Shifting Focus

Posted on November 7, 2017

This fall has carried with it an unprecedented level of busyness. I used to sit in the camp of busy being good, but several years ago I saw the light. No one cares, there are no awards, you don’t get out of bad luck or health calamities because you were working hard. Life happens whether we carve time for it or push it off until “things ease up a bit.”

Sunday was the final day of the girls’ and Sean’s run of Oliver. It was a whirlwind that came to a close on the doorstep of exhaustion. Any longer and it would have been too much, any shorter and it wouldn’t have been the experience that it was. Monday morning Sean and I trained to the city for a video shoot. This definitely tiptoed along the edge of too much, particularly with Sean heading out again later this week.

My parents brought the girls and our dog to their place for the night. Sean and I planned for an afternoon into evening of shooting and then a late dinner before collapsing in a hotel. The venue for the shoot, Farmer and the Fish, was gorgeous. We set up outside to capture the hustle and bustle of the city against the simple sign and potted herbs overflowing around the door. I pressed a leaf of basil between my fingers and laughed aloud at how the scent, always a bit like cinnamon in my mind, filled the air around me. Ivy leaves tickled the top of my head and I reached up to touch them, like one of the girls playing with my hair.


I’ve not really been on photo shoots with Sean, it’s one of the rare times we divide and conquer at work. He’ll travel to clients and I’ll stay back at the office managing other things. Standing beside him, I once again felt slightly out of place, unsure what to do.

“Can I do anything?” I asked.

He didn’t say anything, I waited. “Just block for me.”

I looked around at the endless motion of the people on the sidewalk and the irresistible pull of the menu to passers-by. How on earth could I block anything? I began a quiet campaign of kill them with kindness. As people would look at us, craning to figure out what Sean was doing I would smile, trying to get my eyes as twinkly as possible. It was completely absurd and I found that I loved every minute of it.

I let people’s responses to my smiles wash over me, because they all smiled back. One man asked for money, said it was his birthday. Sean was fussing with a lens. I reached into my wallet and pulled out ten dollars. I placed it in his hand. His eyes got big. He said, “Bless you,” and I touched his tattooed knuckles and said, “Bless you.” He stood there and smiled at me and I smiled back. “Thank you very much,” he said. Again, I replied in turn, “Thank you.”

As he walked away he took off his hat. About a half a block down he lifted his head and kissed his hand and held it skyward. Eventually I couldn’t see him anymore and I turned back to Sean.

“Can you flip the sign around for me?”

I walked over to the sign and turned it around, careful not to let my fingers get pinched. I looked down the other side of the street, back toward where I’d just been standing. I was nobody and everyone on that busy street as different faces and things came in and out of focus for each of us. I think we really need that, to slip out of the speed and tension that we maintain each day and experience something closer to different. It doesn’t need to be radical, just a little shift in focus.






Taking Turns Benefits Everyone

Posted on November 5, 2017

A couple of days after bringing Briar home from the hospital my mom set a turkey sandwich on the arm of the chair I was in, “Be sure to save a little for Sean.” She said nothing more. She wasn’t talking about the sandwich, it was about my complete infatuation with Briar. If I wasn’t nursing her I was gazing into her eyes and kissing her brow.

I was in complete awe of this new creature and I gave her everything. My mom was reminding me that it was my marriage and this man that had made her possible. “Save a little for Sean,” could also mean, “Save a little for yourself.”Spend time on who or what brings you joy. Put your own air mask on first. Yadda yada yada. We know, but we forget.

I was reminded tonight as I watched Sean holding Briar before she went onstage, that we all need to trade roles. I cannot provide everything because in doing that I actually deprive. Sean doesn’t get to connect with the girls, the girls don’t get to operate outside my spotlight (or shadow).

None of us learn how to lean on someone else or how to cope without someone there. It can be heavy, but then to watch it. It wasn’t threatening, I didn’t feel left out, I felt love expand. She needs to feel his hands on her shoulders, I need to see her on her own. I try not to make it too mechanical or intellectual, but it really is arduous to hold on, let go, and accept melancholy in the same breath as celebration.

Tomorrow Sean and I head to the city for a work thing. The girls will go to my parents. I feel pulled both ways, like I ought to stay and like I am excited to venture into the city for a project with Sean. My parents get a turn, the girls have a different experience, Sean and I work in a different way. Everyone wins, but it takes trust and release.

Lights up on trading roles and sharing lives.

“Mom, please?”

Posted on November 3, 2017

The times that I close may laptop or the laundry room door almost always result in something I would have kept putting off until the requests faded to nothing. A couple of weeks ago Sean decided to take us all on a bike ride. Originally it was going to be a quick loop around the neighborhood, but he suggested the bike trail. It was, as I am sure some people reading this are already surmising, an ordeal.

Flat tires.

Missing bike helmets.

Modest interest.

Broken water bottle holders.

Somehow we made it. Briar stayed home and I borrowed her bike. Avery and Finley were tired about 1 mile into a 7 mile ride. Scattered leaves and pine needles made for a treacherous course, and yet, we kept going. We decided that rather than doing a round trip with all of us, after a quick lunch, Sean would ride back while Ave, Finley and I stayed at the beach.

This is where the magic happened. Sean happily pedaled off, providing a solution that made everyone happy. Avery and Finley played along the water’s edge until the inevitable happened—they got a glimmer in their eyes and approached me.

“No, absolutely not. You cannot swim,” I said as they moved toward me.

“But mom….”

“Listen, I don’t know how long Dad will take, you can’t risk getting sick before the show, and I have no towels.”

They tilted their heads, “We’ll air dry.”

I was a goner. The truth was I wanted to swim too. It’s just who we are.

“Ok, fine. You can go in as deep as your underwear, but no more. Ok?”



I Want To Remember This

Posted on November 2, 2017

The girls and Sean are in a production of Oliver, which opens tomorrow night. I have been in intermittent attendance, lending a hand for load-in and construction, ferrying dinner and forgotten things to rehearsal, and finally tonight to help out with make-up and quick changes.

It’s strange to be there, feeling at times like a pronounced outlier but also like I am home—only the home is old memories, different faces. A different theatre and another time. I try to fade to the edges.

Briar walked me through what she needed and explained to me what she’d be ok not having enough time to manage. I smiled and quietly nodded as I hooked her cap in my back pocket, set her dress shirt on my arm, and looped the suspenders on the outside of her slacks and slapped her socks on my shoulder.

We sat beyond the wings stage right. She prattled on with excitement, occasionally interrupting herself to mouth the words someone was singing on stage. I smiled and sat, soaking in the familiar sounds and crackle of backstage.

“Mom, can I have your phone? I want to remember this. I never want to forget you being here with me and being a part of the show.” She took my phone and began snapping, tilting her head to capture us in a kiss.


I am not used to the feeling of not being viewed as competent. It’s hard to not want to hijack things and project my opinion. It has been a struggle, I won’t deny that for a second. It hasn’t been a bad thing either, I need to be reminded of how many spheres of influence and belonging there are and that it is literally impossible to be a part of all of them.

This isn’t my production, but these are my people. I was taken aback by Briar wanting to capture this moment, but I savored the realization that in a moment that was entirely hers, she wanted to preserve my presence. It was absolutely spectacular.

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