A Smoothie

i waited for you but you were already here

A Smoothie
Children’s memories are incredible. As we drive out to the beach today they both tell me about the walks, the bike rides, the times we stopped for a trail hike or ate at a restaurant. I have the same memories, of course; but theirs seem so vivid, and they are obviously so fond retelling these events. Their affection for our beaches and our trails is humbling, too; these are places that Ralph and I selected, in effect building so much of their childhood. We don’t program our children like blank tapes but we do influence them so much.

It is sunny and warm – seventy degrees. We arrive to park and no one is near; we can see a few distant sea-gazers on the far-off overlook tower. The oldest child made and packed our lunch – hoagie sandwiches with red leaf lettuce and pickles and vegan lunchmeats and cheese, a side of chips. The dog is perched back of the Jimmy – excited, his expression absolutely jovial and alert. He can’t believe his luck! Once we lock the car and head to the jetty we are disturbed to discover he is finally too old to leap up the rocks and climp over into the hidden sandy beach. He tries many times, valiantly; but his agility is not there. We walk him a bit, then tie up him with a good deal of water, and leave him for a bit. My heart hurts to leave him behind; I also know it is better to have brought him than not at all.

Tide Pools
Today on social media – in a parent support group – I read parents complaining about their teen children, calling teens “assholes”, discussing whether a preteen child was old enough to decide ____ for herself. It hurt my heart; I closed my laptop. I wonder to myself how I avoided this fate, of feeling I was doing my children some kind of favor to care for them.

My children aren’t perfect; just last night one of them had a verbally violent outburst and today tempers are still tender. The child and I have a short conversation in the car today and I tell them that everyone has outbursts; no one in this family is judging, and we need to keep the family safe.

I ask if they know what set them off – were they worried about ___, were they feeling resentment toward ___? They tell me, “I have been asking myself the same thing,” and I am thinking: Job well done. I let them know that sometimes we don’t know why we lash out, and it’s okay not to know for a while. But by the same token, they also need to step back and reflect; it is their responsibility to figure it out. And there is always help available. It’s a conversation we have with our kids; keep it as short as possible, keep it thoughtful. Make sure to center myself first; and if possible discuss the issue after I’ve rested, meditated, and talked with my partner.

Because our dog party member is down for the count, we don’t stay at the beach very long today; long enough to find starfish, and chiton, and little snails and little crabs and large isopods. We stop on our way out of town at a coffee shop for tea lattes, and then home to Ralph who is cleaning the house and preparing dinner.

Before bed my eldest comes to be held and I kiss the top of their fuzzy shaved head; they still smell like the sea. They are soft and warm and content, that we had a day together, playing like children.

a fleeting glimpse / out of the corner of my eye

This morning on my walk back up the hill, with my faithful dog at my heels, I am suddenly reminded of my father. He ran long-distance, so several times a week he would set out for a few miles by himself. He had such a distinctive gait that, if I ever saw it again, I would be knocked into stillness at the recognition. A stride I don’t see reflected in my brother or I, my father’s two children, but it’s such an indelible memory it is a part of me nevertheless.

My dad would lift his hand in acknowledgment when a car passed, or perhaps another runner headed the other way. I don’t know how many times I saw this hand motion – hundreds. Thousands? Sometimes I was the driver, or passenger – it’s a small town so I saw my father running many times. Such a familiar sight to me too, this movement on his part, this acknowledgment. He would be deep in his meditative space – that’s what running was for him – and he’d lift his hand, that’s all. But I can see it, and see the cast of his head on the path, and his mind was elsewhere. But even now if I close my eyes and try to remember much more than the flow of the gesture, or the feeling it instills within to remember it – it vanishes.

