Archive | January, 2012

Memorable Moments with Children (or: You Just Said What?)

18 Jan

Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Anyone with children knows that they have an amazing super-power:

They can embarrass us with no fair warning.

At dinner tonight, we were laughing with the kids about a few good memories, most of which involve human body parts or funny twists on words:

  • When she was about 2, my daughter skipped past the small-talk of introductions upon meeting new people. She instead went straight to the point: “Do you have a penis or a vagina?” Around this same time, she was also convinced that my mother had a penis. We repeatedly reassured my mother that her first grandchild’s faux pas had no real underlying meaning–only that she was undeniably and always in charge.
  • While driving to her dance class once day, my daughter and I were listening to the radio. NPR was on, and they were talking about basketball games. Were were in the period of March Madness, and my daughter was about 5 years old. She didn’t often take in topics like this, so I was surprised when she commented, “Wow, that must be a pretty wonderful game.” “What game?” I asked. “The game where they get the big cookie,” she said. I had to think for a minute: WHAT IN THE WORLD WAS SHE TALKING ABOUT? This was basketball, pure and simple, no cookies involved. “I don’t understand, honey,” I replied. “What cookies do you mean?” “The championchip game.” Oh. Yes, that would be quite the cookie.
  • I have found that one of the best times to talk about topics no one likes to discuss is in the car. It’s the perfect setting: everyone is trapped and must listen. This works quite well for sex ed conversations, for example. Years before we had to go into the intimate details of this, my daughter blurted out the question: “Do babies really come out of your bum?” She was about 7 or 8. We have always been anatomically correct in our replies to these types of questions, so in a very matter-of-fact voice I told her from where they typically emerge, briefly. She got very quiet, then burst out laughing–loudly–saying, “No way, Mom! That canNOT be!” She was doubled over laughing for so long and didn’t really believe me on this point for some time.
  • Both of my kids nursed. My daughter did for about 1.5 years, and my son did until he was 3. (Think what you’d like — I don’t really care, and the World Health Organization recommends it up to the age of 5.) When he was 2, I took him to a professional conference with me, a conference where I was in the midst of mostly men and just a few other women. My mom (see above) was there with me to help. While we were eating dinner with the large group, I was in the line for food. Mom and my son were across the room, when suddenly I heard loud and clear: “NEW-NEW, puh-leeze!” He was not requesting new potatoes. And most people could guess what he meant. Oh, well. Everyone else was eating, too.

Opportunities for being reminded that (a) we are not in charge and (b) you can’t make this stuff up.

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Flow

6 Jan

Image: posterize / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This year my simple goal is to put myself in more situations where I can achieve flow. These experiences make life richer and more rewarding.

Flow is an ultimate state of happiness–derived from being immersed in creative pursuits or other situations that put you “in the zone.” You can learn more about this concept named and studied by University of Chicago psychology research Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi by watching this TED Talk or this short interview.

I started to make this list of activities that get me into a state of flow:

  1. Listening to album-oriented music. Musicians who intentionally create albums–not individual songs–explore their art in greater depth than hit-makers. There’s a story in the collection of songs, like reading chapters in a book. I include current artists The Black Keys, Adele, Florence and the Machine, The Joy Formidable, and Arcade Fire among my favorites. Dvorak’s Cello Concerto (in particular the 1969 Berlin recording with Karajan and Rostropovich) is a “best of.” Listening to an album in its entirety is a simple luxury not to be missed.
  2. Writing. I am very lucky to work in a profession where I get paid for being creative. It feels good to get lost in the process of writing. I can do this for hours at a time, which can be very productive and works out quite well in terms of having this as a career. Professionally, I can write about topics that would probably be considered boring for most people, but I enjoy learning about them and translating them for wider appreciation to a broader audience. I also like to write in my off-work hours for personal enjoyment, a combination of blog posts, essays, and poetry.
  3. Yoga. I tried hatha yoga many years ago and was not able to truly enjoy it. It moved too slowly, and the poses felt disconnected. While watching more flexible people touching their toes, I was bored and felt inferior. Once I tried Ashtanga yoga, where the poses are connected and the movement is more aerobic, I began to appreciate it. The level of physical difficulty and endurance is a challenge that I enjoy. V Power Yoga is my favorite place locally to practice yoga in a group setting. I alternate between flow and asking myself “Is she trying to kill me?” when the instructor heads into the nth repetition of a series of poses, but it’s all for a good cause.
  4. Teaming with people I trust. When rolling up sleeves for a project at work, the experience is funner and more fruitful if the group can let go of expectations, personalities, limitations…and creatively solve a problem. I am grateful to work with folks that get into this mindset. Being passionate about creativity and productivity is a good thing.

There are more that I could list for myself. And for everyone the list is different.

Turning off this episode of flow. Must go to work now!