Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Christmas, December 25, 2017

Yes, beloved, Christmas does fall on the 25th every year.

***

Beren asked to sleep over my parents' house. He had said he would like to a week ago, and we all thought it was a joke or something he simply said. 

And then Christmas night, he slept over. Back at home, I waited for a call to come back and pick him up. No call. 

***

Jared and I sat near the woodstove, talking in the semi-darkness. It has been awhile. There was alot to talk about. 

I had carrying some deep feelings for some time. Way back things, feelings I have not been able to resolve. 

You know how you hear that you just have to "sit with something". I have f*cking sat with this set of feelings. I have sat on them. I have looked at them. Looked at how I thought about the feelings, felt about the feelings. I have examined myself. I have dragged the feelings around and I have socked the feelings in the eye. I have boxed 'em up, and periodically taken them of the shelf, and said, hello. 

Recently, I wanted to say goodbye. To send those feelings up to the spirits and let the wind carrying them away and rain them down in diluted snow and rain until they were non-material, beautiful and different.

Jared listened until I was finished and quietly said, "Trust your feelings." This is not something I had yet done. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Girl in Guitar Store

J.B. Kline and Son, Lambertville, NJ
December 22, 2017

Enter through the cafe, walk to the back, climb up narrow steps to the guitar shop. At the doorway, a hand written sign lists this week's new arrivals and sales. It is taped to a shelf at eye level and lists brands I recognize from years of being around music, musicians, and trips to guitar shops. A couple items are scratched off, marked SOLD in red.

A group of men, in their fifties and up, jam on acoustic guitars and harmonica at the front of the store. The gregarious owner exclaims to Jared, "I know you!" Jared pauses. "No you don't," he replies. Skip an eighth beat. "But, my name is Jared," he adds, extending his hand to shake. "Ok! What are you looking for?" the owner says.

Jared asks about resonator guitars, and he sits down to play a few that the owner brings him.

I am in a familiar situation. I do not find myself in this one often anymore. Girl with guy in music store. Nothing to do.

***

My last guitar was a Hondo which is a knock off of some brand. To me, it looked like most or many electric guitars, except for Gibson SGs and Flying Vs. I departed ways with my old Hondo back in Queens. A greying (I am probably about his age now) rocker who collected weird, crummy guitars bought it from me at a sidewalk sale outside our apartment building.

I don't miss my guitar. I miss the idea of it. I wish I could I see it, and then give it back to the guy in the Queens. The Hondo probably likes the smell of cigarettes and the company of oddly detuned, partially strung guitars. The Hondo probably was a better life now.

I don't miss my violin either. I see it leaning against a cabinet or on top of a dresser. It moved around. I thought of taking it out of the case a couple days or weeks or sometime ago. In the midst of a big house clean up, Jared held up the violin in its case, "To the attic?" he asked. "I was thinking of taking it out," I said. "Ok."

I did. I unzipped the case. I hardly looked at it. I plucked its out of tune strings. They hee hawed back at me. I zipped up the case. "I never want to tune this thing ever again," I said to Jared. "Ok." And to the attic he and violin went. Jared came back. The violin did not.

***

Girl. Guitar store. Nothing to do. I pluck at the violins. They hee haw. I shudder inwardly. I strum interesting looking guitars and look at the prices. I think: Cheap. Expensive. I look at the Gibson SG. I think: Ian MacKaye.

***

I remember a skater from high school, Christian B., who would drive to my house with my boyfriend. They were the best of the skateboarders around. Christian would ask, "Wanna watch us skate?" "Um, no, but I'll take a ride."

I'd get in the car, and we would drive to a parking lot somewhere. Milford, maybe. "Wanna hold my flannel?" Christian would ask. "Um, no." Christian was mildly surprised like I was a kid who honestly did not want to take a yellow lollipop from a kindly, elderly, completely beneficent, not at all weird bank teller. Or, maybe like I was about to be knighted by King Arthur of the Flannel but decided 'nah'.

***

The music jam continues. I quietly sing along with their energetic versions of Jim Croce's You Don't Mess Around with Jim.

One of the fellows in the shop compliments my jacket. It's red, black, and white and patterned like a Turkish rug. It even includes fringe trim. "Got it in a thrift store in Queens," I say. "Nice ensemble," he says. "Yeah, this vest. I got this in Hungary." "Oh!" he says.

He drifts by a second time. This time he bears a nearly empty box of chocolate and offers it it everyone in the tiny store. There are a few shoppers. A woman picks out a strap. A small group chats with the owner. I pick the last dark chocolate which is located under the guy's thumb. "Oh, dark chocolate!" he says.

I try to think of something friendly to say, and this is what I say: "Yup, that's what I like." He drifts away again. He is the talker in the group, or maybe he is drunk.

I am now beginning to enjoy myself. I find myself looking at the SG again because it is one of the few familiar sights that make me think. Ian MacKaye .

The candy guy budges past again and makes more conversation. "Do you play, too?" I ask. "Oh, yeah," he replies and bustles towards a vacant seat in the circle of musicians. He gestures to an empty stool. Some hands me a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. I swig it halfway down as they belt out a blues tune with lyrics about another Long Leg Woman.
 
I smile. This is better than any past trip to Sam Ash or other guitar shops filled with drippy, slouchy dudes. 

Jared comes by. "Do you need help with that beer?" He swigs it.

I ask the harmonica player in between songs, "How did you learn to play?"

I sense the players are ready to get back to it, but I couldn't help myself from asking. I have wanted to play harmonica for decades, maybe since hearing the song Desire by U2. 

The musicians politely wait while the harmonica player tells me this: "I'd go in an hour early to work every day. I'd sit in my car and play along with music until I found the right harmonica to play along with the song." His thin red hair brushes his shoulders as he talk to me.

"You gotta pick real slow music to start. You work on single notes. I found myself some cheap harmonicas. Do you play anything or sing?" He looks at me with friendly, squinty eyes.

"I used to play guitar, then violin. Now, I sing," I say smiling.

"Ok, well, you have an ear then," he says. I have doubtful thoughts about that. "I had some notation, kinda like tablature for guitar, but for harmonica it's a little different. It's numbers. The music goes by so fast. It doesn't work. I threw all that stuff out. Just threw it out. So, one day it just happened. I just got it." He mentions the song and artist that bore witness to his breakthrough, but I missed it. I some parking lot, this excellent harmonica player got it.

"Thanks. Thanks. Thanks alot," I say. "I really appreciate it."

The musicians play again. I finish the beer. Jared squeezes onto the stool with me.

I look at a newspaper on the amp next to me. One article is about holiday lights and shopping in Peddler's Village in Lahaska. I remember that I wanted see the lights with Beren and my friend, Robin, and her two sons. The writing tells me that Giggleberry Faire, a kids play space, is a good option for entertainment. I heard from another mother that it is hell.

Below the holiday shopping article is another. This one is about J.B. Kline celebrating thirty years of something. I don't read it. Pictured is the guitar store's owner.

We listen to another song. I am enjoying myself. Cheap chocolate and beer. Cheap music. Jared and I head back down the steps and out into the moist evening air. I am a little buzzed and cheerful.