The dog and I arrive home and two of our cats ask to be let in; a third sits placidly on our kitchen table and calmly moves off when he sees me. (Naughty!). The dog has a quick drink of water and pads over expectantly for my praise, and a scritch between the eyes. I settle his blanket over his bed and somewhere in all this I realize that to support our family – our too-young college student, our spirited son, our dog, our five cats – is quite an accomplishment. It is a labor of love and nothing else. I hadn’t quite seen it that way, seen what a good job we do. Not for any other reason in that there’s always that next step. Today, for instance, we will be replacing the light above the sink. I have bills to pay by phone, on my work break. Two packages to mail out, and a final late Christmas present to wrap. We get to plan the evening meal – a little trickier as Ralph and I have both been ill and unable to eat for the last thirty-six hours.

The dog now sleeps on his bed – he is chasing and barking at something in his sleep. All the funnier as he does not bark when awake. I suppose a big part of our life, Ralph and I, is delivering safe dreams to more than few sentient creatures.

Post-Blood Donation

only a little

Today I spent some time in an in-depth mentoring session, then gave blood, then ran my mom over across town for errands, then got my ass to yoga, then went to a meeting. On top of the kidcare and housecare and petcare. I’m beat.

Post-Blood Donation

It’s been a very busy summer. But a beautiful one.

Walking Buddy
Moral Support
WHO'S A GOOD BOY
I have these ethereal beings in my life and I don’t want to spend one moment of the day forgetting this.

darkling / darling

Some days the rituals that keep me sane, and let me fall asleep in the late hours, are simple and few: my evening journal entry. My nightly gratitude meditation. Making sure the kitchen is tidy as night falls.

And then tonight: a walk in the gloaming with the children, and Ralph, and our dog. Whatever we talk about, sublime or mundane, and whether Ralph and I get to talk or are interrupted by our children (tonight’s lively discussion: what film elements make a film a “Western”?), just being out in the night air and in their presence is immensely grounding. We’ve had these wonderfully beachy fogs lately, bringing a chill to the air that is nevertheless alive with the promise of spring and summer.

Daily I give up somehow trying to keep up with the children – their interests, their growth, their projects, their social lives. Not so long ago I was their everything and knew what they did, and what they thought, and who they saw. Now they fly back to me, little fledglings to the nest, and tell me their every thought. Yet I still try to grasp and to wrest control of it all, to be the one who is calling the shots, instead of being carried along.

It isn’t true that it is only infants who seek out their mother’s breast. My children are half-grown and yet in my presence they are forever coming close, putting their arms up – or merely out – to hold me. Kissing me, wrapping their bodies around mine, or tangling their legs between my ankles on the couch, or in bed. If anything the physical intimacy is the same as it has been since they were very small. I am humbled to find I did not create this exactly, nor earn it, it is simply the nature of things, time flying by as it must.

We reach the end of the kids’ first year together in school. Their grades are exemplary, their rmemories are many, and happy. They are well-regarded by peers and staff at the school. One and a half band concerts left, and we will be free of the school schedule for some weeks. And I will have my babies back, if on such terms as remain unfamiliar to me.

WALKIES

the fox in the snow

WALKIES

It’s cold. Cold and windy some days; merely cold others. I dress as best I can for the morning walks with my dog and frankly I’d rather end up over-bundled than the opposite.

My dog is a fit and hardy soul; he traipses across large puddles encrusted with thick ice; these frozen lakes groan under his pressure and he takes a quick drink, then he’s trotting ahead again. I find myself enjoying the fresh air and some contemplation; small brown birds abruptly blossom into colorful flowers – slam into the tenacious blackberry shrubs at trailside. I see a fellow dogwalker now and then, but mostly it’s just the sound of the water in my ears, and my dog’s companionable tread.

Winter Walk

They’re pulling the paper mill down, across the river. There’s a part of me that can’t believe it’s gone. I stop and really get a look – as long a look as I’m willing to take given the cold – and I think about my past, my future. I’ve lasted longer than the mill. Huh. See, I started my engineering life at that mill as an intern, after my sophomore year at college. I remember all the other engineering students and how all they’d talk was money and job prospects and the cars they’d buy.

It depressed me long before I earned the degree so maybe I was fated to let that life fall aside.

I think about when I quit engineering and the few who told me I was wasting my “good brain” by leaving a technical field.

