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Archive for the ‘musings’ Category

A Novel Update

In November, I was racing my writing word count for NaNoWriMo against our decomposing pumpkins.  I didn’t win (write 50,000 words) but I did scratch, claw, hunt and peck my way to 20,136 words which is more than I expected in my 3rd week of having the flu. Those 20,136 words are the beginning of the second novel that takes place in the same world as the first.  I made some important discoveries about that world that will help inform the first as well…if I can get myself buckled down to do some serious writing.

But alas, the pumpkins continue to lead the way.

I’m at an interesting place with my novel…I find myself working on the ending while there is still a big, gaping hole of “what happens HERE?” in the middle.  I realized that I was fighting working on the ending because…well just because that’s what was happening in my brain.  Even though I went into this whole novel writing experience without a plan (or a plot), somehow I ended up making up some rules for myself about how writing is supposed to progress at this point.

The pumpkins decompose the way they do because of nature. Laws of nature and all that.  Writing a novel however has no laws and I don’t help myself by making up rules that don’t help me write.  Really I’ve spent a lot of the last two weeks or so not writing all the ideas, images and scenes floating around in my head because they aren’t from the part of the story I thought I should have ideas, images and scenes about.

Bring on an improv moment!

It is time to throw my hands in the air and shout “I failed!” (a classic improv release for my non-improvising readers) and “again!” (another shout-out that improvisors use to embrace failure as a learning experience).  And then to give myself the time and gift of letting those ideas, images and scenes take shape on the page so I can play with them, flesh them out, edit them down, rearrange them or whatever else my imagination gives me to do with them.

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One of my biggest joys is being an aunt.

It has been  one of my favorite roles in life. From the first time I held my oldest niece, H, I was hooked.  When H and her brother L were small, I was lucky enough to be in a time of life when I could see them often even though I lived on the opposite coast.  I said “YES!” to every opportunity to see them.  I had such fun in those years and even though I sometimes thought I should be using my vacation time to see the world, the payoff of delight of being in their worlds brought me there time and again.

(An added bonus was some great on-the-job training for parenthood. Thanks to my brother and sister-in-law for that good deal!)

One of the things I miss now that I’m a mom is the freedom of being an aunt who has just come to play and have adventures. I miss my time with the older two and have been sad about not knowing the younger three kids in the family as well as I would like.

It is becoming easier as LP gets a bit older;  she is more ready to go off with other family members and as I continue to heal from PPD,  I am able to let her go. Even as it gets a little easier, I miss those days of having open time to just focus on one kid whether it was to take an adventure of imagination or ride the train into Boston for a museum or aquarium exploration.

So a hope of mine for the recent East-Coast-family-visit-extravaganza trip was to have time to enjoy my five nieces and nephews who now range in age from 15 to 6. While there were many adjustments and moments of figuring out how to relate and getting an open mind to see each child as their individual, creative self, it wasn’t hard and it delighted my soul to have time to be niece & nephew focused for awhile.

So to my nieces and nephews…I loved sharing the time with you and enjoying all the ways you are creative and spontaneous. From sharing poetry, writing and playing music, enjoying the “band” of cousins performance, dancing, doing handstands, listening to drumming and piano and guitar, tree climbing, art making, peeling bark off logs, making forts and panda caves, playing with pirate ships and kitchens and trucks and so much more —  it was such a great reminder of all the different way kids can be creative and spontaneous and then add intention and craft to the things that capture their imaginations.

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Tearing it up!

Sometimes Improvamama gets lucky.

It has been a rough couple of weeks around here as I’ve gone from having one nasty cold to another one to the flu (and LP and I traveled to visit her Grandma in the middle of that time).  I have become the queen of the boring mamas.  All I can think is “what can I get LP involved in so I can lie down?”

And as I learn again and again, what works is following her offers because given the opportunity to explore, she will go for it.