***

At home, I pick up the harmonica that has been sitting in Beren's bin of musical instruments. I inhale and then exhale into the harmonica. A deep, singular C note comes out.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

This Blog

I am going to migrate this blog to a different platform. I am. I will. In early 2018.

Solstice

Shortest day, longest night. It is hard. Sun, come back. I am thankful that tomorrow will be brighter. I just have to wait out today.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Greenhouses I Have Dressed and Undressed

 Wiggle wire Quigong

 Stretching the Film with Goldenrods, December 18, 2017

Greenhouse I, March 30, 2013 (mixed media, work in progress)

 Greenhouse I with Men (Father-in-law and Friend), January 6, 2013

 Greenhouse I with Man and Child (Husband and Son), March 16, 2013

 Greenhouse I with Man and Child, March 16, 2013

 Greenhouse II with Man, April 25, 2014 (work in progress, PVC, rebar)

  Greenhouse II with Woman, April 25, 2014 (work in progress, PVC, rebar)

  Greenhouse II with Woman, June 5, 2014 (work competed, temporary exhibition, PVC, rebar, garbage)

  Greenhouse III installation materials, December 14, 2014

Greenhouse III with Parents and Husband, January 1, 2015

  Greenhouse III installation materials, December 14, 2014

Greenhouse III (r) and IV (l), January 6, 2016
Plants at left covered in extra film because temps were going to dip down and we hadn't covered the house yet.

 Greenhouse III and Man in Snow, March 5, 2015 

 Greenhouse III and Woman, March 5, 2015 (interior)

 Greenhouse III and Boy in Snow, March 5, 2015

"F*cking f*ck f*ck," my husband said as the wiggle wire popped out of place. I laughed quietly. "You know, this would be  easier if you pulled down on the shade cloth," he added. His head was partially buried under sagging greenhouse plastic. I put down my section of wiggle wire and helped him finish his section of wire.

Minutes later, I said, "F*cking f*ck f*ck," as my wire popped its track. Jared laughed. I laughed. "It's better than wet, mucky lath," I said.

"Oh, lath. I hate that stuff," he replied.

Years ago, we used lath to hold greenhouse film in place. It's a tedious, difficult method - the film is rolled around the lath which is then nailed to the greenhouse baseboard.

Ideally, each spring we yanked up the lath with pry bars and hammers. Usually spring is as busy as (apologies for the dated references here, both of which have partially gone the way of the dinosaur) Black Friday with a new Cabbage Patch Kid on the shelf or midnight at Tower Records upon the release latest Metallica album.

Prying up lath in spring was necessary. We saved the film for reuse. Every penny counted, and our labor time was cheaper than cash money. In the lath days, I wasn't sure what my time was worth. Nothing and everything.

Time. It was precious, irreplaceable and also filled with the rightful needs of our then toddler-aged son. Intact greenhouse film. Precious, too. Lath. Wet, grimy, slimy, cracking. Nails. Rusty, bent, cracked and bent heads.

My labor generated material results - seedlings to pot up and plants to sell. My labor created a hospitable growing environment - a greenhouse covered with film in the winter, or a greenhouse without film in the summer. Spring, that tricky hustle time, a hospitable environment is just enough film to protect our tender plants from frosty temperatures and from too hot conditions that cause trouble like leggy growth, insect pests, bolting and blooming before the retail sales season.

Our first greenhouse was small. It took days and days and friends and friends to assemble and erect. When we packed up our the contents of our moldy cottage to move to our own farm we packed up our rusty and muddy nursery, too. The greenhouse was disassembled by friends and friends. I marveled at how our friend, David yanked the lath up so quickly. "Years of carpentry work," he said simply.

We closed on the house in April - spring! Once we moved, we put up simple PVC shade houses for the growing season. We laid out groundcloth. Jared pounded 4' rebar into the rocky ground while I prepared and cemented PVC pipes together. With a PVC ridge pole zip tied in place, we stretched shade cloth over the structure. We moved our plants out of the Uhaul and into their temporary home.

Come fall, we needed greenhouses that could take a snow load. "I am never doing lath again," Jared declared. "We're getting wiggle wire." No arguments. The lath went to other projects and bonfires.

Our dear friend, Chris, and a mother and her homeschooling brood, heard our call to put up the greenhouse. Jared had already pounded the bars into the ground. This all ages crew put up the baseboard and erected the arches. Some of the kids came inside and played with Beren (who was getting sick) while I made lunch and rose hip syrup with one of the older girls.

Later, my mother and father helped. Together, we installed the wiggle wire track with metal-tapping screws. My father lay on the ground in his Carhartts with his cordless drill in hand. Jared did the same with his newly purchased cordless impact driver ("They have a warranty on the batteries," he told me). We pulled the film over the house and began to thread the wiggle wire into the track.

This process reminds me of stretching an immense silk screen except there is wind and dirt. There are no artists, nor art but there is skill. When the film is stretched out, goldenrod stalks threaten to stab holes into it. When the film is lofted over the arches, the wind starts. However, putting up greenhouse film a bit sloppy is more forgiving than a less than taut silk screen.

In the cold, the new wiggle wire punished our fingers, especially our thumbs. We wrestled the highly tensioned last inches of each four foot long piece of wire with pliers and small vice grips. Greenhouse up. Enter the cold weather. The only maintenance until spring is knocking off especially heavy snow loads, and lately, a mid-winter watering when the days are too warm and sunny.

In subsequent years, putting on the film has become easier. One year, I stretched a the shade cloth alone. The wiggle wire still tortures my fingers. Every year I have to choose to protect my fingers or not - gloves on and go slow, or gloves off and go fast.

"F*cking f*ck f*ck." Gloves off this year. My hands are red and dry, catching on synthetic fabrics. Soil is under my fingernails and cuticles. Tomorrow evening, I will joke with my kung fu teacher and classmates about my reverse French manicure. The last pieces of yesteryear's lath and on a cart parked next to the bonfire. All is well. We are ready for the solstice.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Clunky love letter

At times, my husband astounds me, in a good way. I am really lucky. I couldn't do it without him.

We are classic "do it the hard way" kind of people. Maybe if we hadn't met, our lives would less "Rocky Road" and more "Easy Street".

It is worth day dreaming about, now and then, a different life. (I so badly want to weave in a Nightmare on Elm Street reference next but that is real, real bad writing and wierd.) I have no regrets. I wince recalling an estimated dozen memories.

But regrets, nah, not really. I have a husband that can repair the steps and play guitar, and live in this messy house with me. We share so much: a recently pumped septic system, a kid with (finally) combed hair, an increasingly muddy pathway to our front door, and probably a few other things, too. Not too much to complain about.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A Mattress: Life in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres

What is holding me back from replacing our sagging 15 year old mattress? Besides the boredom of shopping for one, the Giant Woopah Frog that likes to jump on it.

Parts of the box spring is in a landfill somewhere. I slashed and ripped off the fabric and then piece by piece I dismantled the metal frame until it could fit on our trash can. I removed the frame from the wooden slats by pulling the staples out, one by one. The wooden frame is now a nursery table.

