You have to defile a mummy completely or they'll come back to life.
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
Tonight in yoga we are challenged to work up to a tripod headstand; a few minutes later, to fly into Crow. Unbelievingly (to me), I find myself able to perform three supported headstands (with an assist by my lovely partner C.) and my feet even leave the earth for a moment in Crow.
Testing the waters. I don’t have to do anything impossible. I just get to try a little bit, to stretch myself a wee bit. To get to know this body.
Today was cold, and sunny. I received phone calls and got to help a friend to two. Ralph stayed home and cooked delicious Thai fare. Ginger, garlic, peanuts, lime, noodles. Hot coffee and cream heated to scalding to go along with.
My children are happy. My son wakes this morning after a thirteen-hour sleep. My daughter, in the grocery store, puts her arms around me and we hold one another. She is as tall as I am, her hair smelling of dry grass, beautiful and simple. The children carry out our groceries and bargain for chocolate before dinner. I almost don’t care at all but I argue with them about it anyway, for familiarity’s sake.
Home and the house has the winter tidings: cats scruffily resting on clawed-up leather couches, sunlight hitting dusty surfaces, a kind of dry comfort to the air inside. Ralph cleans the fridge and starts hot water to boil for coffee. I set up my sewing machine and construct a tiny sea creature for a baby.
Tonight: my body aches – in a lovely way. Hot shower, and fragrant lentils wrapped in a warm tortilla. Another day put to bed and for what, except it is indeed very delicious to still draw breath.Read More
Today right as I stepped out the morning’s shower I thought, My writing is in the rubbish bin. Easy to think about giving up, now that the spark is gone, a flame so long dormant one fears stoking at cold ash. I don’t write as much as I did and when I do, it’s different than it used to be.
Perhaps it’s that I hold too many confidences. To write in any detail would be insensitive, or even reckless. A friend flees a fight; her man has laid hands on her. She stands in my arms and shakes while I squeeze her tight. Another friend teeters on suicide; her text sounds “off” so I call her, and we talk. She lives another day, because something inside her wants to prevail. Another friend calls; she is angry. She dissolves into tears. I am not frightened of her pain and anger, because I know these are the paths we stumble on as we find a deeper truth. I’m honored to be asked to share a few steps along the way.
Another friend, sober for about five years who’d started “controlled” drinking this summer, has found a new meaning of ruin. Shortly after last Monday’s flood, he is detained for a hit-and-run, and a DUI. He stays in jail; his friends escort him to the local Detoxification And Stabilization facility. He can barely walk.
So: almost 9 PM and I wave to him tonight, as he and the rest of the treatment center clients have a smoke outside in the cold streetlamps. He stares back at me, dazed, a ragged bloom rooted to the earth, perhaps forgotten by almost every person on the planet this moment
That’s all – you know, just in the last couple days.
My son is growing, a half inch a month, at least; I can tell when it’s happening. He devours food indiscriminately; he sleeps twelve hours at a stretch if allowed. His features are less boy-like and not quite a man: a sprite, a changeling. His feet are beautiful and strong and he rests them on my legs and gives me a massage. He’s been attending yoga with me; his young body simply folding in half when required, and wondering at all these grownups who have to work at it.
Our weather, after the flood, changed for the better: cold crisp days and sunlight, an air fine like pine needles. A friend tells me: she say something about Spring, and I realize, Spring will happen again!
And now: the house moves to settle. My daughter runs the last of the hot water to wash her face. My husband and his fine well-built body, in our bed, a candle and low light. I am thinking to myself that when it comes to my writing, it is important I am patient, it is important I persevere. It is important that upon each point I try to tell you exactly how it is. Not much else really matters. I learned long ago that my words can make a difference, and can bring hope to others even when I merely record minutiae, when I try to tell you what it’s like – hot water in a stainless steel basin, and the sound of the washing machine, and the cats settled in and the dog’s feet skittering in his sleep as he rests at his feet, on an old blanket.
May you find that peace, and comfort. May you deeply know the joy of still being here; of still feeling the earth by hand or foot, by the cheek against the pillow. Gravity holds you there and won’t let you go.Read More
The days are short,
The sun a spark
Hung thin between
The dark and dark
The rent money: it isn’t here (but thanks to a friend, we’ve got groceries! and – thank you thank you thank you!).
Two cats are sick; yesterdays’ gratis vet appointment fell through due to flood.
An unexpected bill (or two). An overdraft fee. Memories of when that was a lifestyle. Let it go. It’s not that way, today.
This morning: my daughter is diagnosed with asthma. The doctor can tell this is a bit for me to process. So he begins speaking slowly, explaining things in a thorough, calm manner. His kindness and dignity are so moving I feel the sting of tears in my chest.
(outwardly: I am stoic!)
I am ill – a head cold – but I do my job. I do the laundry, and the housework, and I drive a kid or two here and there. My head hurts. But I ask after people. How are they? How is their day?
I drink my water. I feel nausea. I swim in it, for a bit. I breathe deep.
(outwardly: I am stoic!)
Yoga class – a more challenging class than I’d expected. My back is strong – my leg strengthening work has clearly evidenced itself as we move through warrior, side-angle, triangle.
Headstand. I fear the attempt against a wall; I want help. I don’t ask for help. I try it. I bang my head against the wall. Everyone says, “OMG are you okay?!”
(outwardly: I am stoic!)
Lit candles: in awareness for our neighbors who have been affected by, and devastated by, the flood.
The truth is, I do have a pretty good attitude. And days like today it shows. And I need to keep a record so I can treat myself with the kindness I’d wish, in the future, I’d had the sense to enact today.Read More
Sunday night after yoga class I noticed the rain was fantastic – even for an area known for its rain. Deep in that evening while we slept the county – especially Aberdeen, and to a lesser extent Hoquiam – absolutely went awash.
By nine in the morning my entire family and I had (carefully) made our way to a grocery shop to get enough supplies for a day or two – as many roads were impassable. I passed someone in the aisle I’d known since I was eight – I was to find out later, they’d lost a house only hours before.
Both the kitties’ trip to the vet (offered by a friend helping us out) and my daughter’s doctor’s appointment were cancelled. School was cancelled. Ralph’s workday: cancelled. Almost all the roads in and out and everywhere: closed!
My social media stream began trickling in photographs of basements and homes flooded – cars submerged, streets absolutely awash. I comforted my friends and neighbors, I updated my own feed with our day’s events. I thought a bit about those working hard to help – especially the road crews, police, aid workers, and all who had to brave the elements.
Our house stayed warm, and dry. Our animals and human family members stayed safe. Nels even made a little newscast last night.
Life goes on even during catastrophe. Last night at 1:30 AM, and quite improbably, the neighbors across the street – who yesterday had a lengthy, out-of-doors, screaming, I’m calling the cops! fight – suddenly blast a soulful, sexy R&B tune.
My son: kept up into the wee hours by night terrors. This morning, my heart is sad.
The doctors don’t seem to be in just yet. My attempts to reschedule Phee’s doctor’s appointment – I am concerned with her cough – go in vain. A glass of water, a couple ibuprofen for my own sore throat – and then falling into bed with an anxious little boy, who is home from school.Read More