Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Turn on the AC

It is almost May. And I just want to repost my heat fueled litany from last year. It's hot. It's hot every day and that's really boring. And it's hot at the same time our seasonal work life is ramping up for its grand finale, so the external pressures are mirroring the internal tensions and not every one is being her best self.

It's time to turn on the AC.

In Singapore we call it aircon, which sounds to me like some sort of aviation company for prisoners, but maybe that's appropriate. It's time for Aircon to take us away from the boiling temperatures and to keep us going for five little more weeks until we can wake up with lungs full of cool Northwest mornings.

In the meantime, we'll try to behave.

I'm behaving by celebrating these good folks. If you have a birthday coming up, it's possible I enrolled you in a button a month club. I'm not sure that's what you wanted, but it's going to be just great.

I'm also behaving by listening. It's not my gift. I'm really good at being a bad listener. I'm working on it, but I still end almost every social gathering dope slapping my forehead and lamenting, "Shoot! Did it again!" But I'm sincerely trying, and I have patient teachers willing to turn the AC on my hot air and patiently nudge me through more careful exchanges. This last week was full of moments where people needed to be heard, and I hope I carved out some space for that despite the fact we're all sweaty and nervous looking even though it's the weather and not our emotional states.

It's at this point every year that I holler, "Do-Over!" and wish for a speedy end to the miserable temperatures and the mistakes I've made and the time I've wasted and the frayed edges I've helped unravel.

But as a dear friend reminded me recently, every day is a do-over. Every blessed morning, whether that be one awash in cool Cascade breezes or stifling inter-Monsoon haze is a chance to listen a little more, behave a little better, and be proverbial Aircon to those around us. Sylvia Boorstein, a favorite author of mine, writes, "every single act we do has the potential of causing pain, and every single thing we do has consequences that echo way beyond what we can imagine. It doesn't mean we shouldn't act. It means we should act carefully. Everything matters." Knowing her work, I don't think Boorstein is trying to scare us into deliberating over decisions or thinking we're particularly important. I think she's just saying that whether you're gritting teeth through the last five weeks of a school year or lying without a to-do list in the grass under the family pear orchard, you're a force for good. For generous and gracious space. For aircon.

I can be content where I am and still dream a little...right?

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Not just one thing

I spend most of my day with teenagers. And they are fabulous. They are reading wonderful things, and they are telling me observations on life I wish I wrote down with more dedication. But every now and then, I get to visit the littles. The littles with the grand ideas. Today I whiplashed between 9th graders and 1st graders, and man---it was fun!

We talked about fonts, and then we played:

We talked about images and place, and then we played:

Those kiddos surprised and delighted me with their willingness to try, to scribble, and to fill pages full of ideas that were judged not on their alignment to any standard but only by my one rule for the day: "Does this make me happy?"

It made us happy indeed.

So, brain percolating new ideas and pockets brimming with sweet doodles from sincere seven year olds, I raced back to an afternoon with the teenagers. The dichotomy of my day reminded me of a conversation I had with a colleague when I moved from middle school up to the high school. He well intentioned-ly remarked that, "some people just aren't middle school folk." I was mildly offended, as in my transition from betweeners to teeners, I hadn't for a moment wished to escape any age or to shake off my 15 years working with younger adolescents. I just wanted to learn more and try more and explore more. I worried about how my change was perceived by others and whether or not I could be both teachers. Today affirmed for me that in so many facets of life, we are not just one thing. Just like I taught those first graders that we can be both authors and illustrators and creators and typographers, I have to remind myself that I am large, I contain multitudes.  It has taken me a long journey of teaching and creating and living and learning to get to a place where I feel settled in those multitudes.