Sunday, August 8, 2010

from 180 Magazine, August

Organize Chaos

I have largely ignored this worldwide serial experiment known as summer.

I’m addicted to working. Not only do I work a day job but I’m also a compulsive theatre geek. I’ve spent my entire adult life leaving work to do evening rehearsals and performances. Sometimes I make a little money. Mostly it keeps me sane and it’s generally not been about the cash. Now that I have a couple of small people in my entourage, I make choices based on my sanity, their wellbeing and my earnings. I was determined to live the life of summer this year for all our sakes. The last two summers I got off work at 5pm and rehearsals began at 7pm. The girls enjoy going to rehearsal and they also enjoy the potpourri of friends that come over to play while I’m working on obtaining that mind-blowing performance. It’s not torture for them that I do theatre but a lot gets sacrificed. There’s a facebook group called “I can’t, I have rehearsal.” It’s a support group because theatre is all consuming. When you aren’t in rehearsal, you are rehearsing at home. When you aren’t rehearsing at rehearsal or at home, you could be building a set or worrying about rehearsal. You generally don’t see music or go to the movies. You don’t go swimming or go on vacation. Sometimes you take on the characteristics of your character. You do the show. You never clock out. It’s pretty glorious but it doesn’t leave room for anything else. This year, I’m breaking up with summer theatre for summer time. This summer is being treated like my imagination imagines summer. We have gone to the lake. We have gone to the pool. We have gone to the movies. We are going on a vacation that is not determined by my rehearsal schedule. Revolutionary.

My day job is flexible. I spend a lot of time on my computer and I can do that at 6am or 11pm. I also meet with folks and have appointments but I’m not at a desk from 8 to 5 like I was in summers’ previous. I am in the working world of contract labor. This is somewhat terrifying, but it’s where I’m at right now and I’ve decided to embrace the positive. I have flexibility. I may not have benefits but I have flexibility.

I’ve had a lot of interaction this past year with 3 other families working in the contract labor arena. None of us want to have our kids in summer daycare, either because of the cost or just because it’s summer, dang it, and the kids should sleep late. For me, it’s a combination of the two. Through some discussion, we came up with a plan to benefit the workaday needs of productivity (aka money earning) and the needs of summer. We have been passing our kids around. We plan on four days a week for four hours a day. Each of the four families takes a day. The benefit is that the adults get some time to work uninterrupted (Mommy, I need a drink! I hate this drink! She hit me!). The kids get some peer interaction, hopefully don’t strangle their siblings and don’t die of boredom watching their moms and dads work from home. We have been calling it the Summer Camp Co-op. It is our attempt to organize the chaos. So far the outlook is positive although fluid. Currently we are in the third week and we’ve only had all the kids together once and that was at the initial potluck, which, I might add, included bows and arrows. The key to the success of the fluidity is that this group is pretty clued into one another. Our types of work are compatible so when something comes up or changes, no one gets uptight about it. It just moves on to the next day or we switch days or go to the pool. Initially, I thought it would have more rigid boundaries. We would submit lesson plans and make copies of insurance cards and have a craft fee. But it’s more like a series of organized play dates. There was one day that included a downtown bike ride and some printmaking. While this madness was going on, I was at a meeting. One of my colleagues asked where the girls were and I told him about our camp and he declared he wanted to go to camp too. I think that’s been one of the hardest things. I really enjoy these other families and I dig their offspring. We came together because of similar interests and the compatibility of our kids. It’s often hard for me to drop the girls off and go do work. Every time I linger at the doorway as my kids disappear into a room unknown waiting for their adventure to begin.

This summer makes me grateful. I am taking pictures every day that I don’t lose or forget my camera. I’m calling it ‘Curating Summer’, because this summer is a choice. It’s happening just by choosing to let it go. Everyday is a surprise. Every lightning bug has been a gift, every sunset a miracle and every morning a gentle rise. We have not hurried through our days.

The school year starts soon. My youngest enters kindergarten and my oldest will be in the fourth grade. Both girls will be under the same roof and my workdays become longer as the days grow shorter. When summer started, I was panicked about how to organize these summer days. Now I dread them being organized for me. My living room will no longer be a chaotic ocean of cast off flip flops and wet bathing suits. The library becomes a requirement, not a luxury. We will wake before the sun and wear backpacks and computer bags instead of sunscreen.

We will remember this summer. I have pictures to prove it happened. It’s happening now. I hope I can find my camera.

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