Author Archives: notjustkiddingaround

Abby

This is the summer of Abby for me.

I find myself thinking about her at the strangest of times. At first this obsession seemed like it was a crush. It felt weird and long ago like puppy love even. Abby Wambach makes my heart soar a little. This summer she was part of the U.S. Womens’ National Team that won the World Cup. Those ladies were all amazing. Pinoe with her crazy heart and Alex Morgan with her break it open speed. Hope Solo with her calm “I got this” presence. Carli Lloyd and Tobin Heath, the fierce Jersey Girls- I was/am one of those. I played field hockey, not soccer. And that defense. You have to really know sports to know what defense means. Klingenberg and Krieger.  Johnston and Sauerbrunn. They were like roots. Without roots there is no use for wings. This USWNT was deeply rooted and they soared.

But Abby Wambach is something different for me. Perhaps it is because I do not think she would want it to be this way. She is part of the team. She sees that as the highest honor. The best expression of her strength. She sees joining these women and believing in the win until it happens as far bigger than her alone. I played sports for that reason. A state championship team in softball. During the final game, I stood behind the catcher, who had so ably taken my position because of a season ending injury. I stood rubbing a cramp out of her throwing shoulder because she needed to be able to gun out the runners who could steal bases on the other team. And, I was…happy. I did not get to actually call pitches or approach the plate in clutch situations, but I was happy because I was part of something larger than myself. Not easy to do. To join many different people together to conquer another team, to conquer the sometimes unbeautiful in ourselves.

This time, Abby did not play every minute. But I know she played every minute. I can’t be totally sure of this fact because we are not friends. (Although I wish the friends part with all my heart.)  She played every minute I think in her heart, with her presence. I imagine that she rubbed shoulders and cheered attacks. From where she sat, she ran beside her teammates. And now it seems that all anyone wants to know is if she will play in next year’s Olympics. But, what they maybe don’t see is all of the lifting and miles and stretching and drills and turf toe and turf burn that go with the answer, “Yes. I will play.”

I see it Abby.

This has been the summer of Abby for me. Some of that has definitely been crush. But, mostly Abby has reawakened in this post-C section, me-as-an athlete-doubting self, a memory, a desire even to be the athletic me again. When I watch Abby, I remember me- the athlete.

So in this, my summer of Abby, I want to say, “Thank you #20!”

Now when people ask me if I am going to, my answer, “Yes. I will play.”

The Power of the Two Page Paper

Hans Morsink was my favorite professor at Drew University. For most of my classes in my major, philosophy, he was the teacher. In almost every one of those classes, I was one of ten learners. And, of those ten learners, I was often the only woman. (At first my Dad thought that last fact might be how I chose my major). But, I loved being in such a small learning group. It meant I had to talk hard and listen harder. Professor Morsink assigned reading and then facilitated discussions that helped us think our way through the thinking of the great thinkers.

I thought it was awesome.

At the end of the very first survey class that we took as Freshmen, I literally skipped down the path back to the dorm, sure that I had found my major. I loved that first class. I sort of felt lost most of the time but it was like being lost in the Alhambra. I was stimulated. I felt like I was learning to see differently. I could literally feel my brain shifting. I was turned on.

When I got syllabus at the start of one of the courses I took with Hans, I learned that there would be no final exam and no final paper. There would be no mid-term exam or paper either. Instead, we would be asked to do our reading each week and then hand in a two page paper. The paper was to be exactly two pages. Not more and not less. The paper needed to use the weekly reading as both impetus and proof of the theory we put forth. At first, all of us in the class thought that we had gotten a humongous break.

It was the hardest, and the most rewarding class I took as an undergraduate student. Every week I would struggle to fit my thinking into the two page limit. I took too long to get to it. That was mostly what I learned in those 13 weeks. These papers required hours and hours of work. Sometimes I would draft a first try quickly, only to find that I had three or four pages. Then, I would have to start again. I mean completely all over again.

Other times, I would try to cut my thinking short and then I would only have a page. Making it longer would mean that I would have to enter into a place where starting would mean stopping and stopping was tricky. Say too little and you risked murky, flimsy argument. Say too much and you risked diluting the power of your argument with less stellar logic.

I loved those two page papers. Each word mattered. Each sentence too. And each paragraph needed to fit tightly to the one that came before. Often, It was down to the last sentence. How to end? (Not like that)

Even now I think, “Want to evaluate how much I understand?” Ask me to tell you in two pages or two minutes. My boiled down version should definitely tell you what was in the pot in the first place.

Goodbye Baby Chicks

It was time for lunch and I had a conference call to answer in exactly 4 minutes. Coming down the main stairwell, with the smell of tater tots in the air, I ran smack into some kind of traffic jam. It was kids. Kindergarten kids were gathered in a big bloom at the base of the steps- bouquet style, not garden row style. Now, I will definitely miss that call again, I thought.

