“You’re not in trouble. We don’t get into trouble here.” – my daughter Phoenix, to a friend

Today my friend Wendy tweeted an article by Norm Lee, the author of nopunish.net. It was just my kind of thing – a brief history and analysis of the school system.

I’d been thinking about Norm Lee just recently. On the seventh of March, 2010 I sent him an email asking to subscribe to his newsletter. Five days later I received an email from him. It read, in part:

Okay, you’re included on the nsltr list. you happy? For the week following your email, I haven’t been able to do a lick of email work – AND IT’S YOUR FAULT. Engrossed as I’ve been with reading your stuff, I’ve kept wondering if there is an end to this wonderful tunnel of love & freedom. Lovit, lovit, lovit! Where did you get the devotion-to-kids, the insights, the compassion, the courage to be so open and vulnerable and brave the brickbats that are inevitably visited upon anyone as free? I’ve worked on it for more than the last half of my life (I’m 81), and I just get stronger and more dedicated. But then, I’m a trained Buddhist (Bodhisattva), with 40 years of daily meditation practice, so slings and arrows are just slings and arrows, nothing personal, nothing more.
 
I believe I love you. (So much for training in detachment.)

I remember how I felt reading this email. It was kind of a Big Deal at the time. First, I felt glad that someone out there in the Ether, an experienced parent and grandparent at that, supported my husband and I in trying to raise our kids without coercion and violence. There was light at the end of the tunnel, there was a mentor saying, “You can do it!”, and that meant a lot. Because believe me I am surrounded culturally and personally by adults who either flat-out denigrate these aspirations or at the very least, have a complete ignorance as to how to live them or what life is like when you try.

I appreciated Norm’s support; but I also knew I wasn’t where he was at – and I envied him. His sentence, “slings and arrows are just slings and arrows, nothing personal, nothing more” stuck with me. Ever since. I knew what he wrote was true for him, and I knew I wanted it to be true for me. It was a truth in my head but not in my heart. At the time I had recently received my first “anonymous” hater online. And despite handling it okay, maybe, I perceived other people’s opinions of me mattered too much. While critics, either directly criticizing or implicitly shaming, had sometimes helped me a great deal, I also knew they could upset my little happy-rowboat. It’s not an exaggeration to say I let other people keep me awake at night.

Today I also know slings and arrows are just slings and arrows. I know it is nothing personal. And I know it in my heart. My change didn’t come from Norm’s email and it didn’t come entirely from practicing Buddhism (although both of those things helped) – and it didn’t come overnight. My life is very different now. It’s a wonderful thing.

It is possible to arrive at this place; and having arrived, to practice the principles that give us this grace.

As for non-punitive parenting, I still get it wrong sometimes. But I get better and better at leaving that way of life for others. Sometimes I get a few days in a row being a nurturing, present parent. Today I’m content with my commitment to the practice, and I’m grateful for those who do better than I. They are my mentors.

Today there is not much a critic can say to upset my rowboat. Thank you, Norm, and the many others who’ve helped me and continue to help me.

undefeatable; not by their nature, but by your approach

Sticks & Sticks

I haul my daughter out of the house full of kids, and one parent in the back room smoking pot. I’m pissed even though I know this person is just getting by. It’s nothing personal and has nothing whatsoever to do with me. That said, in my field I do with regularity hear about the kind of stuff that goes down in homes where the adults in charge are Lotus Eaters, and heck I lived a bit of it. Are my kids in danger? Probably not much. Possibly not at all. But you’ll excuse me if I’m not always entirely sanguine about it all, 24/7. Sometimes my tolerance is a bit low. My kids are still little, remember?

Just getting by. I get it. Today I got a text from another friend, relapsed/relapsing, out drinking and/or drugging as I type this, asking for a ride earlier – I suspect, to find more substances to put in his system. Lest you think this isn’t a big deal, it is my opinion this young man may very well die a young age. Or he may never drink again and live a long fruitful life. Anything could happen. I’m thinking of him as I lie on a cold slab getting a picture of my insides. The x-ray technician and/or radiologist and I talk a bit, and pretty soon we have a few laughs. She is sweet and kind. As per usual when I leave, she wishes for things to get better. This is a lovely thing. You’d think people would get bored or apathetic but usually medical staff are kind. Usually people are kind.

