The inconvenience of life

mummy – Kristine BruneauI want to have a full and joyful life.

I want to have a life overflowing with laughter, movement, grace and love – and inconvenience.

I chose marriage. I chose motherhood. I chose writing. I chose to share my motherhood journey in front of strangers. I chose to work from home. My choices have brought me tremendous joy, but the joy that comes within these roles isn’t easy. It’s hard work, fraught with inconvenience.

As I feverishly type away (to meet a deadline) the ringing doorbell startles me. The dogs, roused from their midday nap, bark and slip-slide along the tile floor slamming into the door. I shush the dogs, who emit low growls, but I do not move from my chair.

My son yells: “Mom! I need you!” It’s after five and I’m searching the internet for something that may or may not be essential to a story. When I don’t stop and immediately answer his call, he shouts again. Later, my son tells me I need a computer time limit after he’s home from school so I know when to stop.

My husband pops his head into my “office” (formerly the dining room) to say hello. I’m sitting at my desk talking aloud, trying to edit a story. I’m not ready to take a break. 

I receive a summons for jury duty. My billable time is now at the mercy of my good citizenship requirement. 

One afternoon, my retina detaches. I have emergency surgery (with a needle). I have to lay on my right side to hold the gas bubble in place for three days. I get behind on editing an article.

When you start to want to live your life fully instead of opting for death, you discover that life itself is inconvenient.” – Pema Chödrön

Like a tiny pebble lodged in your shoe as you are walking along the path of life at a nice clip – you don’t want to slow down or stop. But you have to stop and remove the pebble, which is  really irritating your foot and ruining a perfectly good walk with your dog.

The good news is that your dog will wait for you to remove whatever it is that’s bothering you. For a few more minutes, the sun will continue to shine. The air will remain still and sweet with the scent of early spring. Once you stop for a moment to reorganize and redirect yourself, you can keep moving forward in life and take on whatever else comes with it. 

The pebble is an inconvenience that reminds you to stay humble and open your heart. 

What do you think?

This is my best work today. Thanks for reading. If you like this post, please feel free to share it with your friends or send me a comment. You can also post a comment on my blog or Facebook, or tweet me @kristinebruneau.

Motherhood’s one night stand in Rochester

Rochester gets to hear from thirteen local women (and a man) in the city’s first-ever “Listen to Your Mother” one night stand! 

I’m in this awesome cast and in celebration of Mother’s Day weekend, we’ll be giving a one-night-only performance at the Memorial Art Gallery on Friday, May 8 at 7:30 p.m. Each of us will be reading a three to five minute story of our motherhood journey to a live audience. The show is 90 minutes with no intermission. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $17 from brownpapertickets.com, or at the door for $20.

I’m reading a slightly revised chapter from my book manuscript Mommy Musings (which is not yet published). The piece is called “Tangled In Leather” and describes my struggle with infertility and the ensuing mental gymnastics set off by an innocuous gift of black leather pants from my husband. 

Interestingly, the story – initially, a standalone essay – was accepted for publication about eight years ago, but it never ran because the magazine closed due to financial struggles. Since then, I submitted it to many other print and online magazines, but all rejected the piece. Now, “Tangled” gets to be broadcast to the world via YouTube. Ah, rejection is an intractable part of the writerly life. Although my little motherhood essay bears no resemblance to bestselling authors whose works were initially rejected, I do find comfort in these literary rejection statistics.

Speaking of rejection, I’m so happy that this team of local women – Emily Horowitz (Brighton), Corrie Spike Carter (Fairport), Sarah Fitzgibbons (Rochester) and Monica Gebell (Brighton) – persisted in getting Rochester on the selected city list for LTYM. The group’s application was rejected last year, but they resubmitted and earned the opportunity to host LTYM. And I get to join the following fellow members of Rochester’s first-ever LTYM show: Amy Andrews, Julie Burns, Valerie A. Hall, Bernadette Lynch, Dr. Patricia H. Marino, Shira May, Mary Grace McAleavey, Katie Kilfoyle Remis, Andrea Richardson, Harry Roland, Leah Ruekberg, and Susan Vinocour.

LTYM is an acclaimed series created by founder and National Director Ann Imig in 2010. LTYM is now in 39 cities nationwide that will be hosting similar events on or around Mother’s Day, and all shows will be videotaped for LTYM’s YouTube channel.

Proceeds from LTYM Rochester will benefit two local organizations that support women and children, including the Society for the Protection and Care of Children and Parenting Village.

For more information, visit http://listentoyourmothershow.com/rochester/

What do you think?

This is my best work today. Thanks for reading. If you like this post, please feel free to share it with your friends or send me a comment. You can also post a comment on my blog or Facebook, or tweet me @kristinebruneau.

7 reasons why I love Granada, Spain

rooftop view of alhambraWhen the plane touched down in Rochester, NY, I immediately felt deflated and melancholy. Days after returning home from our trip to Granada, Spain, I still couldn’t shake the weighted-down feeling. My energy was at an all-time low. I felt that my “old” life had became predictable, burdensome and unsatisfying.

Perhaps it was the lack of sunshine I mourned (or lack of olives and wine). Or maybe I missed the bustle of activity with a group of people I came to love. Experts call the crash after a high, post-vacation depression, and there are all sorts of ways to help people like me overcome the melancholy feeling I was experiencing. Some ideas are complete rubbish (like manage your restlessness), while others are helpful (keep sharing). But I’m not looking for a cure, just a way to remember and get back to “happy.” One of my favorite ways of working through problems is to write about them.

