28 February 2010
26 February 2010
It stemmed from a portion of an exercise in Michael Gelb's book, How to Think Like Leonardo DaVinci. In it, Gelb proposes a simple twist on the question each of my children have heard countless times before. The conversation that ensued the posing of said question has gotten me thinking. And thinking. It went something like this:
ME: How was school today, Love?
ME: What questions did you ask?
MAYA: Wait, huh? Wait... um, wait... what questions?
ME: Yes. What questions did you ask at school today?
MAYA: Wait, pardon? Wait... I don't understand. What QUESTIONS?
ME: Yes, Love. What questions did you ask at school today?
MAYA: I didn't ask any questions at school today.
ME: Hmmm (pregnant -- nine months pregnant -- pause). Well...
MAYA: (heavy sigh)
ME: How do you learn at school if you don't ask questions?
MAYA: Well (heavier sigh, eye-roll and incredulous stare), Mrs. B just asks US questions, and we tell her the right answers...
I was shocked into cold, wet, sloppy silence by the ice-water bath of her response. It ruffled my feathers, stirred my pot and raised more questions I opted to keep to myself.
1. Why didn't my kindergartner ask questions at school today?
2. What is kindergarten, anyway? The garden of children, right?
3. Since when did gardening become about the answers, especially the "right" ones?
4. What exactly are the "right" answers?
5. What are the questions?
6. When did kindergarten shift from children asking questions to children answering them?
7. What if the questions they're answering aren't "right?"
8. Can the "wrong" questions ever yield the "right" answers?
9. What happens if my children have different questions than the ones being asked?
10. If my daughter went to school to learn today, but after she returned home, she couldn't recall asking a single question all day, what am I teaching her?
I've often heard and recited the adage if you don't like the answers you are getting, perhaps you should consider asking different questions.
I invested most of my formal education, and I've spent much of my life thus far trying to figure out answers to questions. Yet tonight, most of my questions remain. I have scarcely found courage to rest in these questions. But as I search my heart, my spirit and my soul and consider the monuments in my personal history -- the times when I learned and trusted the most -- when I was most enthused, most alive, most inspired, most inspiring, most confident, most connected and most at peace -- I was not answering questions; I was asking them.
What if the power, the pleasure and the peace of this journey -- our journey -- primarily reside in the questions? What if the questions are the means and the end? What do I do with that? What do we do with that? What can we do with that? What would happen if I redirected my oft-depleted parental energy from answering the daily onslaught of kid-questions to cultivating greater curiosity and courage of my own? What would happen if I shifted my home curriculum from rewarding the "right" answers to nurturing the quest for more questions? What would happen if I arrested my own search for answers altogether and focused on finding more questions instead? What if...
MAYA: I don't want to talk about this anymore, Mom. May I please be excused?
ME: Hmmm? Um... Pardon? Uh... I'm not sure, Love. I guess.... Um, yes. Yes you may.
24 February 2010
I've been thinking about this post on and off since about this time last week. I sat down and opened up Blogger about six minutes ago, and I've been looking at a blank screen since -- trying to figure out where to begin. I have so much I want to write about. I have a lot to say. Instead, I spent the last two hours catching up on the hundreds and hundreds (okay, I'm exaggerated) of emails in my in box.
I know what you are thinking. I imagine it goes something like, Duh, Abi.You JUST posted about this last week. Begin at the beginning... (breathy sigh)
Yes, I KNOW Ms/Mr-know-it-all. Yes, yes, I GOT it Ms-just-wrote-a-post-about-it-but-first-appropriately-named-her-blog-Just-Start-to-give-me-an-ever-present-reminder-each-and-every-time-I-sit-down-to-write. If only it were that simple.
It is, just chimed that voice in my head and my heart.
So, I got this email from my sister and then from my mom some time in the last week. It was the 2010 edition of "Getting to Know Your Friends and Family." I, like you, delete most forwarded email (take note), but every time I get this one, I savor it. It never ceases to amaze me how much I still don't know about people I've known all my life. I can count at least five or six or ten things I just learned about two women with whom I share blood. Hmm.
So, after reading and smiling and giggling and marveling at my sister and my mom's responses, I passed over the ARCHIVE and DELETE tabs, and hit REPLY instead.
I think the last time I responded to one of these was sometime in 2008. I think. I'll go back and check someday. Anyway, I was struck today by how much hasn't changed (see response #4). But more -- much more -- I was struck by how much HAS changed (see response #... well... most of the rest). I am me, but I am monumentally different from the last time I hit REPLY.
After a 27- and 33-yr relationship with my sister and my mom respectively, I am still learning more about these women, because that's life. The players and the settings and sometimes even the rules of this game are ever-changing and moving and flowing. Like a flower or a river or a toddler.
