Family Photo

Family Photo
Growing Up

Monday, November 18, 2019

Tactile Creativity

eThe only solution I see to a crazy world is to create something new. A new way of thinking, a new hierarchy of priorities, a new object of beauty. In the past, writing has been my main creative outlet but now I crave something more elemental and tactile. I'm drawn to British reality shows about interior design or baking; the British are more polite, less ruthlessly competitive, and their brave attempts to try something new inspire me to attempt my own art projects.

Currently my project is a mosaic, a wave theme to be mounted on wood and hung in the master bathroom. In the event that it fails, no one will have to view it except me and Rob, and occasionally the children when they come in to snag toilet paper. I also want to paint the kitchen chairs green, which met with raised eyebrows and protestations from the boys, but remarkable forbearance from Rob. He seems to get it - that creative endeavors provide peace of mind and clear short-term goals that help alleviate nameless fears for the future.

As a result of my craving for tactile creativity, my writing has decreased. I weary of ideas, arguments and philosophy, and lean into my desire to create a happier, more colorful home space that smells of cinnamon and occasionally chocolate (brownies are best ). I long to change broken plates into art (after first smashing them on the porch - tremendously satisfying) or turning that old, brown banana into muffins.  My kitchen is more satisfying than a world stage, my happy family a better audience than potentially disgruntled readers. (Not that any of you are disgruntled - you are the happy readers, whom I cherish!)

So off to smash some plates and buy some clear gloves so I don't glue my fingers together. I might need them to type some day.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Funky Fall

"These frightening possibilities cannot be denied, but neither can they be taken as facts. The only fact is that we don't know what will happen in the future, and to imagine that we do is foolish. It is not unusual for history to proceed by a process of reversal: momentum going in one direction is replaced by momentum in the opposite."
- "The Religion of Politics, the Politics of Religion," Norman Fischer, The Sun May 2005

Lulled  by the high count of readers who kept returning to Halloween and pumpkin blog posts of old, I deleted blogging from my to-do list for early fall. A funk descended on me and I struggled to find the path out. Headline and current events hit my psyche like dual bludgeons, and the sorrow from missing my daughter (a freshman at college) and worry for my father (in hospice care) weigh me down. A final blow was worry and stress about my 13-year-old son, whose eighth-grade road has been rocky. I thought ahead to high school and panicked, not knowing where to send him or how to magically ensure a safe and successful road.

In finding my way out of the dark, I followed a few paths. First, realizing that I was borrowing trouble for the future and attempting, in vain, to control what "should' happen with my son. We only have today, as I have learned time and time again. The movies that play in the cockeyed scary theaters of our mind need to be turned off as soon as previews roll - never allowed to proceed into full-length features.

Secondly, faith illuminated the great lesson; I have to admit my powerlessness and trust in the power and positivity of the universal Oneness.  The great unifying love, or God, has shepherded me through dark, dark times in the past and I need to learn again (and again) to rely on something greater than myself.

Lastly, when stress and worry trigger my jaw pain, head pain, or psychic pain, I remember that I found my way through pain and illness in the past with help from mindfulness, faith and caregivers. It's frustrating to go over this bend in the road yet again- I wish I could be done with it forever -  but ultimately a relief to have networks in place to help.

The quote at the top of this blog is something I read every day. The only fact is that we don't know - that I don't know - what will happen. To worry and obsess will merely take away my joy in today. I hope the words are helpful to you, and that your road is rising and you stand in the sun.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Make America Greta Again

"You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you."
- Greta Thunberg speech to the United Nations Climate Action Summit (https://www.npr.org/2019/09/23/763452863/transcript-greta-thunbergs-speech-at-the-u-n-climate-action-summit)

Sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg took the UN's Climate Action Summit by storm last week, delivering a scathing speech that dared to tell truth to power. Thunberg, who identifies as a person with Asperger's Syndrome, inspired tens of thousands of youth (and their affiliated adults) to participate in the world Climate Strike on Friday, September 20, and she is a role model and inspiration to all in the neurodiverse community. A friend of mine who has a daughter with Asperger's bought her girl a T-shirt with the caption "Make America Greta Again."

Thunberg inspires me while at the same time bringing my fears about climate change to the forefront of my mind, an uncomfortable place for them to be. I first learned about climate change during my Environmental Studies program at San Jose State, where I went to get a second BA and a California teaching credential. That was twenty year ago, and it chills me to now experience the temperature rises and extreme weather events that were predicted in 1999 (actually long before).  We have done nothing, really, to save our faltering planet for future generations, and I fear that young people will, in fact, never forgive us.

I agonized over the decision to have children twenty years ago and ultimately decided that the hope and purpose they inspire would be necessary for my positive interaction with the world. And still I feel torn about their futures - though their existence has  been an unadulterated good to me, what kind of future lies before them when I am gone? 

Thunberg is right - we must act to have the right to hope, we must push our local and national governments to move forward, we must change the bad actors in Washington and we must use our consumer power for good whenever possible. We must act, because everything hangs in the balance.


Monday, September 16, 2019

For What Will Be, Yes.

"For what has been, we thank you. For what will be, Yes."
-prayer of unknown origin

My brother John resurrected this childhood prayer when we were in Montana last weekend. We gathered around a festive table to celebrate my parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary and John began this simple grace. After the sign of the cross, this statement used to precede an individual thanks from each family member, proceeding from youngest to oldest. Unprepared, Michael and I hesitated a minute before we spoke, though Mom didn't falter. She thanked God for us, for those family members who couldn't be with us, and for her husband. My father cannot speak but he gave the sign for "I love you," after which we turned our food with constricted throats.

