Sunday, January 18

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho ...

More things we like

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm taking in a lot more work these days. Between taking care of the Critter, getting my work done, and that other thing ... what is that other thing??? ... oh, right: sleep ... I find I have much less time to pursue my personal projects, such as this blog. I do not wish to neglect these projects altogether, however! Thus, my goal is to publish one post each week. You may have noticed that I have not met that goal thus far this year, and so I encourage you to subscribe to this blog.

Meanwhile, I also encourage you to check out 43 Folders, a blog I've been checking into recently, especially if you do creative work. (Don't check out this blog instead of doing your creative work, though!) This recent post about the desire to "feel creative"—as opposed to the reality of actually doing creative work—has been a recent inspiration. Lately, of course, I have been neither feeling creative nor doing much of my own creative work (see above), but the Critter won't be four months old forever....

Saturday, January 17

At Home, But Unhappy

Suddenly I've got more work than I know how to get done (and no babysitter). One current project is to write a handful of passages, items, and lessons for a test preparation book for first graders. Yes, indeed: for first graders. Debates about No Child Left Behind and high-stakes testing aside, I can tell you this much: spending time on the lessons in such a book might help a child improve his or her test scores, but it is unlikely to stir any excitement about reading. Certainly not the wide-eyed, bobble-headed excitement that I see in our four-month-old Critter's face when I turn the pages of The Very Hungry Caterpillar for him.

Ah, school. What else is it for but to crush your spirit? I do my work, the Critter on my lap, and consider these sentences:
Education on Freud's view is precisely the attempt to make children (and adults) forget about what most interests them. Our unique attachments to the world are what education is designed to erase, and it is those unique attachments that make knowledge real for us, as opposed to mere rote exercise.
I quote from an essay in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy, "'My God, It's Like a Greek Tragedy': Willow Rosenberg and Human Irrationality," about Willow's sixth season–concluding attempt to bring about the end of the world. It was while attending the International Reading Association's 2006 Annual Convention (about which I remember little other than the ugly carpeting extending toward all horizons of the massive McCormick Place, Chicago's convention center) that I read this essay, and, gazing at all that carpeting, asked myself, What have I been doing with my life?

Like Willow, I was good at school. Success at school involved a paradox, however: I was at home in the classroom—particularly the English classroom, where poetry, novels, and stories were the subject—but unhappy. There was always too much to do, and I felt I was smothering something else in myself in order to measure up to what seemed to be expected of me. And so I mastered the invisible curriculum, learning to put aside my own desires in order to accomplish what others expected of me.

Who were those demanding others? Parents? Grandparents? Teachers? Though I possessed an abundance of wild energy, like many children, I wished to please. So now that I have my own wild little Critter, I see just how important it is for us—parents, grandparents, teachers—to carefully consider what it is that we expect of our little ones—and whom (or what) those expectations really serve. And what worries me most as I write and edit the various lessons, teacher editions, and tests from which I make my living (what, indeed, am I doing with my life?) is that I consider very little of it good enough for my boy.

Thursday, January 1

The Year of the Critter

About eleven months have passed since my last run. I had planned to run as long as possible through my pregnancy, but because of the (slight) threat of miscarriage early in the pregnancy, I had to give up strenuous exercise. By the time I was told it was okay to run again, my body had changed enough that running just didn’t feel right anymore. Now I wait for the Critter to get big and strong enough for me to take him out running in our jogging stroller. Meanwhile, I miss my long Saturday runs under the cold, darkening sky of a winter afternoon and my early morning runs toward the sunrise, seeing the last shadows of night lift from the trees in Prospect Park.

Because I could not run, I spent the year of the Critter going on long walks through the park, taking different paths just to see where they go. In that time, I discovered waterways, bridges, and grassy knolls that in about six years of going to the park several times a week I never knew existed. If it weren't for the Critter, I might have kept on running on the same paths as before. I might never have followed the Lullwater Trail or climbed to one of the highest points of the park to see the silver ribbon of the sea at the horizon.

Below: the Critter on his first walk in Prospect Park. I did all of the walking; he slept.

It's difficult to believe that a year ago today, the Critter was hardly more than a wish—either just conceived or about to be. Among the scraps of poems, stories, and songs that my mind has returned to again and again since the Critter's birth is a passage in To Kill a Mockingbird. Dill has run away from his folks because, he says, they weren't interested in him and didn't want him around. Scout cannot comprehend this situation.
As Dill explained, I found myself wondering what life would be like if Jem were different, even from what he was now; what I would do if Atticus did not feel the necessity of my presence, help and advice. Why, he couldn't get along a day without me. Even Calpurnia couldn't get along unless I was there. They needed me.
Now that he's here—and has changed everything—how I need my little Critter.

Many blessings to all in 2009.