Journaling across generations

I started keeping a journal after a writing workshop at University of Pennsylvania that I attended as a high school student. I kept them faithfully for at least a decade, tapered off in my consistency after the birth of my daughter, experimented with forms (most recently adapting a bullet journal style) and renewed my habit in the last few years but still not with the same devotion I once did.

I used to fill a standard cheap journal in a month. Larger, fancier volumes took longer. I color coded a lot of my text. One color for fiction, one color for poetry and another for personal experience. That sort of thing.

The blank ones included sketches. Briefly, I used calligraphy pen and even briefer a fancy fountain pen.

My current fascination is Alphabooks, blank journals in the shape of alphabet letters. I found the A on clearance. My husband had recommended his mother buy me the N for Christmas as it is the second letter of my name, but I fooled them and mentioned if I had the chance I would continue the series with B and write alphabetically.

I also have an affinity for Sharpie pens. I bought a set in August 2016 and they are still going strong.

Eventually, my journals ended up in a box in the attic. Or, several boxes, more accurately.

My now 13-year-old daughter has always been captivated by the written word, always written in notebooks, constantly starting projects and ripping out pages (and never finishing). She has started working on her own stories, but journaling hasn’t held her interest.

 

But she keeps asking to read my journals. I cringe.

I tell her she needs to remember that journals have a lot of angst in them, a lot of unfiltered, unedited thoughts and that what I say in these journals might not always be… well… nice or even what I would say on a different day. And some of my tales might color her opinion of the people she knows, even her own family.

But she keeps asking.
I bought her a nice journal for Christmas. And a HUGE set of Flair pens. She has journaled for 15

days straight. She starts on her journaling journey as I wonder if mine has been worth it. Who wants to read that drivel? There are so many volumes are they worth sifting through? Do I say hateful things?

She asked again. She volunteered to get them from the attic. We sorted through the boxes and at some point I had labeled the cover of the journal with the major events of that time period. I selected a pile of about ten I said she could read.

She started with the journal that included when her father and I got married.

She’s read me excerpts: story ideas I’d forgotten about, adventures and misadventures,

my life as a vegetarian. My favorite thus far has been a poem about my nephew when he was about 3, and a page where he scribbled in my journal. Then my daughter found a journal where she was 2, and I let her scribble in my journal.

So I guess those journals are worth something.

In Training

My teen and I have officially begun training for our 5k in April. In the past, we have always participated in walk/runs but this time it’s just a run.

My girlfriend Gayle registered us, and I could say she tricked me. I agreed without remembering what I was agreeing to. But Gayle knew this was on my bucket list.

A lot of things are on my bucket list, like seeing Syria and Afghanistan. Learning Arabic & Afrikaans & Euskara. Cleaning my damn house. Building a stealth camping van and living off the grid.

Running a 5k was one I thought of when I was thin and in shape. Since then I’ve gained ten pounds and broken an ankle.

So my teen and I have started the LiveWell program 3 weeks to a 30 minute a day running habit. We had to repeat week one as child came down with bronchitis.

She hasn’t really trained with me in a week, so I’ve reached the interval of run 2 minutes/walk one minute x 7 sets.

We train at the local college so instead of minutes we do laps around the indoor raised jogging track. One lap = 1/10 of a mile.

The last time I trained (I ran a mile with child on rest day), I did this routine: 2 minutes running/1 minute walking x 5; then 1 minute running/ 1 minute walking x 5. The first mile I can complete consistently day after day in 14 minutes.

On my last training run, I thought, “why is this taking so long?” 30+ minutes and I wasn’t done. Then I realized, I ran 2.5 miles in 39 minutes.

And I’ve also realized I don’t do well with the cold, uneven terrain and hills. The jogging track fixes that. And even better, I like logging/tracking distance versus time.

Parenting, Existential Angst and a Book Review

My semester off from my master’s level work on World History has reached its end… only a few more weeks left until the academic session I skipped comes to a close.