Later in the day at an appointment with my specialist he laughs handsomely and tells me the latest about my kidneys. It’s not great news, but it’s much better than it could be. For this I am grateful. While he taps on the laptop I notice a striking piece of jewelry; I ask if the feature setting is an opal. He tells me it’s an elk tooth – “elk ivory”, he corrects himself. “Oh, did you take the animal down yourself?” I  ask. He tells me yes. “With your bare hands?” He laughs again. He probably thinks I’m being a jerk. But I am just irreverent at times. He looks like a stock photo picture of a handsome doctor, and I like the image of him grappling like a caveman.

Home, and in the afternoon four kids from other families streamed over at our house. Arts and crafts! One of Phee’s very off-hand dragons:

Phee Draws A Quick Dragon

The children all did a lot of drawing (Each child is so expressive! It’s cool.), and then they played this game where they said existentially-silly sentences and then laughed with much gusto. Nels was in the forerunning with, “I don’t believe in soup.” I thought that one was pretty good. And let me tell you, the kids played this game for several minutes running. I’m folding laundry now and a bit later I hear my son regale the crowd with, “I forget to close my eyes when I run into walls, because I’m allergic to semen.” So at that point I think maybe we should have a walk, play a different game.

Nels, playing Terraria in his sister’s pink robe:

Nels, Late Night, Pink Robe

Today. A pretty good day.

children_snip

inch by inch

I currently have received about a third the budget for my first zine printing. I’m trucking along, keeping records and updating my addresses. I hope to not spam the zine here (or on Twitter) too much, but I also want to give people an opportunity to know the whole thing is live and can use support of any kind.

In other news. Kinda big news. For me. Kind of a big deal. I think I am actually going to put in an application for a paying job. This is… kind of huge. I haven’t worked for pay, at all, in any consistent way, since 2003. I won’t be taking anything more than part-time hours at this point, but I’m ready to apply, selectively. I’m also ready to abandon the pursuit if it doesn’t work for my family.

Anyway, this is kind of a major thing, which is why I’m outing myself here. And of course, as competitive as all jobs are at this point, I have no idea what the future holds. Probably no job. This is what happens when I make plans.

So anyway. When I have to go out. I leave notes:

Note Before I Leave, Checkmarks

Phoenix makes sure to check off her housework. LIKE A BOSS. She is awesome at it. I think she enjoys having time in the house, to herself. Scratch the word “think”. I know it.

Happy Friday, m’lovelies.

“Let’s pretend we’re a mama and baby jellyfish, cuddling. Jellyfish can’t sting one another.”

Phoenix, Sketch

(one of Phoenie’s latest)

Phoenix, don’t think I can’t hear you glaring at your little brother!

Yes, I actually said this. And yes, I was right (of course!), as the sudden cessation of movement and whispers from the kitchen confirmed. The kids are putting away dishes and doing laundry while Ralph and I work on a few projects we believe we need to finish before we head to the Unschooling Conference. Our children have already packed. They are super-excited.

It’s all good, but I’m teetering on being overworked. Our houseguest/housesitter/CATsitter had to cancel last-minute. I’m worried about money (but thanks to much support here and there I think we’re going to be okay). Both Phoenix and I are teaching wee classes at the conference, and we aren’t quite prepared. I got my times mixed up and I missed an appointment for the kids and I was super-bummed for a few minutes. I’m not as organized as I’d hoped to be for our trip. I’d like to deep-clean the house a bit more before we leave, but I also have the day-to-day I get to do.

However, I’m handling things about… oh, a thousand percent better than I used to. I am genuinely grateful for all the goodness in life and the challenges, well I know things will come if I take it easy. I like my life today. I have more room for other people and their concerns, in my heart.

Today, before swimming. A cupcake date, and Nels in his latest mama-sewn togs (shirt fabric from Gray’s General Store).

Delicious

Lemon Drop! Then:

Preppy Stripe & Acid Wash

Just for reference. Here is Nels in some other Homesewn, exactly two years ago.

Askance

I die a little inside when I realize how fast my kids are growing. Yes, I have realized the solution to this pain. More kids, adopted kids, some other dude’s kids, whatever. The husband isn’t going for any of it. ENNUI>>>

Sewing: I’m really proud of the garments I’ve been making and (some of them) designing. In the case of today’s offering at Homesewn, I’m offering three garment sets. But besides the fun of making these clothes, mostly I had a good time travelling down 80s lane and  may do some again shortly, any recommendations and inspirations are welcome. (Speaking of, check out my friend Dave’s new bike! Radsauce!). Oh and I was pretty proud of my little Google form to help clients out.

