Gratitude, Dammit.

I don’t make a conscious decision to be grateful every day. Gratitude is a fact of my life. Every morning that Jeff gets up to take the dogs out, make sure the espresso machine is warming up, and gives me a time-check so I get out of bed on time, I’m grateful. For that matter, every morning he doesn’t do it, because he’s away working, I am grateful for the days he’s home. Every time he plays the piano, we have a family sing-along, we enjoy a meal together, my kids come home from school and tell me about it—I’m grateful. And health? Don’t get me started. Even a paper cut is a gift, after facing down an endocrine disease.

But I spent a solid 20 minutes, Thanksgiving morning, silently condemning myself for being  mad about a fireplace. Because what I just wrote, above, is the tip of the iceberg of the aspects of my life that deserve my thanks. I mean, what the actual fuck—so many blessings, one minor inconvenience.

But,  (whine, whine) our new, highly-touted, not inexpensive fireplace wouldn’t turn on, for the third time in a month and the second time in a week. I’m not someone who needs things picture-perfect, but it didn’t seem like a lot to ask that the damn thing work when we hosted Thanksgiving dinner. After all, the service guy had been here Tuesday. It worked for six hours. And on a chilly Thanksgiving morning, I found myself emailing the dealer, tweeting the manufacturer and giving myself shit for doing so.

Maybe I would have been less pissy, overall, And more inclined to hold my complaint until after the holiday, if my interactions with the owner of the company that sold me the unit had been better. (He never apologizes, makes excuses, and trips all over himself to justify poor customer service. Um, you’re a fireplace company, so no need to mansplain to me that the cold season is your busy season; but do let me know why you’re telling me how many techs you employ when it’s clearly not enough to meet the demands of your business. Please. I’m not yet at the point where I’m willing to drag the company’s name through the mud. I have faith this will be resolved.)

Still, trying to square the incongruity of material discontent on a day of gratitude was not my idea of a good time. So, I dispensed my electronic complaints—conscious that I could be grateful, too, for the ability to express myself, succinctly—and threw myself into the true warmth of the holiday:

First stop: Pie Breakfast, in which five families bake 90 pies and invite the whole town. It’s a fifteen year-old tradition that each of the five used to take turns hosting in their home, but has grown so big it’s now at Hugo Coffee, fittingly, in the town’s visitor welcome center.

Next, to the market for some last-minute ingredients, then home to prepare for our dinner. IMG_0319

I set the table, had Seth decorate the place cards, and then set about being the bottle washer to Jeff’s Chief Cook role. And what a player:

By the time our guests arrived—each bearing bags heavy with side dishes, dessert, and even more flowers, we were overwhelmed with gratitude for the ability to create a warm, delicious meal for our friends. The trappings of the friendships represented at our table were reason enough to be grateful. We had a family who are new to the United States, new to Park City, and new to our lives, and it felt great to welcome them to our home. The other folks, Keith and Shari, we’ve known since our first year of Park City—whereupon we discovered that Jeff and Shari knew each other in childhood, in New York.

And, as is our custom, Jeffrey settled in to play the piano after dinner. The minute he played the first notes of “A Thousand Years,” by Christina Perri, Seth materialized by his side, to sing it.

It’s Friday afternoon as I type this. The damn fireplace isn’t on, still, but as we listen to The Piano Guys’ new album, their version of A Thousand Years, comes on—it’s our first listen, so a pleasant surprise—and Seth starts singing from his watercolor-painting perch in the kitchen, I’m warmed by gratitude.

 

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Irreverent Parenting Movie Night

My kids know their parents are rules people. After all, we’re forever nagging them to clean their rooms and do their homework. We make our bed (Ok, Jeff does), most days. They eat a variety of healthy foods, provided by us. But our choices for family movie nights may be considered, um, irreverent by some  people. I’ve made it clear that we’re not big on policing language (grammar, yes, but not actual language).  So, our children can quote a line or two from Trading Places. They’re well-versed in the world of 007. They’ve seen The Martian and Interstellar. And they may or may not have caught a few minutes of Get Shorty before turning to their parents and saying, “Are you sure you want us to watch this?” Which may have been why my younger son was interrogating Nate the venue manager, at the Park City Film Series, while we bought our tickets to see Meet the Patels, last night.

