[clever title]

i have a question...

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Overheard at Work, vol. CIII

We're zipping through this summer and, man, it's been a grind.

We are finishing up Week 4 tomorrow, which is the halfway mark. I go to sleep before 10:30 these days and wake up around 6:30, am usually on my way to work before 7:30 and home around 6. It's been very nice to have the evenings, but I'm not digging this Daywalker schedule as much as I usually do.

The club feels very full and busy and difficult. The kids are just...everywhere. Still hilarious as ever, though.

Me, to a 13-year-old boy who was trying to crash my Girls' Group: Are you a girl?
Boy: Not yet!

Me, to a 7-year-old boy, rooting around in his mouth for something stuck on his tongue: Whatchoo got there?
Boy: It's not a bug!

Me: What's your name?
Boy: Deandre. And I have special talents.
Me: Like what?
Boy: Twerking.

Colleague A, to teen boy A, during our discussion about identity: So you have selective memory.
Teen Boy B: Like Bruce Jenner.
Teen: Who's Bruce Jenner.
Teen Boy B: Michael Jackson's sister.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

I Never Really Gave It Much Thought

I have a spent a fair amount of my life pretty much ignoring my body.

I danced for six years as a kid, mostly ballet, which required just the right amount of concentration and body awareness for me to sort of understand when I was doing things right or doing them wrong, when my form looked pretty and felt good.

I would return home each night and dance through the parlor floor of our brownstone, turning chaine turns from my living room to my kitchen, proudly showing off for my parents.

But that was before puberty. I was knobby-kneed, boyish, short and skinny.

And then I turned thirteen and got boobs (bigger than my friends), rolls where there hadn't been rolls, and thighs that suddenly rubbed together.

Clearly, I wasn't ever going to be a ballerina. And looking lumpy in my leotard at my final recital made me body-self-conscious for the first time.

I danced until graduating from 8th grade and then, 14 and awkward, moved to California, where I promptly stopped.

I hid in boys' polo shirts and baggy jeans.

I refused even to join my parents to walk our dog. Rebelling in a way that didn't get me directly into any trouble.

It wasn't so much that I was ashamed of my body.

I didn't think about it at all.

It was my brain that held all my self-esteem.

My brain was what was going to help me survive my high school years. My brain was what was going to push me to first in my class. My brain was my ticket out.

Sure, there were moments I felt pretty.

Like when I was dancing in my high school plays. Or at my senior prom, which I went to alone. My hair actually held a curl, I rocked a black satin dress with no bra and wore bright red lipstick.

I felt like Angelina Jolie.

I remember, during my sophomore year in college, my friend Clare insisted I buy a scarf that brought out my coloring. I wore it with a brand new denim jacket and suddenly felt pretty again. Confident even.

I spent the next three years of college playing dress up. And in therapy.

Not connecting, exactly, with my body, but at least realizing that sometimes the work is done both outside in AND inside out.

In therapy, I slowly learned to check in with myself. When my stomach hurt. Or I started to panic. Or was eating because I was sad or bored. I began to combine eating different things with wearing different things. I had good days and bad days.

I even made peace with the fact that sometimes men find me attractive.

I let them.

I try to believe them.

And sometimes I really do believe them.

I discovered yoga. I don't remember when. I think it was when I lived in NYC after college. But I loved it. It made me feel noodly and flexible and aware. It made me feel sweaty and tired and strong.

I started doing yoga regularly. I stopped.

I hated and loved shopping.

I had good days and bad days.

I was unhappy in New York City and visited California and felt sexy and amazing and happy all week and decided to move back there. At least for a little while.

I moved to Boston. I worked my ass off. I lost a bunch of weight due to severe anxiety. It didn't make me feel any prettier.

It was just my body. I didn't pay much attention to it.

Gradually, my thinking changed. It hasn't been a sudden revelation. More like a gradual acceptance.

When I look in the mirror, I almost always say to myself, "Well, this is what I look like! And this isn't so bad."

When I take a walk and sweat, I think, "This isn't so bad. I'm stronger than I think!"

When I do yoga, I think, "This feels good. I need to remember this."

And just now, as I took a walk after doing some Pilates and feeding myself a healthy lunch, determined to sweat and get some sunshine on my shoulders, I stopped at a stop light, put my hands on my tight stomach and was pleasantly surprised.

I thought, "My body is amazing."

Friday, July 4, 2014

Overheard at Work, vol. CII

The last few weeks have been a pretty insane whirlwind of end-of-school year events, my 31derful (tip of the hat to S for coining that phrase years ago) birthday weekend, staff training week, and the first week of our summer program, which also happened to align with Beyonce and Jay Z coming to Boston and me staying out until 1:30 AM on a work night.

Needless to say, I'm very grateful for this three-day weekend, and my Circadian rhythm is very confused with these new hours.

7-year-old boy: What's your favorite animal?
Me: Probably a dog.
Boy: Velociraptor.

8-year-old boy: I told you my farts would smell worse!

8-year-old boy, to me: You're a wild strawberry!

Me, regarding a painting: Is this a jellyfish with a hat?
10-year-old girl: Yes.
Me: Why?
Girl: Because it's like you, funny!

