Friday, February 29, 2008

"Dreams are like fish..."

" gots to keep on reelin'."

So goes one of my favorite songs by Philly boy G. Love.

Dreams have been the subject of note these days. I just finished teaching Death of a Salesman and A Raisin in the Sun to my seniors, so we have beat the subject of the "American Dream" to death over the past few months. (Side note: I really didn't think P. Diddy was THAT horrible in the film version Monday night on ABC. He's definitely not picking up any Emmys, but he wasn't the train wreck I was expecting. And Phylicia Rashad is a freaking goddess.)

So...what is the American Dream? Damned if I know. I really don't think there is a cookie-cutter dream assigned to us today. It's no longer the house, 2 cars, 2.5 kids and a dog. It seems (and so my students agreed) that the American Dream of the new millenium is simply to find true happiness through success (whether it be personal, financial, what have you.)

We had an in-service day on the topic of time management. (Funny that it took about 4 hours to learn about how to manage your time...when all I could think about was everything I needed to take care of as soon as the meeting was done! By the end of the day, I had doodled a frighteningly long "to-do" list on the back of my very thick training manual...)

Anyway, one section was devoted to prioritizing goals and deciding whether they were to "prevent pain" or "achieve gain." (Don't you love the precious little catchphrases that corporate trainers whip up? "Fight back the fear!" "Management is measurement!") At one point, we had to turn to a colleague and share something we wanted to do in life that we have not yet done. She shared that she wanted to do the Inca Trail and learn the guitar. Completely cool.

I'm happy to report that it took me a REALLY long time to respond.

Not to say I don't have dreams. But so many things that the speaker offered as possibilities...I had done. And there are so many experiences--really, ever since college--that have exceeded my wildest dreams. I'm still kind of in awe that I've lived them.

And life continues to bless me with happy surprises: how much I've enjoyed being a mom this year, buying our first house, being invited to present at NYU this spring, snagging a writing gig for a local women's magazine. I'm really not trying to brag; I'm just shocked and honored by the good fortune that my family has been blessed with.

Both of the plays my students read had to do with dreams being stifled, or just too big for the dreamer in the first place. My girls were completely fed up with the protagonists by the last pages. "Ugh, why is Willy so obsessed with his own funeral?" "Why can't Walter appreciate what a nice family he has?" The consensus seemed to be that a healthy dose of realism was sorely needed by these guys.

I'm definitely a realist, but certainly not a pessimist. I simply try--and don't always succeed--to seek peace and balance in my life. It seems that more often than not, when you make good choices for good reasons (i.e. beside yourself), you wind up reaping the benefits. As my dear friend Jen said during her toast at our wedding: "When you give glory to God, the glory comes back to you."

In closing...two wonderful friends have achieved incredible dreams over the past month. I just have to give them a big ol' shout-out because they have WORKED THEIR BUTTS OFF to make this happen--while remaining just plain good peoples. So here's to DOCTOR Christina McMahon, newly appointed professor of theatre at Santa Barbara, and Diva Julia Spanja Hoffert, who made her MET DEBUT!!! I am deeply awed and insanely proud of you both. :)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

R.I.P., Janam Tea

Janam Tea, an adorable little tea shop in downtown Jersey City, is closing.

Well, actually relocating--the owner is packing up and heading out to Portland, OR. (And really, can you blame her?)

This shouldn't bum me out--I don't even live in JC anymore--but this little shop has a special place in my heart.

The day we found out we were expecting, we were on cloud nine, but definitely in shock. That night, we stopped by Janam for a cup of tea and some shortbread. We curled up on a couch in the window, gazing at the neighborhood we'd lived in for years, basking in the glow of our news and talking excitedly about the future.

This part of JC (known oh-so-quaintly as "Harsimus Cove") has definitely seen some changes. Run-down parking lots have given way to luxury condos; an abandoned old community center is now a day spa. It's where I had my first apartment, my first teaching job, and where Nick and I first started our marriage. I know this particular strip pretty well, as I used to walk down it to the PATH every morning. I know the dry cleaners (who always spelled my name "Dana" on the receipt), the bagel shop, La Conguita where you could get insanely huge servings of pernil for about $5, the camera shop with the fat old cat chilling on the counter, the apartment with crazy brick sculptures in the front yard...Janam was a perfectly weird and wonderful addition to the corner of Newark & Grove. And now it's leaving.

Well, JC's loss is Portland's gain. Maybe some other dorky couple, scared to death but drunk with joy over their bun in the oven, will have a similar "Janam moment" out west. :)