BALLS, yet again

About an hour ago as Ralph and I were out doing late-night errands (Home Depot, Safeway), I got some yucky news. Most smarties who rent their homes (like we do) benefit by saying adios to the paid deposit – right off the bat. And I knew this. But I am discouraged as after meeting the ex-landlord two weeks ago, he told us that if we fixed X and Y he’d refund us the entirety of the deposit. And, I believed him. And, he was lying.

I am not surprised given the man’s past behaviors, but I am depressed. I don’t know what our hundreds of dollars mean to this ex-landlord, but to me I’d hoped for groceries. A few days ago Ralph gave me a certain sum of cash for me to secure so I could buy provisions for our son’s birthday party. I’m glad I at least was able to buy a few party things so that is going to happen, no matter what.

I don’t want to hold anger in my heart. I know that the misbehaviors and the perpetrations of others are not things I have any control over. It’s telling I have to keep reminding myself of this. I do not want to fight with anyone, nor hold any resentments. They are anathema to the gratitude I want to experience, and in turn practice. I feel sad to think of how hard my husband worked cleaning the house and repairing it and setting it to rights. I feel foolish I believed this landlord at his word, since I’d had previous experience with him. But then, I reconsider. I know Ralph and I know he did the work because it was the right thing to do. I know that doing the right thing benefits the one who does it. I know that I have no control over who wants to mislead or betray me, however symptomatic these slights are of his character or behaviors.

This financial setback came at a time of stress and sadness, all around me. I have family sick and struggling with illness, a friend’s daughter just lost a baby, another friend’s husband’s hand was crushed in a horrible work accident, a friend’s father-in-law recently died, and I’ve run across two friends in Recovery, in active relapse.

But, this is life. As for us, I know we will figure out how to buy food and presents and pay our bills, as we’ve done for the past ten plus years as a family. What I’d like is peace of mind. It will come, with time.

housekeeping

Phoenix, Eyes

My monetary accumulation for our attendance at the Life Is Good Unschooling Conference is trudging along, to my utter delight.

I have saved, basically stuffed in an electronic mattress so I don’t use it for silly things like food and socks, about $238 (of the $650 that will get us there, which does not include food, gas, & fun money). This saved sum includes a wee bit of under-the-table work I’ve done as well as a handful of lovely donations from readers.

I sincerely thank everyone who has helped, and all who read, email, IM, tweet, and support in various ways.

It is so rare I get any IRL contact with other Unschoolers, and it means a great deal to me to consider we may get this chance.

I am hopeful of somehow earning $650 – separate from my husband’s paycheck. I have a few options on this account. For one, I have my little homesewn affair, which is not much of a money-maker due to various and sundry reasons, mostly including a complete lack of advertising budget or promotional considerations, besides the occasional tweet. I also lack kiddo models and let me tell you, that makes a difference. Early this summer, at the Fiber Festival? I put a little homemade dress (the one at left) on a little friend and I shit thee not, she’d been running around about five minutes before a woman came dragging her by the arm and demanding to buy the frock. Well, not really. But kinda.

So tomorrow I’m going start up up a jacket conception for a tot, then find a baby to stuff into said jacket so I can take a picture.

Welp. In addition to my little wee dream of making the conference, we are a bit squeezed with a few upcoming financial considerations that likely need some attention. First, it is a near done deal we will be moving to a new home in Hoquiam (within about a month), which comes with a few expenses (and deposits, if they get returned at all, are not always returned at a convenient time). After a decade of rough use on our beds, we are in need of three new mattresses. Our couch and two armchairs are sinking into further disrepair. My car has a bad alternator (which at least, I can buy and replace with a friend’s help), and both vehicles likely need an expensive brake job (that, I don’t have the capability to do myself).

And then, or course, there is always that little special item of extravagance one wants for herself. Well, kinda for me, not just for me. I have been watching a friend’s baby (free gratis) and I did a little research and my dream-boat idea would be to get ahold of a Boba 2G so I can run around like usual while caring for an extra (occasionally separation-anxiety-laden) tot.