8-year-old girl: Do we have any more furry balls?
Colleague A: FURRY BALLS?!...No. We don't have any more pom poms.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Overheard at Work, vol. CI

One more week before we head into summer training and programming. I seriously can't believe it.

AND I'll be 31 in 9 days. Also shocking. Where has 2014 gone?

8-year-old boy: I had the worst nightmare I could ever imagine. The most terrifying dream ever...my aunt was coming to visit.

16-year-old boy: I am a thug. Who needs a hug.

Me, to Colleague A, serving leftover dinner: Do you like beets?
Colleague A: Like, the headphones?

Me, to 12-year-old girl, wearing tangerine pants: I wish I could wear tangerine pants.
Girl: You totally could. They would match your face.

Colleague B, after I urged her to throw out her hummus in light of the Trader Joe's hummus recall: I'm so emotionally charged right now because of this hummus.

12-year-old girl: There are so many songs about lollipops!
Me: Well. That's because they're not really about lollipops.
Girl: I know, I told my mom I wanted a lollipop after hearing a song. "I wanna sing about lollipops!" (changing into Mom voice) "You're grounded."

Me, entering the office: It smells like meat in here.
Colleague C, the only man in the room: Sorry, that's me!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Overheard at Work, vol. C

This has been a serious roller coaster of a couple weeks, for more reasons than I can possibly list or explain here.

But, even when I'm sad or confused or preoccupied, I get to interact with interesting and hilarious people every day. And end a very long week by eating cake and singing NSYNC. And that makes the time pass swiftly and I can laugh and feel better, if just for a moment.

12-year-old girl: Yoga is so refreshing. I feel so connected with Jesus.

Me: How did you decide who to go to prom with, from all your ladies?
18-year-old boy: They had to Rock Paper Scissors for it.

Colleague A, speaking generally about the scent of humans: You smell like person and I don't like it.

Me: I wanna put you in my pocket and take you home with me.
7-year-old boy: I want to do the same thing to you.

Me, upon seeing a copy of Judy Blume's Tiger Eyes: They can't read this book! There's sex and masturbation in it!
Colleague B: What do you think being a kid's all about?

12-year-old girl, to my colleague: I think I've grown sick of you...which is a good thing.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Fear

I don’t remember how, but at some point in the recent past, I acquired a Lululemon bag. One of those red and white ones with text all over it. I pack my lunch and dinner in it every day before work.

One of the sentences on it is that pervasive quote by Eleanor Roosevelt:

"Do one thing a day that scares you."

I’m bad at this.

I like to stay squarely in my comfort zone and have a hard time doing new things.

And yet.

My job is kinda scary.

I work with the kind of kids that people avoid on the street. Because they’re loud or aggressive and seemingly have nowhere to go. They gather in groups and take up a lot of space and have the hard exteriors of kids who are growing up in a city.

But they come to where I work, to be in a band or a play or to get a job or play basketball. To feel safe and part of a community and to be seen and heard and included.

At work, I walk into large groups of tall young men every day and tell them all to take their hats off and find a program area to go to.

That used to scare me. But only a little.

I am sometimes in charge of the whole three-story building, staff members looking to me for directions on what to do next. I shuffle everyone out, make sure they’re all getting home safe, and arm the door at the end of the night.

When I think about that too much, it scares me.

So I don’t.

Yesterday, one of my mentees, a 15 year old whom I’ve known since she was 12, got into a terrible confrontation with a teacher at her school.

So this morning, I showed up at her suspension hearing.

I have never been to one of those before. And I didn’t know what to expect.

And I sat with the school facilitator and with my mentee’s mom and with my mentee while I heard the whole story and she cried and shook and swore. I put my hand on her knee and trusted my instincts and my skills to calm her down, and I made her promise to follow through with a short-term plan, and I urged her to thank the administrator and I asserted to her that she had an army of people who supported her, and when she calmed down and even laughed as we ended the meeting, and when she showed up at work to practice piano and we chatted and laughed about when we first met, I hoped and wished that my words and support had poked through her steely, defensive fa├žade.

It was kind of a scary day.


The amazing thing was, I wasn’t scared. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Overheard at Work, vol. XCIX

Two of our biggest special arts events are now completed: last week, it was the Exhibit Opening of the Special Artist Project that the kids participate in at the MFA, tonight, 12 members in our band performed at the Strand Theatre as part of the annual Music Clubhouse Showcase.

I am relieved and proud that they are both successfully over! Now, we coast til the end of the school year!

Me, to an 11 year old boy, during Homework Hour: Come sit with me!
11 year old: I demand respect because it's Cinco de Mayo!

Kid on the bus, to a 10 year old boy: Did you fart?
10 year old: I almost did, but it was a false alarm.

8 year old, to his friends: You know the Muppets? You know Kirby*? The actor that did the voice died.
Friend: He got shot?
*He meant Kermit.

Me, to an 8 year old girl: I need a snack.
8 year old: I have a hamburger.

8 year old girl, to Colleague A (male): You are such a girly girl.
Colleague A: I'm a manly girl.
8 year old: With furry pits.

Me, to an 8 year old boy, helping in the art room: Was this your idea?
8 year old: No.
Me: Whose was it?
8 year old: Mine.