A roller coaster ride that never stops.

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

Dear Reader

I just posted this poem on Facebook, and expect anywhere from zero to one response(s). Now that it has been proven to me that almost nobody on the planet cares about my ramblings (and rightly so), I find that my theory that writing would give me a much-needed creative outlet may be just plain wrong. This poem talks about that One Love out there. What the heck is mine? I have no idea — just an urgent need to find it. Maybe one of you holds the answer. If so, could you please tell me? If not, thank you anyway for being kind to me in my groping along here.

What to Remember When Waking
by David Whyte

In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.

What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.

To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.

You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?

Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the waiting desk?


The Past

For two years now, as part of my midlife crisis, I have been obsessed with things that didn’t go the way I wanted them to in the past. I have felt some of the worst anxiety of my life over these issues. While I see it slowly clearing up most of the time, there are  still some bad days. I am wondering if there is some full-proof method for focusing in on the present and seeing it as being exactly where you want to be. I have done a lot of thinking about this and have tried creating a gratitude practice, finding creative outlets, reading books about making peace with the past, and even directly talking to some people in my past to try to find closure. This feels a lot like grieving to me — trying to come to terms with something you can’t change and can’t yet accept. I feel like there’s a magic bullet out there somewhere, but after two years of searching, it eludes me.

Simplicity Parenting and Henry Huggins

My children are in love with all the Beverly Cleary novels about Beezus and Ramona, and their friend Henry Huggins. There are about 10 books in all to enjoy about all these characters who live on Klickitat Street, and we are listening to all of them, sometimes several times over, on our drives various places throughout the week. I am continually amazed that my children have the patience for these ponderous, hum-drum stories about very ordinary childhood adventures, but the performances by the readers really are pretty engaging. Anyway, I am finding some surprising things about these books as I listen helplessly to all of them:

1. The first was written in 1950 and the last was written in 2000. That is 50 years of writing about these people and, while the world that the children are living in changes drastically, they themselves age only a few years over the span of the books. The bulk of them take place before the dawn of the computer age, so the setting of nearly all of them is either unfamiliar or only dimly familiar from my own childhood. Henry Huggins’ first book takes place in a time when raccoon caps were THE thing, and all of the other things boys care about in 1950 are similarly foreign. In the second book, written in 1952, bubble gum chewing features prominently as an activity.

2. The value system in all the books is rooted in frugality, simplicity, and taking responsibility for oneself. It floors me how unfamiliar the concepts are, like Henry not getting to have a bike because his parents can’t afford it. Henry has to earn his own money to care for his dog. The Quimbys, Beezus and Ramona, learn to sew with their mother, who makes most of their clothes. Their father gives them ERASERS as a back-to-school present because that’s all they can afford. There is nothing for kids to do but play chess, read, or run around outside, because rowdy play inside, video gaming, or TV watching (except in one of the later books) would never be an option. I didn’t realize just how far afield we had gone from those simple times. My husband and I thought we were pretty radical not having any gaming systems in our house, but we have a long way to go to reach the goal of true simplicity.

Truly, I cannot quite imagine getting to a point where we could live like this, only because it turns out my own default value system is so much more “modern” than I thought. I mentioned recently waking up out of my fog of self-delusion and attempting to accept that I am as materialistic as everyone else in my own way, and I am trying to figure out exactly how to change my whole mindset about possessions. It turns out that my materialism has about 100 roots firmly planted in my brain structure, so digging it out is challenging. I’m working on it, of course, and have changed my reading regimen to fit the new goals, but I can see how many steps away from simplicity I am as a parent as well as a person. I wish I’d gone on this journey a lot sooner, so I could have started with my children as I mean to go on.

Tim: My Right-Hand Man

I love that Tim is totally on my same page when it comes to the stuff that goes on around here. Today Lily informed me that she wanted absolutely no foods for lunch, and then walked upstairs triumphantly. I muttered, “She’s a nut job.” Tim pipes in with, “She sure is, Mom. She doesn’t like ANY-FING.”

As good as it feels to have Tim in my corner, I suppose I shouldn’t pit him against his own sisters. But it sure was funny.

Losing Ground

It’s happening. I am starting to feel that mid-semester discouragement again. I have about half a dozen reliable students and half a dozen who are missing a lot of class, turning in things late, and generally dropping the ball. In this setting, especially at night, I give some slack because I feel bad for people with families. That is probably a mistake. The envelope is being pushed to the limit. While I hate to see anyone fail, my real complaint here is the extra work it is causing me. It’s bad enough when everyone turns in everything, but so much worse when things are trickling in outside the time parameters and people are straggling behind in class. I feel very unmotivated to do this again. I should find some freelance work that pays three times this much and which takes the same amount of time. This is not the time of life to be taking on the problems of 14 (soon to be 12) additional children.