So that’s our scene in a nutshell. I write it out for my own sake as well as readers who may or may not be interested. I am, of course, quite serene about all of this. I have received such incredible support and wonderful friendship and care from so many people. I also live a life, to the best of my ability, of planning the event but not the outcome, which leaves very little room for sour grapes, worries, envies, et cetera. For this I am very grateful.

From yesterday: skating at the Harborena, watching a daddy lift his tot – to her delight. Also, bottom picture, Unimpressed Woman in Foreground is Unimpressed.

Good Daddy

Good Daddy

“to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with”

This weekend, due to this or another thing, we do not have money for gas for my mom’s borrowed truck – nor groceries. A problem, to be sure. In addition there is a particular sting in not being able to take the kids to the Relay for Life and grab them an elephant ear or whatever, but this sting doesn’t have the maudlin, intense, and guilt-laden feel the way it used to, way back when things were more grim and felt entirely unmanageable – and, in some real ways, were. For some time now we’ve been able to pay our bills, a circumstance which apparently, sadly, was needed for my spirituality and outlook to improve.

I try and mostly succeed in being patient we don’t have running cars (I had to hustle my ass via bike and bus twice yesterday). Working cars will likely come, in time. Yet it is hard to be so sanguine when we don’t have food and I am preoccupied with other work I need to do. This week I am considering what to do regarding the Conch, as there are some changes afoot regarding that enterprise (and you all deserve, and will receive, an update soon). I would very much like pay out for groceries so we can cook for people on Wednesday. I think I will not be able to decide on this, not in the next few hours at least.

The 24 Hour Relay for Life is in it’s 25th year here in Hoquiam (we always used to call it “the cancer run” and I still slip up) and started up last night. I hadn’t been to the Relay since my father died. This year I walked quietly and thought on him, and all in my life he has missed, that I wish he could share in. I miss his advice as it spoke to the heart of me.

Relay For Life, 2011

The Relay here is quite impressive; Hoquiam’s Relay consistently performs in the top ten in America for money raised per capita. It is also now a party-like atmosphere with all sorts of barbecues, food, drunkenness and drug use, hugs and tears, joyful friendships and skirmishes, people fooling around in tents, drama, and grab-assery; in short, the whole beautiful mess of the human condition. I observed parts of the drag show and although it was a funny affair I felt sad to see the hints of mockery evidenced: mocking women, especially trans women, hints of homophobia. If I had the energy – and I do not today – I would (do more research, then) write the organizers with some commentary and advice on how to improve this feature of the Relay (for starters, a drag show that included the possibility of women in drag as men, would immediately benefit inclusivity).

But really, that whole bit was a footnote on an otherwise lovely walk with my husband and daughter – on a beautiful night.

Relay For Life, 2011

I miss my father terribly.

But you know?

It’s a good day, today.

the most civilized conveyance known to man

Phoenix has outgrown her bike. Already! At least we have another child who’s grown into it (Already!). I know just the upgraydd I want to acquire for my girl: an uber-lightweight women’s-size Trek with delicious Shimano shifters – immediately available, a few blocks away, in her favorite color even. It should fit her a long while unless she grows taller than I. Heck, this might happen – at only nine years old she’s an inch shy of my shoulder height. The bike isn’t inexpensive (for us), but our local shop accepts layaway (this is how I bought my own cargo bike) and I have a great rapport with the owner.

Now, the kids have been saving up their restaurant money and could afford about 80% of this bike; Nels has already offered to use the funds for that purpose (seriously? How sweet is he?). But I’d like to get her the bike as a gift, a surprise, and from the family fund. To assist in that end I’ve spent $20 on some business cards to distribute locally (the extent of my advertising efforts for Homesewn), and I’m hoping I can generate a little there, scrump from the grocery fund, etc. I’ve also sent one finished item out to a client (who hopefully will find it a good fit) and I’m putting together a few pieces that might find a home, and earn me some bike-funds. One of the best things about what I sew is: these days I won’t sew something I don’t love so it’s never a waste of my time.

