Breaking Into Blossom

Yesterday, the boys and I were driving around, and this song came on:

It hit me so hard in the center of my heart that I just started cryin' and cryin'. It *is* all too much. It's so all too much that sometimes I can't believe the glory of my life and living and laughing and crying and the beauty of it all. The song takes me back to my Grateful Dead-acid-tripping-all-is-one days, except it all really IS one and I no longer need acid to show me that. Damn, my life is good.

A Blessing
Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more, they begin munching the young tufts of spring
in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.
~ James Wright


Need a Calendar? Love Pioneer Woman?

I bought a Pioneer Woman calendar to let her know "I appreciate what you do!" since I visit her site nearly daily. I figured clicking the ads can only bring in so much, ya know? And I like the calendar... but it's not something I'm going to use. I feel sorry for the cows. I offered the calendar on Freecycle, but it ends up that apparently no one on Freecycle here reads her blog, or if they do, they already have a calendar. I asked people who wanted it to let me know their favorite article, and I'd pick from the responses. I was purposefully vague in my offer - I didn't link to Pioneer Woman, or even hint that it was a blog, because I wanted a true fan to get it. I got two responses, one saying her favorite was Clara Barton, and another saying my post got her excited about googling women pioneers, and she was going to make her daughter write essays about all the ones she found. Lord help her.

Here was the text of my ad:

OFFER: Pioneer Woman 2008 Calendar

Ordered it to help support Pioneer Woman, but it's not something I really want to put up.

Let me know your favorite Pioneer Woman article, and why. I'll pick someone from the responses tomorrow evening.

Now I'm worried the readers of FreeCycle think I have poor grammar and writing skills. (Didn't she mean Pioneer Women? And "article about *a* pioneer woman?" tsk, tsk Her mother should have made her write more essays.)

photo courtesy of Ree, Pioneer Woman

So - here's this calendar, and I know many who read here are fans. (Do I even have many who read here?) Well - of the three of you, if you'd like this lovely, large calendar filled with cows, cowboys, horses and sunsets, leave a comment. I'll draw a name from a hat when I get around to it, and mail the calendar to the winner.

Simple, no? No essays about pioneer women necessary.


Comscan What? Go Ahead, Tell Me!

This is the funniest thing I've seen on the internets in a while. Every time I watch it, I laugh until I have tears. I've had it bookmarked since I saw it the first time, and thought it was time to share.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Anne Nahm, for helping me laugh!


We Have to Move

And when I first found out, my heart actually sang. Normally, just the *thought* of moving makes me want to break out in hives, then curl up in a ball on the floor - but I guess it's time! And I've mostly been excited about it. I wanted to find something in our neighborhood - it's naturally very diverse, which I love, and Seth has many friends here who love to come to our house. Evan has mixed feelings about the neighborhood. I think he wants to live in a cookie-cutter subdivision, the seeming order of that type of environment is attractive to him. Maybe we can find something to meet all our needs.

I've been OK with the whole thing. I'm getting my tax refund soon, so I'll have money for deposits, moving the utilities, etc. I had just been feeling like... I wanted to do something, go somewhere to shake me up. Like some kind of retreat or workshop or weekend. While I know that change needs to come from me, I've experienced some awakenings at events like that, and I wanted a different perspective. So when I found out we had to move, it felt like the move would serve that need. Because I'm a *little* slow to embrace new things, and moving provides lots of new things to get used to.

But today, this morning, I'm really, really sad. What if we can't stay in the neighborhood? Not only will Seth miss his friends - several of whom are here almost every day - but his friends will miss *us*, too. We are a safe place to come to. No yelling, no unreasonable demands. Just recently, Seth asked when dinner would be ready. I told him soon, and he said, "Good! 'Cause I'm hungry!" His friend actually *flinched* and looked at me with wide eyes. It took me a minute to realize he would not be allowed to say something so innocuous in his own home. It would probably be seen as "disrespectful". I just smiled at Seth, and said, "I'm hungry, too!" His friend has a whole new model for how parents & kids can be together. I feel like we'll abandon them if we can't stay here. There aren't very many rentals here, and the ones that are here are much, much more than we've been paying.

