The new book has been out in the world for a little over a month and that means reviews and feedback have been coming in and I realized recently that how I deal with that feedback has changed over the years.
I used to fear and cower from it. I’d have a knee jerk reaction to all of it. Any criticism couldn’t possibly be right. What did they know? I was the author. Now, I listen and I often cherish the flaws more than the praise.
What critics and readers often don’t like or find uncomfortable or different about a work is often the best and most interesting thing about it. Those are the parts worth digging into. Those are the parts that keep a work unique and individual.
They are not always right. Neither am I. But it’s worth listening to carefully. Continue Reading
Cecilia has to pick her high school classes this week. Yeah, it took a hot minute for that to sink in initially.
If I could go back to my eighth grade self and give him one bit of advice it would be to dial back the stress and subsequent anxiety by a factor of 10. The “right” classes and the “right” school matter far less than the everyday habits that you develop during this time.
Those are far better indicators, and far better tools, to navigate through life.
Don’t believe me, eight grade self? Maybe you’ll listen to Leonard Cohen. Adolescents seem to gel with his vibe:
Sometimes when you no longer see yourself as the hero of your own drama, you know, expecting victory after victory, and you understand deeply that this is not paradise and you’re not gonna get it all straight.
I found that things got a lot easier when I no longer expected to win.
You understand that, you abandon your masterpiece, and you sink into the real masterpiece…
I spent the last week going over the edited manuscript for the new book. It might be the part of the process of writing that I enjoy the most. It dovetails nicely with my “fix-it” brain. See a problem, evalaute a problem, fix a problem. It’s a lot easier than the actual writing. Very few writers like that actual writing. They like having written.
But this fix-it mentality is a double-edged sword. Writing, or parenting, or life in general comes with expectations. Trouble can start when the expectations don’t match up with reality.
That stress between how we thought something would go and how it actual plays out can either make us or break us.
There is certainly possibility in that friction especially when you are trying to be creative but if you are parenting hanging on to those expectations will often lead to frustration.
I am trying very hard these days not to be quite so inflexible about those visions in my head and rather to pay attention to what’s in front of me and the possibilities of what I can do with it. Continue Reading
On Valentine’s Day this week, Cecilia cleaned her sneakers and I thought about love. Stay with me for a moment. The cleaning was not just a cursory wipe down, either, it involved spray bottles, hair dryers, and copious amounts of paper towels. She put in the time and effort. In short, she cared.
We often think of love as leading to care, but I think the opposite is just, if not more, true. Care can lead us to love.
The author Alison Gopnik writes about parenting and children: “This caring changes us, and deepens our love. We don’t care for children because we love them. We love them because we care for them.”
This sort of blew my mind and I’m not even sure if it is true, but even if it isn’t, it is a very useful fiction, because it encourages us to action, not to passively wait for the feeling. Be the verb first.
Too much to take from a shoe cleaning? Continue Reading
It was a jolting revelation to get an email reminder this week for Cecilia’s upcoming high school information night. As if my birthday wasn’t enough of a nudge that time was clearly accelerating.
By the end of the calendar year, we’ll have a high schooler. Yikes! Michelle then pointed out that we first met when she was just five years older than Ce is now. I put my fingers in my ears and ran out of the room.
After 45 years, if I could go back and give my younger, Cecilia-age self some advice it would be learn these four phrases and use them often: “I was wrong.” “I’m sorry.” “I don’t know.” and “I need help.”
No need to complicate things. Simplicity leads to wisdom.
Here’s my annual birthday list of things I was grateful for last year.
There’s no time to waste. On to Saturday! Continue Reading
We had the talk about the basement again this week and as the weekend approached I could see Michelle getting more agitated. She really wanted to clean it. Better yet, she wanted to purge and eradicte clutter.
We were hosting a second birthday party for Ally. That’s right, she somehow managed to get us to agree to a second, joint birthday with her out-of-town (i.e., non-school_ friends. She looks innocent but she’s devious. In preparation for the party, we were straightening up. Or, I was straightening. Michelle was tossing things in garbage bags and sneaking out the back door.
Is a spotless house with no clutter, no mess, no evidence of kids really the goal?
There is a particular table in our basement. We’ve had it since our first shared apartment. Ally now uses it as her craft table and it is a maelstrom of mess no matter how often we attack it.
You know what? Kids are messy. The more chaos, the more mess, the more fun they’re likely having. And the more fun they are having, whether they’re toddlers or teenagers, the harder the evidence is to hide. And why, would you want to hide it?
This isn’t to say we should let everything go, but you do have to let some things go. You’re going to have to accept some mess.
Because it’s beautiful evidence. Evidence that the kids are alright. Evidence you are doing some things right. Continue Reading
One of my favorite things about being a member of my local running group is the various ages of people that it brings me in contact with each week. My experience is no longer defined just by the parents from daycare or from fourth grade or from the cul de sac. It opens me up to a wider range of opinions, experiences, and…knowledge of whiskey brands. Love of beer and bar trivia were just a happy accident, I swear.
So, I found myself nodding along and recognizing some of myself in this article that circumvents those calendar-based designations designed to divide us into marketable groups in favor of a mindset.
“A Perennial is a self-selecting, positive term for curious people who resist being defined by any one characteristic, especially age. Perennials get involved, stay curious, mentor others, are passionate, compassionate, creative, confident, collaborative, global-minded, risk-takers who continue to push up against our growing edge and know how to hustle.”
Those characteristics all sound like things that would be good for me, my kids, and my friends. Relevance for all ages. Continue Reading