paradise is you

The kids are out of school for Spring Break. Don’t think I even get how I’m supposed to be this schooling parent. In fact I think I have given up trying. I am often at a loss as to schedules. I don’t fit in with the culture. My kids had conferences last week and it seemed like for all the haranguing about standardized tests and attendance, the school staff and admins are lost and jumbled about it all. One of my children had a low (for the child, anyway) grade in a class. Now last week the child and Ralph tried to get to the bottom of it, and the teacher had a bunch of assignments incorrectly allocated. But here we’d confronted the child the night before – and the child had cried – over this mess. I don’t know if I’m supposed to not give much of a shit, or if I’m supposed to bust in there and straighten everyone out. And it’s hard to get too excited about something, grades and such, that seem entirely meaningless.

So anyway, school is whack and I am amazed they like the good parts – of which there are many, they’re called “other children” – enough to tolerate the rest. But they are enjoying themselves and this gives me immense pleasure. I know they appreciate that we support their rights to do what they want.

So I figure my job is to keep them in school clothes, and try my reasonable best to support them in their extracurricular activities and social lives, and feed them, and provide a safe, loving home for them to rest and recover in.

My son’s birthday is tomorrow – he turns eleven. I am hardly prepared – mentally, emotionally, or any other way, really. I sound a mess and maybe I am.

This afternoon I picked up my car from the shop. Gotta rob some rent to pay for that. But that said the kids and I were grinning like fools to have the car back.

And we were driving home and laughing with my mom, talking about our cat, trying frantically to bury a slimy mushroom on the floor. And I realize that with the little ones by my side, I’m really at my best somehow. I don’t know I’ll ever do much better. It’s like a really small, ignoble little victory in my heart, that I’m really okay with this.

“and I am bored to death with it.”

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.

“Take away love and our earth is a tomb.”

Today the rains finally came.

I wrote another piece of prose for publication, and sent it off to an editor. Perhaps it will find an audience. I hope it will help someone. Perhaps it will bring me some food money for my family.

I am tired. My sewing business is growing. I don’t have time to entertain frivolous requests, and I will soon get to increase my prices. The solution is elegant; the logistics will take a bit of time.

Because the house, the children, the groceries, the volunteer work – all these are priorities over my craft. I smile at this because it will not always be this way. The children are growing and our lives change swiftly.

The children are growing. I am tired, and my children are growing faster than I am capable of keeping pace with. I practice a mindfulness breathing practice. Breathing in, I know I have a body. Breathing out, I smile at my body; I reconcile with it.

My days seem too short, and full of too much work. Something is amiss. The first Noble Truth. Something is amiss.

I am feeling less angry, more at peace with the events of this last year. I am thinking of my days before I found out terrible news, or should I say, hard news. Those days “before” are now a completely innocent memory to the pain and trouble I’ve wrestled with. This has tired me more than anything else. All that anger, and mistrust, and hatred, and fear. Near exsanguination. Crawling back to life now, a few moments in the sun here and there.

My child and I have an exercise. Every day I ask: Is there anything I have done today to hurt you, or to offend you? This is the one thing my child must answer honestly every day, no matter what. Today my child says, “You said ‘No’ to me, abruptly, and pointed your finger at me.” I hold my child close.

Both children put their arms around me, their hands in mine. Their trust in me and their love for me is something very precious. Is it wrong that in my mind I somehow fear to lose it, when it is likely one of those things that can somehow never be lost? A mystery no one can explain, that echoes through space and time with only itself, and the love cast out over many generations, to keep company and bear witness.

that marmalade quote I like so much

I made an error, recently. I relied on two entities who were sending checks. Both of them, insurance entities. Both of them insist the payment is on its way. They’ve told us this a little while now (months; weeks resp.). So far in our post office box blows tumbleweeds.

I counted on that money (that was my error). I bought the things our family needs. Now we are in a tight spot.

It’s easy to let a mistake slip into feeling sorry for oneself; into self-criticism. I can be patient with this a while.

But I also know an antidote to this, or at least a spiritual balm. An antidote to self-pity, to self-recrimination: work. Or as my friend John used to say, “chores”.

Not mindless work for the sake of doing it, but the work I should do no matter what. The work I’d do no matter what because it has to be done.

I have rice to cook, for an event I am helping with tonight. So. I saute up fine-minced garlic in olive oil and coconut oil. I set aside broth to simmer; season rice with pepper.