We were looking for houses when we found this one. I keep telling myself that. It will all work out. A friend is going to take me later today and maybe Monday (I have the day off) to drive around and look at places. I got a *bunch* of great boxes from Freecycle. Oh, OK - that's overwhelming, too, the thought of packing. We are disorganized around here, and I don't want to "move our mess". I have a plan, I just need to stop procrastinating and start packing. Cleaning and packing.

There was a quote on Abraham-Hicks the other day that said, "In other words, it is the promise of this eternal Universe… You’re always, always, always going to be on your way to something more—always." Which I need to remember, because I have this fear that somehow, somewhere, I've screwed up and will be punished for it and the gods and goddesses are just going to drop-kick me to the curb.

Ha! OK, guess I'm healing, because when I just wrote that, I thought, "Well, if they did, that's OK. I'd just pick myself up and start anew. And give them the finger." LOLOL All right. I'm OK. Like Julian of Norwich said, "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well." And are well now.

Deep breath. Again. Again.

I had a reading last year, and was told there were 3 things my guides really, really wanted to make sure I GOT. I wrote them down on little pieces of paper and stuck them around our house, and they've served as affirmations since: I cannot fail. I can trust and have faith in the universe's plan for me. I am loved and supported.

I think they're true for everyone. I can remember they're true for me, too.

All right. OK. I can set some intentions for the move, and our new house. When the boys get back, we can do that together. For now, I can start setting my timer, and sorting and packing. That will save me so much stress later if I do it now.

Deep breath.

All is well.


Yesterday then Today

Look what we woke up to yesterday! Not a lot - but even a small amount is cause for great excitement here.

Seth and his friend Mason try to convince the wet, icy snow to accept a carrot without crumbling.

While Seth's friends Jordan and Perez work on their own, tiny snowperson.

Yay! Perez, Mason and Seth, despite the obstacles of very little, icy, leafy snow, have built their snowman! Jordan was inside drying her socks and having hot chocolate. Smart girl.

(Worth clicking on the picture above to see their faces... including the snowman)

Then, this morning....
Hey, where'd the snow go?

All that's left of the snowman/then snowfort:

We've learned to make the most of that most fleeting of pleasures, snow in Charlotte.


A Few Odds & Ends

This is a collection of leaves that Seth put together last fall - as in, 2006. I thought they were so beautiful. He kept them on our table until they turned brown & crumbly. He didn't want to preserve them.

One of our kitties, Turkey, explores the Christmas tree. His mom's name is Peanut Butter - named that because she has a brown spot right in the center of her forehead that color. When she had kittens (oops! She's had the operation now. I don't like to say "fixed", like being fertile is broken or something) the boys named them all food names: Macaroni & Cheese (Mac), Salad (Sally), Turkey, & Licorice. We found homes for three of them, but Evan was heartbroken at the thought of losing all of them, so we kept Turkey.

Jack is glad. So are we.

I found these at Target when we were Christmas shopping. Then I went back to stock up. They're not even on the Pepperidge Farm website. Did you see what they are?

Mmmm..... I'm hoping they'll get me through 'til the Thin Mints come in. They don't have high-fructose corn syrup... but they do have something called interesterified soybean oil. Is that what makes them so interesting?

Wednesday of last week was just *gorgeous* here. Sunny day, 70 degrees. Evan's enjoying the swing. It's something he's loved since he was a tiny baby. He told me one time it helps him think when he swings, he can come up with ideas to write about or ideas for comic books.

Once, when he was four, I was pushing him on a swing at his preschool playground. It took him a while to be able to swing by himself, I think he was six when he learned how to do that. We both loved that playground very much, it's a kind of magical place, even though from the outside it looks like any other playground. As a transition to leaving, we'd agree on the final number of pushes I'd give him. Normally, he'd say 3. Occasionally, ten, or sometimes, 20. Once, he said he wanted 128 pushes! So I pushed him 128 times. It thrilled him very much.

