Support for the Playground

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Mother’s Day has come and gone, and this writer has neglected her blog for too long!  This special day for us mamas came in mellow, not like the song lyric “mellow yellow” but more like the mellowness of a fine red wine which fills you with the warmth  and flavor fullness of the sun, soil and grapes from which it is made.

The holiday celebrates that which we mamas have made – our babes. Mine are growing rapidly, with my oldest having left the nest during a time of difficulty and college-aged angst, which he is still working through.  I miss him at times like these, but not as much as one might think.  I helped to grow that boy to young man the best way I knew how and I honor his need to do it his way. While I’m the mom o these boys I love, it’s not mine to hold them back if that is their desire.  I support that desire and the freedom to make it; we all have our own individual dance cards.

College son sent me a song that of course touched my heart as this is how he rolls. “Turn To You” by Justin Beiber brought me to tears, as it should, reminding both of us of how strong a bond between parent and child can be. I missed him much that day as he plowed through his studies finishing up him freshman year.

Young One, our baby, is not so little any more. His nine year old self created a sweetie pie card proclaiming me the best mom in the world! What an honor! He did do some shopping together, which, frankly was unnecessary given the prestige that came with my world honor.

In a red picnic basket were items that were just plain fun.  Candy from my childhood, straws with umbrellas, fish glassware and more overflowed from the basket.   The message:  “Keep Playing and Keep Writing Mom!

I will, boys, I will.

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Library Revolution

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I love NPR.  NPR, or National Public Radio, offers in depth stories about news, culture, politics and local issues. They also have weekly radio shows that I love to listen to including “This American Life” and “Car Talk”.  You name it, they cover it in an enjoyable, engaging way.  I feel my brain growing each time I listen.  Let’s face it, for a life long learner like me, this is fuel for play.

Yesterday, I was listening to reporter Allison Cuddy discuss the changes happing in the concept of libraries as we know them. We often think of libraries as a place with shelves of books and a librarian whispering “shhh” at the patrons.  Libraries, just like everything else in this century, are evolving into much more than that.

Jane Addam’s Hull House now has an art lending library.  They will come and hang a piece of art in your home and loan it to you just like a library book – except it is not due back for three months.  Also in Chicago is the new Poetry Library which houses – you guessed it – books of poetry.  Finally, Public’s Hotel has created a library room complete with coffee shop and books where guests and visitors alike can curl up in front of the fire with a book – or an electronic book – and a cup of coffee while experiencing the mind traveling experience that comes from reading a great book.

As I listened to Allison report on this story of libraries, I wondered if there would be a way to create a play library.  Not one in which you go in and play like some form of an adult version of Chuck E. Cheese or anything.  But a play library where, based on a person’s interest, you could type in one type of play that you enjoy and a suggested list of other things to try might come up:

Enter: Movies

Books made into movies

Attending the Academy Awards

Traveling to famous movie locations

Movie Group (think Book Club)

Movie themed parties

The library idea also got my wheels spinning even more.  Libraries provided venues for the experience of community – whether you are at your local library or the Public Hotel’s library, you are around other people who are part of the community which you are a part of at that moment and time.  What about a play library or an adult play group where we swap and borrow each other’s play ideas?  A play group for grown ups where we share stories of our play experiences and become energized by the new experiences of others.

Share with me, dear reader.  Share your play experiences and let’s make a play library.  Let’s be part of the library revolution!

Where Are You? Wait, What? Chicago?

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“Keep the promises you make to yourself” ~ Dove chocolate quote

Clearly you have noticed that it has been a challenge for me to keep focused on play! Each day I am certain you have arisen with the hopes that I had written another installment about my play adventures.  For those of you to whom this applies, I am so sorry I let you down.

  Truth is, I had put playing on the back burner until the semester ended and could go back to balancing the work I do in my practice with the role I play in my family. Grading is time consuming, especially at the end of a semester, but so worth it.  I understand that it is not play nor self care, however, reading the cultural autobiographies the students wrote was like reading sacred stories.  I am so fortunate to walk with my students as they come to understand themselves more deeply.

During this time, my husband planned a date night.  I did not know where we were going or what we were doing.  The anticipation was energizing,  All I had to do was dress myself up and attend, like in the old days when he would pick me up in his fancy car and off we’d go. (Now days his car is pretty fancy but much larger to accommodate children and the gear that comes with them, but I digress…)

We headed into Chicago and explored a neighborhood on Halsted Street, not too far away from my alma mater DePaul. I love the area and as members of Team Suburban we don’t often go into the city just to explore.  We went in and out of shops, and laughed at all the stores who had bowls of water for dogs and actually allowed the dogs in the stores.  Lululemon had the most pet/people couples.  One bulldog looked noticeably stressed, while his owner picked out runner shorts, as if he might have to actually run with his owner!

