“Joy goes with happiness (sukha), but there are differences. When you are thirsty and a glass of water is being served to you, that is joy. When you are actually able to drink the water, that is happiness. It is possible to develop joy in your mind, even when your body is not well. This will, in turn, help your body. Joy comes from touching things that are refreshing and beautiful, within and outside ourselves. Usually we touch only what’s wrong. If we can expand our vision and also see what is right, this wider picture always brings joy.”
- The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation, by Thich Nhat Hanh
Tonight I’m sweating it out on the mat in an hour-and-a-half vinyasa flow class. Our instructor tells us the class is about Celebration. Which can feel kind of funny while challenging the body, and not necessarily looking graceful doing it. I’m ready to try to lift into Crow arm balance, and as I do I fall – almost on my face. Instead of irritation, the word, “celebration!” shines in front of me, and I laugh. I know if I almost fall on my face, I’m practicing correctly.
The sun has slapped itself out of the trees and grey skies. The air is warming; flowers are blooming. Each winter seems darker than the one before but, incredibly this winter is passing, too. I find a talisman for my daughter’s room – “to watch over you,” I tell her. “I’m honored you thought of me,” she returns, with feeling. She is my heart. One of the things I seek, and she doesn’t know it, is her smile. When she really really smiles – her grin is crooked slightly – it is revealed: the only childlike bit of her left, a babylike softness under her chin. She is a willow, a clear torrent laughing over savage stones. She is a tigress with scuffed tennis shoes and clean nails and a slender waist and wild hair she shakes out of her eyes.
Dark clouds threaten at my temples; worries. Anger about the past. These small storms come and go; I water the seeds of mindfulness instead. I abandon my work and hold my son, and his sweet-smelling head and hair of spun gold, and his warm little body. He too is growing and soon will be a young man. I’ll be left with thorn-pricks in my arms and without a single bit of understanding as to how I survived their childhoods.Read More
omg baby looks sad here but she really was OK – promise!
So a year ago last night, I helped my friend through a dark time in the ER. I thought a lot that night about how wonderful a gift sobriety is. Tonight things haven’t changed on that account:
When I got sober, I worried about some things… I worried there wouldn’t be joy in my life, that my life would be like this dry diet (or at least, what I imagine a diet is like) of “good habits”. I truly worried that I’d be bored, or boring. And I definitely thought I’d miss drinking.
Of the one hundred and one amazing and incredible and unexpected things that have happened to me the years I’ve been sober, not one of those worries has come to fruition. My life isn’t very boring. It doesn’t go according to my plans either.
I didn’t think tonight I’d find myself spending my set-aside rent money on the food and alcohol she needs to live. Two cases of skunky beer. Coors Light! I enjoy carrying the cases though. They feel substantial. Medicine they are!
Cans of tinned soup, packets of Chinese pork, fresh fruit, corn chips.
Today was a good day. I was home with my children, and I cared for a handful of other people. I let my husband hold me. I made a delicious dinner.
I got to be me, and like me.
So, that’s a pretty good gig.Read More
So why it’s taken me so long to sew up Ro-Man from 1953’s B-movie Robot Monster, I do not know. Clearly a failing on my part. A failing I remedied this week.
You can basically see that this 6-month sized piece is identical to the monster in the film. Maybe it’s even a bit scarier.
Below you see that Ro-Man the Robot Monster, aka baby V., was pretty much over cute bearded dad. I mean she was into him. She’d hold his hand. She’d let him carry her around all day. But she wasn’t gonna pretend she liked it!
OK, but seriously – it was fun trying to make a “helmet” that was smart for a small baby. No globe-and-bucket (which is perfect for an adult version!) here.
HUGE BRAWNY MONSTER ARMS. Tiny little baby hands! By the way, a good quality faux fur is machine-washable, very warm, and you can clean baby puke out of it pretty easy. I’m just sayin’.
Of course, we need a powerful ape chest. And our pacifier:
Baby V. might look like a hungover owl in this photo below but I like it anyway – because Ralph is so sweet – and hirsute!
“I may be a hideous monster but I have adorable, delicious feet.”
And of course: a secret little monster underlap at the back, where the ensemble fastens:
I think now that both children are in school I feel more anger, more muffled, and less energetic. Lost, purposeless even, at times. I am reminded – and reminded yet again – of how unfriendly the world is to children. How much we like to cram them in supervised, dull spaces. Worse than that: how little others seem to care. Children are institutionalized and herded and everyone seems to feel just fine about this. Last week my son was bullied by a school authority to get in the car with an adult he didn’t trust; this week, he is booted out of community classes that are apparently not-so-open to all, after all.
Not so long ago I was writing for unschooling publications – and putting forth my own perspectives, here, when asked. In 2014 I garnered a paying writing arrangement with a homeschooling magazine that, before one piece was written, was mutually abandoned by both parties when my second child enrolled in the public system.
So now, it seems like we’re just like “everyone else”. I’m living a life I don’t feel too enthused about – that of a schooling family – meanwhile knowing my job, right now, is (as ever!) to support my children in the exploits they seek for themselves.
In that respect, anyway, Ralph and I really are different than most families: our children have the choice, and they know it, and this is backed up by our past actions – not just words. I can feel a lot of comfort in that. I know that by doing that, we are indeed doing something special.
