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Gratitude

I’ve been feeling…I’m not sure the word. Mentally floppy. All over the place. Spread unevenly. A little lost.

I’m trying to change my mental attitude. This is yoga: Vitarke Badhane Pratipaksha Bhavanam: When doubt arises, cultivate the opposite mental attitude. It’s been, for years, the yoga sutra that speaks to me the loudest. It works for more than doubt, of course.

I am grateful for all of my first world-liness. I do not have to worry that my children will die of starvation or diseases (actually, I do worry that my children will die of diseases, since so many people have stopped vaccinating their children, but that is a different conversation for a different day). I do not have to worry about freezing to death in the cold weather or even not being able to dress appropriately for the weather.

This doesn’t mean I am free from worries or concerns. It doesn’t take away my experience. But I want to work on cultivating a different mental attitude, especially since my basic and above basic needs are met. Instead of swimming around in the muck, I’d like to emerge from it onto the shore. It’s still there, but I don’t have to let it drown me, right?

So: 3 things I am grateful for.

  1. Yoga. I got to go to class with my teacher last week, and after a few poses she said, once my shoulders we back and my spine uplifted, “there’s the Vicki we know and love!” I was there all along, and I always am.
  2. Eating together. My growing up family and my married into family eats together. It’s nice to sit together regularly and talk about things large and small.
  3. Quiet. At the end of the day, everyone is asleep and it’s quiet for a little bit before I go to sleep. It reminds my mind to be quiet too.

What are you grateful for? How do you keep yourself from getting stuck in the complaints?

Bubby

Bubby and Abraham

These are things I don’t want to forget:

  • I always tried to sit by Bubby at meals and holidays. I liked helping her open the Sweet-n-Low packets for her tea when her arthritis kept her from doing it herself.
  • Bubby loved to take me shopping when I was a girl. She would circle the parking lot, looking for a close place to park. I remember being 12 or so and wishing I could just sneak in a little driving, drop her off, and park in the back.
  • Also on shopping: she was disappointed that I stopped wearing sparkly clothes. I am 32 now, but when I bought a sparkly shirt (for a show) recently, I thought of her.
  • Bubby came to nearly every performance of every production I was in in Pensacola. She and mom came to opening night of my first show in college, Carousel. I knew they were there because I couldn’t reach either by phone that day, which was very out of character.
  • Bubby loved giving gifts. One day, I went to Penko (the family business), to meet her (and probably my dad) for lunch. I was a teenager. She was wearing a pretty necklace that I had never seen. I told her I liked it, and she smiled and said, “It’s for you.” I’m sure I told her I didn’t mean to take her necklace, but she had worn it so I would see it, and she could give it to me.
  • My favorite thing she ever gave me, tangibly, is a necklace with about 6 inches of tiny pearls. It is small and beautiful and it was hers. She gave it to me at my Bat Mitzvah (and I wore it then) and I wore it at my wedding. Othertimes too, but those I remember.
  • At my Bat Mitzvah, at the end of my speech, I referenced members of my family who had died, honoring their memory. I happened to look at Bubby as I mentioned Yay, what we called my grandfather, her husband. She had tears in her eyes. I began to cry and couldn’t stop for a few minutes.
  • When we were little, we used to spend the night at Bubby’s (and Yay’s) house. We would wash her dog, Little Man, a toy poodle, in the sink. We went to the Taco House or Sonny’s BBQ. We slept in her bed next to her. In the morning, she’d make cinnamon toast for us. Or we’d go to the Village Inn.
  • Bubby used to knit a lot. A lot. She made me a sweater with three rabbit fronts on the front and three rabbit backs on the back. Cotton tails and all. And she made me a cardigan with acorn buttons. Now I have several sweaters, bags, wall hangings, and a coat that she knit or needlepointed. I can’t knit without thinking of her.
  • When I was a girl, I thought Bubby was so tall, so regal. I kept growing, and she started to shrink, and we met in the middle.
  • When Abraham was tiny, Bubby and Mom came to visit me. Abraham fell asleep in her arms right away. She’d wake up early in the morning and Abraham and I would go into Zoe’s room, where she was staying to talk with her (and let her hold him).
  • Bubby always made her bed.
  • Bubby never, until the very end, let anyone know she was in pain, though she almost always was.
  • Bubby loved deeply and fiercely. She always ended a letter or conversation with “I love you…the most” and what could you really say to that.

DAVID & VICKI GRAFF'S WEDDING 12.25.08 042

Bubby, I love you the most. And I miss you the most.

Terrible/Wonderful

1. David and I are thinking of getting an air conditioner. I have lived in Indiana and Pennsylvania for a combined 12 years without AC. And now, we are seriously thinking of it: a window unit, and central if we had the money for it (that shit is expensive…). But using AC makes more global warming, which makes us need more AC. I feel like a rat on a wheel.

