Those Hunters and Gatherers Were Smarties

Standard

Shhhh….don’t tell anyone I’m here on the playground.

There are two Spring Breaks taking place this month for those blessed boys in my life. Two Spring Breaks + One Mom = Calendar Mayhem.

This week, it’s Spring Break for College Son.  He has the unfortunate problem that many people his age face at one point or another during their years seeking an education to better themselves.  He is broke. Supremely broke, ergo,Spring Break means time to head back to the old homestead.  Yes, College  Son is home. Well, that is not true.  He’s not sleeping in his dorm room, he’s sleeping in his bedroom here. And he’s eating our food.  He tolerates the Be Home For Dinner Rule in our house, then like magic he disappears. Right now, he’s out with his friends at a concert, where his is most likely moshing.  For those readers who are unaware, this is a form of dance, where you push or slam into others. I am told it is great fun.  I am also told I don’t get it. Yep, I am an oldie but a goodie. And I wonder why College Son doesn’t seem enthusiastic when I ask him to have some fun with me!

But I digress.

Next week is Spring Break for Youngest Son. I should be thinking of things to do next week over his Spring Break. I’ve gone so far as to call one sitter to help me in the mornings when I teach.  This week, I should be working at light speed in order to free up my time for Youngest Son.  He needs a chaffuer next week, along with a chef, a laundress, a story teller, a rider of the bike, and his mom not to dance.  Supreme embarrassment there.  (I’ll save the  the details of my dancing talents for another entry here. Suffice it to say that Youngest Son has asked me not to do this.  Not even in the privacy of our home.).

To be ready for next week, when I will be wearing my Super Mom Cape along with the many hats mentioned above, there is lots to do so I can free up my time. I should be grading papers  And billing – oh that one has to get done!   I should be researching a paper I am writing. I need to reschedule a lunch, read a book for book club, do some accounting, and prepare for lectures.  And I need a sitter for the times when I teach. Did I mention laundry and getting the dog to the groomers yet?  Oh yeah…and I have to drive College Son back to college.  Better write that one down.

I have graded some papers.  And I made a call to a sitter.  That’s it. I am finding my fuel tank reaching low.   Really low. I need to refuel.

It’s not like I can take the day off tomorrow, lay on the chaise and read. Or nap. Or sleep in.   They would help, but I have commitments just like you, and I cannot cancel them.

But, I did notice a bit of free time on the calendar tomorrow. Maybe it’s time to play? Notice the hesitancy there? And I am hesitating, holding back on the opportunity to take that time for myself.

Isn’t is selfish to do that  when College Son is home and he might be awake in daylight when we could spend time together?  Is it irresponsible for me to put the grading and billing on hold for a couple of hours while I recharge and refuel?  If it isn’t, then what is it about doing something for myself, something indulgent like middle-of -the-work day play, that makes me anxious?

I read a study yesterday that said people need to play more.  Duh! No kidding! That’s why I have a blog!

The study said that goofing around goes way back to our hunter vs. gather days and that we have created a society with a lifestyle that is too structured. It has no room for fun and play, especially for adults. Play allows children to learn the most important skill for social life: how to please other people while still fulfilling one’s own needs and desires.

Did I miss that lesson? Was I home sick on that day?

Tomorrow, I’ve got a play date.  With me. See you on the playground.

Advertisements

Is There a Play Instinct?

Standard

“When you’re young, your whole life is about the pursuit of fun. Then, you grow up and learn to be cautious. You could break a bone or a heart. You look before you leap and sometimes you don’t leap at all because there’s not always someone there to catch you. And in life, there’s no safety net. When did it stop being fun and start being scary?” ~ Carrie Bradshaw, Sex in the City

Yes, when did life stop being fun and start being scary?  I came across this quote last week; it has put the ponder upon me. What happens that moves us into the “let’s play it safe stage” of life?  Responsibility? Social construction, as if to say we are conditioned to believe that play is behind us as we move into adulthood? Do we grow out of childhood to loose all we have learned about joy and play, just to grow up and give up play to work?

I know there are those out there that say they have chosen a job that let’s them play and that is why it does not feel like work.  They find joy in there work and that is the secret to keeping a playful perspective, to being in a place of play each day and not work.  I accept there are some folks that truly do that.  I have shared in other writings and blogs about my work as a social worker.  I adore it, and believe that this makes my work something I look forward to doing.  When working with children, I am often on the floor, or playing with clay, or with my hands in a sand tray, giggling as I am trying to find the toy a child has hidden in the sand. Being in the classroom, teaching new social workers is exciting and energizing each and ever semester.  I am very satisfied when a client accomplishes a goal through the work we do together, and can finally see their inner strengths.

