Last week I went to my first board meeting for the Lancaster Literary Guild. I was asked to be on the board by the founder of the guild, and I took it as quite an honor. I also knew that it would be a commitment--two years, minimum. In addition to monthly meetings, I'll be asked to attend and help at functions and to help on committees. I was a little leery to accept such a call. My kids are picking up speed in their activities, and my amount of parental involvement in these activities is a bit of an unknown. True, I am giving up PTA committees at Reamstown Elementary, but who knows what my daughter's new school, a performing arts center, will ask of its parents.
Looking around the room at the literary guild meeting, I am pretty sure that I am one of the few with kids still at home. But I am willing to give it a try. It will stretch me in more ways than just effort. Already the discussions were flying around the room. I heard phrases like posthumanist philosophy and questions such as, "Did you read that story in the New Yorker?" It isn't that I felt stupid or ignorant sitting with this group, but that I felt out of touch. A lifetime ago, I was one of the informed parties--at least informed enough to carry my own weight in a conversation. I am not going to say that having children has dulled my intellectual powers, but there is something to be said for having to devote part of your brain to survival of the young. The incessant voice that seems to play out: Stay aware in the parking lot. Eat your salad; I am sure it's the only green thing you've eaten all day. Your teacher emailed me and you are missing three assignments. Do you have your shoes for dance? Both pairs? Where are your rubber bands. Do you want to wear those braces until the end of time?
Is it any wonder that when I get a moment of downtime, I go to Perez Hilton to peruse the stupid doings of celebrities and wannabees? Now, here is where I say that I've kicked the habit. If you go to the history list on my computer, you won't find Perez listed. (It isn't that I think that smart people and Perez readers are mutually exclusive--just that my brain can't handle the dichotomy of desire to name Angelina's twins with the ability to discuss the the lineage of magical realism in literature.) Maybe I am ready to get back into the intellectual game. I used to listen to NPR when I was at work. Now that I am writing, I don't listen to it anymore. I can't write and listen at the same time. I could paint and listen, but I do better work while listening to Tina Turner or Maroon 5. Locally, I have trouble getting NPR on my car radio, but I did manage to get a classical station going while I was driving home from the meeting. (Listening to Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus would have really undermined my resolve.)
So what is a woman to do to feel smart and informed? If only there was a blog where I could get in tiny little hits of information with pictures like Perez. Last weekend, I went to the Perelman Building at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and saw three small exhibits: Fashioning Kimono: Art Deco and Modernism in Japan, Designing Modern: 1920 to the present, and Transcending the Literal: Photographs by Ansel Adams from the Collection. The shows were small and digestible, but left me with the feeling that I had expanded my horizons. Maybe that's what I need to do: each week make a small effort to branch out and add something to my knowledge base. It may not be much, but I am a work in progress.