“What’s this movie rated? Is it PG-13?” Seth asked. “Because I am here with my parents, just in case it is. I’ve seen lots of PG-13 movies.” He need not have worried (nor thrown his parents under the bus) as the film is, in fact PG. But, you know, it’s good to have your film-ready bona fides, when you’re 8. (I like the idea that our kids think we’re more lenient than we are—after all, they’re not allowed to watch Homeland with us. That is solidly off-limits.)

FYI, You don’t have to be in town for the Sundance Film Festival to enjoy independent film in Park City. In fact, some might argue that you’ll enjoy it more if you’re simply taking in a film on a weekend evening, as part of the Park City Film Series, purchasing tickets and popcorn (local’s tip: BYO-Bowl for free refills!) just moments before the film starts, with little or no time spent waiting in line. (Yes, I’ve met lots of interesting people while waiting in line for a film at Sundance, but that’s a story for another blog post.) At the PCFS, your ticket also doubles as an entry in an “opportunity drawing,” for a series of door prizes. On this night, a local Indian eatery had donated baskets of naan and chutney, there were gift certificates for pizza and coffee, plus a freshly-baked loaf of Volker’s bread. Which, to our surprise and delight, we won. (Most of it made it home, improbably enough.)

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Patels delivered on the promise of a great night out for our group of several families with kids in grades 3-8 (who were pretty stoked to be out on a school night–bonus points in the Irreverent Parents column!).

A documentary co-directed by siblings Ravi Patel (an actor in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Grandfathered) and Geeta Patel (Mouse) , Meet the Patels focuses on Ravi’s quest for love and marriage, within the confines of a modern Indian matchmaking system. It’s highly relatable—and in plumbing the arranged-marriage system of Indian culture, underscores the similarities between many ethnic groups who value marriage within their own cultures. Ravi navigates Indian-specific online dating sites, plus a series of set-ups engineered by his parents using a system called “Biodata,” a collection of dating resumes circulated among Indian-American communities, and a marriage convention—all while wrestling with the fact that he’s fresh off a breakup from the white woman he was secretly dating. (With a few minor tweaks, it could have been a film about the Jewish dating scene—after all, Jeff and I met at one of a series of Jewish camps we both attended, and while the overt message wasn’t ‘find a spouse,’ such controlled environments upped the odds that we would.) With hilariously poignant color-commentary from Ravi and Geeta, plus scenes in which his parents explain the success of their arranged marriage, and interviews with other Indian-American young adults, it provided a unique window into the joys and peculiarities of Indian-American immigrant culture.

The kids were into the fact that the live action scenes were intercut with animated bits of narration and dialogue—segments that served to give Ravi the room to deal with some of the more emotionally-charged conversations, off-camera, and still convey them to the audience. I doubt there was a person in the theater who wasn’t completely charmed by the family–and Ravi’s story.

As a parent, I saw a lot of value in the heartfelt but humorous take on the way cultures grapple with identity and change. Ravi makes a lot of jokes in the movie that, as an actor, he makes up for his parents dashed dreams by playing the doctor he figures they expected him to become. Yet, it’s clear throughout the film that his parents’ American dream for their Indian child is that he be happy in whatever path he chooses.

Later, driving toward home and bedtime, Jeff declared the film “99% appropriate,” and the kids quickly (and accurately) jumped in to identify the 1% moment. Which means, of course, that even with all the positive family messages, the thoughtful pondering of cultural norms, the theatrical absurdity that crept hilariously into Meet the Patels, we’d managed to stay on-point, at least a little, with our irreverence. Thanks, Patels.

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