"Understanding" of said game, comes when we stop trying to understand it, and we just play. We open our ears and our eyes and our minds and our hearts, and we move with these changes. It is not only more fun to play this game with others, but also NECESSARY.
Our friends on the field or our family on the sidelines -- they are often the ones to help us to see that we are (okay, I am... was) that sweet little girl in red with the paunch and all the pigtails running the wrong way down the soccer field about to shoot on her own goal. They are the ones that give us hugs and kisses and high-fives after we've scored against our team. They are the ones that then look into our tear-streaked faces and exclaim, "NICE SHOT!!" They are the ones that keep sending that damn email every year.
Sometimes we must answer the same old questions, again and again and again, just so we can realize, that each day we are answering old questions for the first time. Sometimes we have to stop and regroup and assess, and write it all down, so we can see what has changed and what has remained constant. Sometimes we need to put it all -- or at least some of it -- out there so that we can continue to know, to grow and to be known.
The coach might pull us out for a while for water and some words. Or perhaps we may need to sit out for a season to gain perspective, to find our footing and ourselves, but then... Then, we jump back in. Yeah.
So, in honor of family, friends and blessed procrastination...
Change all the answers so they apply to you, and then send this to your friends including the person who sent it to you. The idea is that you will learn a lot of little things about your friends that you might not have known! Just press the 'forward' button then you can erase my answers and add yours.
01. High heels, boots or sneakers? - hmmm. is it raining?
02. What time did you get up this morning? - about 5:30, I think.
05. What is your favorite TV show? We're about halfway through season 2 of LOST. Wow.
06. What do you usually have for breakfast? - I'm diversifying. Today, a smoked salmon breakfast burrito with yogurt and fruit.
07. What is your middle name? - Olubunmi.
08. What food do you dislike? - Last week I would have definitively declared, TOMATOES. But I had a bit of a Roma with basil and avocado on cheese toast last week, and I LIKED IT?!?!? Nothing is certain any longer. SO... Beefsteak tomatoes, milk and lima beans, I think.
09. What is your favorite CD at the moment? - A stranger at the Library gifted me with a mix of Chuck Berry and Sam Cooke yesterday. It is good.
10. What characteristic do you despise? - Hatred.
11. Favorite Clothing? - I've got three pairs of jeans, and I like 'em a lot.
12. Anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go? - These days, Florence is back on my mind.
13. Are you an organized person? - Yes.
14. Where would you retire to? - Bed.
15. What was your most memorable birthday? - 20th. 33rd.
16. What are you going to do when you finish this? - Enjoy lunch.
17. Furthest place you are sending this? - Not sure yet.
18. Person you expect to send it back first? - Not sure yet.
19. When is your birthday? - Nov 12.
20. Are you a morning person or a night person? I'm learning to love both.
21. What is your shoe size? - 8.5 when I got married; 9 after I had Maya, 9.5 after I had Cole. I'm 5'4... and serious.
22. Do you own any animals? - No.
23. Any news you'd like to share? - I cut my hair off... myself. It felt good.
24. What did you want to be when you were little? an astronaut, a fashion designer, a lawyer, an actress, a writer, a singer...
25. What is your favorite flower? - The red ones. And the yellow ones. Orange and pink and purple are nice too.
26. What is a day on the calendar you are looking forward to? - Today's pretty darn spectacular.
27. Do you wish upon stars? - No, not really.
29. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? - Red. Where's 28?
30. How is the weather right now? - GORGEOUS. Blue skies, bright sun, big puffy clouds, still sea... THANK YOU!
31. Last person you spoke to on the phone? - My dad.
32. Favorite soft drink? - Water.
33. Favorite Restaurant? - Japon on Pearl Street in Boulder.
34. Hair color? - Dark Brown.
35. What was your favorite toy as a child? - Sadly, I don't recall... yet.
36. Summer or Winter? - Summer.
37. Chocolate or vanilla? - Yes.
38. Coffee or tea: - Tea. MMmmm.
39. Boy, do I wish I was still? Not going there much anymore.
40. Do you want your friends to email you back? - Yes, please.
41. When was the last time you cried? - Probably yesterday.
42. What is under your bed? - an empty storage bin.
43. What did you do last night? – I collaged with my kiddos.
44. What are you afraid of? - Today, I pass and choose love instead.
45. Salty or sweet? - Both are so good. ESPECIALLY together!
46. Favorite day of the week? Thursdays. Wait, 47-49?
50. How many people will you send this to? Not sure yet.
51. How many will respond? - See above.
17 February 2010
I have been mostly silent and somewhat cryptic about the last six months, let alone about the last twenty-four hours. It has been necessary. Healing. I'm not sure if I have all the words yet, but I'm finding that this simply isn't the point, is it? I am finally beginning to trust that the words will come when it is time to put them down. In time. In the present moment, I hope you are well.