I’m thinking about bikes none-too-early, as the weather has drastically improved and as much as I love to walk, we’re taking a few trips on wheels. I am hauling about thirty pounds more of kids on the Xtracycle than I was this time last year, that is when they elect to ride with me (usually they ride their own). They also regularly head off on their own adventures: today coming home at almost-dusk, stand-pedaling on their bikes with dirty shoes and trousers, shouting laughter, and sporting flushed cheeks. Perfect. Ralph and I have just finished a simple dinner (homemade frijoles refritos wrapped with sharp cheddar in soft tortillas and lightly fried; rice, and a carrot slaw) so we take a walk with our daughter through the wild areas sandwiched between the train tracks and the industrial area – shake mills and Latino body shops. Phoenix serves as a great tour guide, casually showing us her “enemy’s” tree house before leading us to her own: way back through blackberry-bush guarded trails, a quite-large platform made with local lumberyard scraps (by who, we do not know). This latter construction I eye with a kind of horrified respect as it seems about twenty feet off the ground and has no railings or anything. “Have you climbed up in that?” I ask my daughter. “Oh yes, many times. We’ve had four of us up there.” I feel an unspecified but exquisite thrill. What an adventure my children live!

Passing back through one of the many loamy and verdant trails we spy a very fresh half-pack of cigarettes, spilled out on the earth and a few of them broken, so recently that even in our damp environs the paper is still pristine-white. This halts my daughter in her tracks. “Ooh – evidence,” she says, and leans down. “But I don’t know of what, yet.”

We pick through the trails and over crushed bleach bottles and Miller High Life cans and deer sign and colonies of horsetail fern. Phoenix holds our hands all the way home, to a house that smells warm with homecooked food and evidences many sleeping cats.

also, when good actors work in regrettable films

My husband tells me there’s another something wrong with the running car, and you can tell he doesn’t want to upset me in the way he breaks it to me, as today was the last day before payday and we spent our last few dollars on tofu and broccoli to top our sticky rice with, and we already have a $200 repair pending on this car for a deal-breaker issue (broken headlight switch), plus the tires and brakes are bad (as in, we’ve been warned not to drive by a trusted source), and since I lost the key to the trunk we can’t repair the back taillight (it just went out two days ago) without some serious tomfoolery. In case I haven’t spelled it out, our car went from get-home-before-dusk to now being street illegal, and rather unsafe to boot with this whole brake thing (repair to the tune of $1200 not counting the tires).

In case you’re curious, that thing Ralph mentioned today so cautiously? An increasingly sluggish start (which I already knew was going down), not just a cold start, I’m thinking glow plugs.

I suppose it’s time to admit defeat and trudge our way to a used car lot, where on some kind of credit (maybe) we can get something financed, and let me tell you just how entirely distasteful that whole event is to comtemplate. I’d sooner go carfree entirely, which in a food desert is unwise, but while I’m willing to step off this cliff (and may indeed have to) it is a very difficult prospect for my husband, a bike ride of 6 1/2 miles one-way which isn’t too bad, but in my estimation is dangerous (and y’all know I’m balls-out about this personally but not when it comes to ten rainy long rides per week on a highway), bus rides with hour-long gaps if he could handle the other problems associated – ask him if you want to get a rant (people around here who never, ever have to ride the bus? Say we have a “great transit system”. They can bugger directly off).

So my point is, I was sort of thinking about some of this while I opened the fridge to get my son a drink tonight and I saw my husband had yesterday as per usual purchased organic milk (about $5 per gallon as compared to the best-scenario gas-station-special of $2), because for various reasons and regardless of where anyone reading places themselves on the debate (which will not be engaged in my commentspace), my husband has always given a damn what the kids eat and drink more than just about anything and, kind of even more tenderly, to me at least, how cows and farmers are faring as well. So maybe other people reading don’t get it, but lifting the jug out and then getting down a mason jar I squared my shoulders and felt better about the whole thing, not because we had good milk, but because I have a good man.