An Argentinian told me that in decades past, the people of Argentina used old mattresses for grills. Not like the fancy ones used today by chef Francis Mallmann. No, the unrest, the poverty. No luxury. Just wood, a mattress, meat, and Argentinians. They just tossed the mattress upon the fire and burnt it until it became a grill.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Seven

This is one of my son's many faces. Here is the adventurer. Confident and willing to explore the world.

Time has flown. He's now seven. He's now pulling away from me, a bittersweet moment. I imagined it, and it is here. Happy birthday, Beren. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Are you practicing tai chi?

"Are you practicing tai chi?" a fellow once asked me. "No, kung fu," I replied. He looked startled. I can only guess why he seemed surprised. Maybe because of one the following:

Women practice gentle, beautiful body/health sports.
I seem like a peaceable person.
Some misunderstanding about martial arts. 

Why do I practice a hard style martial arts rather than some other work out?

1.) The camaraderie. Jack, Jared, Walter, Brian, Andre, Juan Miguel, Gia, John, Ken. These are some of the people I have practiced with over the years. I remember them as clearly as close friends or family members. Ours is not a solitary, self-improvement practice. Anytime they improved, I did. We push each other. We practice together. We bow to each other.

2.) The yin and yang. Like all beings, I have yin and yang characteristics. At times, I have a lot of yin. Martial arts pushes me to develop my yang side.

3.) The conviviality. There is humor. There is absurdity in trying new physical challenges and complicated maneuvers. There is the laughter of spending time with people you know well within that space.

4.) The proximity. My fellow martial artists and I have spent time within each others' grips, arms, armpits, legs, and so on. One moment you are upright, the next your classmate is wringing your arm, wrist, elbow, fingers, or hand like a wet rag. Time to tap out.

5.) The gravity. I live in a mostly happy bubble. I like learning how to wringing an arm, wrist, elbow, fingers, or hand, or sweep a leg or ankle. I like asking myself, how will this work for me? I like when my classmates tell me my technique is not good. When they do, I can improve.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

THIS THING MUST BE DONE IT MUST BE DONE FIRST.

Jin Ji Du Li - Golden Rooster Stands on One Leg. Funny, one of my high school classmates called me "Chicken Legs" in history class one fine day.


Lately, I have told myself whenever I feel like there is something I MUST DO, I try to exit the highway and do something I want to do. Sometimes, I can't break away.

THIS THING MUST BE DONE IT MUST BE DONE FIRST.

Ok, I will take care of you, Thing. But, know this, Thing, I am also thinking about what I want to do. Or, maybe I have no idea what I want to do, so I will reach for the doorknob and flee the house. Or, reach for a book and sink into the couch.

Got it, Thing? I have other Things to do!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Crooked Face, I am ok with you

Me by me and everyone that has come before me and by Cari Ellen Hermann, the photographer

In my happiest imaginings, in my brightest moments in the mirror, this is what I look like. Smart, direct, a little wild, natural, pretty, and beautiful, too. Am I allowed to say that? Real. Clear.

If you look closely, like I do and will again and again, you will see how I am crooked. Crooked eye. Crooked eyebrow. And this photograph reveals I also have a somewhat crooked nose. I never noticed that before. It is a slight crookedness, unlike my left eye which is much smaller than the other. And the smaller one is always the runt, always the one to bear the criticism. Sorry, my small, crooked eye. And, thank you, my small, crooked eye. You have served me my whole life.

Here, you cannot see my crooked neck which leads to my crooked back. Because I don't see them in the mirror so much, they do not carry the weight of the eye. It is my crooked eye that has ruined so many photographs.

It was only a high school photographer that admonished me to carry my backpack evenly lest I have a crooked neck my whole life! Alas, I already did! How I snapped back at her that I did not carry my backpack and neck that way all the time. How I felt her eyes on me later the afternoon when she saw me carrying my backpack and craning my neck that way! Alas, my neck was already crooked! A chiropractor's x-ray decades later would confirm the professional photographer's diagnosis of Spinus Crookedus.

F*ck you, stop looking at me. It is so hard to be looked at.

I have always liked my chin. I like to rub my chin and feel its characteristic dent. I have always liked my cheekbones that I believe I inherited from my paternal grandmother.

Notice how I go on and on about my crookedness? How little time I spend admiring myself? Why am I slave to insecurity and modesty? Why is it so hard to feel good?

I feel good when I look at this photograph. I feel like it is truly me. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Last night, I went to bed about two hours earlier than usual. I was so tired. I'm going to bed, I told Jared. I'll miss you, he said. Later, Beren came upstairs and flopped down in the bed next to me. In the dark, he exhaled a loud sigh and gripped his forehead. Momma, he said seriously, I can't build anymore with Lego. No? I mumbled. I am out of all my good pieces, he said. 

It is nice to be so important to my menfolk.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

What will happen to love?

Sitting at the kitchen island, snacking on corn chips, and Jared's delicious green salsa. Beren holds up a heart shaped chip. "I won't eat it," he says as he puts it back into the bag. "What will happen to love?" He asks. 

If I could tell the story many ways, I would write about how good Jared's salsa is, how well its texture survived freezing, how glad I am that he found the biggest chest freezer that could just fit through the basement door and around the corner, and that he could do the math to make it happen so we could defrost and enjoy his salsa all winter. And, that my Dad spent the day in the basement installing an outlet for the freezer, and that we all were upstairs, sick while he did it, and of course, he also installed two more bulb sockets because the basement was so dim, just because he thought it was a good idea, and he asked via my Mom how I liked the bulb over by my washing machine. And that, yes, of course, it is very nice to not use the clip lamp anymore to plumb the dark pit of the washer looking for one lost sock.

"What will happen to love?" the kid asks. "It will be inside you," I say. I think about how perfect life can be within little minutes.

But I will let someone else have the last word. "What will happen to love?"

Friday, November 17, 2017

Koko Taylor Speaks the Truth to Parents



Songs come unbidden to my head or lips at times. Uncanny, like a dream.

Last week, I picked up a copy of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish at the library. This is my third or so perusal through this classic book on family communication.

Each time I pick up this book, published thirty years ago, I feel like someone is giving me a hug and gift and a monumental task all at the same time. Most times, I skip ahead to the section I need the most, or thumb through book and read the cartoons scattered throughout.

With over 300 pages to potentially read, I am glad that someone figured out that pictures with dialogue are really helpful for busy parents. For the deeply hidden girly girl in me, the book includes questionnaires. Just like Seventeen magazine had when I was a girl!

I am not a big fan of self-help type books. Many seem like they could have saved a few plantations of pulpwood and simply been published as a pamphlet. Some seem too simply written and lack real blood and meat, so I skip the author's ponderous philosophy and (to me) dubious references/cited studies/experiential claims and read their client's case histories instead. There, I can get a dose of:
1.) Holy crap, is this book describing my family? And, I just can't see it? Or, can I see it? Are we this bad?!?!?
2.) Holy crap, are we headed this direction if we don't follow this self-help program?
3.) Holy crap, these people have problems.

Some self-help books are really aggravating, often because I find their premise or approach problematic. Other times, I find the book annoying because I stubbornly refuse to be put in a psychological box.

But, shoot, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, I like this one. Today, I leafed through the book, read a chapter introduction, a few cartoons, and a took a quiz or two. I snorted with laughter and accepted my hug from authors Adele and Elaine.

