When the Mugar Omni Theatre opened at the Boston Science Museum I was school aged. We had annual treks to the museum to see the large tyrannosaur model, Appolo something capsule, and enormous incubator of super fluffy yellow chicks.

Those field trips went from pretty fun to thrilling when the theatre was built. Leonard Nimoy narrated the opening segment which showed off the armature of the dome that was behind the screen through dramatic backlighting. Then the THX sound system counted out its speakers, and we began a tour of New England, flying slowly over pleasant streams, having a lobster held towards our faces until we giggled and protected our noses from its claws. We zipped so quickly over fast motions traffic on 93 that inevitably one classmate would moan and close his or her eyes, and on one memorable occasion actually lose her lunch. (Dawn, if you are reading this, I have never forgotten you.)

Over all of this Leonard (who grew up three blocks from “here”) intones: “The difference in New Englanders, is in the way we look at things.”

I don’t know about having a “New England” world view…but I do know that our roles can shape our outlook.

When we were planning the construction of our last house Oliver was just 1. We had two large dogs, three cats and I was pregnant. The construction calendar was unclear. Even if it had been clear I would have considered it unclear because my family and I have been renovating and building since the time the Omni Theatre opened.

We decided (right in the real estate bubble) to buy a tidy small, 3 br home in a family neighborhood with a fenced back yard right on the bike path. It was just as comfortable as I imagined it would be. Hazy with a newborn and the commute between temporary home and home in the making, I still remember sledding on the side hill, crunching in lead piles, baking a birthday train cake, harvesting enormous zucchinis, and walking to the neighborhood beach pulling a wagon. My memory has done its job, gilding the time into that young, golden family image. Erasing the vomit, and dog hair, and daily drudgery.

We planned to either rent or sell, and the first family that came to look had two young girls and asked for a three year lease. We were thrilled. In three years we received the checks on the 3rd of the month every month and NEVER heard from them about repairs. Perhaps in retrospect that should have been a signal, but with everything else going on we chalked it up as good luck for us, and a family who had house pride in their rental house.

Three months ago they gave us two weeks notice and moved out.

When I went to walk through the house I was shocked. There were four full dump truck loads of things. Trucks that I had to call and pay for. These loads ranged from moldy rugs, to plastic boxes with dead markers, to spoiled food, to  They had written on the walls in the bedroom. The neighbor reported that they had filled two huge moving trucks. The house is 1100 square feet. The family really could not have been able to move around in there.

In about ten minutes the tag that my brain put on that house went from “setting for happy times” to “sickening burden.”  We tore up the moldy carpet. Installed new and refinished the wood floors to get the cat pee smell out. We put it on the market for 30% less (and significantly less than we paid for it) than anything in the neighborhood and waited for an eager family to take the savings and tag it “home.”

Nope.

OK. So I met a friend over there last week as part of a rescue mission. He usually builds find homes so he is squeezing in this spit polish as a favor. We selected paint, granite, appliances, changing some trim to make it more substantial, and a bit of exterior power washing. I figured this would be enough.

The first of our team arrived this morning to begin the painting. His job requires the ability to see things how the will look after his work is completed. After over 50 showings with no real interest this painter walked through the door and declared that he wanted the house. It’s in the way he looks at things. The repairs it needs are a burden to me, and an opportunity to him.

Having two people look at the same thing different ways is a basic fact of life.  My boys and I explore this frequently… “What if what I call blue is really what you call green but we have different name for it?” “I love to play defense and Leo loves to play offense but it is really all soccer” “I think watching backyardigans is super fun and you want to poke your eyeballs out.”

We also talk about how we can have two feelings about the same thing. You can feel that your brother is an excellent playmate, and that he would get lost for ever on the Hike for Hunger.  You can be excited to see your friends and school AND nervous about being away from home.  Feeling excited, doesn’t erase feeling nervous.  Feeling appreciative doesn’t erase feeling annoyed. What do we do with these two feelings? How can we choose the way we look at things?

I don’t think we can change our feelings, just how we act on them. Remembering that there are many points of view and then choosing which view point impacts your behavior. You might be SO ANGRY, and still allow your respect for your teacher to dictate how you express yourself. These are advanced skills, and most of us are still working on them. Yesterday the boys were bickering over a lollipop. Sure this lollipop had been sitting on our counter since September 16th without inciting any interest, but Oliver wanted it, so Leo wanted it. Obviously.

Shrieking, pushing, grabbing. All that. Then somehow, and although I was in the room keeping my mouth shut I cannot report how, they decided to set the lollipop on the counter and talk. “How about I take a lick and then you take a lick?” “Ew.” “How about I get this one and you get the next one?” “No way” “How about mama cuts it in half and we each get half?” “OK!” “You know if I cut it in half either only one of you will get the stick or neither of you will get the stick. (why I decided to add that wrinkle I don’t know, but it might have something to do with visions of a melted down kid rolling on the floor screaming that I ruined the lollipop. Perhaps.) “no problem.” “that’s fine.”

I cut it. It didn’t shatter. One side was larger. One side had the stick. “I want the bigger side” Oliver said at the same time that Leo said “I want the stick.”

One of the jars that has been on our families Marble Jar shelf is “cooperation”. It got two new marbles after that.

Maybe when we fill the jar I will take them to the Omni theatre.

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Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble, Parent.co, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Playpen, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at annarosenblumpalmer.com.

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