Sunday, May 20, 2012

I Think We Are Entrepreneurs (MB)

I haven't historically been that into Myers Briggs types.  Similar to my reaction to horoscopes and signs of the Zodiac, I gobble up fun insights and true-ringing characterizations that can come from these types of things, but I never think to ask people what type or sign they are, and I haven't memorized much at all about various types or characteristics in either case.  I do realize Myers Briggs and the Zodiac are completely different.  I only compare because of my very amateur knowledge of both. 

I took the Myers Briggs test as you requested, and I am an ENFJ.  I am not sure about this.  I think I took the test years ago and put in a bunch of different answers -- still honest, mind you, but I think I am a changing person.  But I do admit I think I got the same result.  I think being an ENFJ feels like pressure.  (I am a tired ENFJ, okay!)  I often ruminate on the fact that I'm NOT as giving or empathetic as I would like to be.  So, I'm not sure if I'm the best ENFJ around.  Well, I guess that's obvious, considering Abraham Lincoln was an ENFJ. 
Here are the parts I like about your INFJ profile description, Ab: 
"The INFJ individual is gifted in ways that other types are not. Life is not necessarily easy for the INFJ, but they are capable of great depth of feeling and personal achievement."
". . . they have very high expectations of themselves, and frequently of their families. They don't believe in compromising their ideals."

The part about your description I do NOT agree with, at least as it pertains to you, is: "They are not good at dealing with minutia or very detailed tasks."
I believe I have observed you organize about four (4) large Rubbermaid containers full of legos for an entire day, and have also seen an entire felted vegetable set you created for Charlie, complete with realistic stems and seed stitches.  I would say you have a gift for (creative) minutia.

I think in your passionate and frank last post, regarding your dream, you talk about uncertainties, but they are not really uncertainties about your dream. Thing is, you articulate gloriously what your dream is:  

"My dream is not a destination but a style of living. I want to keep things simple and graceful."
". . . To find beauty and magic in all the little things. . ."
". . .  to live effortlessly. . . "
". . . [for] my kids to have time to figure out what's interesting to them. . . "

I spent last night working on some things at home and intermittently weeping over the loss of a community member here in Madison who died of colon cancer.  I didn't even know she had colon cancer.  She was a mom a bit older than us, with kids about the same age as Peter and Henry.  She had gone back to law school as a non-traditional student and was kicking ass all over the place, involved in stuff, engaged.  And within a year and half from diagnosis she was gone.  We can set dreams to the highest hilt, to the most detailed degree, but life is more powerful than us.  But, we can't live limiting ourselves, cowering in the looming possibility that life won't let us play out our dreams, either.  It seems we must set our dreams in a way that simultaneously allows us the greatest possibility to run our lives out for the full long haul, actualized, fulfilled, contributing, and positive, while not compromising the days between, should -- God forbid -- life have different plans for us. 

It's a much more true-to-life description to say your dream is to live gracefully and effortlessly, and for your kids to find their own passions, than to say you hope to sack away a million bucks by the time you're fifty (50) or that you want to build a house in Mexico or that you want to start your own art gallery or pilates studio or whatever.  You have a good chance of realizing your dream and being sure your dream is accurately what you want under this approach.

In short, contrary to the title of your last post, I think you DO have a clue what your dream is, I think it is a good one, and I think you might be getting to it.  But I think, like me, you get jammed up on all the uncertainties and steps and drudgery and decisions to be made on the actual path of moving forward on this dream.  Your last post focuses a lot on jobs and identities defined by jobs, and making money.  To me, these acts -- the work we do and how we pay the bills -- these are the steps we take to realize our dreams.  But they're not our dreams. 