BUT

(and unrelated)

2. I’ve been day dreaming about making theatre. I’m sending my play out into the world to contests and workshops (fingers crossed for it to get chosen), I’m organizing a reading this summer, and I’m thinking about what comes next. And I’m talking about it with other theatre artists. And I’m writing grants to make it happen. It’s Baby Theatre. Get ready.

BUT

(related)

3. There is NO MONEY for anything extra. And I feel greedy for wanting grants or Kickstarter money or even audience members to make art when Pennsylvania Public education is falling apart, when people are hungry and hot (or cold, depending on the season…), when the basic needs are not being met. I BELIEVE in theatre and in art. But I’m not stupid; I know that arts education isn’t going to replace any regular education and I especially know that art isn’t going to feed hungry kids. 

There was one little girl I worked with this school year. She was always hungry. She came to drama club regularly, but she was always hungry. All of her characters were hungry. All of her plot lines were about getting food. She loved drama, but it didn’t make her tummy stop rumbling.

BUT

(I’m trying to think here…)

(hungry kids make it hard to see a brighter side)

4. I got a call about teaching creative drama this summer. I don’t know the whole story, but I guess the Reading School District isn’t offering the summer school/free lunch programs they have offered in the past (see #3). So local non-profits (I don’t know who, but I’m guessing churches and Boys and Girls Clubs) are stepping up as much as they can to offer lunch and programming during the day. Which gives me hope again. I can’t fill their bellies, but I can fill their hearts and imaginations once their bellies are full. 

It just puts everything in perspective. 

Jet Packs

I’m teaching an after school drama club at the Boys and Girls Club Center for the Arts. Elementary aged kids. They are crazy and hilarious. 

Two weeks ago a new kid, T, came into class. He had a mohawk and a little sass, and I was hesitant. We were getting ready for the end of the year performance, which was enough work, and I didn’t know how dealing with a mohawk would go. The Director asked me to let him in, if it wasn’t too much of a problem. He was a kid who came and went, and they wanted him to stick around for a while. I said yes.

The kids created a play and I scripted it for them. It is called SuperStar/SuperSpy. The Spies chase the Stars. They want a Jewel. In the end (SPOILER ALERT!) there are two Jewels, they each get one and then they all party. The kids always want to wear fancy costumes and have lots of props, but that isn’t really my thing. I like teaching them to use themselves and MAYBE what is around them to create. So when the spies wanted Jet Pack and Race Cars, I said we weren’t going to work on that in class, but they could make a jet pack at home out of soda bottles and wear that if they wanted to.

And T did. He came in today with two jet packs, one for his buddy M made from a box and streamers and one for himself made from 2 soda bottles (he drank all the soda himself, he told me proudly) and a whole roll of duct tape. They also brought a car that they made from a big box, colored construction paper, and more tape. 

This is why I LOVE teaching. I get so much inspiration from these kids. They have so many ideas and they need more people to tell them YES! GO! MAKE! They don’t need any fancy costumes or sets. They have everything they need. 

Wrighting

I am many things these days: Mom, Wife, Step Mom, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, Actor, Theatre Teacher, etc.

I am also a playwright. I wear this title hesitantly. Calling oneself a writer of any kind is a big deal, and I’m still developing my skillz.

It is not “playwrite” nor “playright” but “playWRIGHT.” One who puts things together, who makes things. Like a shipwright or a cartwright.

I put stories together. I’m working on a play now, no title yet. It has taken me over a year to get to it, trying on science plays (I am not the person to write a science play for kids, it turns out), community based theatre (I still want to work on this project, looking at stories from the local Latino Community and Pennsylvania Dutch community, but what I began writing was not for kids), and finally, my old stand by: story-based theatre.

I read a fantastic book of Latino Fairytales (because I want to write something of interest to people in my community, in Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania, Mid Atlantic). There is a fast-growing Latino population here, and the best way that I know to build bridges of acceptance among people is through art. My art is theatre. 

I read a story about a girl, a witch, who could fly. And I used that story for inspiration to write this play. My friend Kirsten said, “You are developing quite a style, an impresario-storytelling-fantasy-shifting-time-space-continuum-soft-and-warm-friendship style.” I can own that. 

I wrighted this play. I can’t own all of it; it is a collaboration between me, my community, and the original creator of that story. But I am feeling more confident calling myself a playwright. 

 

Paula Deen Cookbook

This is the best thing I’ve ever seen all day.

Extrovert

I had a realization tonight. I think I am an extrovert.

Not the life-of-the-party kind, but the needs-to-be-with-people kind. 

I’m terrified of people but I also really like them. Big groups, no thanks. But small groups, ok. And one-on-one, especially if it is someone I like, yes, please.