Yes, I choose to accept this mission of improved communication in the home. Ladies, please don't let this book self-destruct in five seconds*. Because remember way back at the beginning of this writing when I mentioned uncanny song lyrics popping into my head?

When I saw the copy of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, blues singer Koko Taylor howled this in my head:



"Save me, save me, save me, babe!"

Monday, November 13, 2017

"You must have learned something!"

"What did you learn in school today?"

Chart your feelings as I ask you this question. Remove the words "in school" if you must. Remember back when you were asked this question.

I do not remember anyone asking me this, but I bet someone, at least once, did. Awful question. Ranks with "Where were you last night?" (interrogator could be anyone from a romantic interest to a police officer) or "Do you know why I pulled you over? (might be ok from a romantic interest, definitely worrisome coming from a police officer).

As a child, my answer would probably begin with assuming a pigeon toe position, maybe biting my hangnails, and looking up and to the right, then left, then down, as I searched my rapidly firing brain. Someone interested in NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) would  have studied my roller coaster eyes intently.

Uh... I don't know.

"You must have learned something!"

Saturday, November 11, 2017

I don't know where my phone is

Listening to pop hits while doing dishes, I misheard the following Nelly Furtado lyric:

I'm like a bird
I'll only fly away
I don't know where my phone is
I don't know where my home is

Thursday, November 9, 2017

This Cat Ended this Writing Because He Needed to Be Let Out of the House


In addition to Alone Time and Change of Pace, there is something known as "Ceaseless Labors" in our  household. Ceaseless Labors is often prefaced by "Will there be an end to these". 

I have a fine recent example of Ceaseless Labors. After a round of tasks, I sat down to talk with my mother on the phone. My rear hit the seat, and the cat began to scratch at the door. "I just sat down," I said into the phone, "and the cat is scratching at the door." My mother laughed.

Ceaseless Labors carries a fertile seed of truth as found in the adage "A woman's work is never done." It is true. Didn't I just buy flea repellant for the cat? How could the supply be out already? Well, three months have passed. Oh my word, the premium for the insurance, the balance for the credit card, the electric, wifi, trash, or car loan bill is due TOMORROW and can I sneak in a payment? Beren has grown out of his socks, shoes, or winter coat...already? 

Ceaseless Labors is a way I (and Jared, and even Beren) can gripe about dull household tasks and business related ones, too (the dryer buzzer just went off. Will there be an end to these, well, you know). It is away for me to acknowledge my work on behalf of the household with a bit of humor and at times, an inevitable touch of bitterness. And depending on my mood, that touch of bitterness can be a big sloppy, dripping, glob of bitterness with a poisonous life of its own.

Ceaseless Labors also acknowledges the mother as martyr, another poisonous blob with a fertile seed of truth. The why do I have to do everything feeling, or maybe it is reality depending on the household. I don't see my husband retiring from glueing, hammering, or sharpening knives anytime soon. I bet he's not too happy about some of his own Ceaseless Labors, but this I can only sometimes guess. 

This is a good conversation for couples to have, I think. In the past, my bringing up of household chores was often met with defensiveness, which means two things and possibly more: I need to be more empathetic, more strategic, and more willing to ask for exactly the type of help I want. I really, really wanted to talk about my expectations, frustrations and boredom. I really wanted to be heard. 

If I could start with one request, it might be that chores be less ad hoc and more organized. To that end, our Nightly Clean Up has been a big household-wide success. Oh and another request...

***

A few weeks ago, Jared or I mentioned something about a mealtime task, and Beren exploded with a theatrical "Oh, no, not this again!" Either he's headed for an acting career or Ceaseless Labors martyrdom.

***

*Ceaseless Labors is both a singular and plural concept, therefore readers will find both the singular and plural verbs following Ceasless Labors.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Family Strategies: Alone Time and Change of Pace

Alone time

When Beren was an infant, Jared and I contrived "solo time". Solo time is exactly as it sounds. One adult alone, no others, and hopefully not even the sounds of others.

As Beren grew, we all came to need what is now known as "alone time", which is exactly as it sounds. Respectfully, if at our individual best, one can request alone time. Or, while in state of disequilibrium, one might be asked by another family member, "Do you need alone time?" Or, another family member might say more forcefully, "I think you need alone time."

All three of us are sick. As unkind as it may sound, I could use some alone time. I am closed up in the office writing. All that stands between me and another human being is a misaligned door that does not lock. It has no lock. Of our interior doors, only our attic door locks.

A locked door can still be knocked on or pounded on or talked through. Knocking, pounding or talking through a locked door may be as disruptive and opening and passing right through an unlockable door.

Nothing stands between me and the call and response of Beren and Jared's staccato coughs. I hear every note. Only the finest nuances of the coughs are blunted by the unlocking door and twelve inch circa 1850s walls that are packed with newspaper, horse hair, rock debris, plaster, and all manner of things I assume are in there and I hope to never meet firsthand.

Beren is in the room immediately adjacent. The woodstove room as we three call it, though Beren recently called it the Lego room. I hear him shuffling through his Legos. They clink together and slide across the floor. He may burst into the office at any moment to show me the latest creation he has made on behalf of Ice Queen, a frosty caped Lego figurine that recently acquired Bird Man's mask (our name not Lego's). Beren has decreed his entire Lego collection be mined for white and clear blocks for Ice Queen's own use. She now has an elaborate and lovely kingdom.

Jared's occupation is quieter. He is on the couch reading. He is covered by blankets. He has been rather sick. He even suggested to Beren that they two could learn a lesson (ha ha! see my previous day's writing) from how I handle a cold, by sleeping all day. He is often quite good about drinking teas and taking herbs, yet less good at slowing the heck down.

Earlier today, we discovered our weekly shopping had occurred eight days ago, and we had only beef and no vegetables for dinner. Or was it lunch? Time has no meaning when you are surviving on herbal teas, ramen, and pretzels and cannot breathe or swallow properly. In short, no one wanted beef.

We went to Bamboo House and ordered soup and noodles. "Still coughing?" the owner asked Beren. "Drink lots of water with honey and lemon." Beren and I had gone there for dinner Sunday night for our other family contrivance which we call "a change of pace"."A change of pace" is usually prefaced by "I need a" or "You could use a" or "We all need a".

"Alone time" and "a change of pace" are so very, so very helpful.

After Bamboo House, we shopped at Kimberton Whole Foods. I left the guys in the truck. When I returned to the truck with our groceries, I opened the door and found the backseat piled with crumpled used tissues. Something about that made me grumpy. Perhaps my alone time had not been long enough and the bleary eyed, mucus-y people that once again faced me did not offer a change of pace from the previous week.

I heard Beren ask for something. I thought I heard Jared say that Beren wanted something sweet to eat. I snapped, "What?!"

"Are you mad?" Jared asked. "No, just talk louder my ears are clogged with fluid from this cold," I grumped, half truthful, half liar.

"Oh, ok, Beren is just looking for something easy to eat," said Jared. "I got berries. I need to go back in and get tissues, if you load the groceries," I replied.