In this difficult time of transition, as we try to free Dad from worry and let him go - most assuredly to whatever heaven might exist - I cannot think of a more perfect prayer. For fifty good years of marriage, a pure example of selfless love for five children and thirteen grandchildren, God, we thank you. For what will be, we must try to say "yes."

The deep emotions were balanced by some quiet time outside in my father's beloved Montana. While Dad napped in the late mornings, my brothers and I took the stand-up paddleboards out on Flathead Lake. The scorching summer sun muted by autumn's haze, we glided over glassy shallows and peered at the fish and plants below. In one area, a pine tree had recently fallen and its boughs waved under gentle swells. In another small cove, an old dock had collapsed and we maneuvered between pointy remnants of its supporting beams.

The hidden landscapes made me think of the struggles and joys that lie beneath the tapestry of my parents' marriage. The struggles they shared, all the moves we made across country with their resulting changes, losses they suffered and joys celebrated together.  So much richness, so much vibrant life. So much to be thankful for, even as we struggle to say yes to things to come.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

A Good Job

I still miss my daughter with a slowly subsiding ache; the cats and I peer at each other in the shaded house and wonder if someone will come to rescue us from this unfamiliar situation. I tend not to follow little Blackjack when he hides in Aden's room, but I can at least step through the doorway without tears. It felt heroic to support Aden in her decision to stay at school through the long Labor Day weekend, I told her it was good to "put down roots" while inside a voice was shrieking, "come home!"

My neighbor and I exchanged notes on the subject of departing children. Bonnie said "Everyone tells you that you did a good job, and that's why they can leave successfully, but what if you didn't mean to do such a good job? Maybe I should have screwed up more along the way!"  The mix of emotions is wilder than a unicorn frappuccino. Aden is rocking her first two weeks, happy and engaged and meeting all the people. She's doing so much better than I did in my first two weeks that I am proud, amazed, and a teensy bit jealous.  I eagerly await her snapchats and stay up much later than I planned to take her calls.

My wheels are still spinning as I try to work out a job that I can do from home that will swell my pocketbook while not adding stress or fatigue to my life. I have to drive Daniel to activities most evenings when Rob's out of town, so early morning work is not ideal, work during school hours only is hard to come by, and my introverted tendencies make me reluctant to do anything with phones, customer service, marketing, or pitching myself. You can see the difficulty.  But I keep praying and hoping that the right thing will drop into my lap(top) at the right time. Have to keep the mental wheels turning productively so they don't stop or go off the rails worrying about things that are out of my control - like a college-age daughter.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

College Dropoff

Wednesday was what my college roommate would call a "mad, sad, glad day."  Tara always could hit the nail on the head, and a text stream with her and my other roommates was a highlight on a day that otherwise broke my heart into pieces. Leaving Aden (and a piece of the aforementioned broken heart) in Boulder brought back memories of my own painful freshman drop-off, and my brain kept going in circles in disbelief that I was leaving my child to live someplace without me. Though we had been preparing for months, the actual move out / move in struck with the shock of a cold shower.

The excitement of a bustling, welcoming campus buoyed us through the unloading of the car, the decoration of the room, the introductions to her roommate and her roommate's family. The day was clear, the mountains loomed over all, the dorm room was unexpectedly large and clean. We walked the route between a few of Aden's classes and admired the untrodden lawns, the welcome tents, and the well-stocked bookstore (where we bought more swag).

Then lunch, then abrupt departure, with Aden reassuring me. "You got this, Mom," she said as I hid my streaming eyes behind oversized sunglasses and struggled to get words out of my clogged throat. Rob reassured me all the way home about her readiness, her happiness and the exciting new worlds at her fingertips. My agreement still didn't prepare me to pass her empty room or to stop in shock at the newly clean corner where her college supplies lived all summer.

It's a physical hurt for me, a pain somewhere in the gut that bursts out at inappropriate moments (like my son's back to school night) and induces tears and absent-mindedness. Part of me is focused on Boulder, on what Aden's doing now, and the other parts can't seem to get in gear...yet.  I have to figure this out and move forward. Snapchat and texts help, as does proximity. Stay tuned for Aden's rapid forward movement and exciting trajectory....and for my slower progress and brave face.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

First Day of School

The boys started school this week - eighth and eleventh grades. I noticed the day's approach on my calendar with a slight but growing trepidation and a dawning realization that I want my kids with me so I can keep them safe. A fear-based mindset is unfamiliar to me, and yet the events of the past year have crept into my subconscious.

What makes me inhale deeply, fortify myself, and send my kids off with a cheerful farewell is the determination not to succumb to our current administration's doctrine of fear. The president and some of his supporters have deepened divides in our country, encouraged hatred and promoted fear. We must defeat negativity within ourselves, our families, and our neighborhoods, and we must vote the propaganda machine out of office next year.

I choose to believe in the good in people. When I got a text from a friend last night, asking if my older son could meet her student for lunch on her first day of school, William immediately agreed. Another of his friends immediately did the same. Our young people are good, full of potential, and blessed with visions and possibilities that we can't see. I have to send them forth into the world because they are the ones who will help us change for the better.