However, that said, the love I have for my work is still that –  a love of work.  It often comes with lots of paperwork, hours, planning, and insurance companies (a challenge all their own).  Despite all that I love about it, my career comes with much minutia, just like yours.

Do we grown ups get too tired to play from all that work that we take on as grown ups? When we think about play, why is it often focused on a task like completing a 5 mile run or working in the garage to get the yard tools out and ready to start the yard work dance? Doesn’t all this focus on task based work make us dull?  Is that what children are trying to tell us?

I tried to run yesterday without a goal at all.  I did make a conscious effort to enjoy my surroundings; for March in Chicago has brought us summer weather and their was much beauty to see.  Still, I had to keep redirecting my brain towards listening to my body and enjoying the view, rather than adding up the miles I was completing.  I do enjoy running, but it is goal driven for me, and lacks some unrestricted abandon that play provided in childhood.

Wearing the glitter shoes Saturday night did make me feel like a little girl again.  This is not because I wish to be young and childlike, but rather that I remember the excitement of glittery dress up shoes from my childhood.  I did not pick the shoes that would have been very practical to wear, but the sparkly ones that made me feel….free and fun.  Let me tell you, glitter really catches the light!

This week, I am struggling, wondering what happens to us as we move to adulthood. Are we born with a play instinct that we loose like our baby teeth?  Wearing the glitter shoes reminded me of my little girl self, the one with the yellow ribbons in her braids, and the plaid sun dress on.  Wow, looking back she was definitely fun!  Should we all take some time this week to look at old photos and notice which stand out for us more – the posed ones or the candids?

Dear readers, what happened to our playful selves?  How to we get that part back?  Suggestions welcome.

Not a Girly Girl

Standard

My friend Henry once pointed this out to me. It’s true. I’m not a girly girl.

I wear pants a lot.  My hair style is pretty simple and it does not often change. A few weeks ago I decided, after many months of thought, to have my hair stylist put highlights in my hair. I thought this was a really big change.  And, yeah, well, no one noticed!  In my free time I have a fondness for hoodies – especially college hoodies. I adore running shoes and blue jeans.

Last fall I attended a fund raising gala and found myself stressed to the max when shopping for a dress to wear to the event.  It is not that I do not like wearing a dress.  It’s just that I find it so much work to find one that fits well and is flattering. It’s as if I am out searching for my soul mate rather than a piece of clothing.

This weekend I am headed out on a fancy grown up (read: dress up) date with my dear husband.  In an unbelieveable turn of events, I found a dress this week at the first shop I went to!  Score!  And I found it at a small local business which, as a small local business owner, I love to support.  Double score!

Shopping for shoes to wear with this dress was on my list of things to do today.  As I was leaving the house, this blog came to mind. Bing!  Brainstorm! A decision was made! I would not go for practical shoes.I would not purchase shoes that I could wear to work, or with more than one dress.  I focused on finding fun, playful shoes. I acknowledged that this could be painful, and conflict with my internal values.  Deep breathes ensued, but I stayed focused on my mission.

This was a solo outing.  There was no one there to tell me to be practical or pish posh my idea of what shoes are fun and what are not.  There was just me, with the goal of some  fun, girly, playful shoes. When arriving at the shoe store, I realized that they have a lot of footwear.  Tons of footwear.

I tried on many pairs of shoes. Shoes with jewels and shoes with feathers.  Shoes with leather and shoes with lace. Platform shoes and peep toe shoes. Shoes with bows and shoes with cork.  Nothing.   This was harder than expected. Have you seen women’s shoes in stores lately?  They strike me as wild and crazy.  How could it be hard to find a fun pair of shoes?

As I was walking out of the store, something caught my eye.

There, right in front of me, was a pair of silver, high heeled, peep toe, sling back shoes. Not just any, ordinary silver shoe – nope. On top of all of that – could there be more? – the shoes were covered in silver glitter!

I felt myself tense up.  My hands were clammy. . maybe the heal was too high? Too much money?  Were they too bright?  I looked around. Slowly, I took the box with my size in it off the shelf, opened it and removed one shoe, then two.

My, they were sparkly!  Oh was I tall in them! Wow!  Look at my toe, peeping out from all that silver glitter.  And  a twirl ensued.  Yes you read that right.  A twirl.  By a grown women, in a hoodie and jeans. Right in the middle of a shoe store! Then a long, confident, skip strut type of walk down the aisle to see those shoes in the mirror. Oh yeah – they were fabulously fun! I smiled each time I looked at them. And I twirled again, ignoring the two sales clerks who were clearly enjoying a laugh together.