Dishes. Laundry. Yoga; coffee.

Breathe in; breathe out.

My son will wake soon. He will then be the next thing I get to attend to. I don’t know what our plans are for the day – our reduced circumstances have cancelled our road trip – but I do know I bought him lychee yesterday and he loved them as much as I thought he would. I do know I bought him a fifty-cent creampuff at a bánh mì shop and he saved that for this morning.

I do know that he and I will be provided for in some way – whether I can see it, or not. I often can’t.

mothers’ day

A lovely morning with the kids. Sewing. A lunch date with my family, and my mother. Some volunteer work. A visit from a friend. Holding my husband’s hand. About to get into bed with him, now. It’s been a long day!



This morning my mom came over and told me she was giving me the most beautiful thing she owned – some columbine she’d waited three years to bloom:


From Ralph and the kids: a coconut cream cake and a pop-out weasel card – both homemade! #wins


While I was out doing my volunteer thing, Ralph made a video. I love that he uses only: his voice, his uke, his car keys, and his wedding ring.



I’d love to write some awesome verbiage but today was a big day for me and I’m beat-ass tired.

G’night, my lovelies!

that spluttering pilot flame

It’s cold, grey, and rainy outside. Nels and I sit in the still-warm car with the engine off; waiting for the arrival of my daughter’s school bus.

My son climbs over and lays across my lap. He has just told a sly joke, re-shared a funny moment of a film we watched the night before. He loves making me laugh almost more than he loves anything. I kiss the top of his head; I smell his hair. We have a new shampoo for him: sugared violets. The sweet grittiness mixed with with the smell and warmth of my son, is incredible. I hold him for a while but I know he’ll move any moment. I hold him because for a brief bit I can feel wonderful, amazing.

I’m a bit down, this afternoon. It seems I have been surrounded lately by the plights of children being raised, and schooled, according to the Poisonous Pedagogy – a worldview so rooted in at least Western society that, until I began to awaken to it, I didn’t believe it was very real, very much alive! Today I was exposed to several examples, several reminders – the specifics are not something I’m interested in recording, just now and in this space – and I am a bit discouraged. It is incredible how quickly I start to feel isolated in my desire to provide something better for my children, for the world’s children, for all who suffer, and for my grand- and great-grandchildren and so on.

When it comes to my children, and the world’s children, I teeter out of emotional balance often; it is easy for me to be overwhelmed at how much we’re failing at our responsibilities. I can feel sick when I think how much our children depend on us; and how vulnerable they really are. I can feel so angry when I see an adult promoting and then defending manipulative, or even cruel, methodologies of child stewardship.

It is easy for me to get out of emotional balance, indeed.

Today, I am committing to addressing my imbalance. I am committing to re-subscribing to a journal that I find edifying (and, probably, I will resume my career writing for it, if they’ll have me). I am committing to taking more care in the consumption of communities, individuals, and conversations purporting strategies I don’t want to enact, and ideologies I don’t promote. I am committing to deepening my practice of humility, and to enjoying my own family (“minding my business”). I’ve worked hard to do right by my  family – my own little spiritual community – and the fruits are self-evident.

I am re-committing to Buddhist parenting; I am so glad it is there for me to take refuge in.

I am aware that over the years I have helped many parents to find their authentic self; to turn away from violence, cynicism, cold-heartedness, and callousness. If you’re one of those adults and you are reading here, know that I’m doing the best I can to practice the self-care I need, so I can keep up the general effort.

And thank you, as always, for your support.

the loss of an elder

My grandfather is dying. He will be gone very soon. My mother is flying to be there, and with her family, first thing tomorrow. I am staying here because I cannot afford to travel. And because my life is kind of a mess. Being broke is not really the worst, it just means I have less breathing room in some ways, and that includes plane fare and food out and a rental car or whatever.

He is my last remaining grandparent.

My grandfather was one of the first people I knew. I grew up with him until I was eight. He was very loving as a grandfather, having been a hardworking (and absentee-via-the-workplace) father. He and my grandmother were married to eachother for an epoch. They loved eachother very much although they were also alcoholic wrecks in a lot of ways. But they were MY wrecks and I love them more than I can say!

We lost my grandmother almost eleven years ago, when I was just barely a parent. At the time Ralph and I were just transitioning from a two-income no-kid life so we flew down there, down to Southern California. Would you believe it, my bosses at the time gave me a lot of grief for staying away for more than two days? I have not spent one moment regretting taking that time to be with my family while my grandmother died (one week).

I remember right after my grandmother passed, on the fourth of July, going out to breakfast with my mom, my grandpa, my husband and infant daughter… maybe one of my aunts. I was amazed to be with my grandfather when he’d only a few minutes ago become a widower. That is still a pretty intense memory.

I am the only grandchild to have given him great-grandchildren. My grandfather loved that I gave my son a Swedish name as his mother was Swedish – born there.

I am going to be thinking about my grandfather a bit and writing about him.

I can feel my husband watching me, wondering how I am feeling.

Sometimes I think my present life circumstances are so overwhelming it is amazing I am functioning, and even functioning with some grace and dignity. Yes, I am a busy woman and I work hard. But there are some things I did not ask or plan for and that I cannot control or stop happening, or even slow down.

I am starting to think that when stuff like this happens, I’m *supposed* to feel overwhelmed.

“When you can do nothing, what can you do?”


I am on the bike and it is cold, and it is dark. I am wearing my new SWEATERPANTS. They are amazing because they are a poisonous green-yellow and they are wool and so warm. From the waist-up I’m cold because that’s mostly cotton. Being cold and sweating at the same time. Ugh.

I don’t miss my volunteer work for nothing, unless I’m out of town. It is so dark and my headlamp is faint and I almost hit a curb. That would have sucked! I am cold cold cold and it feels like it’s taking me forrreeeeever to get where I’m going (it’s not, though).

I walk up the hill. I am on edge. A large dog, a goddamned HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, steps into the road ahead, a silhouette. When I pass the darkened yard he’s receded into I let out a long, surrendered breath, the fear of sharp-teeth and violent attack. But: nothing.

I pass by. Cars out with their lights and thinking of their warmth, presumably they have heaters, and I am cheered.

small stone #23
I awaken from a short sleep,
A child, singing in the bathroom.
Not my child!

presence / presents

My son is crying as he heads into the bathroom to brush his teeth. No – he’s not crying, he’s wailing. He’s devastated that I am making him take a trip with me. He wants to stay home.

I can’t leave him home alone. It doesn’t matter why really, because when you get down do it it’s just one of those grim realities of parenting that sometimes we have to do shit to our kids we don’t want to, or we have to make a crummy decision where someone’s going to be pissed, and sometimes it’s fatiguing. I still feel that panic, like somehow I should have said it another way or made smarter plans or, or, or bought him a pony – so he wouldn’t be upset. But the truth is life’s rough sometimes, and sometimes I’m just stunned into submission by it all. “At its best, Life’s a bitch,” as my now-departed friend Sandy used to say. I can’t protect my kids from all the ish and really, that’s not my job.

But I can gather him to me now and hold him and kiss him on the top of his head; his hair smells sweeter than anything I’ve known. “It’s okay, Little Guy,” I tell him now and he calms in my arms like a struggling little bird finding peace.

It’s cold outside but the house is warm and quiet. I’ve a busted-up vintage coat I picked up a few years ago for $20 at The Washington Store, one of those high-end tailored coats, not too fashionable really but it fits and it’s warm and I’m grateful as we head out into the brisk autumn air. My son is now bundled in layers upon layers, wrapped up, teeth brushed and face washed and now – sated, munching on a sandwich. Every couple nights Ralph bakes up a few more loaves of bread for the kids’ lunches and that fresh bread is immensely cheering no matter what else is going on.

And even now, my little boy, he cheers a little more that the car is warm and I’m buying him an eggnog at the coffee stand. Soon he is rattling along about this and that and I am using all my concentration to listen to him. My son’s mind is swift and enthusiastic and bright; a discrete little butterfly flitting from one flame-colored flower to the next. I am sluggish and distracted and pinched, mentally counting up dollars here and there and thinking of how much to put in the gas tank, how much to spend on dinner, how much I’ll need for postage. It seems I’m always aware I can’t let this stuff, or I won’t let this stuff, sap me from being here Now and being with my child. Being a present Mommy, the one person my kids want pretty much all the time or if not all the time, when they need some food or some love or some company. It’s a struggle and sometimes I feel like I’m drowning but I’ve never given up.

In the checkout I let Nels have my debit card and he pays for the purchases – “Like a Sir,” he says, pulling a mock-serious face and withdrawing the card from his wool coat’s breast-pocket. An older woman behind us in line is so thrilled at this little boy’s sweetness and energy that she can’t help but giggle at the slightest provocation, watching him with alacrity. Her delight in the child reminds me in looking at past pictures of my children, even pictures within the last year, that they grow so fast and I feel so much nostalgia, a kind of sadness, a kind of terror. I worry and fret and count pennies and make plans and it’s very, very easy for that to take the soul right out of me.

But I never have to let that happen. If I can just breathe in, right now. Just breathe, and Be.

small stone #4

rain-drenched earth and new mushrooms
my dog and I on a rural path.
He runs ahead, now and then swinging his head back to check my position –
very satisfied indeed

warts & all

Doubtless some of my readers have wondered why a few days ago I wrote about an excruciating experience in graphic emotional detail, but with little other disclosure. After a few days, and a few more developments, I am ready to share a little. Only a little, at this time.

Friday we found out that something assaultive, or more likely than not, more than one event, happened to one of our children. The discovery came as a complete shock to us and is taking an unpleasantly long time to accept. At this point, institutional and investigative entities have been employed. Because this is an incident that concerns one of our children, you can understand I don’t think the kids deserve me to sell out their privacy. Suffice to say my children and my family can benefit from support, and good, honest, safe-ass people in our lives.

One of the most agonizing aspects of this development is we do not have all the answers as to what has happened, and it may take time to get them. Also: unlike other sorrows I have gone through – like my father’s illness and death – this seems to have temporarily but painfully removed my ability to think about much else for very long. Life is suddenly surprisingly difficult – for me, at least. I can’t speak so much for the other three members of the family, who seem to be holding up well. I find myself going for many hours without being able to eat – then, like now, suddenly my appetite is back (ravenously so!). I have had two nights out of four that were just nightmarish, sleep-wise. I wished for Oblivion but I patiently waited that wish out.

I rode the bike about eight miles in a rainstorm again today for an appointment, and thankfully no one criticized me for this (just: don’t). You’d be surprised what I’m willing to do in hopes of restful sleep. (There is a lot I’m *not* willing to do, too!)

I am better off than I was Friday but I put that down to incredibly fervent prayer, and using the many types of support I have available to me.

Then there’s the “little” shit that is hard. It is frustrating that although it seems it would be easy for me to perform the tasks I normally do, I am having a great deal of trouble. Planning meals, doing the simplest of chores, let alone creative work or playtime with the kids, is almost entirely unmanageable at times. Compounding this is the fact that: doing work, within reason, is a good thing and I know it. Lying around watching Netflix and trying to blot out my brain – not so much.

One of the things I am still functional at is volunteer work. I do this – again, within reason, as I have responsibilities to myself and my family. I can’t tell you how meaningful it is to me to do something useful that doesn’t just serve myself and my family. I am daily in a place of gratitude for this opportunity.

I am definitely in that One-Day-At-A-Time space. Soon I will have experience to share, and will be able to share others. But I’m patiently waiting for that to come on its own time.

Thank you for sharing this time with me.

seven days are more than enough for others

“When you’re here eating your salad rolls and we’re sitting up here like a King and Queen and watching TV, and we’re cuddled together – it’s like Paradise,” my son tells me.*

I. Completely. Agree.

Our family is painting a room downstairs – so at night we sleep on a huge, makeshift three-part bed that spans most the attic bedroom. There are like four thousand blankets piled on this massive pallet and in the morning I get my coffee and my two kids are sleeping in tousles and All Is Right In The World. I keep trying to explain how it works and I have no idea why I do this, except perhaps I love to be understood by Creation itself, and in part that is you, you who are reading. Because there is simply nothing more important to me than my relationship with Spirit, and that came to me in large part by my children, I do not see how anything else could have been possible. My children are the only two people I am completely relaxed around; they are the only two people I have total and utter intimacy with, for my part. I may reach easier intimacy with other human beings or I may not; it doesn’t matter because that taste of heaven is wonderful and all I need, although I am thirsty, always, for more.

Although – I hardly saw my children today. They were busy with their stuff and Ralph and I were busy with our stuff (work in the downstairs bedroom,  some clothing construction, house-sitting while the landlord delivered a “new” fridge, etc.). It’s only a little after midnight, now, and it’s time to come together and share some of our love for one another.


Tomorrow I take our son to the orthodontist. A new adventure for all of us!

* If you want to feel better about the Universe and all its doings, I suggest you text-subscribe to the stream of some of the things my son says.