Of the children, only our oldest likes school unequivocally: she pursues extracurricular activities of band, of sport, of academia, of creative writing and art, and of social-spiritual community. She enjoys herself and succeeds in an even-keeled way, earning straight-As and never once asking for help with homework. She puts herself to bed on time and wakes herself in the morning. At the end of the day, on the drive home, she shares her concerns and gives me reasonable lead-times on deadlines. I could serve her up to another family, a boarding school, and she’d be nothing but an asset.
Our son is fitting in far better than I thought he would. Like his sister, he excels academically without much effort. However he is far more interested in recess (and the never-ending schoolwide game of kickball), gym, and lunch – in that order. He is vocal about his displeasures: classroom struggles, the social hypocrisy he has found in the institution, and of course the early-morning schedule (you and me both, little guy!).
All that said, by any measure both my children are a tremendous success in school. Exactly no one is surprised by this, of course.
School works for them, then, but it doesn’t particularly work for me. Deep this evening as a wet darkness sets in, I’m standing in my living room thinking of all this, my minor grudges, the dissatisfaction of institutionalization and segregation. My son is perched on the edge of the couch, dressed in his down coat; the front door is wide open, and my husband gathers up the dog for a late-night walk. I think of how it’s unfair to ask my children to fight my battles, to wrestle with my inner demons, or even to care about what I care about. They are satisfied – why am I not? How rubbish the whole business is, really, I’m thinking.
But school, at least, provides me plenty of time to rest – handy when I am ill, or injured, or as is the case now: both – and plenty of time to myself. School allows me time to reflect and meditate on how quickly children grow, and how much more freedom I have now that they’re older.
So I tell myself – like tonight, when I’m angry with the latest (hardly-a-)setback, that since that is What Is In Fact Happening, it must be What’s Supposed To Be Happening. My mind wanders: possibilities. Perhaps this is the time for me to deepen my practice of yoga and Buddhism. Perhaps this is my time to reflect and rest more. Perhaps this is my time to study my marriage, or to strengthen my friendships.
The winter is dark, and damp, and uncomfortable; my mind runs to these currents as well. My children are happy, and safe, and loved – and excelling in what they want to do. Really, a mother has no other vocation where her dependents are concerned.Read More
And I have loved thee, ocean! And my joy
Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be
Borne, like thy bubbles, onward: from a boy
I wanton’d with thy breakers-they to me.
Here’s the thing. I knew I wanted to make a baby angler fish bunting quite a while back. You can easily see why. This little piece is up for sale on Etsy.
This little critter is made from an uber-soft velveteen and lined in one of my favorite formal lining fabrics: a slipper satin, deep purple for this application.
And oh yeah. That is a real glowing lure. I mean COME ON, of course!
Fins are constructed of a waxed cotton – which makes for a leathery feel and a translucence by light.
I knit a little cozy for the lure bulb, which is lit with a battery:
Fully-lined pockets. Because you know how babies need pockets:Read More
I’m standing in the classroom, stirring a fragrant broth loaded with vegetables, shredded chicken, garlic, spices, and pasta. The classroom I am borrowing is a somewhat-converted Home Ec facility: the stoves serving as counterspace, now, and counters cleared of kitchenware and hosting physics experiments and water testing equipment. Sinks and cupboards full of scientific equipment and rinsed Tupperware. A fridge housing God-knows-what. A dingy space but, as far as classrooms go, a fairly cheerful one. The teacher here loves his job and it shows in how he attends to the children in his care.
I come out every Monday to lead my son’s class through either a bit of arts-and-crafts – or, as in today’s case, cooking. I’d set forth volunteering to cook during Phoenix’s inaugural year, in the sixth grade. Parents who actually spend time in the classroom are as rare as ever. I think it’s because, although schools serve at our behest, they still feel like foreign territory.
This week’s Monday, however, the hot plate I’d purchased for my son’s class proves inept at getting a good boil of soup on; thus my return on a Thursday to finish the job – borrowing another classroom. A lot of driving back and forth to this rural little school but it is worth the effort, time and expense to support my children. The drive is a pleasant one, too. Often on the trip I come across a herd of about thirty Roosevelt elk – I’m so used to it I give them only a cursory glance. Until I think it through and realize many people in the world would be in awe at such a sight.
Finished now, I tidy the kitchen space, thank the resident teacher, and carry the large tureen through the hallways – carefully, arms out ahead so I don’t slosh on myself or the floor. I’ve the soup – which the kids have been looking forward to since Monday – and two loves of day old bread donated by a local deli. The class is happy to eat what they helped prepare – children will dine in a much more democratic fashion when included in the cooking work.
It is a cold and soggy day outside; as a few other classes filter out for a wet recess, I talk with my son’s teacher about her pregnancy – her first. I’m tired, but content to have a job to do, a simple one at that.
Tonight, finally – the last work of the evening, making a pan of homemade double-chocolate brownies at my husband’s suggestion. My son stands on a stool, putting clean and dry dishes away. “Mama, I love you. Who wouldn’t love you?”
“Oh… lots of people don’t love me. Don’t even like me.” The moment I say it, I know he will be shocked.
Sure enough: “What? Who? Who doesn’t like you? Mama?” Nels is amazed.
“Oh…” I tell him. Thinking of a few names. Then I say, “I can’t tell you. Because actually – I don’t know for sure.”
“Who wouldn’t love you?” He is less distressed than confused.
Then, when he sees I am still not forthcoming:
“Can you tell me a little bit, maybe just someone you guess might not like you?”
“No, Nels.” I am firm. “It’s not my business anyway.”
“Oh. … then can I have some cake batter?”
We finish up in the kitchen – I place the batter in a pan in the oven. Nels finishes the dishes.
Today was a good day.Read More