A little while back I decided the best thing for my constitution is that I no longer allow stress to prematurely age me and cause me ill health. This is a great mandate but a little tricker to practice, more or less specifically during certain patterns of weather (today applies) and at certain times of day. Already at 11 PM I feel the familiar stranglehold and my mind and body grasp at patterns of the not-really-soothing enterprises of additional eat and drink, instead of (a smarter solution) the much less glamorous vocation of taking a deep breath and patiently turning my face to the wall to wait it out. Best thing I have going for me, besides Ralph who at some earlier hour than I retires to sleep, are the kiddos and their infinite sweetness and their good smells and their soft skin and their loving hands.

In other news, I love Twitter, love it like deep-fried pickles, enough today it often served as a balm for all sorts of ills and kept me not only informed and enthralled (for instance, after much discussion next week’s broadcast is shaping up with more focus and some lovely new topics) but also the kind of senseless exploits I find so delightful. Example: tonight I amused myself (and a few others) live-tweeting the cheesetacular 1983 film-spectacle of Assery, The Keep (directed by an at-least demonstrably talented Michael Mann, even if this film was a bust). That was some Good Times to be had. Tomorrow, maybe it’ll be nice enough to get outside, and I refuse to look at a weather forecast for the bad news that surely lurks in my future.

***

It’s late so I don’t have the finesse to be delicate: but, car/financial/milk/etc. advice? Oh so not wanted. kthx

34

The shampoo I lather on the kids’ head is in fact the cheapest I could find. $1.50 per bottle. It’s supposed to smell like apples, and it even does without any gross chemical underlinger. The soap is cucumber and green tea, and also new today. Everything smells good. Phoenix says, quite judiciously, “That soap looks expensive, I won’t use much.” I think how Nels and I are birds of a feather and would spend our last dime on dinner with friends and a box of cheap wine to keep us company. Phoenix takes more after her dad (and my brother, it appears). More… measured. Conservative.

The bathroom is filled with steam and our large kitty Harris purrs as the kids drip water on his coat; he waits and watches with contentedly slanted demon eyes. The kids squint up at me: “It’s your birthday,” they tell me. “Do you know how old I am?” I ask. “34” replies Phoenix, her face as bright as a penny. Nels smiles, reaches for a kiss, whispers, “34”. It has some kind of meaning.

Tired. I forgot to even tell you about the whole Wishkah Valley High School / TRALI / blood donation thing yesterday. Surreal. Ralph came out with me. I’m really grateful he came, as my vision swam a bit during and after my “donation” (hardly – rather three small sample vials). Very odd.

And lumberjacky.

Lumberjack Pride

so ready for us, the creature fear

One nice thing about having inexpensive things is nothing is worth much except the use we get out of it. So this afternoon when I take up the purchased-from-Ross bowl I’m washing, near clean, and lift my hands and smash it into the sink with all my might, well, even given the impulsivity of the moment I know I’m not breaking anything dear. It’s a cheap outburst. Practical, really.

Sadly, my plans are foiled. The thing rather stubbornly breaks cleanly in half with an astonishingly muffled percussive noise – considering I’d aimed it at a stainless steel sink – and gently both pieces bounce and roll across the counter, not at all the shattered disorder I’d hoped to grimly and uselessly clean up piece by tiny piece. It only takes one second to put each half in the trash and then it’s all over. I’m tidy like that.

I am totally fine with walking and riding the bus today for errands, or maybe more accurately, I need a few moments to be fine with it as it was kind of sprung on me, a funny-silly car becoming a likely-tragically-not-running car, pushing our vehicular repair plans and expected expense up a notch quite suddenly (please do not make one helpful suggestion regarding the use of cars. We have a car plan. It’s just taking a while. Because of stuff like rent and food. But you should see our plan! It’s totally all awesome and on the level and going to work out just great. *shifty eyes* ), and I have all these groceries I’ve gotta get because one-day grocery shopping is not so fun with our local transit, and I’m already feeling the dark closing in on me tonight, and I’m feeding the kids but they don’t want to eat the chicken noodle casserole my mom brought over that is totally fine and they need it in their tummies because it’s going to be a long trip, and if you’ve ever gone somewhere with small children and they’re hungry and you can’t get them food yet you might understand how my anxiety ramps up at the very thought, and I’m intuiting somehow GHTransit will fuck me over (and I’m right as you will see).