The great delight of the evening, besides the company of said husband, was the trip we made to the United Center!  I had not been there in more years than any of us can count and was pleasantly surprised to note that this was a home game for the Chicago Bulls.Yahoo!!  I adore sports, with football and basketball at the top of my list.  Not that the evening could get much better, but when we arrived in our seats, they announced that Derrick Rose would play with the team that evening. He had been recovering from a back injury and all week long Chicago Bulls fans had waited in anticipation to see if he would play Saturday night’s game.  Noah, Boozer, Rose, and “Hot Sauce” were all going to be in the game! Yeah baby!!

We had fabulous seats, way up high where you can truly see the game play in the X and O strategy that coaches use when explaining new plays. Seeing the players move across the court as a team, and not as an individual player, made me aware that basketball looks like a dance full of grace, pace and movements that flow from one end of the court to the other.  A joyful and competitive dance.

The night ended far too quickly for me.  But the impact of the night did not.  Today, I still smile from my head to my toes thinking about that night at the United Center.

That tells me something.  This girlie has to keep focused on play.

Keep the promises you make to yourself.  Thanks, Dove chocolate!

Coffee Shop Capers

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The sun is out when it wasn’t supposed to be. Looking at the lake with a warm cup of coffee in my hand, I find myself enjoying this coffee shop on a busy Saturday afternoon. I am in place of solitude, despite the noise and the presence of others in the coffee shop. I am so grateful for the solitude.

There are many stories revealing themselves here. Two girlfriends who haven’t seen each other in a month scream and hug as they connect. Parents, a young man and his fiancé stop in for a cup before they meet with the caterer to plan the wedding menu. The excitement they feel is palatable. An aunt and a mom provide support to a young college student who shares that she still has not found her place, and does not think she fits in where she is at.

Folks rush in to grab a quick cup of Joe, as you would expect. “I’ll have a latte to go!” is heard often. The latte lover grabs their order and dashes off towards the rest of their day. A coffee shop on a Saturday afternoon has a very different vibe than during the week, and I am completely enjoying this perch I am on. Instead of seeing people in professional clothing, heading to work, you notice the runners and bikers, suited up and sweaty. Folks linger over coffee and a scone, laughing,. Hands are held, tears are wiped, and folks seem refueled.

As I sit people watching and yes listening, it comes to mind that I am on the playground again. A Saturday at the coffee shop is a day on the grown up playground. People are slowing down, making time for each other or just for themselves. It is the place for human connection, whether with others or yourself.

This is a kind of grown up play the type of play that children often cannot understand. At the heart of play is pleasure, and being in this place alive with people and yet at the same time full of personal solitude is bringing me true enjoyment. This is a space where I can play with ideas. Playing with ideas, dusting off my imagination, gives me the chance to create play worlds that belong just to me. This time provides a peek into the window of my life, just as I have seen a small bit of others lives while people watching in the coffee shop.

In playing alone, I can step back from the external, electronic, structured adult world of requirements and stimulation; instead I can think, dream, hope, and imagine. I can reflect on barriers in my life and what I might want to do with them. Mainly, though, I get to know myself better than I had before. After all, I profess to be a lifelong learner. Isn’t it appropriate that I learn about me? Stay connected with me? Cherish me?

If not me, then who?

The Giddy Kale Gal

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ImageI’m finding out that there are some things on this play journey that make me giddy.  I am enjoying my new found love of cooking new things.  Lately, I am all about baked kale.  For those who know me well, this is a shocker of earthquake magnitude as I am not a fan of green veggies.  Eating a salad is fine, but those green tree things that we tell our kids the healthy dinosaurs ate – well, to quote a Valley Girl, “Gag me!”. 

Saturday I headed out to the local organic market to buy some kale to bake.  Ate it all within an hour of making it.  Just as in my granola escapades, I shared very little.  Yesterday I headed to the organic section of a local market to by more kale to bake.  Told you, I am giddy about kale.  And don’t get me started on my new found interest in quinoa.  Oh my that rocks the in the food world too! 

Today, I thought I’d start a cyber conversation with y’all to find out what your giddy about.  I’d love to know.  It might inspire me to try something new, enjoyable and playful. 

So, reader pal,friend and buddy (there are only three of you, right?)  – would you indulge me with your input? Just a few moments of your time to answer these inquires: 

 

What makes you giddy like a kid?

What are you passionate about?

What were you most looking forward to when you woke up this morning?

In my next entry I’ll share your responses – and mine. 

Maybe we will find a new game on the playground! 

 

 

What are your answers to these questions: What makes you giddy like a kid? What are you passionate about? What were you most looking forward to when you woke up this a.m.? Here are mine.

I’s play too! Just not like you!

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The last two weeks have been very busy ones for me.  This translates to limited time to play.  I like to do things well, and therefore this limited play is making for a crabby writer in me trying to get out.

I had lunch with a friend this week that was kind enough to share her time and talents in my classroom.  She brought a colleague of hers to the class, and afterwards we headed out to lunch.

When I have lunch with this friend, I often try to allow extra time in my schedule so that it feels free and less structured than an average “let’s discuss business” lunch.  We connect on many levels, especially on an intellectual play level.