But, because I was already slowed down, I switched into let’s take a closer look mode. Twenty or so five year olds were gathered around a Target tub that was filled with hay and… chicks. The children were bent close whispering to them, “Goodbye, I will miss you,” and “I love you.” I found out later that they devoted their reading practice for the last two weeks to the chicks. Those fuzzy babies listened to beginning readers, endlessly patient with only cuteness to offer as feedback. The children chose books they thought a particular chick might like and they reread pages if they thought it was not good enough for their chick loves. The kids gave back the gift of reading.

My phone buzzed hard in my pocket but still I lingered. I noticed a man next to their teachers. After a minute or two, I found out that he was the farmer who would be taking the chicks from their Harlem P.S. home. One little boy, with a fuzzy head called, “Are you going to take good care of them?” When the farmer said he would, the boy repeated, “Take really good care of them?” That farmer smiled and answered yes again. And then, he stood there. Patient. He probably had been In a rush to beat the traffic or to meet some deadline or to make some conference call, but he and none of us could stop watching.

This moment was happening and yet it did not just happen. Two beautiful people are called teacher in the room these children class. They made this moment by planting seeds garden style. The right time and the right place and the right container. The kids bloomed in that care-full preparation, bouquet style, to say goodbye to the baby chicks.

I am sure glad I was stopped by their traffic jam!

A Formal Japanese Tea Ceremony

Twenty eight New York City third graders set out in snow flurries two days back after February break. They boarded a yellow bus and put on seat belts. They tried hard to not lean into the aisle with their heads and their bodies. They resisted the urge to yell from front to back just to have someone’s head pop up and say, “What?!” On the bus, the third graders tried hard to keep from singing “Let it Go” so loudly that the bus driver might stop the bus at a light and just get off. (Public transportation could get her everywhere after all.)

They did pretty well. But, as we herded off the bus, it was loud. Too loud for a Japanese tea house.

These twenty eight third graders were heading to a Japanese tea house that was disguised as a regular office. On the outside, it was all brick and no windows. On the inside it was sky lights and giant ferns and absolute silence.

The thing is, these third graders, once the door opened to this peace of New York, were absolutely silent. We were there for two hours and they spoke only in hushed tones. The Japanese tea master talked us through each motion of the ceremony. Teaching us what to notice and what it meant. The kids sat on their knees and learned that they could speak only of the ceremony or the tea house itself. No other conversation was allowed. Nothing from the outside was allowed inside this silent space. At first the kids were just silent and then they began to try.

“Um, what is the mat made of that we are sitting on?”

“Why are the walls made of paper?”

“Do we get a container of this tea to take home with us?”

And, when the tea master told us that we must slurp our tea loudly so that we can pull the frothy green from the bottom of our cup, Brandon slurped so loudly that even the master laughed. He broke character. He was enjoying them. Really enjoying them.

I went on a class trip with twenty eight third graders to have a moment of contemplation in a life filled with hurry up and go. At this tea ceremony I remembered what it could mean to just be there, to just be in the moment. The third graders did too.

The Boss

I love Bruce Springsteen.

But, when I was sixteen, I loved him with something bordering on obsession. Okay, so it was no Romeo and Juliet kind of scene. He was not my beloved in quite the same way at all. Mostly because he did not know he was supposed to be.

Bruce Springsteen was the soundtrack to every late night studying session. He was my running music for field hockey and my typing music for AP English. I could sing every word to every song and this was before I could cheat and Google for the lyrics. I earned those lyrics from stop-rewind-play over and over until whole tapes wore flimsy and separated from their spools.

I still know every word to every song (Okay maybe not the newest songs. Who do you think I am? Barbara Rosenblum?!)

Anyway, in the spring of my sophomore year, I begged my parents for Bruce Springsteen tickets. They were expensive. And, to boot, my parents lived by the rule of equal money for all. That meant that any expense, especially a frivolous one, would need to be replicated at least in monetary value for my two other siblings. So, we did not get the tickets.

But, on one of the nights that Bruce was going to play, my parents drove me to the Philadelphia Spectrum to see if some miracle might happen and we might be able to get in. There were no miracles. As the final people rushed past to find their seats, my parents sat on the cement steps that would take us back to our car without hearing Bruce. They sat chatting quietly and I heard the music start inside.

It was muffled music but I was there. I walked closer and closer to one of the cement walls. I could hear a little better. I pressed my ear against the cold cement and I could hear Badlands building to chaos. I figured out that if I pressed my body against the wall, I felt like I was part of the crowd. I sang along out loud. My parents sat talking on the steps. I sang one song after another.