Remember that epic emotion ballad by the Verve "Bittersweet Symphony"?  Here, you can watch them play it in Glastonbury (another story, but I camped there once when I was pregnant with Peter and got to go to the famed tor and medieval fountain of youth that brings pilgrammages of readers of The Mists of Avalon there):  Anyway, as a young person I was extremely moved by the inherent, deep, universal-feeling sound and sentiment of this song.  But I was always confused by the line "try to make ends meet, you're a slave to money, then you die."  Now, say what you will about the extremely melodramatic nature of that line, and whether a bunch of world-famous UK singers can pull off singing it, but now that I'm older, I kind of smile when I hear it because sometimes life CAN slightly feel like that.  I mean for those of us without a trust fund, aren't we bascially always thinking about how we're going to make the money we need, and doesn't that issue have at least the power and potential to really have us by the balls?  This is a part of the paralysis we can feel about our dreams when what we're really stuck on is the steps we're taking to get there.

It sounds like the question of "what you're doing" is making you sweat when you're answering the question of "what's your dream." But I think I have a solution for that -- for both of us.

Here is the part I like about my profile description, Ab:
"Many ENFJs have tremendous entrepreneurial ability."

I like this part best because I often feel that if I could just put all my good ENFJ intentions out in the world in my own format, under my own vision, and according to my own principles, I'm fairly certain I could be very successful in creating some great stuff. It's all the damn rules and unavoidable conflicting responsibilities that get in the way!  I, too, am hung up on the steps of getting to the dream, instead of the dream.  In an effortless world where all things fall into place, I have a dream (or 100!), and I'm certain I could reach the dream famously.

I guess what we both need to work on is not only answering the question "what's your dream?" in a way that contemplates all the uncertainties of life, but also answering the question "what are you going to do about it?" And your last post certainly also explores the question of "how do I define what I'm doing now?"  You have your ample share of variety and breadth in the various professions and experiments and accomplishments you have taken on, from artist to pilates instructor to baker to illustrator to home renovator to host of art club and so many things I can't do justice here.  I've already articulated through this blog and otherwise that I believe in your primary profession -- MOM -- you kick serious ass.  But, through all of those accomplishments and roles, you're left feeling empty about that one, consistent role that others seem to have.  Some people can define themselves as writers or teachers or doctors or artists.  Although I may be defined often as a lawyer, single mom, non-profit Executive, etc., even I feel this same anxiety about not being quite able to put my finger on whether any of those roles should really define me, whether any of them can properly encapsulate the dream I would like to live, if only these pesky daily responsibilities and money-making and dish-washing and negotiating-the-phone bill could get out of my way.  The roles we've played are steps toward the dream, but they're not the dream.  Maybe we should forget about defining who-we-are and what-we-do and just get down to business on the dream, but I fear we humans have a gluttonous desire for definitions (at least I do).  I want to give things a name, and have a clear response when asked (even if only by myself) what the hell I am doing.

I think if we must define who we are and what we do in a universal sense, in a way that can carry the dream forward for each of us, I suggest we think about it like this:

"We are entrepreneurs".  Here is a nice thorough wiki post about the full meaning and history of the word and concept:

I'll let you take a look and consider all the ways this word might apply to what you have been doing, what you are doing, and similarly, what I'm up to -- not only in the work force, but as moms, seekers, lovers of life, and artists.  The Webster definitition of the word goes something like this: "one who organizes, manages and assumes the risk of a business or enterprise."

Our enterprise is the dream; and we are certainly doing nothing if not organizing, managing, and assuming risk related to that enterprise.  You have fairly well defined your enterprise, your dream, as I've summarized above.  I still need to work on how to explain my dream.  It's in there somewhere but I'll get it out in a future post.  For now, if we wish to seek comfort in a definition about who-we-are and what-we-do, I'm inclined to embrace the term "entrepreneur", an all-encompassing definition of all the steps we're taking, things we're learning, and progress we're making on the dream, rather than try to pinpoint what role or act or creation or single profession that could possibly define us or what we do.

I think Penelope Trunk, fellow former Madison resident (who -- fun fact --  lived in the house that my family lived in while I was in law school, after we moved out), acquaintance of yours, and source of much good blogging entertainment for both of us, would approve (PS I just looked at her blog again and was reminded: she is OUTRAGEOUS!).