But I’m still standing; the mill isn’t. It seems like each attempt, each vocation, each series of struggles and failures, and I’m left humble, less-than, and in a satisfied smallness.

Winter WalkToday I line my eyes in black eyeliner; powder, line them again. I tuck my blonde curls away up in my watch cap. I adorn myself with the one necklace I own – a cheap little affair with a black cross. And hoop earrings. I make the bed, stopping to kiss the small kitty who asks for my attention. He reclines on his back, his paws up, lazily paddling the air in his ecstasies.

I wash the dishes, and care for the animals, and sew two simple garments. I meet with a friend, and attend to my duties: picking up the children, chairing a meeting, attending pickup rehearsal.

My children are old enough to have a life of their own; this happened very swiftly, and it is taking me quite some time to get used to this. I find myself teetering on the balance beam; realizing that they have formed of themselves most of the persons they will be, and that my job is no longer so much to help them manifest, but to support them in their ever-blooming self. So when my children are well, I feel well; when they suffer, I suffer more than seems possible, and certainly more than is logical.

My daughter’s manicure, deathly deep blue – chipping. The blonde tendrils of my son’s hair, clinging to his perfect skin as he emerges from the bath, wrapped in a threadbare towel. The cozy clink here and there from the kitchen: Ralph washing the dishes. My own anticipation of a hot shower, and a hot lemon and honey to drink. And hanging the last of the clothes to dry and wiping down the counters.

And last night, when my son had so much trouble sleeping, and couldn’t settle, and cried out. And I brought him a warm milk with honey and after he drank it

he fell

into silence,

and slept.

 

New Friend

You’re gonna have to sleep sometime, MacReady

Meeting someone new.

New Friend

Lunch. Lunch

My wee girl… being beautiful.Phee

Just before yoga tonight. Which was kind of crabby and not-right. A Stop B4 Yoga

And just now – Ralph, Hutch & I for a late-night walk. Phee at home, completing homework in privacy. Night Walk

Being a fully-enrolled schooling family – a word has been going through my head. The word is grueling.

You know what’s funny is for years schooling families often seemed to me to be stretched too thin, working too hard, getting too little rest, complaining about the state of the house and being too busy. Then for a few years I thought, I am just imagining that, I am being unfair. But no. It really is a thing. We’re adjusting. We’ll be okay.

Today one of my mentors told me to stop harming myself, stop one harmful practice, set something aside and leave it. I thought of something in the quietness of my heart, and I committed to it.

I’ve a standing writing assignment to put together an article about transitioning from home-/unschooling to full time school. And yeah, I’m writing it, so that will be happening. For now I’m caring for myself, my partner, and our children – my youngest is being a total Hero about this whole schedule and homework and behaving-in-class thing. He’s hitting it out of the park. Phoenix – well. We got her test scores from last year. Nailed it in reading and math (which are apparently the only two test metrics vis-à-vis whether schools are “working” or “failing”, meaning whether they get money, IDGI). She’s shifted to her new 7th grader schedule brilliantly.

The kids are doing fine. They are. Me? Huh. Well, my house is quiet during the day.

Like they say in all those silly movies I watch – “Too quiet.”

I’m listening.

Citron

a wolf without a foot!

It feels odd to sit on our new toilet seat. I was used to the one with the broken hinges, such that using the facilities meant this kind of gentle balancing act at the same time. But Ralph replaced the seat yesterday. I’d been holding off because I had no idea how much they cost – forty bucks? A little less? Ralph picks up the nicest one in the place and it’s $7. So we could have been sitting on a good seat these last weeks.

One of my favorite lines from a film – Olympia Dukakis in Moonstruck, speaking drily to a womanizing cad: “What you don’t know about women, is a lot.”

What I don’t know about Life, is a lot.

The kids and I are out on a walk. I have voice control over my dog which feels immense. He trots ahead of me by about three feet, swinging back to watch me now and then. Sometimes he falls right back at my side. He no longer gallops off to eat horrible things that make him very ill and affect our pocketbook.