Things are good. I can’t wait to blog our trip for y’all. I’ll go there this year, and maybe next year more of you will join me. xxx ooo

a life in the day

Swim Date, Goggles At The Ready

The sun comes out again today but I’m still managing to have a frustrating morning. Things haven’t been going my way just lately, as I mentioned. So now at 11:30 I’m trying to make lunch for the kids. I haven’t eaten yet and I’m going to be late to my meeting. I’m in the middle of shouting instructions to the children (set the table, et cetera) and then my mom walks in my house. Uninvited. I’m terse with her and she leaves, then I snap at my son, who is wailing about something or other not going his way. After I snap at him he really sets up protesting.

I calm down.

I go to the living room, hug my son, apologize. I take a deep breath and call my mom up and she apologizes for walking in, says she knows I don’t like that. She and I talk over some details with some kid-date stuff and I hang up. At this point I’m resigned to being late to my meeting – it’s only a little late, anyway, and I could benefit if I’d get over being tense about this kind of thing, especially as long as I have dependents in the home who have needs too (after ten years you’d think I’d have learned this!). So I relax, set the food out, ask the kids if they want to come with me or stay home. They elect to stay, and while I’m gone they clean up the living room, sweep, put away the dishes, and pack their swim gear. Seriously. What the hell was I tense about?

I make my meeting and sit sipping coffee, grateful for the sunshine and an hour’s respite. Back home I grab a coffee the kids jump in the car, off for swimming after a quick cupcake snack (above). I run my errands and finally get my own lunch before heading back to the pool. Even though they’ve been there a while and I’m worried they’re very hungry, they’re not ready to get out. My daughter thinks I’m making them disembark and she’s sore at me. She lets me take a picture of her.

Swimming. Also, @phoenixhogaboom Is Pissed At Me

So I let the kids be and Ralph brings them home on his way for work. The children are (finally) famished. Grandma buys them a hamburger and they drink the last of the orange soda Emily brought the other day, reading their comics at the dining room table. Then the friends start over, the friends who’d been knocking all afternoon as soon as they were out of school. The kids, finished with dinner, hop up and they’ve grabbed the Flip camera and they’re filming, culminating in a trip to the train tracks to play a version of Bloody Mary. I finish a sewing project and put my feet up as dusk falls. I feel the end-of-day endorphins, or whatever, start to flow through  my body. A long day of yoga, housework, kidcare, writing, a meeting, helping friends, phone calls, haciendo planes, crafting. Now my bones ache for a hot bath and clean pajamas and snuggling up to the kids before bedtime.

Yeah. It ended up being a pretty good day.

Ribbons

Forgiveness is possible; loving others in a way that works for us

All comments on this post will be moderated.

Welcome to the Spank Out Day 2012 Carnival

This post was written for inclusion in the Second Annual Spank Out Day Carnival hosted by Zoie at TouchstoneZ. Spank Out Day was created by The Center for Effective Discipline to give attention to the need to end corporal punishment of children and to promote non-violent ways of teaching children appropriate behavior. All parents, guardians, and caregivers are encouraged to refrain from hitting children on April 30th each year, and to seek alternative methods of discipline through programs available in community agencies, churches and schools. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

***

Mid-summer of last year I shakily drove my new (to me) car to a friend’s house. I’d made a desperate call just a few minutes prior and she could hear that I was in need of someone kind to talk to. I knocked on the door and was welcomed into the home of this friend and her partner, both women very dear to me. I sat on their comfortable couch in the soft summer light, ready to compose myself to tell them what was wrong – and instead burst into shuddering sobs.

I’d just come from a meeting in a self-help group. Over the past few months I’d been recovering from the shame and misery of my past – including, in my own words, “the worst shit I’d ever done”. The worst shit I’d ever done, what does that mean? Well, we all know deep in our Knowing Place what these things are, and my worst and your worst aren’t going to be the same. I have a share of immoral (by my own standards) acts in my past. But for me at the time, the “worst things” weighing on me were the things I’d done, or hadn’t done, for my children. I couldn’t shake the thought that while other adults could choose to play in my playground or leave me be, my children were hostage to my bad behaviors. This thought had haunted me to this very summer day.