Today in a moment of weakness I tell Nels I think I have to put him in school. He says, “Never”, and there is a storm in his eyes. I tell him I can’t take care of him. It’s not him. He is doing great. He’s a champion. He’s fucking stellar. It’s me. I can’t take care of him right. I keep missing what it is I’m doing wrong and he seems Unknowable but deeply-experienced (to me and by me) and feral and sweet and complicated but totally fine. You should see him. I make him food and he doesn’t want it but later he mixes up banana and milk and happily munches carrot sticks and forks up bowls of meatballs, pushing his hair out of his eyes and fastidiously wiping his hands (usually on his shirt, which he then changes after washing his hands). I give him hand-knit fingerless gloves for Christmas and he says they don’t feel right, they are scratchy. I hate myself because I actually knew he was sensitive to wool and I just didn’t think ahead.

When I can’t hit the right note with him I begin to see him as Wild, and I recognize he’s doing great, but I just feel so bad sometimes, so guilty, I’ve raised him well enough he sometimes seems not to need me, I’ve done a job many parents are afraid to do, and sometimes it hurts. Today he puts his arms around me and tells me he’ll be okay, he can take care of himself. His body is all bones under smooth skin and his hair smells so sweet and he says, “Mama, you know I can find myself something to eat,” (explaining the aversion to the casserole) and when I get home later in the evening he has the bowl in his room and runs out and says, “I changed my mind, I ate the whole thing and it was delicious!” and he’s a happy clam in the sand, and there’s not one thing I did right by him today, but he’s still going to love me and put his arms around me and beg to bathe and sleep together as if I’m someone who’s worth it.

Late afternoon: waiting for the bus takes forever. Because the 3:50 came and left early so we have to wait for the 4:30 and it’s cold and the shelter has busted-out windows and the bench is damp (but speckled with a pretty and brilliant orange fungus). Phoenie and I look up information on tornadoes on the new phone and I mess about with my camera. It’s a good time, really. She is cheerful but she is eventually cold. Avoiding the wet bench she lays on a section ofdry sidewalk for a while.

Coldkin

Finally the bus comes and we get out on errands and get hot coffee and hot chocolate. Every word that comes out of my daughter’s mouth is wonderful, like music. Phoenix and I wander around the Dollar Tree and I think about all the different people there, those who shop there by necessity (make no mistake, there are lots of them) and those who get to pick and choose when they can “slum it” and when they can get exactly what they want, and I’m kind of not even sure which world I inhabit, which confuses me for some reason. The thought of so many people worse off than I, in need, struggling, it depresses me, because sometimes it seems no one cares.

Phoenix is a ray of light and confidently grips her hot chocolate in her wool-encased paws and when I mutter I need pot holders and then lip balm* she knows exactly where these things are and after helping me a bit she tells me she’ll be in the toy section. Ralph meets us there and we take our groceries home and I make a lovely Mexican Chicken Soup and quesadillas and homemade refried beans and all that chopping and stirring and mixing and correcting seasoning, okay, I’m doing a little better.

December 29, 2010

My mom visits and stays until near-midnight. Ralph eventually goes to bed. Giving up on sleep at a mortal hour, I cut a dress for Phoenix from sale yardage that is pleasingly leaf-green and I hope I don’t fuck it up, I mark carefully with chalk and set aside pieces and imagine the finished dress (maybe the imagining is my favorite part of all), and I just tell myself to get through each day and each night of this winter, I know I can survive it, even though it stretches out ahead of me like an unknowable abyss.

