Archive for September, 2013


Lake Day

September 18, 2013

Today is Lake Day.

At Wellesley {have a daughter? Check it out. Seriously.} there was a long standing tradition. Bright and early on the first truly glorious day of spring, the college president would order the chapel bells to ring- pealing the announcement that classes were cancelled. Spontaneously. Everyone was free. Professors, students and staff were all invited to revel in the day. A campus-wide picnic was organized. Music played. Blankets were strewn across Severance Green. Laughter and joy bubbled up everywhere.

It was glorious.


Except that spring is fickle in New England. And that means food service had to keep buns and burgers at the ready for weeks on end. And professors had to have back-up plans in case it was their lecture or lab or exam or field trip that had to be rescheduled. And the president had to hawkishly follow the weather reports and balance that with whatever was happening on campus.

And the students? Oh, we watched and listened for any whispered clues or slights of hand from secretive employees, ruffled professors or friends doing work study jobs in high places. Today? Tomorrow? Tomorrow’s tomorrow?

And as spring budded, tensions grew. It required too much planning, created too much strife, fell too close to finals. The whole purpose of the day was stripped away.

And so it was cancelled.

And yet, today is Lake Day.

I am not there, but my weather app tells me it will be a glorious autumn day. Clear skies. Warm temperatures. And New England leaves beginning to turn the classic colors of fall. A day to swim. A day to float. A day to take out the dinghies and crew shells and sail boats. A day to stretch out on the grass and watch clouds float by.

Today is Lake Day.

Which means, some time in the past 20 years, some wise woman reimagined tradition. She saw the importance of the intent, and found a way to make it work. She took something old, and renewed it. She figured out how to honor the past. And add joy to the future.

So here’s to play. And traditions. Re-envisioned. We are not all at Wellesley, but we can each ring our family bell. We can take an old idea and repurpose it. We can plan for spontaneity. So what will you change? What tradition will you reinvent? Each of us will pick something different. It’s whatever floats your boat.

Happy Lake Day.


old dog. new tricks.

September 5, 2013



This is our dog. Coco. She came to us by means of a rescue shelter, which means that the breed we thought she was going to be when she was a puppy, turns out not to be who she is as an adult. But that’s okay. We love her anyways. {hmmm…there might be a parenting lesson hidden there for me somewhere…}

And you might remember Coco from posts here {about the first day of school} or here {when she had explosive diarrhea. all. down. the. carpeted. stairs.}

But today it is about Coco and cars. You know, the things we drive. That go past her on a very regular basis. Coco does not suffer from the stereotypical dog-car problem. Oh no. There is no car chasing going on here. There is only car fear.

We live on a very quiet street. But very near our very quiet street is a much more travelled road with a posted speed limit of 45 m.p.h. A two-lane byway that takes all traffic on and off our peninsula. And despite the fact that Coco has been exposed to thousands of cars driving past her, whenever I try to walk her along that road she always, how shall I say it? Completely freaks out.


She tries to pull me ahead on her leash, as if she can outrun the car. Or tries to go back and hide behind me. Or runs circles around my legs, tangling the leash so that I nearly topple. And every time a vehicle goes by, the exact same thing happens. And every time I get frustrated. In fact, each time I get incrementally more frustrated, for somehow, each time, I expect a different outcome.


So Emily? At what point am I going to recognize this pattern? And when am I also going to recognize that getting angry is neither surprising nor helpful? Just how flat is my learning curve? I was getting mad because I was expecting her to get over it. I was expecting a different outcome to the same situation. Who is Pavlov and who is the dog in this scenario?

So this morning, on our rainy, thunder-y, lightning-y walk, it happened. Again.

And then something new happened.

It occurred to me that I needed to be the change I wanted to see in the world. {I’m not saving a nation, dear Gandhi, but we all start somewhere, right?}

So I did something different. Now, don’t get me wrong. I think my dog has a vocabulary of about 10 words. Dog. Good dog. Walk. Sit. Stay. Break. Lie down. Come. {okay, 9 ½ words. Come doesn’t always produce results}. So I didn’t really expect her to fully understand what I was saying. But as I heard a car approach from the distance, I started talking to her. I crooned to her softly. I gently described the car, that it was coming nearer, that the engine would sound louder, that it was near to us, then past us, then gone.

Well, I’ll be doggoned.

Different stimulus. Different response. She walked calmly by my side the entire time. Huh. I tried it with the next car. And the next.

Lo and behold. As long as I am saying soothing words to my dog, even though it isn’t in the tongue of dog-ese, it mattered to her. She was scared. I offered comfort. It changed the outcome.

I didn’t do the walking for the dog. I didn’t hold her leash differently. I didn’t avoid the road with fast cars. I was just her little support system.

It’s a delicate balance. How do we help our children without doing it for them? How do we guide without smothering? How do we give them space without abandoning? How do we know when silence is golden, or one more word will make a difference? What is your current parenting road? Keep me posted.

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