One day last week as I was half-heartedly sorting political flyers into piles for 1) recycle immediately and 2) look at later, LP started taking them and asked me to tear them into strips.  Pretty soon she took over tearing them up (mostly with her teeth) and laying them out in a path across the house.  Actually a pretty good use for them I think.

By the time the Sunday paper arrived the flyers were long gone and she was ready for new material  to tear and rip and shred.  And now (Wednesday), she’s still enjoying the fruits of her labors and working on tearing the larger pieces up even more.

So glad we haven’t given up on the newspaper yet!

This post is part of the FINAL Moms 30-Minute Blog Challenge over at Steady Mom. Such a big THANK YOU to Jamie for hosting the challenge. It has been great for getting me to put my ideas into words at least once a week. AND Jamie is starting a great new blog SteadyHomeDeals which is a wonderful resource for all of us who want to make conscientious choices about how we spend our money.

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Just continuing to enjoy the bursting spontaneity that is 3 and 1/2…the enjoyment is good balance for the challenges of raising a strong-willed little person.

LP had an early affinity for giving things names. She used to spend hours making bouquets of grass or leaves and would give each one a name. AND then she would seemingly remember the names.  This has evolved twofold…into both a delightful practice of naming stuffed animals and objects that come into her life and in creating new words.

On the object front, she has a collection of strawberry baskets with yarn tied to them that have become her puppies. (This all started as a craft project that I thought would be fun that LP wanted no part of because why would you create yarn webs inside a puppy?)  They are Sadie, Puppinaise, Puppinaise’s Cousin and As You Drift Away.  She also is into nicknames as her beloved wild thing named, Violin Case, is now also known as “The Mad Baby.” (Lots of work in our home on using words for emotions…glad to know it is making an impression.)

And one of my favorite things to do when we come across a new object is to ask her what it is called.  I need to start keeping pen and paper at hand both for posterity and because she gets quite put out when I don’t remember them (I always was slow at learning other languages).

A new twist is the addition of made-up verbs…the most recent is “sninging.” Sninging is when you start to sneeze and end up singing. (Once you know about, it starts to happen all the time.)  We had quite a good time sninging at dinner the other night and ImprovDad is a champion sninger.

At the library I was happy to stumble on a book that is delighting LP in this area of creating new words. We were already fans of Jack Prelutsky and I think  Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant is some of his best work.  17 short poems about what you get when you cross an animal (like an elephant) with an object (like an umbrella). The illustrations by Carin Berger are wonderfully wild and some of the combos are brilliant. My favorite is the Clocktopus while LP is most fond of the Pop-up Toadsters.

LP has internalized the idea of making a new creation out of two known things. Last night, while enjoying a red popsicle, she proclaimed she was eating a “lobsicle”  – half lobster, half popsicle.

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Sometimes I wish I could be inside LP’s mind watching her imagination unfold.  I imagine it is very cinematic…. I get those lovely glimpses of the world in there through what she says and what she does but I know there is so much more.

At dinner a few evenings back,  I was telling ImprovDad about some B&Bs I had been checking out. (we have my wonderful Aunt J coming for an overnight with LP next week – woohoo!) One was called the Dancing Coyote and LP loved that name. She wanted to know how coyotes dance, so we invented one. It is a little bit Bollywoodish with howling. It was hard to finish dinner through the laughter.

Post dinner she was pestering us to go outside and see the dancing coyote. I was in “get things done” mode and had her bath running already so I wasn’t game but she rallied ImprovDad.

The report back is that LP led him down the street, around the corner and to some bushes that had a small space between them where the neighbors store their recycling bins.  “That’s where the dancing coyote lives,” she said and then collected some leaves and sticks to leave for the coyote to eat.

I love seeing how her imagination expands.  I think a few months ago she might have had the idea of a place being where the dancing coyote lives if she was looking at it but now she can picture it in her head first and then go explore it. Now her spontaneity and creativity are developing in new territory…how good it is to discover it.

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#1 Being playful is not the same as being happy.

