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.


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.