Here are seven reasons why I love (and miss) Granada, Spain:

sierra nevada view7. Coffee with Sierra Nevada and friends

Upon waking in Granada, my only desire was to drink a cup of strong, hot coffee and gaze out the window at the snow covered Sierra Nevada. Invariably our friends Antonio and Maca would join Rob and me in their kitchen. Gathered around the small table, we would discuss the day’s plans, or reflect on the previous days excursions. Lara and Tim would rap on the door and join us for some desayuna (breakfast) of toast with a touch of honey and olive oil. After Antonio and Maca readied  their eight-year-old son Nacho for school, we’d head out on our daily adventure. 

olives6. Olives and extra virgin olive oil!

One day as the boys visited school (much to their chagrin), the grown ups learned about the infamous olives and olive oil of the Andalusian region. A short drive from the city of Granada led us up a mountainous, muddy road to see, smell and touch the olive trees growing on the farm of Antonio’s family. Rows upon rows of olive trees greeted us, however, the fruit had already been plucked and carried off to Nuestra Señora de los Remedios – a cooperative olive processing facility dedicated to the making the very best extra virgin olive oil. More than 700 farmers send their annual harvests to the facility, which meticulously processes and bottles the oil – a pillar of the Mediterranean diet. Later, while I savored my olive expedition, the boys grumped that their visit to Spanish Secundaria or high school was boring. 

empedrado detail5. Walking Granada’s stone and mosaic streets

There are many wonderful historic and interesting places to explore and fall in love with throughout the city of Granada. What better way to see the rich, pulsing culture than through the eyes of someone who has lived here for many years?  One morning, Lara and I followed James’s host mother Ana as she guided us through the city center where we experienced a symphony of the senses. Ana pointed out the magnificent baroque Cathedrals built over an ancient mosque, the infamous Royal Chapel, which doubled as a Gothic mausoleum, many monuments and other diverse architectural delights. 

As we strode by orange and lemon trees, which gave off a faint citrusy aroma, Ana took us uptown to the ancient quarters of Granada called the Albaicin. We knew we were entering a different part of the city as the pavement changed from cobblestones to the decorative “empedrado grenadino” – a mosaic technique of wheat-shaped patterns unique to the artisan-loving Moors.   

el banuelo skylight4. Exploring the ancient Albaicin

Located at the foot of the Alhambra is the Albaicin (al-by-theen), which is a neighborhood of cobbled streets, steep walled inclines, and secret nooks that hint at the ancient Andalusian lifestyle. A feast of hidden and breathtaking views surrounded us. Tucked behind a facade in the street was El Banuelo, one of the oldest and best-conserved Arab baths to survive the destruction of Granada by the Catholic monarchs. Ana regaled us with the historic and artistic significance of the bath – an essential part of Muslim custom to bathe before prayer. I could feel the energy beneath the star-shaped windows in the roof that allowed in sunlight. Ana, a profesor of Fine Arts at the University of Granada, had curated a unique ephemoral and contemporary art celebration staged throughout the city of Granada in 2011. One of the places that artists came to create their work was the very bath we stood in. 

flamenco dancer3. Experiencing flamenco dancing by gypsies

Gypsies are not the wandering thieves many people conjure in their mind’s eye. In Granada, they are artists – and savvy business owners. Carved into the skirts of Valparaiso (paradise valley) hill are the whitewashed caves of Sacromonte where gypsies live and dance flamenco. Flamenco is a dance that unfolds a story with eye and facial movements. The dance we witnessed one evening made crazy-fast use of castanets – its rhythm is flamenco’s bedrock, which also involves intricate, percussive footwork reminding me of Riverdance and oddly, fútbol.  There are few words to describe flamenco– watch the video

tapas

2. Tapas.

While tapas is a widespread custom throughout Spain, in Granada these small servings of local dishes are served free of charge whenever we ordered a beer or glass of wine. This tradition involves an unspoken understanding between the bartender, who selects the tapa for you. While in Spain, I became a flexitarian, opting in for the tasty multicultural cuisine, which involves a lot of ham (jamón). 

churro + chocolate1. Churros and chocolate.

Churros are long, spiraly, deep fried dough. They are golden on the outside with a slight crunch that gives way to a soft middle. And are best eaten with hot chocolate. We met our Spanish friends one evening in the Bib Rambla square at a churrería or café that specially prepares fresh churros. The Spanish hot chocolate I had was as thick as pudding and ideal for dipping the churro, (rather than drinking) and savoring it in all of its fried glory. You haven’t lived if you haven’t tried this Spanish delicacy. 

Although I listed seven reasons why I miss Granada, I would be a bit remiss if I did not at least mention fútbol (soccer) since it is the most popular sport in Spain and near religion to some fans. I’m not in that category, but after experiencing Spain, I can understand the fascination and fanaticism. Fútbol is more than a sport, it is a culture. While my son played fútbol, I discovered commonalities with other parents around work-life balance, cooperation, diplomacy, patience, and respect. Before, during and after fútbol became a celebration – preparing meals, trying new food, meeting friends at a teteria (Arab tea house), rooting around Moorish craft shops and stalls, visiting the Science Park, and climbing from rooftop to rooftop to enjoy various views of the city. 

Granada youth academy

Everyone, I realized, sees the world differently, or through their “mind’s eye.” The way we see things as an individual is neither good nor bad – just different. A glass is either half full or half empty. While it’s not easy, it is possible to teach ourselves to change how we see the world. We can start by not making assumptions about anything and enjoy the moment