So in my self-help group I had named some of my mistakes aloud. I briefly related that I regretted yelling at and hitting my children (in an commitment to truthfulness and yet a simultaneous masochistic act of self-criticism, I’d refused to give myself an “out” by calling my behaviors “spanking”, “swatting”, or “paddling”, etc). I started to talk about my freedom from this guilt and shame, and the help the group had brought me in this regard.

But before I had finished speaking, another woman turned to me in disbelief. “For spanking your kids?” She asked in astonished contempt. I paused, surprised at an interruption – rare to unheard of in this group – and went on talking.

As soon as I finished speaking – on a larger point than my parenting, or so I thought – this woman immediately launched into her own narrative. In a most articulate fashion she listed every justifiable reason to hit one’s children and make sure they know who is boss, and why. The world is a hard place. They’re going to learn on the streets if they don’t learn at home. Your kids will blame you later if you don’t discipline them. Anyone who criticizes can fuck off. “CPS can show up and I’ll beat their ass.” Et cetera.

I sat on the sofa and listened. The oddest feelings crept up on me. As she went on – seemingly for ages! – I knew I was feeling – something. I knew I was unhappy, but I didn’t know what else I was going through.

At the end of the meeting we closed and said farewell. I was still confused, but I smiled with a genuine shining love for this woman, the love I feel for all members of the human race today. I knew even though she was addressing me, she was telling me about herself. I knew she had a heart and mind and love for the children she was raising. Perhaps she’d heard what I had to relate and would reflect on it later. I knew she was stressed. I knew I had nothing to give her in this moment but love and compassion.

A few minutes later, I got in the car. I drove a little ways before bursting into tears. Minutes later I’d made my phone call and sat weeping on my friends’ couch. After I had a good cry, the cry I needed to have, my friends and I talked it out. And when I tried to explain how this woman’s words had hurt, but my own words failed me, my friend said firmly and kindly, “She told you to do things that don’t work for you.”

***

I was spanked growing up, but I don’t cite those experiences as particularly painful. The physical aspect of my childhood punishments weren’t as humiliating and confusing, for me, as the emotional and spiritual dysfunction. Besides spanking, I remember only a few other humiliating episodes involving physicality, such as my father throwing a glass of water in my face when I was a teen, and my mother slapping me across the face about that same era. Neither of my parents ever apologized to me for these actions, and I have no idea how deeply, if at all, my parents felt regret, remorse, or shame for these actions on their part.

I have forgiven them, and that forgiveness has been a gift to myself.

I’ve maintained for some time that there is little difference in our “punishments” or “discipline” of our children, as long as we are trying to manipulate them out of our own fear (however deeply our own fears are hidden from us). Last year for my post for the Great Spank-Out I wrote,

“[I]n my opinion there is little to no concrete differences between the following: hitting (also called “spanking”, “swatting”, “smacking”, or “beating”, depending on your culture/family), yelling at, scolding/lecturing, grounding, removing toys/items as a lesson, “natural and logical” consequences (applied at the discretion of the parent/carer in order to groom for desired behavior or eliminate undesired behavior). On the flip side of the coin, praise and rewards are perfectly complimentary to this type of punitive/manipulative parenting schema – and those “carrot” (as opposed to “stick”) systems are relatively common too.”

Although I believe there are more similarities than differences in the above-listed strategies, I also believe every child (and adult!) has the right to relate to themselves and others which strategies hurt, and why. In other words, what was painful for you might not have been as painful for me, and vice versa. What matters, as parents or carers, is we honor our responsibility to our children, instead of deciding our will for them be made manifest. What matters is we forgive ourselves and change. What will make a great difference is if we can forgive those in our past who hurt us. It may make all the difference in the world.

Imagine my intense gratitude when five months after I wrote this post I heard a talk on this topic from Harshada Wagner, a yoga meditation instructor I respect and admire. In his guided meditation, “Living Wisdom: Releasing Shame” (August 29, 2011, at yogaglo.com), Wagner said the following:

“The good news and the bad news about shame is this:
 
“The good news is it’s not our fault. We can blame our parents for a lot of our shame.
 
“The bad news is that our parents aren’t here, and our parents aren’t going to be able to take away whatever it is that we have taken on. We’re going to have to do that ourselves.
 
“Of course, I’m kidding. It’s really Good News, and Good News.
 
“It’s good news that it’s not our fault. Everyone has a certain degree of shame that we carry around that keeps us from really shining. And it’s actually good news that the sources of the shame, if they were on the outside, aren’t the ones that can take it away. Because it puts that responsibility, but it also gives us the ability and the privilege and the freedom to work out what we need to work out.”
 