While waiting in line, the cashier remarked, "Back for tissues?" "When I got back to the truck with my groceries and saw my sick family, I realized I forgot to get them." The woman in well-worn Carhartt's in front of me chuckled. I sighed and smiled wistfully.

I have enjoyed this alone time in the office. I need more, and what I really need is a change of pace and for us all to get better.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Cough and Cold Season Begins Halloween 2017

Each one of us applied pur personal touch to being sick. I slept all of yesterday, from which my lesson is always "pause and/or slow down". 

Jared emptied out one tissue box and trailblazed by trying a netti pot which he used a few times long ago. Any lessons learned that I could jot down here would really be my own lessons, or more likely lessons that I wpuld hope Jared would learn one day.

Beren coughed, and groused. He refused to use the beige "nose rags" (cut up old sheets, about tissue sized) because they were ugly. As above on the lessons.

Jared declared that Beren gets sick at Hallowen each year, which means we all ge sick. He would mark the calendar and enforce proper dress on Halloween night 2018. I noted that most children were not dressed according to Hungarian grandparental standards (wool hat, gloves, boots, coat). I added that exposure to cold is not a "germ" in itself. Jared's response was to the affect that he was on his way to being a Hungarian grandparent in decades hence.


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Making Orangeade from Oranges, Gnats from Gnatade


 There is no escape from Gnat Hell. Our neighbors recently had their barn painted. I overheard one painter sum it up this way to his co-worker, "F*cking gnats."

We woke to the sounds of a coughing child this morning. Jared and I had planned on spending morning time together. We looked at each other, "No sh*t," our eyes said to each other.

"I'm hungry," Beren said."There's oranges," I replied. "How about fruit salad?" he said.

I have beginning my mornings outside lately. Once the temperature tops 55 or 60 degrees, bloodthirsty gnats arise to bite exposed skin, especially the forehead and arms.

So today, one of my stops was the everbearing strawberry patch, which sounded like a sweet-tart and good addition to an autumn fruit salad. A balm for my scratchy throat. The patch never really bears in the autumn. No fruits today. Just one this entire fall.

A bit later, Jared made fruit salad with no strawberries. The fruit salad was good. Beren ate all the orange pieces out of it.

All the milky-colored specks are gnats

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Taking Turns

There is that feeling. The one that sneaks up. The feeling of being left behind.

Today, Jared's out at a professional conference for the field that we share. Today, I am at home with a sick child.

Last night, Beren was up past midnight with an earache. He threw up, too. His head hurt, and he begged me to help him. It was wrenching.

Last night, Jared was out with friends. If this sounds bitter, it shouldn't. I go out with friends. Time away is especially important during exhausting times, so long as each one of takes turns. We do. We parent equally, sometimes excessively so.

The night before, Beren was up until 2AM. Beren cried piteously. Every time he lay down, he could breathe. We all lay together. I was twitching. Of course, no one could sleep. I have sometimes wished that Jared would sleep on the couch, so he could be fresh in the morning and able to take on a heavier load the next day. 

Eventually, I took Beren downstairs. We sat on the couch, reading and snacking until we fell asleep. Though bed was more comfortable, we all needed a change of pace.

This morning, I practiced kung fu in the field while Jared went to the conference. It was cold. I washed and hung out our laundry because the next few days will be rainy. I like washing and hanging laundry. I like homemaking. I generally do not like conferences, though I do like the social part. I wish I could surrender. I wish I could sneak away from that sneaky feeling.

I used to look at Jared and wonder how he could accomplish so much. Wonder is truly the right word. I was filled with wonder. How could this be possible? How could he do so much? I pondered if I needed to be better at managing time. Perhaps more inputs, more inspiration? A regular massage? To do lists prioritizing 'me'? Who is that person anyway?

One of the truths of it - mothering is transformative. Overnight metamorphosis that means: Sink or swim, baby. I mean, sink or swim, momma and baby.

I am a completely different person now. Not just my priorities, but also my body, my hormones, my heart. I have to repeat this to myself, just to believe it, though it seems I have lived it long enough to have settled in.

Yet, the world around me just goes on. There are conferences, meetings, consulting jobs, and a child, a home, a husband, a self.

My husband gets it. This summer, he stopped me in the kitchen and told me about how he gets it. How he finally understands what I meant when I used to say I felt as though I was being left behind. He hadn't been able to hear it then, he told me. He had so appreciated our egalitarian relationship that he couldn't hear it then. That he would have gladly taken half of the parenting on, but that's not really how it goes with mothers and fathers. Mothers do more, it is just the way it is, most of the time anyway.

This conversation in the kitchen was so meaningful to me. It set sad and sour feelings free. I wish I could say more, but I hear a sick child had arisen from slumber.

Friday, November 3, 2017

I am giving myself a by tonight. No writing.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Tonight I Sing

When I belt out a love song, and tonight I sang along with INXS' album Kick while I juiced our rotting pear harvest, I hope Jared hears me, I hope he thinks my singing is good. I am singing to him, nobody else.

Halloween

 Unprofessional Self Portrait
 These kids have known each other almost seven years.
 The leaders

Halloween.

Morning. Jared and I were the subjects of a professional photography session. Outdoors at the photographer's home. We had to find native plants for the background and foreground, which was an interesting challenge.

I wore make up. It felt good. My hair behaved. Jared looked good. We looked good in several photos together. One sweet one really made me smile.

Afternoon. Questioned if I would ever begin my 'work week' this week. We got our costumes on. Witch, Ninja, Pirate.

Evening. We met up with several families and their children at a pizzeria. My costume felt hot.

Night. While trick or treating, Beren is selective about houses he approaches. Several homes do not seem quite right, so he skips them. By the end of the night, Jared and/or I no longer need to accompany him to each door. We are still the ones who say, "thank you".

Beren and his friend hold hands once. I was not able to photograph that moment. Instead, I photographed them as the self-proclaimed "leaders".

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Elmo's World and My World

I used 45 minutes of Sesame Street childcare to sort through and hang, fold, or re-box my fall and winter clothes. As I sat down to write, the Elmo's World theme song drifted in form the next room.

I know some families have zero 'screen time'. Once when Beren was sick for the dozenth time last winter, Jared tuned in an old episode of Sesame Street for him. I had mixed feelings. On one hand, up until that point, Beren had really been a zero screen time child.

On the other hand, my zero screen time child is (sorry, kiddo) an incessant groaner when sick. No amount of positive thinking, deep breathing, lavender essential oil, or Rescue Remedy can help me. The groaning ceases while he is read to, but immediately resumes when the story is over.

I have fond memories of my mother putting a cold cloth on my feverish forehead while I watched television. I remember Tetley's tea, Campbell's soup and Ritz crackers. Beren refuses compresses. He refuses most crackers, teas and soups, opting in only for homeopathic sugar pellets. He likes to watch Sesame Street alone, and even asks Jared and I to leave the room. He covers the tablet as we pass by. Only occasionally he asks us to watch with him. And honestly, I enjoy Sesame Street though I never watched it as a child.