And, I do believe "entrepreneur" might fit for both INFJ and ENFJ.  But I welcome your thoughts.
With total appreciation.

Friday, May 18, 2012

I Don't Have a Clue What My Dream Is

Do you geek out on Myers Briggs types Mary Beth?  I am an INFJ, which is just to say, that I am intuitive and introverted.  I have a hard time explaining myself but feel and judge things constantly and intensely.  It has given me great solace as an adult to understand why my motivations are different from other peoples.  INFJs make bad employees and tend to devalue money.  INFJs are creative and good at meeting their own needs.  INFJs need to trust their own instincts.  You should take the test here.  I wonder what type you are?

I have spent a lot of time not understanding my own motivations but trusting my gut.  Quite often I feel lost when I compare myself with other people.  Now I learn that INFJs are only one percent of the population.  Go figure.

So you asked me about my dreams?  Somehow the question makes me nervous and sweaty.  I feel like I have to explain myself.  I'm an INFJ.  Right?  To me this means that I will continue to try and order my dreams around strong ideals and intuition.  I will get lost and actually that's ok with me.  I will always be creative.  I will focus on process more than destination. It means I don't know.

I have tried being an art historian.  A baker.  An arts educator.  A Pilates instructor.  A seller of fine fabrics.  An artist.  A blogger.  A waitress.  A stagemom


It always goes something like this.........

When I went to college I had no idea what I wanted to do.  Then I attended a lecture given by a beautiful woman in the dark.  She flashed sultry images like some sort of fever dream.  Fleshy Rubens nudes made me want to lick something.  All my muscles relaxed.  I decided a major in art history was the most sensual thing I could possibly do with my life.

But later, when I try to turn art history into a job, everything seems hopeless.  At The Art Institute of Chicago crabby women scuttle around frowning about grants and docents.  In graduate school professors make art theory sound like some sort of political diatribe.  Tension crackles through hunched shoulders.  Overly clever words beg for relief.  I am in the wrong place.  Change scene.

I have changed scene my fair share of times.  I think this seems lucky.

Mary Beth, I want to tell you all these stutter steps are totally fine with me and make perfect sense.  That would be my 1A.M. lie in the mirror.  What's the point?  Self doubt sinks in constantly.  I feel like I should pursue a practical thing like nursing and help take some pressure off Frank.  Currently my sweet workaholic husband is having a meltdown over his job.  He feels the corporate suck.  He would like a break.  Talk about drawing a bad hand.  I was hoping if Frank liked his work I could fly under the radar.  No such luck.

I often believe I am a huge fraud at 1A.M.  Really.  And selfish.

I like to write and I want to tell you that my dream is to be a writer.  I have no clue.  It sounds weird to say it.  But I do write.  I also draw.  Does this mean I should be an illustrator?  It just doesn't follow in my brain.  I recently had a friend who was making a line of herbal essences with animal themes.  She needed images for all the little bottles.  I drew her the animals.  She loved them and couldn't believe I could draw like that.  I laughed because I can't believe it's anything special.  People can't draw animals?  Why?  It's really just that my skills don't seem to equal cash money.  

Money is an issue for me currently.  I feel guilty about not earning any.  It helps that we don't have a mortgage anymore.  I am slowly getting rid of things.  I want to live more and more monastic.  I have realized that in order to not value money you have to live cheap.  This is not easy in California.  In California children are luxury items because rent goes up by a grand with each extra bedroom.  Why can't we all just sleep together I wonder?  The older children cringe.

I haven't been spending hardly any money lately.

My favorite place in Los Angeles is called Clementines.  I go there every Saturday and buy myself a special pastry and tea.  I try not to blanch at the $10 price tag.  Last week I was in line behind a beautiful California style family with two kids and they were ordering food for the entire weekend for pickup.  They were using Clementines like a grocery store.  They left with almost $400 dollars worth of seasonal soups and breads and little delights for their weekend.  Done.  I wanted to tear my eyes out -- not because I thought they were silly, but because I wanted to be them and I hated myself for it.  When I sat down I made myself pause and feel super grateful for my ten dollar afternoon tea.  It really was enough.