It feels good to have made a difference. 

So the kids and I are walking and the wind is blowing. The wind blows the braid-crimps right out of my son’s hair and turns it into spun gold and honey. The wind is strong, but it feels perfect. Soon the rains will come again and I’ll miss these perfect balmy summer nights. Already: the days, getting shorter.

Footfalls on the rocks. I am tired from poor sleep but I know I can walk alongside my children and be in the moment. I can walk without checking my phone – probably because I meditated this morning. The children are, themselves, far more delightful company than I – always. They still notice the right things to notice: they find a snakeskin, they comment on the length of the grass, the blackberries. They find a new fuzzy caterpiller in a vibrant citron hue I’ve never before seen. 

It is amazing to me that they do not get bored or tired of the really wonderful things, the small things. The minutiae. Those things that really matter.

Citron

Swimming Hole

sclera

It’s been several hours and two showers and two changes of clothes but I can still feel the horrible slippery feeling of my flip-flops as I tried to navigate a muddy bank section of the river. Right when I slipped – again, and my eye was scratched by a tall reed, right then I realized – I am having such a hard time.

I am so angry.

I am so angry because I am worried for my child and because there is nothing logical I can do (that I haven’t already done) so I am just floundering in these waters. It is like a hangover, and beating myself up, araid and angry. Feeling sick and ill at ease even when I’m with those I love. It’s a horrible experience and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

Walking a river is a great way to practice mindfulness – well, especially when you’ve an iPhone tucked in your bra that must, I repeat must, stay dry. So by the end of our trip I felt a little better. Then home; and after some work on the latest tailoring project, and after a hot shower and volunteer work – and talking with a friend – a little better, still.

Today really was beautiful. The children thanked me several times. “Thank you for financing this trip, Mama,” my little girl tells me. They didn’t once get tired of the many dozens of small frogs – and crawdads, and periwinkles, and wee little fish. They didn’t get tired of swimming and wading and climbing.

They are truly my greatest teachers.

Swimming Hole

Brief

"This Is Gonna Get Weird... Two Frogs"

Little Frog

Crawdad

Hutch

Ferns

I got it all on the back of my hand / I want your answer so I won’t forget

 
Early ghosts of summer. Night walks. Sunshine through freshly-washed curtains; newly potted plants.

Too tired to cook, much.

Sore shoulders: yoga, bike riding. Tallying up: money for groceries, dinners out, new doctor bills. Debts.

Plans; worries. Set them aside. Anger; fear. Set them aside. Sage smudge stick, a candle, metta-meditation. Not quite enough, but all I have.

you’re motoring / what’s your price for flight?

My dog Hutch and I have some kind of bromance going on. But it’s not one of these rude, crass, and fumbly kinds like you’re seeing in so many films today. No our bromance is like – Appaloosa‘s. Or Casablanca‘s. Or “ST:TOS”‘s. Like we’re talking TOP NOTCH bromance. A classic one.

Ralph and the kids are camping this weekend and I’m still sick, and stumbling around like I’m high. Today I was too ill to do much but drink water, eat food brought to me, and care for the pets. As it was, the walk for my dog just about did me in.

It’s ironic – or maybe it’s not, because I never really do “get” what irony is – that the first weekend in a very very long time I have it to myself, I am too sick to do anything really. To sick even for the modest assignments I’d given myself – housework, a sewing project, a few gatherings. Tonight a girlfriend invited me out to a dishy movie and I’m too sick to sit in a theatre. That is just: BALLS.

I’m patient, though. I no longer think of being ill as some persecution or trial. It is rather practice. Practicing patience. Today I had the opportunity of helping out a few friends who called me, and one acquaintance who wanted to borrow something. In fact it was rather odd that just by breathing in and out, and being willing to take calls, I was still able to help people – even in my weakened condition.

Lights out on the porch: windchimes and a summery balm to the air. I’d like to be out running around but it’s okay to be in and having a fever too. #sanguineAF, that’s me.