So, my child will have fond memories of his mother sneaking away while he was sick. TOday's blog entry was sponsored by the letter "S" for Sesame Street. And with that, I'm done. I hear a miserable voice from the other room, "Momma, Sesame Street is over." Footsteps. Moaning. Kid leaning into my shoulder, moaning. Moaning. Pray for me.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Whirlwind. Sunday morning mindfulness retreat. So good. Left the retreat, buzzed home to host on Sunday afternoon. Sunday evening, friends' car broke down in the storm. Jared brought them back home to stay over. A house full of occupied kids. Lots of fun.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Business Hours with a Friend

This year has been about spending more time with friends. There is always time to work. Well, actually, it seems that work gets squeezed pretty hard by many things, like homeschooling our son, of course. And, I never went through my personal credit card reciepts at my past jobs nor did I talk to my Mom on the phone at past jobs. Now, I homeschool, pay personal credit card bills, and talk to my Mom during "business hours". 

So what the heck, why not have breakfast with a friend during business hours, too? That is what I did this morning. This is a particularly special friend who I befriended during my conservation intern days. We have been through many deep patches of multiflora rose together during business hours.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

A Day with Mom

Went to my Mom's second childhood home and saw where my parents were married when they were in their very early twenties. Saw where she smoked her first cigarette. It was a good day.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Crystal Powers

Today we made three types of super saturated solutions to make crystals. The first was a kit with monoammonium phosphate. The instructions came with many dire warnings, so Beren and put on nitrile gloves and safety glasses. 

Jared was outside with the string trimmer, similiarly protected.

The second  is sugar crystals or rock candy. I regret in advance the damage that the crystal will create even more than any monoammonium phosphate dust we may have inhaled. Poor planning on my part as Halloween, the other sugar bomb, is upon us.

Beren became distracted by a self-directed weaving project as I made the sugar solution. He wove wool yarn (taken out for the rock candy to form on) into the openings on his kitchen stool. In one week when the rock candy crystals are ready, he will not be distracted. He will become sugar beast. This is a newer stage in life.

We have the sugar crystals and the monoammonium phosphate crystals besid each other on the window sill to see which will grow faster.

The final crystals we made were from Epsom salts. They took just three hours in the fridge to form. About an hour in, Beren grabbed them out of the fridge. I think the form became a little scrambled by this. So, instead of an irregular shape, the crystals are formed in the shape of the bowl. Not sure though.

Goodnight!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

My Side of the Mountain

We have a few favorite read-a-loud books...Rascal by Sterling North and My Side of the Mountain by Jean George. 

Jared must have read aloud four chapters or more of the latter book today. I believe the copy he is reading from was his own childhood copy. 

Rascal was a baby shower gift from a friend and mentor. He had read that copy to his beloved nephew. And that copy had been his own. We treasure that book.

These two books speak of love of nature, friendship, and self-reliance.

Jared just finished the last chapter, and Beren said, I wish there was a book that continued this story.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Sick kid. Grumpy kid. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Important spice rack of darkness

It seemed so important to choose the correct spice rack. I hardly used it in the many years I have owned it. Now it sits in the dark corner cabinet. Why is it so hard to let things go?

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Young Person

On the way to a family reunion two weeks ago, we stopped at a state park. They were celebrating the park's fiftieth year. I realized that I was closer to age fifty than to age twenty-five. 

Some year hence I will need to stop referring to myself as a "young person".

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Me, too.


Me, too.

Inspired by a friend's Me, Too story, here's my Me, Too story. Well, among my very first Me, Too stories, and one that settled in and took hold.

c. 1985.
Laneco Department Store in Phillipsburg, New Jersey.

My friend and I explored the department store together. Her mother was elsewhere, shopping. We perused several aisles, talking and laughing, making fun of ugly purses and clothes.

When we reached the toy aisle, I had a strange feeling. A man with messy grey hair was watching us. He had a toy in his hands. He glanced down at the toy as I looked his way. I looked away, and each time I looked back at him, he was looking at us.

We made our way through the store, and everywhere we went, he followed.

"We need to tell someone," I said. "No!" my friend replied. I insisted, and so did she. After a couple minutes, I went to the jewelry counter clerk and told her of my fear. "Walk over to that clothing rack. I will watch him and you. I want to see if he follows you. Then, come back to me." My fear deepened. "I will watch you," she said.

I went to the clothing rack, browsed the items. Shaking. I returned to the clerk. "He's following you. I'll call security."

The man left the store before security could find him.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Occupying my Body. The Occupy Movement.

Sexual assault and harassment have burbled to the crusty surface of society. Again.

I see a couple ways we can all make this a better, more comfortable society:

Talk about sex. Talk about the good stuff. Talk about the less than good stuff and the bad stuff, too. Talk to your partner(s). Talk to your kid(s). Can't talk to them? Talk to your friend(s) until you can talk to you partner(s).

Feel comfortable in your own body. We all have them. Bodies make  noises. They produce lots of substances. Noises are funny and fluids are important.

Move. Move in challenging ways. This may be walking to the mailbox. This may be taking two steps at a time on the way to the bathroom. This may be a yoga class or a martial arts class. This is may be observing either or both and making the movements in your mind. Later, translate them into small, quiet imitations of what you remember, or big, exaggerated gestures.

Or, turn on your favorite music and dance alone in the shower.

Or, skip in the garage on the way to the car.

***

In school, in my life, I was not considered an athletic kid. I was a quiet kid. A sensitive kid. A brainy kid. All true. Yet, I also enjoyed playing outside. Later, I came to love dancing, just for fun. Or, I'd put on my Walkman and blast INXS or the Lost Boys soundtrack and walk around the neighborhood.

In a high school gym class, I watched a softball thunk down into the grass beside me. My teacher berated me. Not so badly, but berated me nevertheless. I'd never been welcomed to put on a baseball mitt before, nor would I be interested in doing this again. As a sassy, punky teen, I hollered back, "How can you expect me to catch anything with you yelling at me?!" He didn't reply. I hope he got it.

I think at some point, my father showed me how to use a baseball mitt. "Catch in the netted part, not the palm area. That protects your hand."

OK, but put me on a badminton court, and I'd turn into a competitive maniac. A novice maniac but still a maniac. We played badminton at home when the gnats weren't too bad. It was fun. In high school, I slammed serves and tried to check the shuttlecock into my opponent's body.

Years later, I got into a depressive funk after college. My father had made me a set of weights years prior. I closed my bedroom door, took those out, turned up the music, and danced and worked out to the A side of a Landed record. Again and again. Good muscles emerged from under my skinny skin.

My one male roommate joked about guys at the gym who admired their muscles in the mirror rather than working out. He worked out. We laughed about those guys, but I was quietly doing the same in my tiny bedroom.

I met Jared. Our movement routine was walking and dancing. We drove around looking for adventures and places to explore. Once we drove out to Sino, a now defunct Asian furniture store in the New Brunswick area. He was inspired and showed me se mun pa kak (hitting the four corners), a form he had learned from his kung fu teacher, Sifu Lim. I was impressed.

Years later, my movement routine was off trail walking. Jared and I planned short walks but would return eight hours later. Then, baby carrying was my movement practice.

In between and amidst years of walking and baby carrying, Jared introduced me again to the Southern short hand style called Ngo Cho Kun (Five Ancestor Fist). We practiced the first form Sam Chien at home. Finally, I felt ready meet Sifu Lim.