[…]  
“Almost every child is punished with emotional pain. It sounds very harsh, but let me just spell it out. When a child makes a mistake, when a child has done something that the parent doesn’t approve of and the parent wants to get the child to do what they want them to do, they will withdraw some kind of privilege until the child does what they want them to do.
 
“Why is that? What is the parent drying to create there?
 
“You parents watching this, please don’t take offense.
 
“When we do that, we’re trying to create emotional pain in the child. ‘You can’t go outside until you do your homework.’ ‘You can’t eat your dessert until you eat your vegetables.’ These are very benign sort of punishments. ‘Go to your room!’ … And then it gets harsher and harsher, all the way up to, some of us were actually slapped, or screamed at.
 
“But whatever the punishment was, was made to make us feel bad, as a way to learn a lesson. Even if our parents didn’t want to hit us physically, they wouldn’t feel like we had really gotten the message, unless we were sad. Our favorite toy was taken away. Our video games were denied to us.
 
“A really smart little kid, you know if they said, ‘Jimmy, you’re only five years old, you shouldn’t be playing with matches,’ and little Jimmy was really sharp and said ‘You know what, you’re right. I’m only five, what do I know about playing with matches. I could burn down the house down. You’re so right. I’m too young to play with matches and it’s dangerous. Thank you, mom and dad for the feedback. I really appreciate it. I’m going to take this on, and really make sure that I don’t play with matches any more. Thank you so much.’
 
“No, it wouldn’t go like that. If a child was that bright, was so smart, most parents would still not be satisfied until they grounded him or smacked the matches out of his hand, or yelled at him and frightened him in some way.”

Wagner’s entire meditation, which I have since earnestly recommended to so many, resounded with me deeply last September, and continues to today. All parents, even the best parents, attempt to apply emotional pain to their child to get their child to do what they want. We may do it reflexively or we may do it deliberately with some thought ahead of time – or, as is most likely, we do both. We may do it for noble reasons or for selfish ones – again, we likely do both. Some of us can know we are doing this to our children and desire not to – yet we still do it, to whatever degree we do. A lifetime of training, and our own fears and resentments and anxieties, have created a habit energy hard to dissolve. Progress can be made, but I’m unsure if perfection can be achieved.

I also know the child has a right to her own experience, and tuning into her experiences is as important, if not more so, than time and energy spent building and defending and tearing down and rebuliding and obsessing over our strategies, or those of other people.

The woman in my self-help group who told me I should beat my children had what seemed like the absolute noblest of intentions in advising me such. Briefly: she is the matriarch in a black family, raising her own nieces out of familial necessity while living in an urban, drug-riddled and economically-depressed environs. She is battling her own disease of alcoholism and she has an unsupportive larger family. If you can see deeply at all, you can have compassion and understand where she might be coming from.

As I heard in group the other day from an older man: “I had to come here to this group to learn things. I had to learn to stop hitting people. You hit people when you’re afraid.”

You hit people when you are afraid.

And the parents, carers, or those without children who attempt to put themselves in a false position of separateness and superiority with regards to the topic of disciplining children are also acting out of fear. Compassion, kindness, and gentleness are needed – not more recrimination and words spoken in anger.

This upsetting conversation last summer, and the discussion with friends afterwards, were very helpful. I was brave to be honest and vulnerable in a public way – about my worst shit. And after I spoke, someone directly challenged me with every possible good argument to punitively parent my children – even as she spoke and I felt sad, the amusing image of a little cartoon devil on my shoulder popped into my mind. But the truth is this: I could not parent my children this way and be okay with myself. I had never had this ability. So, I part ways in strategy with this woman. I can speak my mind and relate, from the heart, my experience as child, then parent – but I am not in a position to play God and I cannot follow her home and force her to see things any particular way.

I have not seen this woman in a while, but I hope she holds me in love and kindness the way I hold her. I know that this is possible, even in the most controversial and personal of topics. It is possible when we practice love and compassion – for all beings.