I forgot about how exciting it is to learn cursive. Jane is all about it right now, and is obsessively writing notes everywhere about everything. She bought a lined dry-erase board for her “Friday treat” (a little gift everyone gets if we make it to school on time all five days. Very rarely earned.) and is using it to inform us about exciting events: “St. Patrick’s Day parade! Everyone is invited!” and friendships: “I love Ameena. She is a good friend,” all in glorious cursive. When I asked her the other day what she liked best about school, she said, “Writing.” She didn’t mean writing stories; she meant the physical act of writing. Yet another childhood pleasure I had long since forgotten. Time to buy a new pen and experience the thrill all over again.


Right Brain/Left Brain

I have been developing a theory — again, as part of my “no holds barred” look at things in 2012 — that I am actually not an organized person. More accurately, I am a person for whom being organized does not come easily or naturally, but because I have an over-the-top work ethic, I have compensated for it until recently, when the sheer volume of work has made victory impossible. It is my current theory that I have been operating much like someone who has had a stroke — learning to use a different part of my brain to do what another part had previously done. Based on any test I have ever taken or any book on brain halves I have ever read, I am a radically right-brained person, and the right side of the brain should not be running the show when it comes to organizing a household. However, I am thinking that I have channeled a combination of creativity and holistic thinking, coupled with manic levels of perseverance, into a semblance of productivity. That worked for me before I had four children (or, really, just before the one first came on the scene), because I compensated for lack of efficiency with time. Now I see why I had to stay up till 3 and 4 in the morning as a teacher — because that’s how long it takes to get stuff done when you have no left brain! I am exaggerating, of course, and this is ultimately only a hypothesis, but it sure does explain why someone else can walk into a room and see what it takes to get it tidy and I can’t for the life of me see the steps involved. I see chaos and unmanageable amounts of things out of place and that is where I stop. The only way I can attack such a room is to take of my dysfunctional approaches, like working spatially, which kind of moves the mess toward one end of the room, or by putting like things with like things, but there is no overall plan, and there needs to be. The solution? Right-brainers always think there are solutions! I am going to read a book on right-brained organizing that my younger, prescient self bought at some point and leverage my weakness into strength. I’m going to win this thing!!

Book Club

I have been looking for a book club to join FOR YEARS. I have gone to library events, sent out emails, put up Craigslist ads, and scoured local papers for signs of an appropriate book club. The problem is that, while I fully support everyone reading what he/she wants, and I understand the appeal of more mainstream books, I would like to accomplish any one of the following in my book club:

1. Read classic literature that can lead to endless deep discussions about nerdy literary stuff as well as life issues. All genres, cultures, and eras welcome!

2. Read parenting books and have ongoing discussions about the philosophy, as well as the nuts and bolts, of parenting. I have a long must-read list for this.

3. Read religious books and have the very deepest discussions of all. Would love to read the saints, classics of spiritual literature, etc.

See how flexible I am? I am finding, though, that those with these interests are either my husband, who has no time for a book club, and a very few friends, who have no time for a book club. No one has time; I get it. Believe me: I don’t either. Just hoping one day I’ll meet someone desperate enough to MAKE time. Maybe even two people. In the meantime, though, I got invited into a writing group, and I am so thrilled about that that I’ll stop moping about the book club for a little while.


19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

This particular passage struck me in the heart-stopping way that the right words can at the right time. Lately, I have been digging deep down to look certain facts in the face, and I have been sorely disappointed by my lack of real frugality, a quality I had always thought I possessed. True frugality is an ever-vigilant awareness of consumption and waste, and, while I am the Queen of the Bargain Hunters and Coupon Clippers, I am still consuming way too much. WAY too much. My coupon clipping has just ensured that I can have just as much stuff at a reduced price. 2012 has been unofficially declared my year for taking a hard look at things and trying, without anxiety and judgment, to see exactly what’s going on. The results have consistently thrown me for a loop. So now the project is not how to save more, although that’s always good to know, but how to CONSUME LESS in every sense — fewer free library books, fewer catalogs from which I don’t buy anything, fewer junk foods that my skinny children can live without. In other words, while these things are not directly or obviously causing harm, they are still unnecessary time and space stealers, and just represent too much-ness, and too-muchness of the wrong things that are, fundamentally, distractions. This whole concept is new to me, but it seems to me that it is a deep, spiritual issue more than anything else. Far away is the real treasure I have lost sight of, which I should have been seeking with far more diligence than the latest bargain.


A buddy has alerted me to the fact that I had no button for following the blog nor some other stuff, so those are there now if you are interested. Still much to learn….

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