I want my degree. I love African history. I am fascinated by colonialism, Islam, Francophonie and obscure languages. But I am forty-something and my daughter, at almost 13, floats between child and young woman/ angel and royal handful.

So my place is here. At home. I get it. But parenting is a thankless job, even with love and a well-behaved-almost-adult as its reward. Sometimes it gets hard to exist only as the nag, the disciplinarian, the cook, etc.

And sometimes I miss long discussions debating the similarities of the industrial and technological revolutions. 

I have been reading, and enjoying, Philip Gourevitch’s book We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow we will be Killed with our Families: Stories from Rwanda. It is a sobering book.

More on this later… my daughter is on her way home and I have to sneak a doughnut before she arrives.

Movement in the face of stillness

My mother taught me never to stand still. She wanted to teach me that I should always make my bed and I should never leave the house without doing all the dishes, but I failed in those lessons.

I spent much of my twenties doing exactly what I thought I was supposed to do: I embarked on a career, I bought a new car, I rented an apartment, I got married, I paid off my student loans.

In my thirties, my husband and I focused most of our energy on our daughter. My career as a journalist became more precarious. I went to work part-time as I earned a second bachelor’s in International Affairs.

By my late thirties, I started traveling with a friend. I realized maybe I didn’t want a traditional professional occupation, but I couldn’t label what I did want.

Now I’ve crossed 40. I am working on a master’s degree in world history at West Chester University. I’ve had a few small acceptances with some of my creative writing. I’m contemplating pursuing more paid freelance writing work.

And I also might take a semester off from my master’s work. My daughter is nearing 13 and I never realized how much she’d need me now.

These are the thoughts I was thinking this morning as I held my office hours as a graduate assistant in West Chester’s history department. I stumbled upon one new publication that may be a good fit for me as a journalist wanting to return to the trade and some of my more alternative leanings.

And while I sit quietly, alone, in this office, I ask what will I do with myself this winter with no schoolwork and only my tedious retail job? And I realize this time will be introspective and hopefully give me more stillness so that my true desires come into focus.

While I ponder these thoughts, which are not easy thoughts, I receive an email.

“Thank you for your revisions.” “We’ll contact you with a publication date.”

An essay I submitted to an online literary magazine a few weeks ago seems as if it has accepted my piece. The piece is about weather, Djibouti and broken bones. It’s a quirky publication too so this may be a sign…

I must keep writing.

The iPod saga

My daughter saved her money and asked her relatives for cash for her 12th birthday in June 23. She broke her first one dropping it on the sidewalk (more than once). 

She carried it through Paris, in its brand new puppy protective case I bought her last week. She snapped photos of IM Pei’s pyramids.

Six flights. Two different airlines. Four hotel rooms. Eight days. Multiple continents.

She filmed video of trees in Russia. She recorded herself in airports making silly faces under time lapse.

She played her video games recklessly and typed notes in the Pages app and listened to music.

And as Air France flight 0054 between CDG and IAD landed, I suggested she put it away. I didn’t want her to miss touch down of the huge A380. 

In the car, halfway to DC, she gasps, “Mom, I left my iPod.”

She searches her bag. I search her bag. M searches her bag.

We email Air France’s lost and found. It bounces. We try tweeting to Air France US. “My daughter left her iPod on 0054 between CDG and IAD 8/20. Email to lost and found bounced.”


My husband then tweets her ticket info. We also get the number for Dulles.

We make the child call. The voice menu suggests using the Internet and directs her to a different number if she wants to talk to a person. She doesn’t have a pen ready so she has to call again. 

She gets the number. She calls that. It’s an answering machine. She leaves a flustered message but she can’t remember her phone number. She gives mine rattling it off so quickly I can’t understand her.

I make her repeat it.

It will be a miracle if the iPod returns. But perhaps some good soul will find it. Perhaps someone will restore some of my faith in the human race. 