* Just as I post this my daughter wanders over to my desk, un-caps the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Scented I came away with and puts her freckled nose to it, then pronounces: “Hm… smells creepy.” EXACTLY!

baaaaaaallllls

I’m glad it happened, really. Things have been going so well on the Christmas front. Tiny, well-crafted yet frugal gifts; homemade music and Christmas cards out on time (um, today, so expect yours soon), a few home-sewn items, a few excellent purchases from our local bookstore (yay!), several very well-curated bits of goodness (specifically for my mother and kids; I’ve owned it this year). This season people often ask how it’s going and I’ve been able to truthfully say Very Well, very pleased to celebrate and honor friendships and family, but I also laugh and add there’s some mini- (or, and I hope not, major-) disaster on the way –

So today after literally sewing until I bled (Stabby McNeedleson) I put the finishing touches on the lovingly-crafted button-up shirt I was making for my brother, made from crisp and delicious Essex linen/cotton blend and Pam Erny’s awesome pro-weft interfacing, and stitched up all eight buttons with a trademark thread finish, 100% flat-felled seams (yes, including the armscye!) and a narrow hem to die for and a wonderful weight and hand and looking sharp. And I wash the shirt it and remove it to dry and press and immediately perceive THE FUCKING FABRIC HAD FURTHER PRESHRUNK, resulting in thoroughly ruinous interfacing/fabric bubbles that cannot be pressed out and cannot be ignored either as in, I will not be gifting this to my brother, no way. OH GOOD LORD NOOOoooOOOO

I can tell Ralph’s worried about money. By little subtle hints like his IM today that says, “I’m in so much pain right now, worrying about money.” Also more concrete sea changes like the fact instead of the typical breakfast cereal my kids like he purchased Junky-Os, you know the kind in the bag made of teflon-ass so a kid has to tear and tear and get a kitchen knife (unsupervised as I’m all Twittering and shit) and saw and tear and then suddenly BAM! the whole business asplodes all over the kitchen floor, which perhaps may even the financial savings inherent in a lower-grade purchase a bit moot, but my daughter cleaned the whole business up except for a tidy little pile of Os that later the cat was messing about with while tangling herself up in my serger foot pedal since the serger is sitting on my tiny kitchen counter since, even with a super crafty family, we have only one table, one, which is in the sewing room now which means we eat sitting on the floor again, no big deal but still.

Ralph and I are home at 1 AM after wrapping up Christmas presents at my mom’s house, our package for the Portland crew: my sister, my brother and his girlfriend (and her cat). At least I know my mom and the USPS won’t fuck-up the mailing of the package so all that will go well enough.

And that’s just all I have to say about all of that.

why don’t you come up sometime and see me

Christmas has in the past been a happy season for me but so far this year it’s all going pear-shaped. My daily life feels overwhelming right now. I tell myself it’s unnecessary to feel pinched or out-of-depth because all things are temporary. And when I tell myself that, I feel better.

Still, it’s a struggle. In the cold and wet and living in an almost comically walk-bus-&-bike-FAIL of a burg, the accumulation of increasingly significant car problems are a serious impediment. My clothes are shabby and I don’t have quite enough of them and they’re not warm enough. Our blankets are falling apart and our kitchen water pressure is out and the CLOWDER keep dismantling the yule tree and we spent Christmas money on the veterinarian bills for a sick kitty and Ralph worries about the chickens in the cold weather and most my time is spent in a rather seemingly endless loop of laundry, dishes, cooking and feeding and it’s dark what seems like all the time, to the point where I remind myself out loud that after the solstice I’ll see the sun again, a little bit more.

Tonight as we head to the grocery store I ask the kids if we should use the side-money their father is working on procuring for Christmas presents for them, or for fixing our car. The kids think about it and said, “Car”, because they’re fucking smart and they’ve got pretty awesome priorities. In fact if it weren’t for my kids I’d probably be living in a state of bona fide Depression rather than the small-d-depression I’m grappling with. Well, if it weren’t for my kids there’d by another salary and two fewer mouths to support and something tells me that might make a difference in my anxieties – but let’s not quibble about details.

