Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

why there is pride in choking it...

Juliet came to my twitty rescue when I tweeted about neglecting my blog and I couldn't be more thrilled and grateful. She's a wonderful and thoughtful writer and you should definitely be checking out her blogs: The 40 Year Old Bat Mitzvah Self & Thanksgiving Feast.


Our seven year old, Eva, choked at her violin recital. I could not have been happier.

Eva is one of those people for whom things come easily. She knows all the spelling words before the teacher hands out the list. She memorized times tables without having to use flashcards.

Along came violin. It has rocked her world.

Violin is hard. There’s no two ways about it. I don’t think I fully appreciated how technically difficult an instrument it is before Eva began lessons. There are no “cheats” in violin. Her teacher embraces nerdy violin humor, Star Wars quotes, and a no-shortcuts approach.

In short, violin challenges Eva daily. It pushes her into what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes as the optimum autotelic experience: the golden flow zone where the levels of both challenge and skill are high.

When you challenge yourself, you are bound to fall down some of the time.

As I stood in the corner of Library Room B, videotaping Eva playing one of the eleventy seven versions of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star that Suzuki children learn, my heart sunk a little for her as she stumbled, tried to recover, stumbled again, then stopped.

“Whatever you do, just keep on going.” It’s the golden rule of all performances and recitals. Nothing is worse than that embarrassed, awkward silence: the throats clearing, the programs rustling, while the child’s cheeks grow redder and hotter.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity but in reality was only a few seconds, Eva signaled to the accompanist and played the last few notes.

She was as poised as a disappointed seven year old could be, and she’ll be even more poised next time it happens. There will be a next time because her teacher, in his infinite wisdom, sets a high bar. I hire him to do it because as her parent, I don’t always have the heart to watch her fail, even when I know she learns way more from recovering from mistakes than she does from cruising along on autopilot.

It took her a month to finally feel ready to watch the video to analyze what she did wrong. And there were a few tears as we ate our celebratory frozen yogurts that afternoon. But I think she really believed us when we told her we could not have been more proud.

Got a super successful, bright child? I recommend setting high standards in a safe environment, and letting her choke now and then. It’s the ultimate growth experience.

Juliet also tweets at @batmitzvahat40.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

neti pots and oms... you're probably thinking i'm going all new age on you

Now that's I've successfully caught my 20 billionth cold of the year, I finally took the advice of a good friend and purchased a Neti pot.
For those of you not in nasal health know, a neti pot is a vessel designed to irrigate your nasal passage. Basically, you pour warm salt water up one nostril while you hold your head sideways and keep doing it until the liquid flows out the lower nostril. Then you repeat on the other side. It's supposed to totally clean you out. And apparently (as it says on the neti pot box) it's an ancient yogi practice that helps cleanse your energy channels and balances the right and left hemispheres (of what? yourself?) to "create radiant, energetic health and wellness."
All of that sounds good to me because I was really thinking I'd just pop a few Sudafed and cover up the symptoms until they went away. But you know, a natural yogic way to get better seemed like a good thing. And you know how good I am about my yogic Oms...
So I went to the supermarket natural healthcare section (because this is Seattle, afterall...), and I picked myself out a neti. I'm thinking what sold me was this picture:
I mean, if you can smile while spouting water through your nostrils, it must be a pretty good product. She looks happy and relaxed. She looks like her nose isn't totally stuffed up.
And being that I'm all about the aesthetics of things (some call that superficial, but I'd beg to differ), I was pleased to see that my neti pot was sort of cute, too. The white ceramic design matches my dishes, though that did make me worry that someone might accidentally mistake it for a creamer.
Unfortunately, B was pretty quick to point out the phallic nature of its look and design, and um, it sort of seemed a little less like a good idea to stick that up my nose.
Nevertheless, I'm about to go on a cross-country ski trip on Friday that involves hiking four miles up to a cabin in the snow with a three year old tethered to my waist in a pulk. This means that:
1.) If I'm willing to do that, I may be crazy enough to stick a phallic shaped teapot up my nose.
2.) If I'm willing to do that, I'd better try anything to get as healthy as possible by Friday.
Luckily, next to the natural healthcare section there is a very UNnatural healthcare section, which is where I picked up some Halls cough drops and that familiar and comforting red and white box of Sudafed.
I don't think I'm quite ready for the Neti. And I really could use a new creamer...