My dream is to transcend. To find beauty and magic in all the little things.  To stop asking myself such hard questions about what I'm going to be when I grow up as if I'm ever going to come up with the answer to that riddle.

I just want to live effortlessly, you know?  This may sound like Zen spiritual mumbo jumbo, but I can't really put it any other way.  My dream is not a destination but a style of living.  I want to keep things simple and graceful.  Everything I have ever pursued has been about grace and a real aversion to struggle.  I can't compare myself with the Beverly Hills types, but I certainly admire their taste.  I hope taste isn't just about money.  I don't think it is.

On the subject of education, we all need to bring more grace to the table, right?  We are all losing it.  Fear reigns supreme.  The expectations we place on our kids are crazy unreal.  There are Mandarin lessons being taught after school all over the place.  Private tutors galore.  Are there high school classes that aren't advanced placement?  I know of two month SAT prep classes over the summer.  Two months.  These kids are getting perfect scores on the SAT after taking these classes.  So then what is the value of the test?  Do all college bound kids need to take these courses just to keep up?   Kids need to read before entering kindergarten.  Really?  Shit.  I better get Charlie to work.   There is this huge inflation bubble hanging over higher education that could burst at any moment.  I used to be the person thinking that we were not doing enough.  I know.  I have changed my mind.  Now I just think kids need to find themselves outside of school.  And forget about concepts like permanence and financial aid.  I don't even think that home school is necessarily the answer for everyone (especially not for extroverts), but I think that having time and fluid expectations will ease the pain.

And kids should not look stressed out. We need our kids to look beautiful and lithe, otherwise who will?  I am so happy to hear that Peter is six feet tall.  Amazing.

I just want my kids to have time to figure out what's interesting to them.  Time to figure out self worth and style beyond grades and transcripts.  I am not signing them up for enrichment classes or telling them what classes to take.   Jimmy is going back to public school next year.  If we move to LA they will all be in the craziest public school system in the country --- LAUSDgasp.  This should be some awesome new material for our blog at the very least.  The bottom line is I'm not a tiger mom.  I just can't fake it.

I also want to respect my kids if they don't have dreams or ambitions that are traditionally predictable.  The Myers Briggs test can also be taken by children (after a certain age of course).  If you have a kid like me, there's no education formula obviously. Remember in college I just wanted to lick things and look at sexy Rubens nudes.  Do I want to pay for that fun if one of my kids is an INFJ?  I think in the future any INFJ child-o-mine will be encouraged to follow their intuition outside of the bounds of traditional education.

More later.  Miss you.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mirror Under Florescent Lights at 1 a.m. (MB)

Hey again, Abigale.  Just letting you know that ever since I read your last post, and wrote my response, I've realized I've been harping on the "work and toil and figure out the main game" theme way too hard with myself and my kids.  I think my last post tries to emphasize the importance of the balance between instilling and honoring basic work values and the ability to play by the rules to ensure survival, versus encouraging and inspiring the outlandish dreams that might be seeds of greatness.  But in reality, I've been way more concerned about me and my kids playing by the rules, and -- true confession -- I have become quite the nagging mother about it all.  I guess even after reflection these last days, I stand by my pleas for balance between the two approaches -- get your bearings on the main game and hard work while never abandoning crazy dreams.  But I've started a new mantra at home, and as I speak it, I realize how unfamiliar it feels: "What's your dream?"  My little family has been missing that, at least as a legitimate way to talk about things, for a little while now, what with the onset of high school and those damn permanent transcripts (Peter), the start of middle school and real deadlines and grades (Madeline), and the 7-year-itch in the work force since law school graduation (Me -- trying like hell to play by the rules since 2005).  Not to mention the constant pounding of the radio news and TV news telling us about how much harder it is to make it these days, talking about kids living at home til they are thirty (30) years old, talking about this and future generations not being able to own their own house, talking about college being so hard and expensive to get into . . . .but perhaps this context, this horrible economy, actually makes your case.  If we're facing such poor odds on such hard work, why not roll the dice on the dream?  Thanks for the reminder, my mirror under florescent lights at 1 a.m.  We mustn't forget the possibility of those rare and special dreams and the rare and special ways we may just pull off a good con.  Lord knows playing by the rules isn't a cakewalk either way. 