There were three students, Jared, Jack, and me. Sifu taught us an incredibly advanced long fist form (think low, wide stances and kicks, lots of kicks). I must have looked awful. I felt awful but awful in a good way. Stiff, worn out. I was hooked on this feeling of being alive.

My sensitive, intellectual body could embrace my physical nature. Both could be strong. And the wonderful thing about martial arts, martial arts done well, is the blending of soft and hard, yin and yang. Learning how to reawaken my sleeping body made for incredible confidence and deepened awareness. Thinking, moving, muscle memory, instincts, and because I don't desire physical conflict, above all, martial arts offers tactics to de-escalate conflict.

Why do I mention all this? Because I think women often shy away from martial arts for a variety of reasons, and many of those reasons make sense. Studies show (remembering back to the raft of books that came out about competitive gymnastics and women's health) women select sports that emphasize beautiful physical movements - ballet and gymnastics, for example.

Finding a good teacher, a good dojo, and a style that works for you is not always easy. What will happen when I walk into that room? Will a bunch of guys stare at me and club me on the head?

Yet, I think it is worthwhile way to develop the internal and external self. Research, talk to the teacher, go to public demonstrations of local martial arts schools. Most reputable schools will allow visitors to take one free class. Doesn't feel right? Well, ask this question: does this feel uncomfortable because it is unfamiliar or because my gut is saying get out of here?

I sometimes feel overwhelmed by fear of potential harassment, and for me, martial arts has been one tool to give me comfort in occupying my very own body and asking myself of situations: does this feel uncomfortable because it is unfamiliar or because my gut is saying get out of here?

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Lemons taste so good

The past few years, I have embraced the change of seasons. The cooler months mean more rest and different activities. Again, this year I feel myself lifted by the falling of leaves and cool evenings. I am slower to leave the gates, and I appreciate the shift in tempo. I wonder about finding sweet music to accompany this slowing down.

***
Lemons and lemonade. I have been wondering about making lemonade from lemons. When do I say, "this is lemons, no lemonade to be made here" and when do I say, "this is lemons, let's let the lemon tree grow and enjoy its fruit" or "this is lemons, let's laugh at our sour faces"? 

It is hard when we share space with others, when a loved one is hurting or disappointed. Maybe that loved one is our own self. It can be potent in the air. It can be poisonous, at times. I rush to fix. Or, a loved one rushes to fix me. Or, I become irritable: Fix this! I demand!

Without lemons, all would be sweet. Sweet might become bland. Maybe I would not treasure that memory of the day my son turned 3 months old and his being was golden. Or, the moment my husband touched my arm and it felt so good and fresh. 

Sometimes lemons let me know it is time to change or reflect. Sometimes it is time to lighten up. Sometimes it just a moment of lemons, teeny tiny ones taken in perspective but they seem so large.

A quote from a martial arts memior, I can't recall the title... "Take large problems and turn them into no problems. Take small problems and turn them into no problems at all."

***
PS I have gotten some kind well wishes lately. Thank you, I am well. I wish you well, too.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

As a spouse, as a mother, as myself

 Saddleback Butte, California

Sometimes I feel like I am at the top. The top, absolutely got it together.
I love my husband, he loves me. We are fluid and easy. Lots of laughs, good meals, and a streak of intimacy.

I love my child, he loves me. We are gentle and kind. Lots of bouquets, well-timed snacks, and a streak of mutually enjoyed activities.

And then, what the hell happened? The mountain summit, in fact, belongs to an active volcano. Good meals are burnt to cinders. The bouquets are filled with weevils churning out frass that stains all it touches. 

Queries begin with "Why do you always...?" Or "Why do you never...?" 

I can't recall a single technique of empathetic communication. The volcano blows, one of us or all of us. It happens. We forgive and repair. We make it better for next time.

I wrote the above last night, and this morning I woke to note:

Ha! Of course, I forgot myself. I often, so often do. The role of wife and mother have become bigger, much bigger than me. Much bigger than I can handle sometimes, but I couldn't move in those roles if there was no me. If I did not choose those roles, I'd not be those roles. So,

I love myself, I love me. I am fluid, easy, gentle, and kind. I laugh, listen inward and outward - because it is all the same. I pick flowers and give gifts. I enjoy my activities.

I love myself, I love me. I am a volcano, fiery, destructive, and malicious. A hot coal, I fly outward and inward from the fire. Behind me, the path is charred. Before me, the path is empty. Everyone has fled.

Both are me. I will take care of both of you, both of me. All. 

Dreams

Dreaming Brush


She said, "I don't like my body. It really began to change." She paused and added, "When I turned 42."

The punchline is that I am 42. This was a dream.

I frantically searched an institution. The halls were long with tile floors. Many doors, each beige. No windows. In one room was my son. He was there for his behavior.

This was a dream.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

All Generations

Recently, I met a friend who has children at the local park. Thunder rolled as we pulled up. We had nowhere to go. The library was closed. There was nowhere for two women and their three children to gather away from the thunder.

Why is this? Why are there hardly places for families? Why are there so many places where families are not welcome? Why is age mixing in gathering places so inadequately met? Why are our activities often engaging only one age group at a time?

***

Some Wednesdays, Beren and I go to Bridge Cafe in Frenchtown. [It is our new Boro Bean, a cafe in Hopewell that was just a couple minutes form our old house.] A group of woman elders who all do fiber arts gather. 
 
I sip my chai, he sips his hot chocolate, and we watch the needles move. Felting, cross stitch, knitting, crocheting. The women talk family, travel, politics, and crafts. Every Wednesday they meet.

I encourage Beren to move closer. Occasionally, we talk with the women. One gives Beren a felted cardinal.

***

I want to be with all generations - 
Tiny ones, I learn from the way to see the world, new and unfettered and expectant of love.
 
Growing ones, I learn from how you grow and meet challenges. You are learning to walk - I am in awe of you.
 
Children, I learn your exuberance. You meet the world with joy and determination.
 
Youth, I watch as you navigate the world with certainty and uncertainty. 
 
Peers, I walk with you.
 
Elders, I come to you for solace and inspiration and assistance.

All, your good years are now. I need you all.
 
I have so much to learn from you. It is my responsibility to mentor and be mentored, to guide and be guided, to protect your joy and be protected, and to challenge and be challenged. It is my responsibility to now when to move closer and when to step back.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Another Way


 Clamming at the shore - providing for our needs for adventure and food

A tribe is a group of people that rely on each. They could not survive without each other. They care for each others' needs and well-being (food, shelter, companionship, challenge, conversation, love, collective courage, and getting things done that one, two or three people cannot reasonably accomplish).

Recently, I thought wryly that my tribe is Jimmy's, the ice cream and burger place in the next township. There's also the Warren Glen Deli, also known as "The Emergency Ketchup Store". Also, there's the local pool. Reliable, always there. I go to these places because I enjoy them or I burnt dinner. Or, because my kid taught himself how to swim, and I could not bear a quiet mother-child trip to the river. I seek connections to other human beings. I pay for them - meals out, days at the pool. I see the owner of The Emergency Ketchup Store less than my spouse, child, and parents, but more than many of my friends.