Sunday, March 07, 2010

my shattered attention span and why i fake my oms...

Recently I was having a discussion with a colleague about how audiences now ingest media so much differently than they did when we were kids (we used to have to walk six miles in the snow in order to get to the Macintosh with dial-up...). We talked about the obvious differences, including form factor due to technology advances, but the most drastic difference seemed to be in the ability or need we have to multi-digest so many different inputs at the same time.

We used to complain when the person holding the remote while watching television flipped through the channels endlessly, unable to commit to one show. And with so many channels available on cable, it really was hard to stay satisfiedwhen who knew what possibilities were awaiting on the mulititude of other channels.

But now, with multiple windows, TiVO, TV programming online, as well as a number of other options, you don't need to flip through channels. You can have everything at once.

Because there is so much to see, it's hard to know where to direct attention to. Our attention spans aren't just short, they're shattered into tiny multi-dimensions. Which is where the problem starts...

How many windows are open on your computer right now? At any given time, I have about the 15-25 open on my machine.

There is a mess of Sticky Notes on my desktop that pop up at me when I logon. I can't make dinner without doing at least one or two other things, and the same goes with talking on the phone. And driving? Well, it's even hard to just drive these days. Even with a hands-free device, I find myself constantly tempted to check mail on my phone while stuck in traffic, eat breakfast, lunch or dinner , depending on the time of day, and catch the news on NPR. And obviously, this is also where we have heavy talks with our kids or overhear what's going on in their lives.

A basic requirement of most jobs is to be able to juggle multiple deadlines, of which I always have multiples of, along with multiple email threads, meetings, projects and stakeholders. There are times when I have so much going on in a single moment that sometimes I find myself switching back and forth until I remember to stop and do one thing at a time.

Then there is the whole work/life balance thing and managing multiple schedules, activities, and responsibilities for a family of five. Granted, I'm not doing a perfect job, but everyone goes to bed at night clean, alive and fed. (Managing expectations is a also good thing.)

Meanwhile, kids and adults in record numbers are being diagnosed with attention deficit disorders. Is it a coincidence when we're trying to stuff as much as humanely possible into a single minute? There could be any number of causes. I'm not blaming the epidemic on technology, but it does make you think for a second about what could happen if we slowed down a bit.

I've begun going to yoga again and as a result, have begun to understand that concentrating on being in the present is extremely and painfully difficult for me. During the class, I struggle with trying not to do more than one thing at a time, or cycling through my massive to-do list. And it takes all my will to be mature enough to get through the chanting of the Oms without giggling. Especially when some of the yogis in class start harmonizing their chants.

But every once in a while, after I am able to actually concentrate on the moment, I find that
the results are exponentially beneficial. I feel focused and even more productive. And it feels good enough that I've begun trying to incorporate that practice at different moments in the day. And this actually takes some effort. Especially when you consider that this post has taken me a week to write because even in the last hour, I've been interrupted numerous times to explain why forks don't feel good up your nose. (Seriously, I just work here...)

After working so hard to speed up, it's even harder to slow down. And how amazing that the longer term perspective and a single focus is even more productive. Maybe I'll even get to a point where I'll be able to not fake an Om.

Or maybe not.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

overheard from the backseat: more birds & bees...

Tali: Hey Daddy, I got an inappropriate question for you.

Boaz: Um, Okay...

T: I get how you and Mommy made Samuel.

B: You do? Wait. You do?

T: Yes, and I get how you made me because Samuel was still little. But when did you guys make Naomi without us knowing about it?

B: Um, well...

T: Ohhhhhh, I get it! THAT'S why we go to school!