***

Spank Out Day 2012 Carnival hosted by TouchstoneZ

On Carnival day, please follow along on Twitter using the handy #SpankOutCar hashtag. You can also subscribe to the Spank Out Day Carnival Twitter List and Spank Out Day Carnival Participant Feed.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

Dharma Skye

Recipient To-Be

Meet the child who will be getting the custom-made, gratis, “Wollen Jas Blauw” (except it won’t be wollen nor blauw, I’ll bet…)

Dharma Skye

Dharma’s mother wrote me:

“… Dharma Skye. She is 2. It is unlike me to ask to be considered for this gift but our sweet Dharma is missing her right hand and always wants her sleeves rolled up to be able to have her right arm free to use it. I was thinking a jacket that fit her right arm would be awesome. Not sure you would want to make a jacket with two different arm lengths* but that is what would work for Dharma …”

I had eleven applicants for the jacket, most of whom sent me email. I truly hope I didn’t miss anyone, in responding via email.

If you are reading here I want to thank all who responded, and who wrote a bit about their child. Many sent pictures and I almost died at how sweet all these children were. There was this one baby in the bath? I WANTED TO SMASH MY EYES OUT, FROM THE CUTENESS. I wish I could just get paid and sew coats, the perfect coats, or whatever, for every child who needed or wanted one.

Thank you so much, dear readers and supporters.

* Wow. I so want to sew a jacket with two different arm lengths. I am incredibly excited.

Wollen Jas Blauw

special just FOR YOUUUUU

Wollen Jas Blauw

It’s official – I’d like to make a gift-version of Wollen Jas Blauw for your kid. That’s right, your kid. Or a kid you know. The child should be anywhere from very wee (a baby) up until around five years old.

There’s no catch at all; I need to sew a sample and want an end-destination for it.

Since this is custom sewing there are a few things you should know.

1. Make sure you consider the child’s preferences as the number one factor. Maybe YOU like the coat but the kiddo is like, “meh” about coats in general. If the child is age two or up, they likely have preferences about fabrics, warmth, color, and motifs (i.e. the crest on the arm). These preferences may be stated aloud or you may be able to just notice them (as in the case of warmth). The more details you send me the more likely everyone will be happy. A picture of the kiddo is bonus as I can get a feel for colors and temperament, etc.

2. Colors and materials will be at my discretion but again, any input from you is fabulous. I will likely not make up a wool coat for various reasons (mostly because many kids object to wool), but rather a poly fleece one.  I would consider a poly fleece coat of this type to be fairly light, good for layering – depending on where you live.

3. The absolutely best thing you could do for me if you’re selected, is get a good, natural-light photo or two of the kiddo in the coat. But this is not something I require, at all… it just makes my day.

Please send me an email at kelly AT hogaboom DOT org if this is a fit for you!

 

with lingonberry preserves

The 27th is my sobriety date. It doesn’t matter much, I know, but I do reflect on it every month on this date. For one thing, it is still an awkward and clumsy nut-punch that my blogging career changed so quickly. One day I was like, “write the theme tune sing the theme tune”, just living my life and documenting it as much or as little as I felt like it with a lot of detail, being as circumspect as possible regarding the feelings or experiences of others, and believing I did a good job not being an ass online about those I rubbed elbows with. And the next day BAM! I’m involved in work I can’t write about at all really – or I guess I could, but I don’t want to, most especially because it involves other people’s lives (and yes… I did start up a totally anonymous recovery blog, but I’ll never tell you about it!) and people sharing in spaces that are safe spaces. Yikes. It really felt like a muzzle and it came out of nowhere.

So, you’ll hear me say this again: I wouldn’t want to go through my first week sober. I was really scared, confused, foggy and exhausted. Baffling and yet very real, I’d been diagnosed an alcoholic by a kind but direct physician – the first time in my life this label had been applied by anyone but myself – but I didn’t know what, if anything, could be done (deep down I thought: nothing). More humiliating still, I’d never consumed the quantities alcohol that others can and did and do get up to (believe me… I checked into it), nor had troubles with the law, nor done a lot of the things pop culture (and my uh, family) liked to label as Alcoholic. It’s like you could have paraded my accomplishments, my attributes, the wonderful things in my life, and how many people loved me. And I would have heard you and maybe even felt a bit moved, but I was mostly just so profoundly confused. Nothing made sense. I had no compass and no sense of proportion. I was all habit energy. Some good habits, some bad. Kelly was lost to a depression and confusion more painful than she’d experienced. Yeah. I was lost.

I am not confused these days. I am not lost. I am rarely set back, angry, anxious, depressed, or resentful. When any of these feelings surface, today I often can know it, and I can figure out why. Today I have the help I need and I seek it out without hesitation. I have so much help, so much support, and a clearer conscience and vision. My life is very different. I am grateful and when I am not grateful, I am still profoundly okay.

