The School Fundraiser

I was recently at a fundraiser, even though my kids don’t go to that school. I love school auctions. I love the fancy purses, the summer camps, the cabins in the Poconos, the brocade jackets. I can see myself in all of them.

Me and Ang and the centerpiece made of dried fruitUsually, I find myself bidding on the most obscure items. I have bid on the opera lessons for my children – what was I thinking? I paid $100 for something none of my kids wanted.

It is now a running joke. Before I go to the auction, the kids beg, “No opera lessons, please, Mom! Go for the Knicks tickets.” Of course, we never used the opera lessons and I could never bid high enough for the Knicks game. Talk about Lin-sanity!

I root for the underdog, even if my team is in the lead. I feel sorry for the loser. I bet on the longshot. I bid on opera lessons.

I see a trend in fundraising — away from this auction fundraiser and towards a more simple party. We parents are competitive enough already. Why do we have to outbid one another for a psychotherapist’s session or a math tutor? Really?

Couldn’t we all just share a session with the dad who is the shrink or the mom who is the math whiz?

In our present-day culture of Occupy Wall Street and the shift in our workplaces towards more collaborative work styles, there have to be better, friendlier, more cooperatives ways to raise money for our schools.

At my kids’ school now, there is a showcase of the kids’ creative arts. There is no auction. We schmooze and graze, but don’t sit down, like at a wedding. I like that.

These fundraisers are a lot of work and planning. These extravaganzas usually require more delicate and skillful diplomacy than the General Assembly at the United Nations.

So, let’s all thank these hard-working women who make the fundraising benefits happen, (because, yes, the fundraising committee is usually made up of women, except for the bartenders at the fundraisers — they’re usually men.)

While school fundraisers are becoming friendlier, I’m still worried about the the opera lessons? What if no one bids on them?

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No Good Night Sleep

Started walking home last night, on Riverside Drive

For two nights in a row I’ve hardly slept at all. Last night started out well. I fell asleep at 10:30. But C. came into my bed at 11:15, calling, “Mom? Mom?” I blew my lid.

I hate yelling, but there I was, yelling, “Are you kidding me? I need a good night’s sleep! Unbelievable! Get back to bed!”

I believe in the future that yelling at children will be looked in the same way we look at hitting children nowadays — a relic of some misguided child-rearing dysfunction.

C. was just being a kid. She was teary. She was probably worried about returning to school after a couple weeks of Christmas vacay. I don’t know what was going on with her, because I didn’t listen. I had no compassion.

At 3 am, after tossing and turning, I tried to express my unhappiness to my husband but he was not as supportive as I needed.  He was watching the movie, Mean Bosses. The crazy-ness of his staying up all night (due to his Parkinson’s) contributed to my sleeplessness and, I believe, contributes to the family sleep dysfunction.

“I need a retreat at a convent,” I told my husband in the middle of the night.

I haven’t been writing much. I’m unhappy. “Maybe I should get on anti-depressants or go back to therapy,” I said.

“I know I should work out.” I tried to walk home last night, but it was too cold and I hopped on the bus when it pulled up beside me.

Happy New Year.

My Four Directions

Today I took a walk in the North woods.
  • East is the direction of new beginnings, a sunrise or a new friend.
  • South is for the brightest light, the way the Southern sky fills the outside world so completely that the light must tumble into your room and heart too.
  • West is the land of the sunset and of letting go.
  • North is the direction of the North Star, the unchangeable and fixed beam in a velvet black night.

Native Americans value theses four directions and offer prayers and gratitude for Mother Earth and her four directions.

To say good bye to 2011 and hello to 2012, here is my take on my four directions.

My East is my mastery with writing. In 2011 I wrote a lot. I was published in cool places and won a few nice awards. I taught some amazing people and made new friends. My writing and indulgence in creativity made every day new.

My South is, of course, my kids. They brighten every single day. And as my neighbor Ron says, “Not one of them is a shrinking violet.” They bring me so much light and laughter (and yes, tears and frustration and hard work too.) But always, they fill my life with light.

My West is the sadness around the decline in intimacy with Chris due to his Parkinson’s Disease and our differing levels of energy and engagement. This is a place of light and dark for me, and a sunset on certain dreams that we used to share.