What's your dream, baby?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day from Wisconsin (and, the long haul) (MB)

Aw baby! Why did I abandon this blog for over two (2) months? You just made my adrenaline level go up a little higher than it's been for probably the whole time since I last checked in, Ab. You're a hell of a writer, and I realize why life has been just a bit drabber since you left for the Coast. You are a mirror under florescent lights at 1 a.m. for me -- and I mean that in the best possible way. You always provide a solid challenge to my comfortable assumptions, and that's why I love you. Due to the sheer delay on my part in getting back to you, this post is going to have a little bit of housekeeping before I get at the very important themes of your last post.

 First, obviously no April Spring Break trip to see you ever did happen. We took a more standard route to visit friends and family on the east coast. You might say it was a safe choice, and pleasant. Would have been great to get there with y'all but thing is, your kids and my kids were not off school same time, so it seemed like it might not work, and the logistics and money were making me a bit trigger-shy. We got a great option to go east and it was easy to take. It was a good get-away. Maybe that's another post.

Second, our birthdays are coming. And, through the minimal email that has occurred between us I have surmised that you guys may be back in Sconnie for it. (Dear readers, if you are out there, Abigale and I do in fact commit to focus our communication solely on this blog, thus keeping its true lady-friend letter-writing tradition-based authenticity in tact, but occasionally a simple blast from Ab to Henry's fan club back home or a quick exchange regarding potential travel plans does happen via email). Regarding our upcoming birth date, potentially in Wisconsin, do I feel another DJ Frank dance party coming on? I will never forget the one a few years ago when many of my relatives, including my parents, and many of our East Side friends came on down to the Mercury for a true throw-down including full blown chanting in unison to "Don't You Want Me Baby" that old call-and-response 80s tune (classic).

 Third, you have had quite the whirlwind of call-backs and potentially life-changing developments in Henry's young acting career since you last wrote. I am not actually sure if good "luck", as you would term it, has won the day. You'll have to fill me in.

Fourth, it's Mother's Day, and that should not go un-acknowledged. How was yours? You certainly deserve to be showered with love and affection today. As your last post most eloquently details, you have put your boys' education (I think I mean that in the Spanish sense, educacion, "raising") first and in fact made it your passionate life pursuit. As for my Mother's Day, it's been good and it seems like everyone else's has too. When I say everyone, I mean the ladies I most wish a happy Mother's Day for -- my mom, grandma, sisters, and friends. But, I also mean "everyone". I have recently made the mistake of starting to read Facebook on my phone (I previously set up an account in the early days, accepted several hundred friend requests, then promptly abandoned the email linked to it and ignored it for six-month intervals; now, I can read the news feed at any damn time of the day). According to Facebook, it seems just about everyone is having an amazing Mother's Day, complete with documentation of every breakfast in bed and gift given and many overtures about the greatness of individual and all moms ever to live. Mine, as I mentioned, was quite pleasant, especially when considered historically. I could tell you some stories about the trials and tribulations of Mother's Day as a single mom. There have been some pretty solid ones (for example, when I had law firm tickets to the luxury box at Miller Park) and some pretty shaky ones, of which an entire memoir could be written, that could basically represent the dysfunction of a tight-knit single parent family. These shaky Mother's Days generally include me planning something that I want to do with the kids, and then spending the whole day fighting with them about how they should be trying to be nice and enjoy it and do what I want to do because it's Mother's Day. This has included brunches in cute Mother's Day spots, day-trips for a hike, and even a ferry ride to Uruguay from Buenos Aires when we were living in Argentina. In all of these "shaky" cases the worst part is that inevitably there are families nearby who are going through the motions of a pretty pleasant Mother's Day experience, and whose presence reminds me how pathetic our Bridget Jones version of the holiday is. Now that Facebook exists on my phone, that contrast was slightly present today despite the fact that we -- purposely -- spent most of today around the house ("my hubby surprised me with. . . /I am chillin by the pool in a tropical destination on Mother's Day!/my cutest ever kids are cuddled up in my king-sized bed with me with a well-planned gift"). All in all this one was right in the middle, and I feel pretty pleased about it. Started the day with nine 12-year-old girls in the house for Madeline's birthday sleepover, and by 11 a.m. we were mostly cleared out, no worse for the wear, house NOT trashed (!). Managed to get both kids involved in mowing and yard stuff and getting the garden ready on a most beautiful May day. I had a few moments of listening to my own music and also reading the hilarious book I am on right now, The Dud Avocado (have you read it?). I did have some Bridget Jones moments including several outbursts by me similar to the most recent one "I am going to sing Aretha Franklin if I want to today because it's Mother's Day and I don't CARE if you think I am annoying!" You get the point. Pretty solid. I hope you got to do something fun or for yourself.