One time, I decided to push him until he said he was done. Normally, I'd be the one to say, "OK, I'm ready to sit down. How many more pushes?" But this time, I decided to not say anything, and I'd wait for him to tell me he was done. I pushed him for an hour and a half! I didn't count the pushes. Talk about a magical time! I wish I'd done it that way every time. My arms were a bit tired. When he was done, he just said, "OK, I'm ready to get down now." I helped him down, he took my hand and we left.

He doesn't need me to give him pushes any more.

With the aforementioned Peanut Butter.

We also took Jack to the park. Here he is, digging. He'll sniff around, then something will catch his attention and he'll dig and dig.

Then he'll stick his nose way down in there and just snurfle the dirt. (ah-choo!) He's done this since he was a puppy. Sometimes he'll just lie there, with his nose stuck way down in the dirt.

It's OK, buddy. You don't need to be embarrassed! We all do what we do to get by. Like eat Chocolate Raspberry Milano, even with the super-interested soybean oil.

That's better. Good boy! Actually, he's always been camera-shy, he never wants to look directly at it. Too many flash pictures when he was a puppy maybe? To get this picture, Seth held a stick over his head! Clever fellow.

It was warm and breezy enough that day that I washed some blankets. I love it when the clothes get dry in winter! So much better than taking them in, half-frozen. My power bill got cut by more than half when I stopped using the clothes dryer. I stopped because it broke, but now I'm hooked on hanging clothes out and the lower power bill. I hung clothes out my entire childhood, and I'm so glad to be doing it again. I love everything about it. On nice days, that is.

This was our tree topper this year. Loofy and Ice working together can conquer the tree! Seth loves making custom Bionicles. This is the second picture I took.

Because this was the first. Who knew you had to look up when you clean?

Whatchoo been up to?


Food for Thought

When I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it . . . and it is all one. ~ M.F.K. Fisher

Sometimes, we receive a gift just as we have most need of it - and sometimes, we didn't even know we needed it until we hold it, gently, in our hands or hearts, and something inside is complete.

This happened today, when I was led to an essay by Patti Digh from 37 Days - one of my favorite writers, ever: she can make you think, laugh, cry and wonder, all in the space of a blog entry. I wrote in my post about my word for 2008 - clear - that my diet has been *most* unclear lately. Good food is honestly one of the first things that goes when I'm stressed or under pressure, or distracted. I end up buying what can be cooked quickly, then cooking what I can grab out of the cabinets here. I buy things the boys like, that I don't have to put thought into, that can be made in the space of minutes. Some things - Progresso Lentil Soup over rice - are tasty AND healthy, and not too expensive. Some of the quick things are also very good: tilapia steamed in a frying pan on top of canned tomatoes, then fish & tomatoes over - you guessed it - rice is one of our favorite meals, served with a salad. But sometimes, even the rice seems like too much. Cue whiny voice: I have to boil the water, then add the rice, then lower the heat, then WAIT for twenty minutes. It's sad when *just this* much seems like too much work, but it can, and has. Those are the nights when I force myself to do it, and yes, I know my boys feel loved when I feed them warm, homecooked food, and yes, I know it's better for us than those crappy microwave meals... but I want *someone else* to come do it for me. I turn little, and powerless, and I cook, but there's no joy, no love - just a sense of relief that for one more meal, I'm done, and I don't have to think about it again for... twelve hours or so. Oh, it's hard to write these words, but I must, I must keep it real.

I used to teach at the preschool when Evan, my oldest, went there. I "taught" the one-year-olds, which, for me, meant I delighted in their every move, and sometimes we'd get the paint out, and sometimes, the water table; but I didn't teach them, they taught me - joy, and delight, and outrage! when someone would take a toy right from someone else's grasp, and they taught me that kids really, really are who they are, they come with their SELVES fully intact, and the best thing to do is nurture those little selves, accept them, and get out of their way. I loved it, how they learned to line up after playground time to wash their little hands, and they would brush, brush, brush the sand off when they came in.