As an improv performer and teacher, I knew that play felt good but when I wasn’t “in the zone,” my work as an improvisor often suffered (and of course I would go home and rehash every minute of it over and over again).  Using improv in life is similar in that when I can get the improvisational flow going, it feels great and when I can’t…life feels quite a bit more flat.  That flow is easier to find starting from a happy place.

AND yet…I was surprised and grateful when my knowledge of improv allowed me to stay playful (or at least have playful moments) while struggling with PPD.  I was so overwhelmed with sadness and feelings of despair and then here was this incredible gift.  My knowledge of and experience with play was useful;  truly, it was a lifeline that helped me feel connected with LP even in the haze of PPD.

I continue to rely on improv principles and activities to keep life playful when the going gets tough.  It is SO MUCH easier to be playful when I feel happy but I’ve learned that I don’t need to be happy to be playful. AND play often lifts my spirits, even if it is temporary.

#2 I sometimes feel self-conscious about being playful

I’ve been professionally playful for over a decade — teaching improvisation, working as a drama therapist and just plain bringing my sense of play into every day life.  Yet I can get in my head and self-conscious about public expressions of this playful self that is the real me.  It is easy to be playful at home with my family or when my professional role calls for playfulness. More difficult is keeping that sense of play alive in my daily life when the worry voices nibble at my awareness.  Even being a playful parent in public can be a challenge sometimes. There is such a culture of judgment of parents that even if no one is judging me, I’m imagining they are! And that sure does get in the way of feeling playful

#3: My playful and your playful are different…AND that is GOOD!

In general, I’m a quiet person. And so much of my playfulness shows up in a quiet way.  I often have a little bit of envy of parents I meet who can  rally a group of kids and energize them into active, group play.  Suddenly everyone is rolling on the ground with laughter or in an amazing game of tag.  That parent is usually not me.

I am I think my strength is drawing out shy kids or in smaller interactions (1 or 2 kids). I like to observe the play that is happening and find places to say “yes!” to ideas and be an aide to bring those ideas to life. Play comes in all shapes and sizes AND when I see a big person playing in a way that I enjoy (or envy), I can work to stretch myself and see what happens if I practice a different kind of play.

Do you have a playful confession to make?

This post is part of the Moms’ 30 Minute Blog Challenge over at SteadyMom…just made it in at the 30 minute mark this week!

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LP’s favorite thing in our wee garden this year has been the carrots.

Unfortunately, most days she does not want to eat the carrots (and does not want anyone else to eat the carrots).  I’m really not sure why because this girl will eat anything that she can pick herself — tomatoes and peas, of course but also radishes, kale, and okra.  For whatever reason, she’s decided that the carrots are to play with and not to eat. There has been more than one meltdown when I wanted take a carrot or two to use for dinner. Our friend T who was visiting for a few days had coaxed her into eating a carrot and there was much added pleasure in the carrot experience.

Until she picked this one.

I was excited about it. Look at it!  It is totally cool! I was all ready to jump into exploring the way the five carrots had grown together. LP pretty much shrugged and was ready to move on to something else all together.

I was puzzled.  I watched her play with other things while T and I marveled at it and took a bunch of photos.  She did make her way over to us and then took the carrot off for her own exploration…and eventual snack.

I wonder what her thought process was. My best guess is that she had an expectation of what was going to come out of the ground and when that expectation was not correct, she needed a little time to regroup and let the expectation go. She needed time to be able to say “yes” to the unusual carrot.

When I think about the experience in that frame, I feel so empathetic because even at my best, I have trouble switching gears when I have strong expectations.  Even when I really, really, really want to say “yes” because the new, unexpected thing looks fun or delicious or intriguing, I need time to make an internal shift.

It was a great reminder for me to not push too hard or fast when I think something is “interesting.”  The wacky carrots were still wacky and wonderful 15 minutes later.


This post is part of the Moms’ 30 Minute Blog Challenge over at SteadyMom.

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