The kids aren’t just intelligent and helpful they are completely hilarious and refreshing and entirely exactly who I want to spend much of my time with. Case in point: today over lunch Nels tells me he’s worried for his friend P. because he doesn’t think P.’s parents treat him well. “They don’t let him sleep with them,” he adds quite solemnly (except he says “wif dem”, be still my heart!), then takes a bite of a sandwich and fixes me with a clear-eyed gaze.  Phoenix nods sagely and cocks her head to me, asks, “Why don’t parents let their kids sleep with them?”

A difficult and multifaceted question and I’m thinking of answering the whole, well-every-family-is-different, but also acknowledging some of the lack of nurture our larger culture supports, and the fact lots of people fill their lives up so much they feel strangled by the very wonderful people they are fortunate to have for a few moments on this earth, oh and then there’s parental squeamishness about sex matters, and so I start to respond, slowly: “Well some parents want their kids to…” –

and Phoenix supplies helpfully, “Cower in fear?”

Ha. Cower in fear. I completely love the way she expresses herself because it is entirely precise as to her intended meaning.

The other morning after sleepless night I watched, on a friend’s recommendation, my first Mae West film: She Done Him Wrong (1933) (featuring a VERY young Cary Grant as well). This same friend had told me I reminded her of West and really, I do like to get myself a remedial classic film education when I can make the time. As it turns out, a Mae West comparison is just about the most flattering thing ever. The movie was not very good but she sure was!

And in other news, my husband is pretty much the awesomest guy, kind of ever. As I type and fold laundry and marinate tri-tip and soak almonds and chop veggies for dinner I’m thinking of him across down, working late teaching his class. He’ll be home soon and then it will be the four of us together again and at least that’s something I can bank on.

i’ve found there are some things you can’t take away

I hate to talk about the inter-netz, because it’s boring, but I had kind of a shitty day online, overdosing on content by people whose work – I realize today – is ultimately not contributing to my mental and emotional health nor my growth as a strong, compassionate and wise person. It sucks to realize I need to cull, to change, to edit a bit of my consumption, because I feel like I’m cutting loose those who in many ways I admire. Still, having subjected myself today I now suffer a hangover but not from anything corporeal; rather, a spiritual malaise from words ingested, words bereft of deeper meaning but rehearsed hurts and seemingly cyclical suffering and other-centered blaming.

I get so depressed with how the American mainstream conversation – everywhere I go – frames children (when it deigns to consider them at all). Sometimes it seems as I’m one of the few parents who truly enjoys most every moment with my children and truly has almost every moment with them (waking and sleeping). I’m going on a decade now of living life with them! I don’t make jokes (not sure if I ever did) about shitty teen years or when I’ll be “free again” when they’ve moved out. If I ever felt that way before I don’t now.

What’s wrong with me? Everywhere I look kids are either dismissed, dehumanized, sentimentalized (the latter is really a combination for the former two for our own convenience) – or erased. Parents act like it’s so much work and drama to orchestrate their kids’ lives (and it is!), but I don’t relate because I don’t do this anymore. Fathers absent themselves from nurture; we modern ladies are told we’re supposed to aspire to such separation from progeny, grab at “me time”. Work in-home is worth than far less than a paid and status-y career (middle class conversations don’t much concern themselves with jobs that aren’t terribly thrilling, jobs many Americans work), that if we take care of children we necessarily won’t have time to do more important stuff: earning, activism, brain-learninz (so I guess: so much for the idea women are strong and multitasking superheroes). “Mommy bloggers” are mocked or dismissed (and I guess, as someone who’s loved publishing my journal online for eight or so years to much personal reward and thanks from readers, I qualify as such), our concerns trivialized and sneered at.