Yesterday, I experienced something I MUST share before I get to today.
The day began with gray. It was not "oh-bummer-oh-well" gray, nor was it "oh-it-will-blow-over-soon" gray. This gray was thick. And heavy. And lonely. And dark. It took all of my strength and strength beyond myself to get out of bed yesterday morning. Before I did it, I had no clue how I would. I've lived a handful of days like that so far.
A few thing I've learned -- and even preached (oy) -- are that when things seem so complicated and complex and impossibly difficult, you go back to the basics. Go back to what you know. When you just don't know anymore, sometimes the only place to go is back to what you DO know. When you are lost, you go back to the last place you were before you were lost. You stop trying to figure it out and then you get found or you find yourself... right?!
So rewind to yesterday morning. Naturally, the question was bound to come up: What do you know, Abi? What DO I know? And the answer amidst the other questions stirring and spinning was unexpected, yet apropos.
It was simple. It was Oatmeal.
I know oatmeal. I love oatmeal. Yes, I've written this before, but frankly, it bears repeating. I LOVE OATMEAL.
What makes me happy? Oatmeal.
How do I get from here to there? Oatmeal.
And so with that, the strength came, and I got out of bed. I made breakfast for my kids and in the mix of the morning I discovered that thing I didn't know I was looking for. That thing I was telling you about that now I must share.
I found a recipe that I clipped and pasted in a binder over a year ago. YESTERDAY, after a year of being overlooked, it called to me, and I answered.
With pot to fire, I began at the beginning. Before I knew it, there was rhythm, and there was joy. I began to change things around and I made that mess my own in that way I often do when the juices are flowing. And the result? Oh the RESULT. It was... well... it wasn't just good. It was CRAZY good.
So if you are still my friend or my sister or you are still checking in on me after six months of silence and this ridiculously verbose build-up to oatmeal, hello again, and thank you. THANK YOU. Here is my gift to you. Please, PLEASE will you trust me on this and treat yourself some time in the next seven days with it?
Be forewarned, these are Irish Oats (fitting, coming from a Nigerian). Breakfast will take a bit of time, preparation and patience. But it's got fiber and texture and crunch and flavor and personality. It is absolutely POETIC and it is absolutely worth it. YOU are worth it. If you don't have the time tomorrow or the next day, good on you! Just unwrap this gift on Saturday (...and then again on SUNDAY). Yes, it's that good.
With no further ado, I give you...
CRAZY GOOD OATMEAL (serves 1 generously)
1/4 c. Steel Cut Irish Oats
1 c. Water
~1/4 medium Apple, grated
~1T Shredded Coconut
~1/4 t Vanilla Extract - the real stuff
Cinnamon, to taste (I like a whole lot)
~1/8 t Salt
Soy Milk (or whatever kind of milk you like... I like a lot)
~1 T chopped and toasted walnuts
1-2 T Raisins
Boil water, and pour in the oats. Stir for a few minutes while the oatmeal gets thick over medium heat, then turn heat down to low. Add apples, coconut, vanilla, cinnamon and salt to the pot and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Stir occasionally, and add water if the oats seem too thick. (I know 30 minutes may sound like a long time to prepare breakfast, but it can go quickly if you let it. The aroma of this delectable dish can wisk you away to a happy place with flowers and music and munchkins.... I digress, back to the recipe). When the oats are cooked to your liking, dish them into a pretty bowl. Sprinkle nuts and raisins over the top, and douse your oatmeal in the milk of your choice.
(*This lovely little breakfast is forgiving. Feel free NOT to stick to the measurements or even to the ingredients. If you like the taste of apple, by all means, add more. If you like your oatmeal sweet, drizzle it with maple syrup or honey. If walnuts aren't your thing, leave them out or roast pumpkin seeds instead. Have fun with it. Double it. Triple it. ENJOY it.)
So the last thing (I'm almost done, I promise), while we're on the topic of oats and good and good for you, I stumbled upon another recipe, a vegan cookie recipe, a few weeks ago in my quest to make peace with cookies (more on this later). The kiddos and I tried the recipe last week, and OH MY GOODNESS.
I know what you are thinking... VEGAN cookies?!?! But PLEASE trust me once more. Your family, your friends, your co-workers, your inner-children, your heart... they will all thank you. I won't be making these for a while (they were that good too), but perhaps you can try this recipe on Monday.
My best to you.