Work and play. Play and work…

April 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Danny Thomas, Family, Kids, Parenting, Urban Dweller

 

By: Danny ThomasIMG_2290I think it’s interesting
and not insignificant
that Jennifer and I
both seem to use the words
“work” and “play”
interchangeably.

we are both students of theatre
so that has to be a factor
because
theatre
on some levels,
like many arts,
if you’re doing it right
I think,
is a vocation
largely devoted
to playing.

in my music
and my writing
I work at playing too
and I play at working…

I was in the kitchen…
cleaning the thing
which we can’t decide
whether to call
a griddle or a skillet
so we call it a skiddle…

anyway,
I was cleaning that
and I heard Jennifer say to the girls.
“You guys are working really well together…
you are playing nice.”
to the older girls
who were playing some math games
on the iPad.

I guess
I am just grateful that
I have partnered with
and get to co-parent
with someone
who, like me,
sees these things; “work” and “play”
as intertwined or symbiotic, if not actually one and the same…
who takes playing seriously and sees the fun in work.

Not long after Maya was born
I was talking with an acquaintance,
a guy who modeled at the art gallery where I worked.
(I got to meet some interesting characters in that job!)
I was talking about the idea that as much as I had wanted to be a dad
for nigh on 10 years
and that as much as we had prepared
by reading books
and watching movies
and talking to parents
our minds were still blown…
by becoming parents

and the responsibility…
the work of parenting
was particularly mind-blowing
in that it is work… it is Work.
but it is different than any other kind of work
i’ll ever do.
and the difference is ineffable
again,
here I am trying to eff the ineffable…
but these are the places
my mind occupies
when I sit down
to write…
or maybe I should say
these are the things
that occupy my mind…
whatever…

It is a unique work, and a work that relates to art making
in that it is creative
and compelling
and born out of love,
at least under the best circumstances.
it is a work that most of us who do it
do because
we feel obliged to or inspired to
or both.
It is a unique kind of
responsibility
not free of resentment
but an commitment that comes with a tender reward
that can only marginally be expressed by the joy I feel watching the flicker of an eyelash and last final sigh before the rhythmic breathing of deep sleep settles in… or the ecstasy on the face of a mudcovered child… or the profound fear of watching a ball roll down the driveway, child in tow… knowing that I can’t get there in time and hoping that my voice does the trick… and the relief I feel when it does.

back to the story…

I was talking to this guy
who was not a parent…
But definitely was a dude
with an interesting perspective
and outlook.
a model, working on a degree
in ecology… sustainability in particular…
our previous conversations had ranged from
Carlos Castaneda, to Kurt Vonnegut…
and Pink Floyd to Complexity Theory…
This was in Eugene, Oregon, mind you,
a place where chances are high that your bartender has a PhD in Physics…
or is high on psilocybin…
or both.

So this shaggy, brainy male model and I were having a conversation on parenting and he recommended a book to me… the book was The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff…

A book not originally intended as a parenting book… but over time was adopted as one…

Many, many ideas from the book resonated with me, and as I have mentioned in the past, I don’t believe any book or author is a panacea, there is no magic recipe for any family, relationship or person… however… there are certainly lessons to be gleaned and important ideas to share and think about in so much of what is floating around…

So, of the many ideas that struck a chord with me – one of the prominent ones that applies to the ideas bouncing around in my brain today – is the notion that these indigenous tribes that Jean Liedloff spent time with had no concept of a distinction between work and play… they all just did what they could, with the faith that everyone was making a valid and significant contribution…

I should probably go look up that section of the book,
I may be characterizing it incorrectly
but it was something along the lines of they had no separate words for work or play…

We don’t live among the tribes of the Yequana Indians in the jungles of South America, so the reality is we can’t exactly mirror their lifestyle… but there certainly are lessons to be learned, and that knowledge can inform how we approach our work, and our play, and the work/play of raising kids.

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Mamas, Cycles, and the March of Time

June 1, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Lisa Regula Meyer, Surrogacy

By: Lisa Regula Meyer

Cycles are important, especially to women. Our cycles mean a lot to us: are we pregnant? (congratulations, again, Lexi and Devon!), are we mature? are we in good health? are we at the end of our child-bearing years? – all of which can be addressed in part by our cycles. As a woman, I’m no different in that, and like all women, I’m so much more than that one dimension.

For anyone who hasn’t noticed, I’m an ecologist, and I study frogs. That makes spring in our house a little different than most houses. Where other mamas start noticing the warmer weather, the spring rains, and the flowers, I see humidity levels, time at sunset, hours of dark, and insect activity levels. I start obsessing over the weather- is it warm enough? Is it wet enough? Is there enough daylight? When will the FROGS START TO CALL?! Summer in our house involves lots of late nights driving around count frog surveys, and days counting and measuring tadpoles.

See, most people think of scientists and professors and imagine serious, disciplined, dare I say it- stodgy. Yeah, we’re really not like that, we ecologists. Well, some are, but most not. Herpetologists (people who study amphibians and reptiles, like me) are a little further on the “not your typical professor” scale, and the furthest I’ve ever seen are the elasmobranchs, who study sharks, skates, and rays. They know how to party. But I digress.
My year’s research can live or die by knowing cycles, and how to predict my study organisms. A single big, unexpected event means an entire year is gone. Believe it or not, even though I was working in Ohio, in 2005 hurricane Katrina destroyed my study site and wiped out a year of breeding for the Northern dusky salamanders of Big Pine Hollow. It behooves me to be anal-retentive about the natural world, know what’s going on, and have a good idea of what’s going to happen.

Cycles help with that burden; they give me an idea of what to expect, a baseline if you will. While our current Gregorian calendar, like all other calendars, is man-made and has all the fallibilities that come along with that, it serves a purpose. Wood frogs around here call in late March, spring peepers early April, green frogs in May, bull frogs in July, and so on. Except for years like this, and years like this have gotten more common; years that are less predictable, further outside the normal cycles and limits that we expect, and that’s bad, although it does have its up-sides as well.

Years like this make us re-examine. Years like this remind us that cycles can be wrong, that stochasticity occurs, that life is not predictable all the time. And sometimes I need that reminder, in both the good ways and the bad. Not all surprises are bad, in fact, some are amazing. Sometimes the surprise is everything falling together perfectly. Sometimes the surprise is a species that isn’t where you had expected it. Sometimes the surprise is an experiment that works out just the way you planned.

Other times, it’s the cycle that gives you a little nugget. Those long cycles, those ultridian cycles, the ones where you know they’ll happen again, but you don’t know when. Or you know when, but it’s a looooooooonnnnng time. Like Transit of Venus or Haley’s comet long. The point to this whole ramble is buried in those little nuggets.
Always remember that sometimes the unexpected is just what you need, and sometimes you have to adore the beauty of things you take for granted, because cycles can change and those spring wildflowers might not make it up next year. Challenge yourself to notice the cycles a little more, and see all the wonder that there is out in the natural world. Appreciate the unexpected twists of fate. Look up at the stars, out at the sky, and down at the flowers. And never forget that in a finite universe, the molecules from those stars that no longer shine had to go somewhere, and nature is the best recycler around.

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