I packed each sparkly gem of a shoe into its own back and returned them to the box.  My sparkle shoes and I headed towards the register and then out the door.

It’s hard and not always fun to walk in a grown up woman’s shoes.  That’s why, sometimes you need some special shoes that make you smile.

Hopefully yours have glitter, too.

The Bliss List

Standard

I am a runner.  I have been running for about 8 years now, ever since my last darling son was born.  I began running to loose the weight I had gained while pregnant with him.   After running my first 5k race, During my first 5k, someone I had never met cheered me on as we crossed the finish like together.  “Keep going!  Don’t stop!  You can do it!”  I won a medal in my age group at that race.  I was hooked.  The more I ran, the more I celebrated the strength of my body, instead of buying into the wafer thin images of who I should be that the media showed me.

Running satisfied an inner need I had to compete. I loved keeping track of my times after each race. The competition was with myself, seeing if I could run another mile that week, or take some seconds off my next race time.  I enjoyed the goofy looking t-shirts you receive when you participate in a race, and I wore them as if to say, “Yes, that’s right, I am a runner.  I am part of that running community.”

The community itself is welcoming and playful.  People of all shapes and sizes come out to run.  I was often struck by the love that you feel at a race.  Those that cross the finish line first often stay there and cheer on the slower runners as they complete their race.  Your personal best is good enough in the world of running.  Where else can you say doing your best really is good enough?

This past summer I trained for and completed my first half marathon.  My only goal was to run all 13.1 miles without stopping. Running a half marathon requires a training plan, a support team, flexibility, and patience. Your training plan includes your long and short runs, cross training, sleep, and healthy eating.  Let me tell you, the eating you can do when training for a half marathon is something to behold.  I won’t forget the feeling of running that last mile and crossing the finish line, seeing my family and friends waiting for me.

I know, dear reader, you are now asking yourself why I am writing about running when this blog is supposed to focus on my journey to discover play.  You see, since finishing that half marathon in August, my running has been off and on.  I will run for a few days, then life will get in the way, or I will find myself busy with something else.  This has never been the case with my running.  I loved it, and enjoyed it.  Since I completed that half marathon, something is off.   I long to run regularly again, but something is blocking me.  It seems like running is weighing me down, not lifting me up like it use to.  I have lost my running mojo.  That mojo gave my running joy.

I believe training for that half marathon may have burned me out.  I miss running so much, for many reasons.  I feel great after a run – even when it’s a bad run.  I think more clearly on the days I run. I miss the goofy t-shirts that come from racing.  I adore modeling healthy habits for my sons. But right now, I need help making running fun again.

Runners World magazine came to the rescue this week.  They have an article about having fun on every run.  The article encourages runners to enjoy running, to run for fun – not to focus on training, race times, or even losing weight.   The list, written for runners who have lost their running mojo, is focused on keep running fun. The “Bliss List” includes:

  • Run because it makes you feel good
  • Run where you enjoy running – indoors or out.
  • Run at your favorite location at least once a week
  • Run without a goal
  • Run to clear your head
  • Run to feel free
  • Run with others
  • Run with music

Many of you are runners.  What would you add  to the “Bliss List”?   Running as play – can I really make running fun again?

 Image

Purposeful Reminder

Standard

Image

Sometimes, the job is difficult.  I knew this going into graduate school.  I devote one lecture each semester I teach to the importance of self care for social workers. As I share with the students, the largest component of our job is using ourselves when working with clients.

My job is often rewarding.  Seeing a client achieve the goals they have set, being present with children in a support group when you can sense they have built their community, and walking with a client through a poor health diagnosis to good health are wonderful benefits to my job.

Today the job was hard; having to sit with a client who ached for assurances that I could not give makes my heart hurt. There was no good or right answer for them, and all I could do was be present with them.  I understand the importance of just being with the client, and its value.  And yet, it can be difficult sometimes to see another human being’s struggle. I’m human.

This experience today has meaning behind it in that it is the purposeful reminder of why I am on this play mission.  Why I am musing from the playground.  Playing provides refueling so I can walk with my clients, wherever it may lead.

“The Lorax” was my play this week.  First feel good movie I have connected with in an long time.  Of course, I had the Play Coach, Mr. Jack, with me.  Tonight, I think of “The Lorax” and his words:

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing’s going to get better, its not.”

See you later. Its time to play, so I can keep caring a whole awful lot.