The second year I taught, the school made the decision that the one-year-olds would stay through lunch. Up 'til that year, they were picked up at noon, after a three-hour day. A three-hour day is more than enough for a one-year-old. They are tired, they've had enough play time, they want to go. But enough parents had kids in the older classes, too, whom they didn't pick up 'til one, and it would be ever-so-much-more convenient to not have to pick up the baby, then wait an hour. I think a better solution would have been to pick up the older child at noon, too, but they didn't ask me. It always happened that several of the kids would have meltdowns right as we served their food. They could have been happy and playing up 'til that point, but once we opened their lunchbox, and put their food in front of them, they would just tear up, and cry, and say they wanted their Mamas. I understood that it was because here is this very intimate, elemental and nurturing thing - food - and Mama wasn't there. Here it is, and it's life-giving and essential, and someone who's not my mother is giving it to me.

We have these core relationships to food, formed from the time we begin taking nourishment outside our mother's body (or before), and I believe how we relate to food now parallels how we're relating to other core issues: self-care, nurturing, support, sufficiency, stability. Hence my reluctance to take responsibility for the food here. I DO take responsibility, I prepare the food, I do my best to not show how overwhelmed I can get - but inside, I just want someone else to come do it. Sometimes, I want to not have to do it. Years ago, when I got in that space, I'd go get fast food. When Evan was very young, we had a Taco Bell close to us, and I figured that, all in all, that was not that bad. Refried beans and cheese on a tortilla? Why not? The truth is, it was poor use of the very little money we had, and it wasn't nurturing at all, it was just something to take up space in our bellies. So, at least I'm not doing that any more, but when I get in that overwhelmed place, the food I prepare feels that same way to me - something to fill the space. For now.

I'm reluctantly coming to understand that the little girl I carry within myself can *never* go back and get the nurturing and love she so desperately needed. I am not going to get my childhood back. I think I thought, as I do the healing work I need to do, that that would somehow be made all better. But I'm coming to find that instead, I'm needing to grieve, I need to accept and forgive, and that won't change anything about what happened. It will change how I feel now, but it won't change the past. And I'm very, very sad about that. And when I prepare food, I get overwhelmed, because here is this intimate, elemental, nurturing life-giving thing - and Mama's not here now, and never truly was.

Before I had kids, I went through a time where I was eating macrobiotically. I had an inherent understanding that the mood I was in when I prepared the food, entered into the food itself. So I would center myself, feel love and appreciation for the food I was preparing, and I'd prepare it very, very mindfully. And I can do that now - not the macrobiotic part - but purchasing and preparing food with love and care. But winter is hard (even as mild as it's been), and I'm newly in touch with grief over my childhood, and I've been in that rut. And I forgot. I forgot I could be mindful about food.

And since it's the new year, lots of people are posting about changing their diets, going vegan or all raw. And actually, those are both things I've thought of doing when I've been more present, and able to cope. But now, I just feel... ashamed when I read those things. Because I think, "I just want to be able to cook. I just want to be able to prepare a meal."

But - ah - the gift. The gift that is Patti's writing, reminding me to Eat Simply. Eat mindfully. Eat food cooked with love. So it all comes together, the macrobiotic meals eaten when I was single with no children, the despair of the one-year-old preschool class, my overwhelm, the love I feel for my boys. They provide me with motivation to Be Here Now, be Present in this moment with them, love them as well as I can, so they can be nurtured by my hands, heart, mind - and food. I can open those cans of Progresso soup with love and presence. I can breathe before I enter the kitchen. I can put my soul into the pasta as it cooks. *I* can nurture and love that little girl inside who will never really get her childhood back. I can be here for me, by planning for and preparing healthy, nurturing food. Starting where I am. With love.

And an open heart.