And suddenly it’s December. I’m trying not to panic. So many baking projects still left to do. So many gifts left to buy. So many pages left to edit. So many employee evaluations still to write.
It’s very tempting to just throw in the towel and tell myself I’ll start fresh in January. But I will persist and resist. Some things, of course, need to get done, but others I could put off, but if I don’t, I’m giving myself a 31-day head start on the new year. That sounds pretty good.
Discipline is “the ability to keep your ass in line.”
I hope your table was crowded and your pants were stretchy on Thursday. I was grateful for family, friends, flash cards, and the additional transfer station hours in November.
I recently learned an important parenting lesson from Olive Garden. No, not from the overcooked pasta or undercooked bread sticks. Rather from Cecilia’s mere fascination with the restaurant. She really likes the pasta there. Or the idea of the pasta there. I can’t explain it. It’s sort of drives me crazy that she likes it so much. We go to many better establishments. Michelle makes homemade pasta. Heck, Ce’s eaten pasta in Rome in the shadow of the Colosseum. Why does this place have such a hold on her?
And then I realized I didn’t need to have an opinion. Just like the unlimited salad and breadsticks, Gary might bring them to the table, but I didn’t need to eat them. It’s possible to not have an opinion. I didn’t need to turn faux-grotto columns and reheated sauces into a thing or let it upset me. Why was I letting the mediocre alfredo provoke me? I shouldn’t.
I could curb my emotions. Who knew the OG could pack in the life lessons just as much as the calories? A good reminder for any Dad and a good reminder for the upcoming Thanksgiving week when we gather and inevitably rub elbows with friends and family who have different opinions. Don’t get mad. Tame your temper. Think of the Olive Garden.
I’m not sure if it was the cool, dry weather on a weekend (finally) or stumbling across this quote from Annie Dillard as I finished up working on the manuscript on Friday, but we had a (mostly) ‘Yes’ day yesterday.
“One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now.”
We did not rake leaves, or empty gutters, or obsess over flashcards (okay, a little flash cards). We did not try to bottle up the day and squirrel it away. We let our instincts to be productive, or study, or workout, or hit that word count go dormant.
We wrung out the day and had no regrets.
A brief story and a confession this week. One of those prickly memories that stand out from my childhood, not in a bad way, but just in a very memorable way, is my first R-rated movie. I remember my parents surprising me with a solo ticket to Terminator 2 while they took my sister to see Boyz in the Hood. Or maybe they were seeing City Slickers. My memory is hazy on those details. But I was excited (and a little nervous that the theater people would somehow know I was too young to be in there) to see T2.
No one kicked me out and I loved the movie.
So you’ll understand that I’m a little predisposed to be an Arnold Schwarzenegger fan. I didn’t even need to look up how to spell his last name. If you do not share my adolescent history with one of the world’s greatest actors, please don’t let it color this recommendation but even I was surprised how much I enjoyed his new book Be Useful.
Think what you want of the man, but he’s had an incredible life and you won’t regret reading this. Seriously. I’m not being sarcastic. His podcast and newsletter are also worthwhile. The man knows his Marcus Aurelius.
I didn’t expect to be quoting Ah-nold to my kids with parenting advice this week either, but if it works…
I am developing a working model for talking to teenagers: the goal of every conversation is to get to the next conversation.
Lower the stakes. Avoid old man opinions. Deal with consequences or accountability later. Avoid Dad judgement. Think of the future. Focus on listening. Make sure I have the opportunity to talk about it later.
I should note this does not in any way curtail her judgement or eye rolls or thoughts on flash cards, but she did start her biology cards without being prompted this week, so…
“Listening is how I started. I didn’t start when I was a piano player. I didn’t start as a composer. I started as a listener.” RIP composer Carla Bley. A force in jazz and a good potential role model for two young ladies in this house.
I sometimes put on her music to write depending on the scene. Swap out listening for reading and player for writer and the quote still works. You can’t be a writer without being a reader. I broke out of my reading slump by spending the last week slowly reading the fourth Thursday Murder Club. I didn’t want it to end. Equal parts thrilling, silly, and touching. I want to join a retirement community gang and solve crimes.