tv.  The kids who pick fights with each other all day long, but manage to compromise over what tv show and when because they know it'll get switched off in a hot minute if they fight about it.

Things generally get out of control around Christmas - extra vacation time, movie classics on TV, slow mornings, lazy (or burned out) parents.   By February, after all the snow?  We are at all time highs for viewing hours.

And I've had enough.

April is Turn Off The TV Month, I told 'em.  Didn't even try to sell it as a science experiment this time.  Just told 'em - the good weather's coming, and I'm sick of hearing about tv.  Don't ask.

It's been 48 hours.  They aren't crawling up the walls, they aren't locking themselves to my kitchen island in protest, they aren't even fighting with each other more.

We did it last year, in the middle of Snowmageddon - 28 days of no tv, no computer games, no sneaky time on Mommy's iPhone.  Spending April the same way? Total cake walk.

She says.


This is posted for Stream of Consciousness Sunday on all.things.fadra   Just the trick to knock out the Sunday Night [With No TV] Blues.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Seriously, April? It's been too long.

and, hey there, March?  Um, don't let the door hit you on the backside on your way out.

Have never been so happy to see the beginning of April.

March.... well.  March is just about the worst month on the calendar.  It is the monthly equivalent of Tuesday in the work week.  (My antipathy for Tuesday - every single blessed Tuesday - is a whole other post.)

I tried to work it, really I did.  We did 'in like a lion, out like a lamb' weather experiments, coloring pages, and data graphing. I enthusiastically cooked up some corned beef & cabbage and made rainbow with a pot of gold fruit salad for St Patrick's Day.  (I drew the line at green milk, however. I wave the Not-Irish AT ALL flag here.)  We learned about kites, and wind, and planting seeds, and everything early-spring I could come up with.  We even threw in a Star Wars birthday party in there!

The weather remained resolutely cold, wet and miserable.  All. Month. Long.

So here's a recipe for great mental health:  take one person with Season Affective Disorder, who just barely makes it through winter on the best of years, and give her an Achilles injury that equals zero physical activity all month.  Then have her start a writing class that is truly exciting, but oh-so stress inducing. (Me:  I am having a little performance anxiety about all this.  Husband:  Is this the part where I say 'no kidding'?)  Add in a little crisis at school requiring some principal-meeting and parent-teacher conferencing,  and coat it all with a thick crust of mud.

Mud everywhere.  Glommed onto shoes, coats, gloves (because oh yes, we still need our gloves!) - in people's toes, in their hair, in their ears.

So yeah.  I greet April with open arms, screaming and running headlong into it like a teenage girl reunited with her boyfriend who was like, totally away for like, a whole week.

I've got, what, eleven months to ignore March, right?
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