I stayed that way for hours. It was a Bruce concert after all. I don’t think we stayed until the end, but my parents never rushed me and they never looked at me strange. I don’t know what they said to each other in hushed tones.

That was my first Bruce Springsteen concert.

A week later, as I was finishing practice, my mom pulled up. She didn’t usually bring me home. When I got in the car she said, “We have to hurry if we are going to get there in time.” We rushed to some place just on the other side of the Delaware river from the Spectrum. We got tickets from someone who was not official. I knew that much.

I went to my second first Bruce Springsteen concert with tickets my mom found Lord-knows-how. My mom and I sat about 20 rows back to the side. We were close enough for me to fantasize about actually being picked to “dance in the dark” with Bruce.

The music was…transcendent.

And, on that day, I found out that the real boss was my mother!

I can’t remember Dylan’s so I should write Luke’s down

Every Sunday, my husband cooks a big meal. He makes enough for leftovers, and enough to feed the neighbors in the apartments on our floor. That’s how we made friends. On many Sundays, Jimmy will ask the boys what he should make and Luke almost always says, “Chicken cuglets.”

As I was typing that word, I started to think about how I could make you pay attention to the quirky pronunciation of my 5-year-old, and then it hit me. The red line hit me. I forgot that you do not need to pay attention to any such thing, spell check will pay attention for you. And that’s the rub. In an age when so many things pay attention for you, spell check and grammar check for writing, cellphones for pictures and Ipads for video and security cameras for traffic and news tickers and automatic texts from the city of ny, in an age with all of these devices for attending, do we slowly lose our ability to pay attention on our own?

Dylan used to have some of these quirky pronunciations. Weird words that I would never work on changing because I just know that people can sometimes become too conventional, and I never want to help with creating that! I am hoping that my mom saved one or two of these lost words in her heart because she and I are masters at paying attention. Alone we are great but together we are masters. However, while I noticed Dylan’s weird words, I can’t remember them. I think that’s because attention is one thing. Remembering is another. Attention does not guarantee memory. I got it but I didn’t keep it.

So, I also know that writing it down or telling it often can help me remember it always.

I do this weird thing. I don’t know where it came from, but I like to imagine me on my bed in the days before I die. My image is the old me. This me has an old laugh still. Then, when I am living my life as the now-me, and I am feeling really good or my attention is stolen by someone or something, I whisper to myself, “Please let her remember this.”

I don’t ever want to forget that if you ask Luke where the Bulls play basketball, he answers, “Chicongo.” Don’t just see the red line as you read that reader! Say the word out loud wrong! Do it a few times in a row. Say it to someone the next time you get the chance. Use it Luke’s way and then pay attention to the reaction. You can explain yourself. Or not.

And really that’s paying attention, the what and the how of it. You let yourself be amazed by things that seem too small to be noteworthy and then you linger long and laugh. Both the now-you and the then-you will be forever joyful if you do.

By the way, that’s how they do it in Chicongo when they’re eating chicken cuglet  sandwiches.

Pick Up Your Poop

Lest you begin to think that my life is filled with deep thoughts and epiphanies, I present a piece on poop. (Imagine my small laugh here)

Okay, so first, I love New York! From the very first second that I stepped out of Port Authority and almost became part of a taxi bumper, I have been in love with New York. But, my love has faded a little this winter.

I wouldn’t say I have fallen out of love. I am sure the newly mowed ball fields on the Great Lawn and the feeling of sun on my face as I cross to the side with shorter buildings will rekindle my affection. My love has just gone cold a little bit this winter and not because of the polar vortex.

It is because of the dog poop.

There is poop everywhere. People take their sweet pets out for walks to relieve themselves and they just leave the poop behind. 😉  People want pets for love and company. They don’t want the pets to poop in their apartments so they let the pets poop on the shared space of the sidewalk. I don’t get this. I have kids and I don’t want them to poop in my house but I do not let them do their business in public.

The snow is gross. Every pile has a pile on it. Every mound has a mound. I am used to the snow going dark but not with poop. A walk with my sons is like walking an obstacle course. Watch. Watch. Watch. I am never able to look up because of what has gone down on the sidewalk. I am tired of using a toothpick to scrape poop out of the mega-traction snow boots my boys wear to make it through this winter. It is like chasing stink through a maze.

Why aren’t there tickets for poop? This city has a plan to stop double parking. First give warning flyers, and then give 150$ tickets. Nice. I say do the same for the people who don’t pick up. Flyers, then fines.

Or, we could just invent a machine that would instantly separate you from your dog for a set period of time as punishment for triggering my gag reflex with your laziness and irresponsibility.

Sorry if I seem pretty upset. I am.

I love you New York butt … 😉

PICK UP YOUR POOP!