My North is my faith in a Higher Power, not always seen but always felt in a tug towards compassion and creative living.

This post was inspired by The Circle of Wholeness: New Year’s Reflections http://dld.bz/aAZrw by Joel and Michelle Levey

What are your four directions? Your beginnings? Your light? Your sunset? Your North Star?

Keep Practicing

I love a daily discipline of writing. I loved doing NaNoWriMo in November. Writing is a solitary experience. So a shared blogging platform, like PostADay2011, made writing a communal experience in 2011

work in progress, my book for book of days

Today I signed up for 365 Grateful and Book of Days for 2012. I like a push, a reminder, shared misery, and shared joy.

I respond well to a gentle and encouraging nudge.

If I’m creative on a daily basis, then I have a vessel in which I can dump my creativity when something really cool pops into my head.

It’s good to keep practicing. Writing is a practice. I love that Buddhism is considered a practice, not a fixed religion. The practice of a religion or creativity is not idolizing an icon, but living creatively and staying open to the creative spirit.

Somewhere in my brain there’s a quote about the reason that firefighters shine the pole in the firehouse every day. It needs to be smooth for that one day a year when there’s actually a fire. That is why I write daily, for that one day a year. That”s why I practice.

Work with what I have

So I love writing in my journal every day. And I love resolving to be better, love more deeply, have more compassion.

And today’s journaling reminded me that like a lot of people, I believe my answers are outside of me somewhere.

But wait. Happiness is an inside job. I have to find my way with what I’ve got — the people, the work, the home.

No team from The Learning Channel is going to swoop down and give me a make-over (new clothes, new apartment, new YOU!) I have to keep making my life new. And I have to use what I already have to do it. And what I have is good enough. What I have is good.

This journal entry is no big whoop. And I’m kinda goofing around with my new iPhone to see how it works to write with and on my smartphone.
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Can Cleaning Be Exercise?

broom by creative commons

I have updated one of my four blogs (about faithcreative writingNew York, or this one, fitness) at least every other day during 2011. When I began in January 2011, I posted every day for 66 days, because I’d heard that’s how long it takes to make a habit.

When I traveled or wrote my NaNoWriMo (November’s National Novel Writing month), I slacked a bit. But mostly I’ve been consistent with my blogging.

I need to retire a couple of my blogs and this one, Running Aground, is the lead candidate for retirement. This has been my least popular and least updated blog. Reading about my attempt to run a 5K may not have mass appeal. And I don’t write on this one because I think that if I haven’t exercised by swimming, running, or going to Pilates class, I haven’t worked out. (Although, yes, I’ve written about sleep and diet, as well.)

But wait — I clean a lot and, living in New York City, I walk a lot! So let’s remember — Cleaning is a good work out. In an hour, you burn:

  • Sweeping: 240
  • Packing/Unpacking: 220
  • Scrubbing floors on hands and knees: 325 (Who does this?)
  • Cleaning, light (dusting, wiping down counters, picking up clothes): 100
  • Cleaning, general (washing dishes, doing laundry): 200

according to a post by Divine Caroline (Brie Cadman).

This post is an attempt to encourage myself to believe in the power of the clean-up work out! Now, Mary Beth, get out there and clean! I have about an hour to unpack from our Chicago trip and pack for our Adirondacks trip, take down the Christmas tree, and generally tidy up this apartment where I’ve hosted four parties in one month!

There’s been a lot of stash and dash over the holidays. Now let’s burn some calories by cleaning. But wait, first, I have to update my Facebook status and check my friends’ news.

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Open to Surprise When Traveling

Storybook Dollhouse at the Thomas Hughes children's library

The best part of travel is always the experience that is unplanned. The thing that you think will be great is never the thing that is most memorable. (Like, it’s not the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but the pizza vendor near the tourist attraction!)

Yesterday, the kids had the most fun of their lives sliding in their winter coats on some long wooden couch/bench at the Hilton Hotel lobby. (I did my usual thing of walking away from them, muttering, “Whose kids are those?”)

The sliding bench in the lobby was almost as fun at the dollhouse tucked into the children’s room at the Harold Washington Library.

We met my mother in the airy atrium on the top floor of the library and she took us on a tour. She could be a professional tour guide for the city of Chicago, unlocking secrets hidden in plain sight. She showed us site-specific

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