Okay, now on to the real post -- the response to yours, that is. I get what you mean about the long-con, and all the opportunity that you have in your California existence to educate your boys on the glimmery, shimmery, luck-drives it, path-less-traveled, risk-taking, charm-your-way-through side of life. And I support you using California time for that. For sure. You ask if any of your comments about it resonate with me. In short, absolutely. Maybe too much. I was raised by a dad who frequently captured his philosophy on life with one phrase: "I'd rather be lucky than good." (The context usually gave the comment the additional meaning of "and I am -- lucky.")

And, as you know, I trust (or I think we would not still be friends after all these years) I have a pretty insatiable appetite for all that the world has to offer. And we all know that the interesting stories from life, and life's biggest stars, seem to play by a different set of rules than what the conventional wisdom would tell us is safe and right. And I've definitely rolled the dice on taking the riskier path. I did it when I was 18 and ran off to California for my first year of college, I did it when I went hitchhiking across the country with my first post-high school boyfriend, and I did it when I followed through with starting a family with that boyfriend at an age when most of my contemporaries were simply moving in their first college apartment. Then, I did it again after getting divorced when I went to law school and started taking my kids on international adventures while working on research projects. I think a certain sense of trying to defy the odds (what the hell?) drove that.

But, I must say, the last six or seven years have been a true lesson in the other side of life. I've been here, in Wisconsin, and I've been somewhat run out of special tricks like the ones I was able to come up with as a younger person and as a student. I've got to pay the bills and raise the kids. I haven't found a way to ease up on those responsibilities or the work required to get it done. I still dream that a break will come, but truth is once you get busy with the work and family schedule it's hard to find time or energy for the dreamier things that might bring something my way. So, with full knowledge that it may be a phase and it may be an overly hardened perspective and I may even be in denial about how I could really be living better, but -- I would say my orientation these days is a bit more toward the hard work and gaining some basic skills that people are willing to pay you for, no matter if you can charm your way through or not. I have found that being able and willing to work hard and having some marketable skill is what will save you from utter failure when the tricks up your sleeve run out or are on "pause".

What's more, I do think the working Wisconsin values have set in -- gracefully, not harshly -- in my world view since I have settled into just being a Wisconsin mom here. I look around and truly admire the hell out of the people who I observe that have done their honest day's work and paid their dues, so to speak. And I see a lot of beauty and satisfaction in that, not just fulfillment of a cultural obligation.

Now as for Peter and Madeline, first -- they are great. And as you know, Peter could charm a damn snake out of a tree and still has his gorgeous face but now on a 6-foot-tall lean tall frame. Madeline is so exceedingly competent and on top of everything and now sassy-cute and stylish in her tween-ness that I think people just sort of get out of her way and accept her. So yeah, they've got some things working in their favor to follow in a certain family tradition of pushing the limits and taking some risks that could pay off. But I find myself emphasizing the work and sensibility, while emphasizing that of course they can do whatever they want to in life, and anything is possible! 