I am troubled by this. I am exploring this loneliness of the modern age. I will be writing about this frequently. I have been working through this for the past few years. Evolving my thinking, working on myself, trying to put together community, looking to hop onto existing community trains, watching communities I have been in dissolve and change.

My frustration and loneliness never ebbed no matter what I did. "Maybe I should set something up on the calendar," I proposed to Jared. "You have your nights out, I'll have mine. Or, we take have potlucks every month." Nothing came together. "What if I'm tired, or busy, or it's raining, or sunny and I want to go swimming?" Putting another thing on the calendar seemed daunting. But, I still wondered if I should schedule something regular anyway. Maybe I should work harder.

 And, then I went to a home school park playdate with Beren. No one showed up, not for the playdate anyway.  Hundreds of Roman Catholic Polish pilgrims showed up - they used the park as resting spot. That's life, but Beren and I were discouraged each for our own reasons.

One of the keys is proximity. Real, physical proximity. Nothing takes its place. Proximity brings its own challenges and hard work. Getting along isn't easy or simple. Disagreements happen, but the entire tribe relies on harmony and humor.

Proximity is what made my childhood friendships easy. We lived in a neighborhood. The kids, all ages, got along. No one needed a car. No one had scheduled activities. In summer, only sunrise, sunset, and Ben's father's whistle that meant "dinnertime, so get home now" organized our time.

"Is Carrie home? Can she play?" I might wonder, and she showed up. We found Ben and Chris. We rode up and down the block on bikes and trikes.

I realize I am putting myself out there as one or all of the following:
Jaded
An *ss
Loser
Self-centered
Negative
Critical
Pathetic

I am ok with that because this lonely modern life is not for me. I can "work on my issues". I can figure out daily practices for self-improvement and balance. Still, this disjointed world I find myself in is here. This world where I bandage my loneliness by asking my husband and child to work harder at filling the gaps, to get along better. Or, we eat out or buy a shirt. Does anyone else notice how this is not working?

It is not working. There is another way. There must be.

Some of my lately resources for questioning:
Joe Rogan's interview with Henry Rollins - http://podcasts.joerogan.net/podcasts/henry-rollins
Chris Ryan's interview with Alisa Esposito of Sparkroot Farm https://chrisryanphd.com/tangentially-speaking/2017/8/7/262-alisa-esposito-sparkroot-farm

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Communities and Villages

My Village. My Village is too small.


Dear Family and Friends, I need you. I enjoy your company. When I see you and speak with you, you set my scrambled mind to rights. We laugh. We have fun. We cry. We heal each other. We argue. We resolve.

How can we build a village together?

I’ve been taking time to think about friendships, and I’ve felt distressed that everyone is so busy, including myself. I started off feeling upset and hurt, and my thoughts have evolved.

Why am I so busy? Why do I not have the closeness in relationships that I need? How did my Mom have two kids and do this? I have one, and I hardly can handle this? Sure, she was at home, not working outside the home. This is what my fellow working-outside-the-home-(or home business)-mothers say. Remembering back to the infant Beren days before I went back to work… those weren’t easy either. My friends who are 'not employed’ are having no easier a time, it seems.

I’ve realized that it’s not me. I’m not unlikeable or a unreliable friend. I’m not overly sensitive, or easily stressed and overwhelmed. The whole set up is at odds with our human needs for support. Everyone is scattered so far apart and is busy. Busy with what. Everything. Paying the bills. Keeping up. Busy with nothing it sometimes seems.

I’m not sure what this means for me, but I have put aside the vague word ‘community’.

I can drift from one community to the next…conservation community, homeschool community, farm community, and so on. Of course, there’s online community, which is so impossible to hold. It is not real. It is not a replacement for sitting with myself or with others. I am unsure any of these communities are really communities, but instead are loose assemblages of people with common interest. Among these communities, I find friends. Good people. People I love. People I want to see but don’t because. Because I am too busy? Busy doing what?

I can easily slip from one community to the next. I don’t really ‘need’ any one community. I trust members of those communities as friends, colleagues, resources, and inspiration. If any of those communities would choose to dismiss me, I would survive.

I would be lonely, more lonely than I am now. I would grieve the loss. But perhaps I could find other communities. I could find other friends. I would survive. I would find my food elsewhere. I can get my goods and services at any market. I already have shelter. I have my own emotionally over-burdened nuclear family to care for my needs of companionship and love, and luckily I have support from my parents.

My nuclear family…The only community I really ‘need’ is my nuclear family. Because I live with them. If one of them left the community, especially my husband, I’d be lost. That’s frightening to me. Without him, I might move back into my childhood bedroom with my son. I would have to figure out how to start again, to retool my whole system. It is unreasonable to ask so much of one person, he of me and me of him.

I am tossing out the word community. Community is no one, it is nowhere. It is especially no one and nowhere because we are all so far apart. We are so busy. Our communication is often mediated and indirect. Our contact is irregular.

I am village-building. I need a village. A village is a place. People inhabit a village. The village connected to the village’s surroundings, to the plants, the animals. A village has a gathering place. A village has challenges. Right now, my village-building is me thinking. Me, waving my hands around. I need a village.

With spirit,
Rachel

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Vitamin G, An Essential Part of Summer

"Oh, the candy shop used to be down there. The head shop used to be down there, too... Look, The Sawmill is still there. Still has the old sign... I rode these rides as a kid. I've been coming here for forty years, at least," I told Jared as we walked along the Seaside Heights boardwalk. "Do you think you know this place better than any other place in the world?" Jared asked. I smiled at the thought.


***

Friends, I have been meaning to write, but we are a third of the way through August. I have been living this week as though this is the last week of August. As though autumn is about here. As though autumn is in the air. As though I finally got over how depressed I was that our trip to Seaside Park was over way too fast.

Sh*t, summer, don't you like me? Don't you want to hang around a bit longer? Can I order in a non-climate-change-related September heatwave, maybe one in October, too?

***

Summer is about glitz. I have always liked surface glitz, real lowdown glitz. On our July trip to Seaside Park, you could find me a couple nights at Seaside Heights, walking the boardwalk, just watching people, soaking in Vitamin G(litz) from the few remaining old-fashioned light bulbs that illuminate the tattoos, the bellies, the postures, and the bad-ass attitudes. I would have been there every night if I didn't have a kid to pass out next to. I would have dragged my husband there every night if he would have followed.

I have always liked loud buzz, real lowdown buzz. So, last week you would have found me happily watching several hours of the Mud Bog competition at the Warren County Farmers Fair. Happily, unironically, enjoying the trucks, the noise, the stink, and wishing the crowd was more excited.






I have always liked the combination of buzz, glitz, crowds, at least as long as I could make the choice. So, this week you can find me at Musikfest, watching the tattoos and haircuts, the propane tank pumpkin art and bonsai, the zip line, the cops, and the drunks. I could wander all night. I could.

Friends, why have you not been at Musikfest in Bethlehem with me this week? There is still time. It ends this Sunday.

Friends, are you getting your Vitamin G(litz)? Summer will end sometime, climate change or not. And as you know, harvest festivals and wine tastings of autumn have absolutely no Vitamin G. In fact, they have been clinically proven to reduce your body's Vitamin G stores to winter levels.