I thoroughly enjoy intellectual play – banttering around ideas and possibilities.  For me, it includes things like reading, thinking big thoughts, solving the world’s problems, defining and redefining priorities– that sort of thing.  The ideas we share and the problems we solve over those lunches energize me. (You reading over your friend’s shoulder, stop rolling your eyes, I am neither a snob nor a bore!)

We also talked college basketball – what a week for that!.  Personal stories were swapped and so were many laughs.  It was the kind of lunch that lingers, and when it comes to an end you’re sorry. My personal schedule nudged me to move on.  After all, the school where Youngest Son attends frowns on leaving your child there after a certain time while you lunch with friends.

As I drove home, I felt rushed and behind.  I kept thinking, “I made a commitment to the blog and I have to get this done.  I wanted to get this done this afternoon before the end of the school day for Youngest Son.”

Anyone out there find this thought a bit odd?  We are supposed to play here on the playground, right?  And it seems to me, reading the words typed above, that I had done just that.

Let’s rewind here.  I did not make a commitment to the blog.  I made a commitment to myself.  What was it that was impacting my ability to see this?

My “ah-ha” moment came when I returned to my home office and took a moment to look up my Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator. It’s a personality test used in many places; I have often seen it used to build teams in a work place setting. We had chatted a bit about this over lunch and I remembered mine being INFJ.   (If you’re curious about this at all, I am sure you can find a self test on the internet)

I was curious to see how my INFJ self might play, at least according to Myers Briggs.  One line struck me as I read about my personality type:

“INFJs have a tendency to want to complete their work before relaxing. As a result,their personal needs may be neglected as they pursue their passions.”

Many times I feel guilty about my passion for my work, and the causes I support. These take time to follow through on – and that sense of purpose, and passion often look like play to me.  I often join causes where I think I can make positive change – whether it’s raising money to find a cure for a disease, working one on one with a student on their writing skills, or creating a blog for others who struggle to play.  I love doing these things and comment regarding how lucky I am to have a career I love so. I am well aware that this is definitely not the case for everyone.

This is something that can make it difficult for me to play.  Somehow I have it in my head that the work that I love is play too because I love it so much. But it is not. It is work, it needs fuel, and I need refueling.

So I am signing off right now, it’s time to play. Maybe I’ll see you in the garden? I’m going to plant some herbs. Wait until I share what I have learned about kale!   Good stuff! While I’m out there, I’ll be thinking about my next play adventure.

How about you? Playing much these days?

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Courtney Martin is a feminist. She is also the author of “Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists”, which profiles eight young people doing social justice work. Her talk encourages the next generation of young activists and feminists to get involved in the world and make a difference. She is also an author on Feministing.com writing about social justice and feminist topic.

I utilized her “Ted Talks” video in my classes yesterday as we discussed the loaded and often confusing topic of feminism.  She presents how the issues of feminism has changed, and uses examples from her life. For example, Martin notes that she and her generation are indebted to her mom and her generation for the progress made within this movement.

Martin and her peers often use the concept of “intersectionality” including things like race, class, ethnicity, gender, ability all go into what it means to be a women. They also go into what it means to be a human. She is clear to say that being a feminist does not mean wearing Birkenstocks and hating men, and thanks the prior generations, including those of her mom and her grandmother, for making such large changes in the name of equality for women.

Both of my classes engaged in the topic of feminism as if they had not heard the term before. Many did not know that yes, men can be feminists. Others thought that embracing feminism meant rejecting what it is to be female. These are the energizing,inspiring and engaging moments that make teaching so rewarding.

So…what does this have to do with my play journey?

I left the university yesterday feeling as if I had left a really great party.  Do you know what I mean?  One where you were surrounded by those you enjoy completely, and new folks that were just a gift to get to know.  A party with lots of laughs, and discussions that made you think.

Social justice geeks me out. Really.  Martin describes the humanizing force of change that each individual can do to make one person’s day more kind, more just, and to let them know that they matter. Yes big change matters and we should dream the big dream of making change in big ways.  But being there, for one person, or one group of people, can make all the difference. This is what social work is for me. Just typing this has me ready to do the wave, or the dance of hope.

For some, leaving the job at home is hard, and there are definiately days like that for me.  But often, I find my work very intellectually stimulating.  It really makes me think.  And on days like yesterday, when students have “ah ha” moments, when they are excited to learn and I am honored to be teaching but….I feel like I am playing. I leave filled with joy, and nourished by discussion.

What am I on to here?  I don’t know. I like big ideas, and I like to read, think, dream, and even act on some of them.

How can I bring this idea to the playground to play? I am not sure and would welcome your thoughts. Some might accuse me of bringing homework out during playtime, when I’m supposed to focus on fun.

Maybe my goal is to be the humanizing force in the grown up world that says you don’t have to trade in all the innocence of childhood play when you grow up.  Your play is your play.  Mine is mine.

“Aiming to succeed wildly and being satisfied with failing really well.”

Wow. Let’s do it!  Won’t it be fun?

To see Courtney Martin’s Ted Talk, go to http://www.ted.com