I like going up to the cafe to write. In part because I don’t look up and see dishes/toys/cute faces who I want to play and talk with. And in part because if I time it right, my friend-neighbor will be there with her daughter and my work will turn into coffee with a friend. At the very least, I can chat with the barista and sometimes random cafe-goers if the mood strikes. 

What do I do with this realization?

Happy Birthday, Baby

Happy Birthday to Abraham!

So strange to think that last year, at 8:30am, I went to the Doctor’s office for an amniotic fluid index (I was at my due date, and they wanted to check little Raspberry’s stats) and saw Abraham’s little face where his little tush should have been.

My first thought, seeing his head just under my ribs on the ultrasound screen, was “Holy Shit, i’m having twins!” thinking that that baby I was seeing was the surprise up-side down one and the other was head down as my midwife had assured me he was only the week before.

Then Dr. Cammarano verified the actual truth: breech baby.

Me: Crap.

Dr. C: Hmm.

Me: So what do we do? Can we turn him?

Dr. C: No. You don’t have enough amniotic fluid.

Me: Crap. (although secretly happy because version scared the shit out of me)

Dr. C: Ha.

Me: So I get to have a C-section, huh?

Dr. C: Yes. (he is a man of few words, but excellent sword)

Me: When, like next week or something?

Dr. C: Today.

Me: Wow. Ok. Can I call my husband? He is on his way to work in Philadelphia.

Dr. C: Sure, we’ll wait for him.

His super nice surgery-scheduler gave me a 2pm OR slot, plenty of time for David to get there.  I called David, who had just arrived at work. I called my parents to let them know the scoop (I too was breech, so my mom knew the scoop all too well. She was mostly concerned that I was super sad about not having a natural, birth center birth, but at that point, I was ready to have my abdomen back and my baby out.). I called David’s parents so they could drive over to be with us/meet their latest grandchild. Zoe and Nathan were at their mom’s house for the weekend, which meant they wouldn’t get to meet the baby right away, but we wouldn’t have to worry about David splitting himself into two to take care of them and me and the baby.

Some funny things: We were at the tail end of remodeling out kitchen/downstairs, so I went home and told the guys, who I was friendly with after months of work, that I was going to have a baby that afternoon and could they be done in the next couple of days? At least with the messy stuff.

I also had arranged for a woman to come clean the house (post construction + 9 months pregnant = need help cleaning). She came about 30 minutes before I had to be at the hospital (which is 2 blcoks away). She started freaking out that I was about to have a baby. I meanwhile, was pretty calm.

I was pretty calm about the whole thing. I was so excited to meet Abraham and not be pregnant. I was not nervous about surgery, having had some before, and I knew that I’d heal well based on my previous experience. I was also a little relieved that I didn’t have to deal with labor, pooping in front of people, episiotomies, and incontinence. As the midwife who came by to see me the day after said  “there are some perks to having a c-section.”

Now it is later in the night and Abraham (the one year old) is asleep upstairs. This past year has been everything: the best ever and at times, the worst ever. Parenting is hard, and doing anything else while parenting is hard. But I wouldn’t send him back. He is the best baby for me and David, and I am grateful that he chose us to be his family.

Video

Abraham’s first birthday cake

Santa

Last December, I wrote about my dislike about the secularization of Christmas. I’m Jewish, and I grew up with friends who were not, and I did some Christmas partying with them. But it wasn’t my family (we did the cliche “Eat Chinese and see a movie” on Christmas). 

My step kids celebrate Hanukah with us, and Christmas with their mom. They love Santa and love that he knows to bring their presents early if they are with us over Christmas. 

Abraham is only almost 1, but he loves Santa too. We see him everywhere. At the used book store we frequent, there is a small statue of Santa and Mrs. Claus by the register. He reached for it and whined a bit. I told him who they were and that they bring presents to kids who celebrate Christmas. He may or may not have understood anything, but I like talking to him. 

When I was a girl, my parents were straightforward with me about Santa – he didn’t come to our house, I shouldn’t talk about my knowledge of him with my friends. When Santa came to my school in Kindergarten (public school, in the south), I told him I was Jewish, but I wanted a wagon. Because that is what you are supposed to ask for, right?

I also remember that the local news gave a Santa report on Christmas Eve. In maybe 4th grade, I watched the report, looked out the front window and made a deal with Santa. If he brought me presents, I would believe in him. You can guess how that turned out. 

I’m not sure what to tell Abraham about Santa when the time comes. I don’t want to lie to him (I remember discovering the truth about the tooth fairy because my quarters had gum all over them, just like the ones in my mom’s purse). I also don’t want to give him information that he can’t carry. I don’t want him to be the kid who ruins Christmas for his friends (or siblings…). 

It isn’t urgent. Right now, he says “dog,” “duck,” and “truck” (all pronounced “Dah”) so spilling the Santa beans isn’t a big concern. But this time of year gets me thinking.