Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Finding My Story

I learned in college that the problem couldn’t be solved by not sleeping, although I certainly tried.

I knew that no matter how wee the hour was when I finally went to bed, I was missing key events.

People were heading to all night dining establishments, drinking coffee and eating pies and pastries. Others were on trains, taking late night forays into the city. Some were just on campus, having heartfelt conversations deep into the night.

And I was missing it.

So I’d get up, get dressed, and get back into the action.

After awhile, I took to wearing a comfy sort of semi-sleep wear, suitable for both late night socializing and early morning class—“instant ready,” my roommate called it. Simply put, I wore pajamas to class nearly a decade before it became fashionable.

I know now that no one can be a part of every story and that times of rest are chapters in everyone’s tale.

I’m keeping all of this in mind as I head out for four days in the Pennsylvania mountains for the Creation 2008 festival. As a registered member of the media, I will have the opportunity to participate in countless press conferences which I could potentially weave into dozens of salable articles. As a journalist woefully low on work, the possibilities are tantalizing.

But as tempted as I am to generate all of this material, I know that there is only so much I can process in a timely manner, what with all of my educational responsibilities and all. So I’m going to keep this manageable. I’m looking for one story. I don’t know yet which one I’m after, but I’ll know it when I see it. I’ll jump on it and make it sing.

That’s my goal: one stellar story. My story. Isn’t that what life is really all about?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

It's a Pitcher's Game and my Bullpen's Thin

Thank goodness for Major League Baseball. Without the combined efforts of a gaggle of umpires, mangers, and team mascots focused on discovering why gifted players are requiring increasing amounts of time to deliver a finished game, I might have gone on thinking that I'm incompetent.

I now know that my situation really isn’t any different from the one perpetually plaguing the New York Yankees: I have pitching trouble.

Although the cause wasn’t clear to me at the time, I knew something was wrong when I turned into the school pick up line one day last week and realized that “What did you do today, Mom?” has officially replaced “What’s for dinner” as the Mid-Afternoon Cringer.

With my daughter’s recent interest in the culinary arts, no one in our house is really worried about going hungry these days—we have hot, tasty food popping out of the oven at all hours. What’s really got me wringing my hands is the fact that every day at 3:15 my son asks me what I’ve done all day and I end up looking like a Little Leaguer gaping at birds in left field. Now, I’m certain I’ve been busy—ever since I finally ditched Chaucer, I’ve adopted an impressive range of projects, plans, and pointless diversions—problem is, I have little to show for the four weeks I’ve supposedly been working on this stuff.

Still, I face my son’s daily query in true journalistic form, working my best material into my lead. “I was on my bike this morning,” I invariably say, highlighting the singular pursuit in which I’ve managed to make any kind of visible progress. I’ve been biking the boardwalk for a solid hour every morning, even stopping periodically to execute various crunches and dips on the seawall. And it’s working, too. I'm looking less and less like a graduate student every day.

Mmmmm. My son nods encouragingly at my report, but he’s clearly expecting more. I shift nervously in my seat. What did I do? What did I do? Is that a wren over there?

As it turns out, this sluggish, unproductive response is consistent with what the MLB task force has identified as the end result of a game lacking disciplined pitching. Valuable time is lost by pitchers who dawdle between throws or require frequent mound visits from plodding coaches. It doesn’t matter who you’ve got on the field: if your pitching is off, your game’s gonna drag. In the words of Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, it’s all about having a pitching staff that's trained "to work quickly so they establish a rhythm and keep fielders from getting too spacey.”

Well, that clears things up. No wonder I’m striking out. Life was so much easier when I had professors and editors tossing out metaphoric pitches in the form of due dates and deadlines. I am bereft of both this summer, what with not being enrolled in classes and the newspaper on the blink (I anticipate any day the news that they’ve parted out all their assignments to a fifth grade creative writing class in exchange for some free pens and a classroom subscription).

Regular readers may recall that over spring break I contemplated dropping out of my Masters program. When I returned to school to discover that my scholarship had some fine print indicating that my funding would expire if I didn't abandon the “slow and steady” plan I’d hatched with my advisor in favor of an accelerated track, I figured game over.

I got more of a seventh inning stretch, instead. My quick-thinking advisor managed to waive a bunch of prerequisites and set up a couple directed studies. At the end of the semester, she sent me home with some books, the names of a couple tests I’m supposed to take and instructions to email her every now and then, in lieu of the intense, summer-long marathon of coursework perscribed in the normal program. As far as traditional schooling, I'm pretty much done until the fall. I was pleased with the innovative plan, although all I initially gleaned was the part about not showing up for four months.

So, I'm pretty much expected to self-regulate, which, in baseball terms makes me a one-girl team. It's no wonder, then, that I'm a month in and riddled with guilt over my lack of accomplishments. Here I was, figuring I’m a lazy embarrassment to society who happens to bike on the beach every day, when I find out that my game’s just stalled because I've got no relief pitching.

With no one but me to keep things rolling, I’ve gone spacey. And as comforting as it is to know that my problems are in the same league as those of the Bronx Bombers, it's clear that I'm choking on the mound. Someone really needs to call the bullpen soon.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

A Stitch in Time

“It’s just like circular knitting, Mom,” my daughter explained to me when I got teary the night before her thirteenth birthday.

She was at the height of her knitting phase—back when she was going to design and market an entire line of knitwear under the moniker “United Moose”—and she’d just learned how to use specially designed knitting needles connected by a translucent cord to create long, tubular styles. With circular knitting you can’t tell where one row ends and the next begins. “Tomorrow’s just another stitch,” she said, giving me a hug before heading up to bed.

My daughter turns seventeen tomorrow and although she was right--no single day brought a sudden change or clear distinction from one phase to the next--it’s clear now that all those stitches have nearly completed the part of the pattern we know as “childhood.” It seems that the design is beginning to shift into a new and unfamiliar arrangement.

Watching my daughter grow has been the most exciting, rewarding, and painful experience of my life. On one hand, I know the goal is for her to become an independent, vibrant woman, and but the journey has been so sweet I find that I'm in no hurry to reach that happy destination.

How many more times will she climb those 13 familiar steps to sleep under my roof? When was the last time she played with her brother in the clubhouse they built in the back yard? When did they stop taking bubble baths? Milestones happen every day, and in the busyness of life they too often pass unnoticed. I want to capture the moments, but end up chasing ghosts of things that were right here just a moment ago but have now vaporized.

How can I spend every day with my daughter and still miss her?

I miss the toddler who followed the happenings on Sesame Street like a day trader on Wall Street.

I miss the pipsqueak whose affection for goats earned her a stern reprimand from a vigilant keeper at a petting zoo…

….but I’m thankful that some things never change.

I miss the little girl who loved dress up clothes almost as much as puppies.

I miss the middle schooler who rescued the class parakeet from school bullies and brought her home to “love like a sister.”

I miss the year-round Halloween costumes, the piano recitals, the Easter dresses and the endless stacks of hand scrawled pictures. I couldn’t tell you what I miss the most, because I’ve thought of my daughter as pretty near perfect at every age she’s ever been (minus a bad patch at 14 that we’d all rather forget). And you know what? Tomorrow will be no exception. I can’t wait to share laughter, gifts and meals with this beautiful child who is becoming my grown-up friend.

Tomorrow may be just another stitch, but I know it represents the first one in the final row of a pattern that’s permanently imprinted on my heart.

All I can do is notice--and, in noticing, celebrate the moments of life as morph into an amazing new design.

Happy Birthday, Allison.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin