"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Friday, April 7, 2017

Lucid Dreaming, Joy and Exegesis

I have learned the skill of lucid dreaming, knowing that "this is just a dream" is a useful edge when I am trapped in a nightmare like I was early this morning. I can change elements of the story occasionally and if that doesn't work I can exit the dream on command. I woke myself, eject-button-style, when I realized that the story-line (telling my boys to clear the table, item by item by item while they ran off to other parts of the house after each fork or napkin) was only imaginary and that I didn't actually have to walk through that scenario in my sleep as well as in my waking hours. I woke up and lay there in the dark laughing about what a cheated dreamer I was, my brain having nothing better to conjure up for either dream material (if it was a dream) or scary nightmare fright (if it was a nightmare....which I decided was more likely). How lame!

A listened while I related my silly, exhausting dream, annoyed that I had experienced nothing beyond my hum drum real life. I chuckled at the joke that my own daily living had passed for nightmare material to my brain. Not scary, no....but draining and negative, for sure! And then, A said, "Yeah, you know, I'm struggling with that same attitude of unwilling participation with math with one boy right now, each problem means dragging him back into the task and forcibly directing his attention. I wish I knew what to do to fix it." I mused that I had been studying on that for quite a while myself! How to get  the boys to not only do their work but also to learn to cultivate a good attitude while they do it? Oh, to get them to be self-motivated with desire to complete the things they are given to do, with a love of the feeling of satisfaction, the value of industry and skill to find joy in the simple tasks! I get so endlessly sick of the starry-eyed yearning my boys have for video games and the heel dragging, eye rolling attitude they have about helping the family with any kind of work!

I lay there in the dark in my bed and there was silence for a second and then I added off-hand that despite all my searching, the only technique I had turned up was the super bland, usual "leading-by-example thing." We could improve that....and suddenly I was reeling mentally in deep conviction. How often do my boys hear me complain to my friends about the endless laundry pile or sigh heavily before I start washing the mountain of dishes, put off making my own bed because even the process seems discouraging to me or gripe at the end of the day about my righteously earned feeling of weariness??? Oh dear. So, I have no clever ways to teach loving work (bribes don't work so don't even say that....they only teach love of the bribe) except to learn the lesson myself and demonstrate it to my sons so that see and feel around how it is to love your work, to enjoy your own output and to feel useful in your own mundane place. What if my children never absorbed the lesson until adulthood when they were responsible for reminding themselves to work and only then learned to be cheerful about mowing the lawn, helping with carrying in the groceries and picking up Lego after Lego after Lego? Would it be worth it? Would I put in the effort for that end-goal? Absolutely. One thousand times yes!!!! What if I knew that my boys would never, ever "get it" but my own life would change and I would have the virtue I so badly want them to develop? Is it worth it to work simply for my own improvement and the knowledge that I could live my life with the ability to find warmth and goodness in the things I now claim are the bane of my existence? Yes, if it were a sure thing, I'd do it then too.

Suddenly, my mind flew to my friend who I had been wracking my brain to help. This particular pal had been complaining about the grind of her life, the way everything seemed the same and she had nothing to look forward to. I had been thinking about how to suggest ways for her to add thrills to her existence. Could she paint like I do? Write on the side? Get away for ladies nights out with friends once a month? Maybe she was in the wrong career and taking destiny in her hands and changing jobs no matter the cost and work was the thing! This particular friend is rather taken with scriptural advice so I had been looking through scripture for something to support my intended suggestions. Alas, I had been able to find only instructions to: "work at whatever you do with your whole heart," "render your services with good will, working as to the Lord," have a "cheerful heart [which is] good medicine while a crushed spirit dries up the bones," "enjoy the good of all your labor for it is the gift of God," "commit your work to the Lord and your plans will succeed," "work with enthusiasm as if working for the Lord," "excel in your work because you know your labor is not in vain," know that "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" and know that "all hard work brings a profit."
And if you can believe it, I had stopped my exegesis there in a spirit of annoyance at not being able to find anything useful. *head desk*

Here, in the early hours of the morning....the words barely out of my mouth that the only thing I had thought of to help my boys was the boring suggestion to lead by example, and with a litany of scriptural inducements towards humility and joy in mundane work running ticker-tape-style through my mind...I laughed out-loud. Maybe my decision to categorize the dream as a nightmare and my reaction to eject in disgust from the plot were illustrative of something important and maybe it had been given to me as a dream to help me reexamine something I needed to learn. Isn't even teaching and re-teaching unwilling pupils, correcting their work kindly over and over and over....the work I have been given? Why am I complaining about this? Why am I not working to find joy there?

I had intended to teach honesty to my kids and share vulnerably that "Mommy understands your feeling of sloth" and I had accidentally stopped there and not progressed to teaching the vulnerability of Mommy wanting to learn love of industry too, and the authenticity of the fact that sometimes I need to change my own attitude to make things go the way they ought to. There is nothing in any of these things that is actually bad, I'm lucky to have so many dishes to wash, so many clothes to fold, to have all these little boys to teach and to have a husband who humbly asks me to pick up the slack he can't carry instead of doing in all himself or hiring assistance. These are gifts. I need to shoulder my lucky burdens like I'd pile so many presents into the car after a Christmas visit....with gratitude and cheer, showing my sons, my id and my ego the truth of intentional, grateful industry and how it triumphs over the lie of drudgery.

"Work hard, but not just to please your masters when they are watching. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart.
Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people."
Ephesians 6:6


Friday, March 31, 2017

The Pre-Teen Prep Zone

The other day Ru went off for a big boy day in the redwoods with friends, no mama oversight, not even any drop-off....just a handed him a packed lunch and waved as he hopped in the car with friends and took off. Its a wild new phase. I feel the tug of the crazy scheduling stuff yanking on us a little more as he gets older and we start to dip our toes into the world of the pre-teen, more independent zone. I am trying to help him get out on his own a little more and make sure I provide opportunities for stuff to do and space to build his own interests and world but keep the center of our life calm, teach boundaries and continue to help him nurture connection to home and those who love him. He has been texting with one of his grandmas this year, spending time having solo phone conversations a little with his other grandparents and writing private handwritten letters to one of his cousins.

There is also a lot of cozy family stuff still happening here at home to keep us grounded. We have folded Sabbath dinners into our life and moved them around from Saturday to Sunday and finally landed back on the traditional Friday night with our tea party tradition melded with the Sabbath meal. We have been hiking once a week together as a family which is a good practice in being outdoors and free together, learning about our California environment together and practicing understanding both parents and their differing styles of activity and direction. We have also been doing lots of read alouds. We are reading the Harry Potter series now (book 3) and also in the middle of Swallows And Amazons. We just finished The BFG which was really popular. We also try to take afternoon walk together through our neighborhood in the old time slot for quiet hour. As the boys get older I find that I am struggling to find more space for physical activity than for quiet. There seem to be so many times I tell the kids to just be quiet and to occupy themselves and to sit still and listen and to apply themselves and less opportunity to push them towards physical exertion. These are a few of the little home rituals that I am building in to try to keep life sane and warm, and build connection. Special Time with each boy, Family Meetings, outings to make sure that each kid feels celebrated occasionally and date night for Aaron and I are works in progress but are also part of simple routines for connection.

I have been watching Ru get more independent and thinking about all the ways I can support that leap to individual space and yet help him learn to respect advice, work towards closeness and feel understood and valued. I have the following on my reading list:
He has taken over cleaning up the table and the floor under it after our evening meal and I have given him Pom as an apprentice to teach about the job. He decides what needs to be done to clean up and simultaneously gives directions to Pom and works himself. Teaching someone smaller is a good way to learn. He's also learning more and more in school. He's reading pretty fluidly and pleasurably on his own and he has been reading chapter books in his own time and we also have one that he is reading aloud to me (for fun and for the sake of correcting inflection, rhythm and pronunciation on trickier words), A continues to tutor him along in math (I'm impressed....fractions at 10!) and he is writing papers and diagramming sentences this year for the first time in conjunction with our co-op. So much new stuff. This week we added a run around the block every day, and when I told him his new assignment he said "Once? I think three times is better." So three times it was. Here we go racing around this new block in our lives, trying to stay tender to all the learning and then newness and then beauty and let go of my fear, relinquish the worries and open my hands to the strange things I feel intimidated by. 


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Italian Dreams At The Equinox

      Happy First Day of Spring, Friends!!!!
 This past week we had a night when it was truly warm out....the bikes and scooters got hauled out, the shorts got tried on and the shoes got kicked off at the door.  In no time at all, after a little shouting over the fence to each other the neighbor kids and my boys had made themselves into a little pack and were running through our house and yard and then back to the neighbors yard hatching plans for making things out of cardboard while I worked on making a pie for dessert. Yes, they shredded cardboard all over the living room, yes they hurt each other's feelings a couple of times and yes my oldest preferred to play video games instead of playing but it was amazing. They were unbelievably happy and it felt so right listening to their silly ideas and happy banter, watching them help and inspire the little ones in the group together and then hollering over the fence to their grandma and mom when I sent them home at dinner time. What fun! I pray all the time that my house becomes a place that other kids want to come to, a place where people get together and laugh a lot and breath deep, where they can be themselves and feel comfort and scheme up plans together. I hope there are many more days like this ahead of us.

It truly has started to warm up to what feels to me (Californian import alert!) like summer weather. We've had a couple of family dinners on our picnic table under the lemon tree again and I've put on shorts myself once. Yesterday the high was 83 degrees. Pretty amazing! I am sure it will dip back down into the 60's again and we'll have more rain before its truly time for warm weather, this is only a preview. Its pretty delicious to feel the sun again and to feel comfortable kicking off our shoes indoors and out and to even feel hot again. I'm ready. The roses have started to put out their flush of red-tinged new leaves, the winter chanterelles have petered out beneath the oak trees and the plum trees have finished their bloom and dropped their white petals all over the neighborhood. Its time to start scouting out last year's forest fire locations in the mountains to see if I can get in on the legendary spring morel hunts that happen as the hills warm up. And its time to start putting in the garden and figuring out what trellis to get to support jasmine vine on the corner of the garage.

We are going to be taking a trip to Italy this spring....a big, life-dream type drive down the coast of the Mediterranean after a good soaking visit with A's brother and family in the north part of the country. They are creative, homeschooling, free-wheeling, deep-living folks so I forsee late night discussions, amazing early morning coffee on the balcony and cousins running around planning highjinks every minute of the day. The boys talk daily about this part of the trip and are at least as excited as we are about the visiting family together. I think they will also love the chance to see so many ancient and beautiful sights but, they have no concept of that kind of a trip. I have tried to explain a couple of times what an amazing thing it would be to see Da Vinci's work in person or walk around the Colosseum but the boys seem  kind of meh about that whole aspect, but they have no scope and also no experience. It might hit them once we are there....or, (and I must be prepared for this) it might never strike them as particularly cool. This is our trip really, they are along and we hope to draw them into the wonder and joy whenever possible but they have their own adult life and travel futures ahead of them too. Its easy to make your kids the focus and forget that this is your one life and the best thing is sometimes to live your own life with intention and gusto and let them watch.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Calling My Sisters In The Eye Of The Storm

Last night I made my first ever trip to the Emergency Room with Pom. A glass floor lamp fell on him and cut open his lip in two spots and it took a little while to clot. He wouldn't hold still and let me examine it for glass and was really panicking so, older brothers and I rushed around the house collecting extra shoes and my purse and everyone's jackets and made a panicky little trip to our local ER. He was fine. No stitches, no glass in the cut.

This afternoon a close friend's little toddler had a serious finger laceration and a we had a mutual shaky stomach prayer session over jerky texts. It flooded me right back into that scary spot I was in last night. I was so taken back in by the undertow of the feeling that I stopped what I was doing and told the women who happened to be around me and we stood there with mama tears in our eyes and prayed out all our worries and then hugged each other and hugged each other some more.

Then this evening another close pal reported that she was just in a serious accident and although the car is smashed up and she is feeling very wobbly emotionally....they are all okay. Whew.

I am tempted to say that it is all too much. Enough with the emergencies and the accidents and feeling vulnerable as a mama. Sheesh! But, you know....I was talking to my new friends today at our homeschool co-op and we were discussing emergencies and I mentioned that I sometimes worry about who to call if I need a hand, if I can't reach my husband, if I have to troubleshoot a scenario that's scary...and we all laughed when I realized out loud that the right people to call are the other women, patiently listening to me and also dealing with this kind of thing. We mamas have to have each other's backs. Its great if you have a spouse who is willing to field questions from his desk at work or a mother-in-law who can drop everything and come over to drive you to the doctor but when in doubt, a person who is in that same boat and knows that mama panic personally is the right person to call. There's something very bonding and healing about going through emergencies together, about the feminine connective instinct to nurture which echoes and calms your own reflexes and about the community of collective feminine experience open to your needs in a moment of desperation. I certainly have no desire to wish more emergencies on my community but, I'd love to be equipped to help my sisters in the neighborhood and the other mamas in my co-op. I'd also love to build an instinct to call another woman or two when things are rough and plan to lean in to the safety net of others when I emergencies crop up.

Sitting here thinking about this way I want to live made me remember the time last summer when my next door neighbor lady had an emergency and I happened to see the rescue vehicles arrive. I peeked over the fence nervously and smiled and waved at her when she was scared and I ended up helping her call her daughter, bringing her a cup of calming tea and just sitting with her and giving her hugs until her daughter arrived. I forgot that I did that for her and how good it felt. If it felt good to me then I have remember that it will be just as powerful for others when I let them help me. Yes, I only have one car, I don't have medical training, I don't know the area super well but, I know people who can help with all those concerns....and I can provide Bandaids, mugs of soothing tea or lend my phone out to a mama who needs help. Lets have each other's backs, lets call when we are scared and lets quite trying to be self-sufficient and step into interdependence. This is womanhood.


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Springtime Shifts

Its been a good winter....again, and I am loping on into a New Year, February already a new notch in my belt. There are big fat buds on the apple tree that leans over our fence, the snails are out doing war  with the cole crops in my garden every night and the acacia trees are flouncing along with their yellow blossoms all down the freeways. Its the first of the really solidly spring blooms...before the poppies are spilling down the hills like orange sprinkles or the bottle brush trees are a standing in fierce crimson array on every street corner. So wonderful to live in a place where winter means green, and lush and damp fog laden moss. I have to get my tail down to the redwoods again, haven't been for a couple of shameful months...the trees call in this kind of weather.

I have noticed that in the waste space along the freeways there are some old forgotten orchard trees...I saw them for the first time last year and assumed they were cherries but missed a chance to go see them close up because we were so busy with baseball. They are just opening to peak bloom right now and I managed to park and run over to check some out on a side street near an overpass. They are not cherries, but maybe some kind of plum or peach. I am curious to see what/ if any fruit develops as the summer goes on. Lovely to feel homey enough where I live to be able to start picking out little curiosities like that to keep tabs on.

I am starting to feel pretty settled. I have places for most everything in the house, I am starting to feel like our possessions are trimmed down to an amount that more closely match this space. I have people to call in case we are trouble, know the neighbors, have the mailman's name down and even occasionally run into folks we know at the grocery store. Its such a good feeling to nest in more firmly and feel the amazing mix of wonder at the novelties but comfort over the known.

Spring is coming and I am working on tuning up my life and schedule...working out all the little ways things can be tweaked and adjusted and let go and removed. Isn't it wonderful to remember that we are the stewards of our own lives?

Here's What's New Right Now:

  • I have been making meals for families with new babies or sick members at our church and homeschool group as a little way to contribute to the community. 
  • I am cutting back on fruit and coffee and going back to a more strict interpretation of paleo eating.
  • I am trying a new sleep schedule (to bed before my husband) to try to get 8 hours and still have morning quiet time alone.
  • Minimization has come back into my life in a firm manner.
  • Watching the boys play piano is inspiring and I have been planning to get my fiddle back out for tune up and learning.
  • I am painting weekly now thanks to standing babysitter dates.
  • We are not doing baseball this spring.
  • Taking Zumba in addition to yoga.
  • I am signing up for another year with Classical Conversations.
  • We are planning a big trip to Italy this spring!
  • I cut a bunch of length off my hair after it kept breaking and breaking. 

What are you shifting and changing in your life this season?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Electric Blankets, Furnaces and Other Warm Thoughts

Our furnace has made me so glad that we live in California. The wires got chewed by rodents and suddenly everything flickered and then cooled down to a rather brisk temperature. At first we thought maybe the kids were messing with the thermostat but we quickly realized that it was something bigger than that and our heat was caput. Its usually pretty warm here and the cool temp in the winter is usually kind of 60ish but its been in the 30's at night and the 50's during the day this week. This morning when I got up to make breakfast I could see my breath in the kitchen. I was laughing over the fact that I live in California and I was turning on the oven and standing there rubbing my hands over the opened door before I started breakfast. It feels so cold when your body has become used to 60-70 degrees all of the time.
 It does feel rather seasonal though! I have to say that I grew up pretty prepared for this. It makes me think of wood fires and power outages, stacking logs by the cookstove and getting into bed with our coats on when we came home from a trip away during the winter. There's something good about learning to be a little bit tough. Coffee and tea are amazing when its a frosty 40 something in your kitchen. Also, snuggling with your man never felt more alluring.
 A bought me a heating pad for Christmas, though I am embarrassed to admit that this California girl wanted one in the very worst way. It has been the most delicious treat to slip it into my spot under the quilt and turn it on as I do that last pick-ups around the house and brush my teeth. By the time I get into bed, its made my side of the bed into a glowing little oasis. I am now contemplating an electric blanket.
 My grandma had electric blankets, I think she really was the only person I knew who had them. I sometimes could use one when I slept overnight at her house. She would let me have one but I couldn't sleep with it on all night. We would go to sleep in side by side twin beds, the wind off of Lake Michigan making the gentle whoosing sound that it always does. I would lie under that electric blanket and we would make gentle conversation together before sleep: "What do you think we should do tomorrow?" or "What shall we have for breakfast?" It was always a little bit of a guessing game with Grandma, trying to think of something that would be special and make her feel inspired but nothing too demanding or rich feeling which she would never have been okay with. My grandma was a slightly imposing woman who wanted to be seen and elegant and illustrious but practical and frugal at the same time. I would float my ideas her way in the quiet room, both of us tucked in up to our chins, while the waves outside shushed rhythmically. She would mostly listen to me and then say. "Aha!" in response like she often did when I told her my plans or my thoughts. And then pretty soon she'd tell me that it was time to turn out the light and she'd remind me to turn off my electric blanket with a click, we'd goodnight each other and then I was lying there in the dark, wiggling my toes under the fading warmth and listening to the waves rock me to sleep.


Friday, January 6, 2017

Poetry Friday: Three Kings, One Mama and A Poem

Today is a good day to have a brilliant idea. Its Epiphany and Poetry Friday! Today is the final day of Christmas, which in our house means we celebrate by taking down the holiday decorations, putting the house back to order and moving on....but it also means that I want to take the time to actually mark Epiphany itself as a meaningful day, not just as a day to end the meaning. Three Kings Day is when we remember that the Christ child was not just for Bethlehem but for the far-flung world, he was visited by these kings who came from some mysterious,  far-off, not Jewish land.....summoned by stars and irresistible telegraph messages from the sky. Epiphany is a day when we remember the appearing of this celestial "idea" in the sky, the appearing of Christ to the far nations of the world and the appearing of these kings as guests of The Holy Family.

Its a day to celebrate light, as we remember the star that called for inclusion, and Christ who is named Light of the World. We will light our Advent wreath one last time and we will light luminaries outside our door too. Its a day to celebrate guests and remember the role that these strangers had in the story and the part that warmly welcoming them played as The Holy Family opened their door to them and brought them into their house and life. We will chalk our door tonight with a holy blessing for our home and all who come in and go out in 2017. Chalking the door also echoes back to Passover and the many Jewish parents who marked their doors with a sign of protection on that important night. We will also have an apple gallette with a bean hidden in it....that lucky person getting to wear the crown around the house for the rest of the evening, just for fun. And we'll sing a few more carols around the piano and making sure to hit We Three Kings. I'll read the story of the magi's visit at bedtime as fodder for sweet dreams and we'll be off and running towards our New Year, kissing the holiday season goodbye and looking on towards Lent.

I love the church calendar, the way it pulls me into history, the way it marks our whirling round and round and ties our revolutions into sacred time. I love the reminders to tell these stories to my children, to focus on things like blessing our home and remembering light in our lives. I love the cultural habits that bring gentle little traditions to our life and maybe even a sense of who our people are ancestrally.

Epiphany Song

On this day of eureka,
Bright ideas, lit by starlight
Infuse amongst us like
The fragrant smoke of incense
Let us know clearly.
There is an open door with a
Blessing sifting onto the heads
That enter, like chalk dust
Filtering down in a beam of sun,
Let us love each soul.
We look for the exotic among us,
The sage voices of other lands,
People baring their hearts of gold
Hands fragrant with scents of love.
Let us seek freshness.

The prettiest pastry we ate this year, inspiration for our Epiphany pastry!
Enjoy the collection of other poetry contributions, some original and some inspiration from greats at our host site this week Teacher Dance.