I guess it's that persistence thing you're talking about. I also translate that principle to willingness-to-do-what-it-takes. My thing is if you've got something that's your con-job, the thing that makes you most glowingly happy and is your dream to shoot for -- then yeah, let's go. But, you've got to be willing to take the steps it takes to get there, and you can't abandon the basic underlying facts (hard ground) that lie beneath every such shot at a dream (tight rope walk). Better have some humble skills and the ability to do the grind if and when the time comes.

My current example is Peter. He's golfing, and golfing pretty well, and as you know, the kid was always going to play a sport and this is the one that he's narrowed down to and is probably going to excel in the most. So, this pro in town tells him he may have what it takes to play in college, etc, but he actually has to get the grades and have good character and not make any boneheaded mistakes in high school, or he'll significantly sabotage his chances of getting a scholarship or playing in college. This is an "aha" moment for me because it perfectly captures (coincidentally) the thought process I have about it. Will I support the dream, and just today, did Peter and I watch a tall lanky guy built much like himself win the Players Tournament, and did I see the guy high-fiving his mom after he won and feel a few happy tears running down my face? Hell yeah. And when this golf pro tells me we need to get Peter new clubs that I can't afford do I do it anyway? Yes. But when Peter plays the "Mom, won't you support my dream?" card when he's lobbying for a membership to a course or some such access to MORE golf that I am supposed to pay for, I'm like: 1. Do your part dude, and show me the grades; and 2. You're still gonna need to get a job and pitch in because I'll be damned if you're not gonna know how to scrape a grill or carry some elder golfer's clubs around because in that great pursuit of a dream you gotta know how to work FOR it, and you gotta know how to work well in CASE you need back up.

And unfortunately with that little snake-charmer Peter with those big brown eyes and savvy smile and good humor I have to hit these points over and over again because he will con me, and he will con the world -- to a point. He takes after his mom, and I seem to have run my con for the short term (carried myself from age 18 to age about 28 on the whimsy), but then the pause button hit and ever since, I have really needed those skills and work and to be honest I kind of had to learn it all over again, you know? But I am better for it. 

And there is for sure some hard work and hard face lines and grubby hands running through our Wisconsin tradition here. But there's a lot of love and pleasure, and of course, in the midst of all that tradition, there's certainly the shot at a dream. Always. I just think my view, and the Wisconsin view, may be that it's a pretty long haul, and there's definitely some hard work in there somewhere. Hardly anybody gets around it if they are to really live well. I think the fact that your boys had once lived here makes it easier for "LA Education" to be a thing, and not a life front-to-back, and that's all the more reason to go after it while you can. Not that you're coming back, but you can always send them back to me for a summer if we need to straighten one of them out.

Other cool thing about Wisconsin -- that hard work, basic skill thing? It's become stylish, you know? All the local food and cheese and beer and artisanship and all the handcrafted everything. So en vogue, and so HERE (holy Farmer's market and local organic regional cuisine restaurants -- we are saturated!) -- and so NOT possible through a con. There is something so damn admirable and virtuous about that.

I may have been raised in Wisconsin, and one would think I would have started out with those persistent, skilled, hard-working values, but I think I came of age in a somewhat quirky family and knowing I could work a good con, and so avidly seeking that kind of spice in my life. At the moment, though, I am thinking a lot about good honest work and warning my kids a whole lot about the need to be thorough, work well, do their best, and play the main game well. But you have astutely reminded me that I should be telling them that while they should master that main game well (chess), they should do because it might well serve their dream (poker, L.A.-style, the long-con).  And, it can offer a solid life true to the virtue of their Wisconsin tradition, in the event they are not a poker player, or in the event they ever need to recover from a bad hand.

Remind me to dream again, and encourage my kids to do so, just in case this grind has me a little bogged down. I'll make sure if you go too far with the long-con we pull you back here for some meat, cheese, beer, and diggin in the garden.

Should I be worried that Charlie has already quit a hippie preschool? Did he flip off the macrobiotic lunch lady? xooxoxoxoxoxo