Could Risotto Be The Remedy?

Standard

March 4, 2012

A friend, upon hearing of my learning to play goal, gave me a gift certificate to a knitting class.

I have several friends I know who knit or crochet and they say it is wonderfully relaxing.  Homemade gifts are so generous, knowing someone had made that just for you, taking time to pick up the yarn and think of you as they were knitting.  This seemed almost prayerful; each time the person worked on their hand made project for you they were holding you in their heart, so knitting had that going for it as well.

I had considered taking a class like this before this play expedition began, but had yet to sign up.  Clearly, you are thinking it was due to my lack of play experience.  Not true.  It has more to do with my achievement orientation.

You see, when I do something I like to do it well.  Really well.  It’s just how I am wired. Folks have told me that I am an overachiever, and I firmly disagree.  I don’t think doing a good job on something means I am an overachiever.  My friends roll their eyes when I say this, so I must be missing the point. Maybe that’s the point?

I put the gift certificate front and center on my desk so I would not forget to register for the class.  First days, then weeks went by.  Every time I looked at the gift certificate I became tense.  Could I do this?  Really, do I have the time to invest in learning how to do this?  How long would it take before I could make something that looked like it was something other than rows of knitted knots?

Finally, I looked at the class schedule.  Classes were on Monday and Wednesday nights. Oh. My. Gosh.  Those were the nights my darling husband had band practice!  I couldn’t take the class! Not now anyway.  Schedule conflict – cha ching!

I felt guilty after I got done doing the high fives and the wave in my office.  What was wrong with me?  Someone had done something kind for me to help me in a playful way, and here I was, afraid to put my feet in the pool. Or the needles to the yarn.  I decide that this was a sign of being in the beginning stages of this play journey and not to be too hard on myself.  I put the gift card in my “Play Ideas” folder.

The knitting class schedule had me now considering if taking a class was for me.  I perused the Internet for a class that might be interesting and found a local gourmet cooking store offering cooking classes.  And there it was.  Risotto 101.

I phoned a friend and asked her to join me in my Risotto class.  Even though I know she is a great risotto home chef, she still said she’d come along and that there was always something to learn about cooking risotto.

And I could not wait.  I found myself counting the days, and if my technology calendar would have let me, I would have put glitter on the date of the class.  I shared with many around me my love for risotto.  I wondered to myself why in the world had I not yet learned to make this dish?

When the class day arrived, I was giddy.  Reminded dear husband that I would not be around for pizza night that night, as I was going to my risotto class (which I am sure he already knew as I had been chattering away about the wonderful food known as risotto for weeks now).  Sent my confirmation text message to my friend about our time of departure.

We arrived at the store earlier than the class time.  We each walked through the sections of the store, spotting food and cooking items that interested us.  I stared into the classroom kitchen, feeling as if I was looking at the Macy’s windows, all decked out for the winter holidays. And, I paused.  I was having such a good time in the store, thinking about cooking, or cooking tools.  I was shocked.

I had no idea I liked to cook.

The class was wonderful, and the chef that taught us was generous, kind and very encouraging.  She made everything seem so simple, and due to the hands on instruction, I do now know how to make risotto.  My first try at home did not produce the picture perfect dish that we created in class.  And that was fine by me.  I had learned so much, and the warm rice dish tasted wonderful, be it a little too thick.

The Risotto Remedy – opened the door to something new, that was so enjoyable I didn’t care how it came out.  I had confidence that it would be edible, but even more confidence that I would love doing it.  Me and my new red enameled cast iron pan.

 

 

I Got Here with A Little Help From My Friends

Standard

February 26, 2012

There are some friends I’d like you to meet.

Nancy, for example.

This whole project really can be blamed on her. She asked me what I do for play, and I could not answer her.  I could see the concern on her face when she saw my difficulties in coming up with an answer.  We both knew what had just happened. Nancy saw something in my life that I really needed to address.  I was walking through a difficult chapter in my story and some healing needed to begin. Nancy was wise enough to direct me towards healing in a healthy way.

She did not tell me that I had to write about it; writing about it seemed to hold me accountable in some way.  I find that responsibility can really get in the way of my finding playful moments, or making them a priority. I am only several weeks into this experience, and yet the power of play is impacting me in a large way.

Next, let me introduce you to Jan.  Jan has opened my world to so many new and exciting intellectual experiences, many of which bring me out of my comfort zone.  I often think that Jan knows me better than I know myself.  Jan is one of the co-founders of Pizza Night, a weekly get together where we celebrate life – whether it be a milestone or making it through a tough week.

