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Saturday, September 13, 2014

To My Cousin's Daughter, on the Eve of her 4th Birthday

Dear E.W.E.,

Wow! How quickly the year you were 3 went!

And tomorrow, you’ll be 4! A year closer to kindergarten, to driving, to taking over the world.

I love the girl you’re becoming: the kind of girl who wears TWO Halloween costumes, the kind of girl whose favorite movies are Muppets from Space and My Neighbor Totoro, the kind of girl who goes all in when it comes to licking the brownie batter bowl, the kind of girl who will take every chance she can get to swim, throw a ball, run, jump, and dance.

The kind of girl who sees me from down the street and barrels into my arms, screaming “PRETZEL!”

You are one cool chick: full of fire and wit and steel and drive.

This has been a particularly tough year for our family: losing our matriarch (your great-grandmother) in September last year and then our beloved David (your Kahuna) in May.

Suddenly, our invincibility was questioned; we felt a little more fragile, a little less protected.

But our strength as a family has never wavered.

You have so many people around you who love, cherish, and support you and each other.

How lucky we are.

Happy birthday!

I love you.



Friday, September 5, 2014

Overheard at Work, vol. CVI

We just got through two of the most difficult weeks I've ever experienced at this job, after the tragic death of one of our co-workers,a young woman who had grown up at work and had devoted her life to service to her community.

We spent last week reeling, trying to pick up pieces, and wandering around waiting for something to happen.

This week, we have opened to kids and I can't say it's not jarring to have them back in the building after such an intense time as a staff.

Still, through it all, I work with some hilarious people, and we found time to laugh and be silly.

Coworker A, after lifting me clear off the ground: I'm strong when I want to be. I just can't do CPR!

Coworker B: Food fixes everything. Well, except fatness.

Coworker B: I like to live a cute life.

Coworker C, after refusing to put her sweater on, despite being cold: My sweater smells like grief.

Me: You look pretty today!
14-year-old girl: It's the second day of school. I'm still pretending I'm functioning.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Overheard at Work, vol. CV

Well, that was a doozy of a week back from vacation!

Tuesday, I caught up on emails, helped at the front desk, ran my club, and felt relatively back in the swing of things.

Wednesday, I had a meeting about hiring a work-study in our film program, led a field trip of forty kids under 10 to a rollerskating rink and took five teens to see Finding Neverland, the new musical at A.R.T.

Thursday, I covered the morning teen program, ran two clubs, and prepped for today.

Today, I helped run a trivia rotation during our End of Summer Extravaganza, covered the front desk, helped film the Music Showcase, and prepped our Awards Ceremony for the end of the day. I sat down for maybe 30 minutes all day.

Now, of course, I have a little cold and I'm going to bed early.

But Summer 2014 is over.

7-year-old boy, sobbing about not being able to buy a drink at the rollerskating rink: There's no hope for me!

Same boy, whining because he was bored: I'm not having any fun!
Me: Well, you should have brought money to play the arcade games.
Boy: I'm poor!

10-year-old boy, on the bus from the rollerskating field trip: He's bothering me! He said I need to get butt surgery!

Me, to a 14-year-old boy, whose nicknamed Junito: What's Junito mean?
Boy: I don't know!
Teen girl, after I looked it up, laughing: It means "a very short man with a very large penis!"
Boy: ...I'm short.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Overheard on Vacation

Well, that week sure went quickly! Back to the grind tomorrow, but memories of naps with the 3-year-old, battles of wits with the 8-year-old, and nights of wine and games linger as I heat up soup and look forward to showering and going to sleep in my own bed.

8-year-old, tattling on 3-year-old, who had grabbed my copy of Game of Thrones: He's trying to read George Martin!!

3YO: Knock knock!
Me: Who's there?
3YO: Penis butthole.
Me: Penis butthole who?
3YO: Penis butthole.

3YO: I am going to eat YOU for dinner!
Me: What will I taste like?
3YO: Watermelon.
Me: What will YOU taste like?
3YO: Applesauce.

3YO, entering the bathroom, as I finished: Can I see your pee?

3YO: Do you like beer?
Me: Sure!
3YO: No, you don't because there's spiders in it and spiders are yucky to eat.

Me, reading a timeline 8YO made about him and his brother: He just came out of his mommy's tummy.
8YO: I didn't want to say asshole.
Me: Babies don't come out of their mommies' assholes!
8YO: Yes, they do!

Me, to 3YO: Do you want to come to Boston with me?
3YO: Yes!
Me: What will we do there?
3YO: Run and turn and jump and jog.

D: I am going to show you something so you stop talking.
8YO: Never.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Overheard at Work, Vol. CIV

Over the course of the year, I'd say I run maybe one field trip a season, totaling up to four a year, give or take something really special. Usually, these are huge trips, and I'm mostly coordinating permission slips, staff to help chaperone, and schedules for the bus to and from the club.

This summer, I've been running a special program Wednesday evenings and taken a group of teens around the city to various arts and culture events. And it has been wonderful and super intense.

This week, I led fifteen teens to the Institute of Contemporary Art. An hour on three modes of transportation at rush hour was enough for me to be ready to call it a night. But seeing my kids so excited to engage in the artwork there was worth the trip.

Tonight, I led four teens to Shakespeare in the Commons. We packed food and laid out sheets and killed time playing Hangman and Two Truths and a Lie and 20 Questions, and it was beautiful and magical.

It's been an intense summer--very busy, early days, lots of new kids and exciting things to do and see.

I have one more day of work and then I'm on vacation for a week, and I cannot wait.

But when I get to sit back and think about moments like tonight, when the sun was peeking behind a cloud and the weather was just perfect and I was sitting with a group of young women, giggling at our silly answers to even sillier games, sharing Kit Kats and Reese's Pieces, I felt pretty lucky to do what I do.

Me, during a game of 20 Questions, to a 7 year old: Do you have a yes or no question?
7 year old boy: Yes!
Me: What's your question?
Boy: Does she wear famous clothes?
Me: Yes.
Boy: Yes! Famous people always wear famous clothes. I knew it!

Colleague A: Humans need to come with users manuals.

#1 9 year old boy: 3rd is the one with the hairy chest. That means I'm a MAN.

#2 9 year old boy: Do you know what leukemia is?
Me: Yes.
Boy: What is it?
Me: It's a blood disease.
Boy: No, it's butt cancer. My dad says it's butt cancer.

13 year old girl: Macadamia nuts are sexy.

Colleague B: I'm old.
7 year old boy: You're not old! You're just handsome!

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."