My daughter, magnificent traveler

In all fairness, my daughter may be a kid and an American but she is an amazing traveler. So here is a list of ways my daughter has impressed me:

  1. She has lived for a week out of a very small carry-on suitcase and her school backpack.
  2. She has dragged that baggage through airports, train stations, subway tunnels in two continents when she had never even been in an airport before.
  3. She has kept up with two active adults, walking 8 to 10 miles a day. Often dragging the suitcases.
  4. She has tried really really hard to eat new things and not react poorly to them.
  5. She has been so open-minded and suddenly understands that the world is small, the media is not always accurate, and that cultural difference can be lovely.
  6. She started the trip shy towards other language speakers and she’s opening up. She’s repeating phrases and trying to communicate. And I think she might be motivated to learn another language.
  7. She has not complained. Even when exhausted and hungry.IMG_4337.JPG

 

My daughter, the American

I am keenly aware of my quirks as an American. I can be giddy and boisterous. I am erratic and move too quickly. My table manners can be clumsy. My American accent is thick and my language skills, though I try, a jumble of words. Luckily, I’m cute. That rescues me on occasion.

Traveling with my 12-year-old daughter in Moscow has shown me the depth of my  daughter’s Americanisms. 

Some of these things are simply “kid-isms,” I suppose.

1. She has no concept of how loud she is. Ever.

2. Even when she tries, she still stabs her food, can’t properly use a knife and often talks with her mouth full.

3. She talks to strangers even when she doesn’t speak the language. Last night she tried to tell the Russian hostess in a Turkish restaurant in English that her dress was pretty. Poor woman thought we had a problem with the restaurant’s service. We eventually relayed the compliment.

4. My daughter has never dealt with real food. Now my daughter is a duck-in-orange-sauce, fancy meal girl. Not chicken nuggets and French fries. So imagine my surprise when she didn’t have the patience to pull the meat off a real fish or slice around the fat on a healthy portion of duck. Think about that: my daughter, raised as a foodie, has never dealt with real food. Bonus- she now adores fresh juice and real croissant.

5. She does not have the patience to remain at the table for a leisurely meal. She fidgets. She asks for hugs. She tried to put her head down. 

6. She points and screams “LOOK.”

7. In fear of making a mistake, she began this trip reluctant to engage with speakers of other languages and wouldn’t repeat phrases in foreign tongues.

8. She has classic American overconfidence. In our third and final airport of the trip, in Kazan, she tells me adamantly that she can meet us at the gate because she can read her boarding pass. Never mind that we are in a foreign country where she can neither read nor speak the language. Never mind that she is so adept at reading her ticket that she can’t figure out her row and seat on the plane.

9. Space. She’s not too bad with people in her space or how much space she occupies, but man oh man is she a disaster when it comes to realizing where her backpack is in relation to others and where her suitcase rolls behind her. And how to navigate on planes and trains without being a major disruption.

10. Math. She wanted slippers. First she read the wrong tag. Thought it was 800 rubles. It was 2500. I reminded her that the ATM was out of service (really, that isn’t mom code for “I am not your personal back”) and that I had 1100 rubles. So I told her to do the math. I know she has American money with her. And we keep explaining the exchange rate. And pointing out the sign outside the bank that lists the rate for the euro and the U.S. dollar.

I tell her if she wants to calculate the price in dollars she could give me dollars and I would get her rubles. She couldn’t determine the algebraic equation to calculate the cost. I told her to use 70 rubles for ease.
She wanted to divide 70 by 100. I told her that would allow her to figure out the pennies versus rubles rate. She wanted to then multiple that by 2500. I pointed out she was making this too complicated and suggested dividing 250 by 7. 

She didn’t get it. The logic. She could do the math, but not the thinking.

11. Ten minutes into dinner last night, she tried to sneak a game of Minecraft on her iPod under the table. That resulted in confiscation of the iPod (with us as camera and potential language assistant) and a stern, “I did not fly you 6,000 miles from home to sit on a Russian street and play Minecraft.”

“It was two seconds,” the child says.

“Because I caught you,” I retort. “The iPod is for pictures and in the hotel.”