Through Jan and her daughter Kate, I learned of Matt Lamb and his “Umbrella’s for Peace Project”.  I am a peaceful person, and peace and healing are core tenants of who I am.  Jan knows this, and so does Kate, and they share Matt’s world with me.

The mission of “Umbrella’s For Peace” can be found on Matt’s website:

“After the September 11, 2001 attacks on the Pentagon, Matt Lamb was asked by the Secretary of the Veteran’s of Foreign Affairs to find a way to help the individuals whose lives had been affected by the tragedy work through their grief. In May of 2002, 38 participants gathered with Matt to express their feelings of grief and pain and work through them to find their hopes and dreams. They painted umbrellas! A parade followed in Washington D.C. , with displays on Capitol Hill and a tour of the White House. Since that time, over 2.000,000 individuals in 29 countries have participated in the Matt Lamb Umbrellas for Peace”

Matt Lamb died very recently.  Today was the beginning of his Fun-eral. Yes, emphasis on FUN.  He had worked to bring peace to the world one person at a time, in his own way.  In that way, he has become a mentor of play, and peace to me. Just learning of his Fun-eral plans touched me, and opened my mind and heart to the importance of play in our lives.  Here are his plans:

Matt’s Life, Art, Message and Legacy Send Off:

Public Visitation Day

Open-casket during visitation.

Closing of the casket,

Eulogies

Toast

Standing Ovation

Dancing

Parade

Reception

Burial and Celebration of Life Mass (the next day)

A parade! Toasts! Standing Ovation! Joy and Play! What a way to celebrate a life.  What would my parade look like?  Could I be that playful?  Does play contribute to peace, I wonder?  More than personal peace, but peace greater than ourselves?

Here are Matt’s last thoughts for the world on his journey here, and to his next destination.

 “If you’re reading this, it means I’ve passed into the next dimension.  When I got out of the hospital recently, I gave this post to Richard Speer, who edits the Blog and Facebook, and asked him to put it up when I’ve left this world and gone on to my next assignment.

 So here goes.

As Frank Sinatra sang, “I did it my way.”  I did it the way I thought I should do it.  But I had much help from thousands of people around the world.Nobody lives alone.  Nothing is accomplished by one person alone.

 We all have individual strengths and weaknesses, but if we put all our strengths together, it becomes a very vibrant force.That was, finally, my own consensus of how we can bring good people together.

 To go from being an observer of the human scene to being a person in action, is the path of the risk-takers and visionaries.  It’s the path of knowing that doing something is better than doing nothing.

Having spent the first half of my life in the funeral business, I learned early on that everything is transitory.  At some point in time unknown to us, all of a sudden we’ll be somewhere else.

 In the meantime, each day we have is a gift.  Treat it as such—no better, no worse, just what it is.In my life, I’ve tried to think of each day:  “What if it’s the last?”

And therefore I tried to live in a way that I wouldn’t regret if it were my last, or think that I wasted it, or did something that in my opinion was completely stupid, or didn’t do something I knew I should have done, or put it off for tomorrow.

In the reality of the funeral business, there is only today.  Yesterday is gone, and there’s not a damn thing you can do to change it.  You’re living in today, and tomorrow may never come.

So take it from an old undertaker:  When you get up every morning, rejoice that you’re still here and can still make a fool of yourself!

 

God and the spirits have been very patient with me and very helpful.  They gave me a hug when I needed it and a kick in the ass when I needed it!

My wife, Rose, has truly been my spirit guide.  Without her, I would have been in my grave long ago.

I am extremely proud of all my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  I really knew I was getting old when my son became a grandfather!

 Thank you, thank you, thank you to all the people who are getting out our message of peace, tolerance, understanding, hope, and love.  I love you all.  You are the risk-takers and the visionaries, and you not only will change the world, you are already changing it!

I’m happy to leave this world knowing that my daughter Sheila and her team of risk-takers and visionaries have taken the torch with our Umbrellas for Peace and other programs, which really come down to:  Can art change the world?  Absolutely!

I’ll leave you with this:  Never worry about what “they” will think.  In my world, it doesn’t mean squat what “they” think, because “they” don’t exist, and if they do, they can go stick it!  What matters is what you think.  If it seems like a good idea to you—no matter what “it” is—then remember the old Nike slogan and “Just do it.”

And that’s Lamb’s last words.

Matt

Why write about play?  I still don’t know.  But – thanks to Nike, Matt, Jan, Kate, Nancy, and many others, I’m going to “Just do it” and see whether it makes a difference or not.