I certainly don’t have to drink any more.

On Monday, I made amends to someone for something I did when I was twenty. That’s fifteen years ago.

This morning I was up and resting with a cup of coffee when the children awoke. Nels proudly skipped into the living room wrapped in a blanket, with his most-recent lost tooth in hand. The children were bright-eyed and happy, fresh haircuts and coming from a clean warm bed. It has always given me tremendous pleasure to care for our children. I have made a lot of errors and missed a lot of opportunities, but on many occasions I’ve also had the gift of perception to make the most of it. Time flies quickly while raising children, but the moments can be reduced with the most stunning clarity when I breathe and experience the moment. I am so grateful for the many wonderful experiences in my life, and for the hard experiences too because pain has been a great motivator. Pain and love, one or the other. I can seek to study the latter first so that the former is not so harsh a tutor when she arrives.

Tonight I had a lovely group meditation. And now I’m typing after dinner guests left, late. Like a little cooking show, I taught them how to make the spaghetti and meatballs (here’s my recipe). The kids trounced around and made all sorts of chatter with our guests. Nels, touchingly, has memorized birthstones and likes to tell people their stone and the stone’s meaning – if they are so inclined to listen. Phoenix brought out her little leopard gecko but held it at a circumspect distance from a guest not too keen on reptiles.

Our home is a peaceful and well-lived in one. I have been working too hard, and I hope to avail myself of some comforts the next few days. I’ll take pictures so you all can get a window view.

the staff of Life

The last couple days I’ve been really struggling. Old Behavior, it’s called. I’ve felt irritation at people several times during the day, which I can truthfully say is a very rare event these days. I’ve felt easily overhwhelmed by the kids’ behaviors, and have responded rather short-tempered. Today I spoke sharply to my daughter as I was angry with something she had or hadn’t done. Nels immediately rebuked me: “Mama, that’s not okay. You hurt her feelings. Imagined getting slapped, hard. That’s probably how that felt.”

The kids are amazing. Talk about moving targets. I used to behave a lot worse than than just taking a “tone” with them. You know, I’m glad they know a violation and say so. I am seriously so fucking glad. Somehow even in a decade of my mistakes I didn’t hammer into them to shove their feelings down deep. They feel absolutely fine speaking up.

I didn’t learn how to speak up until I was thirty-four.

It’s still not easy.

By the way, I’ve been thinking of writing a piece for one of the mags I enjoy working with. It was going to be, Practices I’ve Learned in Parenting (but with a Sleek! Hip! Sexy! Title), or something. You know. The things I’ve found helpful and consistently true. Can I write it without sounding condescending, or as if I’ve Figured It All Out (because: I haven’t)?

Anyway, today it occurred to me the care of and investment in children are wonderful exercises for smashing the illusion of Control and the resultant suffering from trying to have Control. Either that, or you can avoid this opportunity and try to control the children, and the process of living together. You will get very ill (and hurt the kids besides). In fact, just last night I heard of a friend who made themselves very, very sick trying to do this. The Control thing. Anyway, this morning as soon as Nels was up, before my coffee, he was making bread. Very ambitiously so, and he had the whole business just about right, including knowing the relevant ingredients, which is interesting because we’ve never directly taught him. But today he was 100 PERCENT INTO MAKING BREAD ZOMG!!1!

We were pressed for time, so I asked him to wait. I made them pancakes (with his very avid assistance) and cut up some fruit for breakfast so we could make our appointment on time. As soon as Nels was back home, many playdates later and in the evening, he was at it again. BREAD. By this time I was trying to finish a sewing project but I gave him the guidance he asked for, hollering measurement estimations toward the kitchen, which he followed perfectly well. The dough I sampled before we put it up for its first rise was tender, smooth, and delicious.

As I type the dough is on its final rise, resting on parchment paper. After one or two more bread-making events he’ll be quite competent.

I didn’t learn how to make bread until I was about thirty-two.

But anyway, yeah. Living with children the way we do, I don’t get to decide when they want to learn something (very different than  school… which is always telling kids when to learn something and how). It’s not only about not trying to have Control; it’s an exercise in Setting Aside. Someone else needs my help and what I want to do with my life at that second isn’t so important after all.

If I’d remember this consistently, I’d consistently be the parent I always admired.