So today I’m realizing the activist circles I glean my readings from are too narrow: depressingly bereft of anything but cosmetic cares for children for all their lip service to “intersectionality”. I’m gradually weaning off those who don’t take child rights and child stewardship seriously when it’s brought up (as many, many don’t) because you know what? –  There are those who do. Few and far between, perhaps, but when I find them how wise, wonderful, and inspiring they are.

***

Many countries have outlawed discrimination based on gender and race, but still allow discrimination based on age. What justification is there for the assumption that anyone older than a teenager knows best what is good for those who are younger? Our adult grasp of life makes us feel superior to young people, and we use that to justify the substitution of our priorities for theirs. – October 31st, Wendy Priesnitz on Twitter (here, and so on…).

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If any sensible person thinks deeply, he will respect justice. There is an inborn appreciation and respect for justice within our human body. In children, we find what is natural to be human character. But as they grow up, they develop a lot of conditioning and wrong attitudes. I often feel there is more truthfulness in a small child and I find reasons to have confidence in human courage and human nature. – His Holiness the Dalai Lama

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Here’s some more from my life:

Last night my son was up late whispering in my ear. He kept telling me how much he loved me, and that he couldn’t wait to take me on “a date” (in our house a “date” refers anything one-on-one). He told me what restaurant he wanted to take me to. He asked me what I’d order. He told me what he’d order. It was his big Plan. I held him and felt him entirely bony and warm and not like anything else I could hold in my arms. So: a date tomorrow then.

I had nineteen dollars in my wallet. But I figured I’d have to make it work.

During the night he’d say in his sleep, “Is it time for our date?” He’d put his hands on me and drift back to Slumbertown, Population Nels.

This morning I was fortunate to have the car while Ralph bussed to work. After getting showered and dressed and putting some work in and some sewing done and spending too much time reading online and cooking up and putting aside breakfast for Phoenix and hemming some pants and sending birthday post, I was pretty excited to go out with with my son. At some point he popped straight of out bed, jumped up and dressed, brushed his teeth and hair and put on his newest homesewn coat and we stepped out into the sunshine. And I was treated to quite the conversational stream, Nels prattling along about pirates and parrots (the latter apparently serve as translator between the former and the ship’s crew, since pirates only say “Arrr!”), Minecraft, weather, animal husbandry, and parenting.

“Daddy told me he posted on Facebook you shouldn’t hit kids, and some people posted and said you SHOULD hit kids,” he told me (referring to Ralph’s anti-spanking linked article and polemic some time ago).

“Oh,” I said, surprised he was thinking of this now. “And what you you think?”

“Grownups shouldn’t hit kids,” he replied. I looked in the rearview mirror to see his brow a small thundercloud under his blonde hair. Consternation.

“What happens when they hit kids?” I asked. “Do you think kids get scared or angry?”

“They get angry,” he said emphatically. Then: “Angry enough they might kill themselves. Because they just want it to stop.”

So.

At the restaurant Nels was the soul of courtesy, including gently reminding me to keep my elbows off the table, which I found hilarious considering here is a child who will slither to the floor now and then out of his seat (from boredom). He ordered pink lemonade and a personal pizza, asking for half the pizza in a box to take home to his father. I ordered fettucine and a salad. He said “please and thank you” to the waiter (without prompting of course). He asked if fingernails were bones. I told him about keratin, amazed I had one fact in my head that could be of use to him. He asked me about nutrition for dental health. We talked about green leafy vegetables. Just when I thought I couldn’t be having a better time he carefully pushed his lemonade close to me, then his plate – and came over to my side of the booth. “I love you,” he said, simply. A serenity beyond space and time.

He paid (with my cash), walking the leather billfold to the server, smiling, laughing. I slipped to the restroom while he settled the bill and while away the phone rang and he answered. “Is Mama there?” my husband asks. “Yes,” says Nels. “Who’s dis?”

Then: my son and I step out into the sunshine to head back home to my daughter, stopping at the Post Office for mail and City Hall to pay the water bill. I peel off twenties and remember my father, who paid most things in a huge bundle of cash.

Another day and another chance to appreciate those things deeply meaningful; trivial and sublime. Living and breathing.