Saturday, September 29, 2012

My husband is a big fan of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. I think this prayer of his would be lovely in a marriage ceremony. Or hanging near every student of anything, in every school building, along-side all the other prayers from all the other great world religions.

Above all, trust in the slow work of God
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability-
and that it may take a very long time.  And so I think it is with you.
your ideas mature gradually – let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow. Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be. Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Tell the truth! Tell the truth! Oh perhaps its my biggest pet peeve on this earth--folks who look at you with a smile on their face and something much darker in their hearts.  Just tell the truth.

Truth is, this new band is smoking hot, in my opinion. They take me to my happy place. :o)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dear girl rolled out of bed at "the crack of 11:30" this morning. Dear boy was up earlier and read "Of Mice And Men." No testing, paper writing, or demonstrable synthesis necessary. We can trust his native intelligence to hold this story, letting it roll around in his fine tender wise heart. The the two of them spent the afternoon roasting marsh mellows in the back yard, the boy still in his flannel pjs as of 3:00 this very minute. 

When he finished the book dear boy said, "He kills Lenny?!" 
I'm so sorry, my love. Steinbeck never pulls his punches. If he's going to throw, he throws as hard as he can. And its nothing but an act of sorrowful compassion. 
Dear boy spent 3 hours splitting sugar maple logs with the carpenter he's apprenticed to, yesterday. Then he had lunch and went to get his braces tightened. Physically, it was a challenging day. So his father made peanut butter cookies for him last night. 
 The best thing about other blogs is inspiration.
Next week we are going to silk screen t-shirts.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I am not a dogmatic person. Not dogmatic about religion, science, food, education, nor anything else. Because I'm lazy. And because I have a personality that tests boundaries. I tend to poke them, checking for squishiness and to see where they wobble. Everything wobbles. We live on a round planet filled with fluid, spinning, moving in a circle, floating in a void. When you encounter an expert telling you something for sure, eh. Few things are sure.

When I was 22 I was diagnosed with an actinic keratosis. I was diagnosed by the premiere dermatologist in our state at the time. The man was intensely well respected and he knew me personally, if vaguely. I'm his daughters age and we grew up together. Professionally and in a fatherly way, he was paying attention when I walked into his office. He was not a bit flippant. He was concerned. At the time he diagnosed me, he was 25 years into his career and considered expert. He said he'd never seen anyone with an actinic keratosis at my age. He said the prognosis was not exactly grim or dire, but could become grim and dire. He implored me to become a freak about avoiding the sun.

Me, a freak? Easily done, already there. After he burnt that spot off the front of my face, I spent 24 hours drinking malt liquor, smoking Winstons, journaling about end-times, and listening to Ricki Lee Jones--presumably for balance. Oh the drama. The next day I decided to take matters into my own hands. I forswore the sun. Vowed to become vampirish and drove my vegetarian inclinations to a raw fresh green place. I began a fretful existence nibbling lettuce in the dark. It was an ugly summer. The good doctor rightly meant to scare me and he did.

But life continued. I got bored with fear and lettuce. And I got more actinic keratosis-es. As he said I would.  I had them burned off again and again. And I began to experiment. I found various oils would slow their growth if I was obsessive about rubbing them in. Which led to to theories about dehydration. Over the years I began to think of crusty skin as a lack of internal vapor, (I am southern, after all.) I drank water nearly to intoxication. (Which gave me electrolyte problems, but that's another post.) Oils and waters helped, though. And piqued my curiosity. I remained piously vegetarian another 5 years.

Over the years I noticed patterns about the arrival of actinic keratosis. They showed up in the summer and in the winter, with exposure to sun and woodstoves, in times of dehydration, in times of heavy drinking. On my cheeks, my forehead, my ears, and eventually my thighs. Curiously, sometimes I could oil and rehydrate them away. Which I told doctors and was, of course, poo-pooed. Years later I read that sometimes actinic keratosis will spontaneously disappear. Oh, they can go away on their own? Its ON, bitches.

Fast forward through 20 years of experimentation. I am a rational and less mercurial adult. I'm also a lot more sober and realistic. And we need to edit this story down. To sum up, here is what I've noticed. All the literature says sun exposure causes actinic keratosis. If that's true, its only partly true. Actinic keratosis is, like probably nearly most health issues, a nutritional problem. Switching my diet over to raw milk at age 43 DRAMATICALLY reduced the bi-yearly arrival of them, for me. A year after I switched to raw milk, I found Sally Fallon's "Nourishing Traditions" and even though I think the "science" therein is absurdly flimsy, those folks are onto something. I began pushing liver, more meat, and saturated fats in my diet. Culminating with drinking raw cod liver oil three times a week.

I haven't had an actinic keratosis in over a year. The several I had in the years prior, I made go away without having to have them burned off. This does not mean I have cured them. I will probably get them again. I'm 46. I grew up nutritionally compromised, I flatly abused my body in my 20s, there was never a summer in my childhood I wasn't burned to blistering multiple times, and I'm getting older.

I'm still not dogmatic. I occasionally eat at The Cracker Barrel. I still eat sugar. And I will never be a purist---no matter how scared I get, purity just isn't in my nature. And one more thing. FUCK sun screen. I don't use it and never have. I did spend the last 20 years avoiding exposure to summer sun between 11 and 4:00, but mostly because I hate to get overheated. I began drinking raw milk because I bought a cow, not for nutritional reasons. The nutritional benefits of raw milk dawned in me as an absolutely unexpected gift. But raw milk also put me outside tending livestock. Now I relish the sun. I don't avoid it pointedly and will often pause to bask my face in its warmth. Though I still hate to get overheated and often seek shade.

I think saturated fat and sunshine are healthy. If you have been diagnosed with actinic keratosis, you have more control than any doctor will say. Because they don't know. Even though they are scientific experts. Because we live on a wobbly ball. And because our society is foolish and dependent on authority. Go clean up your diet, eat some butter, drink some water, and sit in the sun. You will feel better and everything is going to be okay.

ps: Still not dogmatic, even in my absolute conviction that sunscreen is a toxic scam. Everyone probably should put zinc oxide on their noses and ears at the beach. Zinc oxide is good for your skin, especially if you have actinc keratosis. Rub it into your lesions and it will help them go away.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

FINALLY, a decent working definition of unschooling:

"Shine a light ahead for them, and lend them a hand, but don't drag or push them." ~Pam Sorooshian
When I was in high school three boys got themselves lost on the biggest local river. They made the rookie river mistake, nearly fatal, of thinking high water looked strangely calm and fun. They put in, in a canoe. Two days later, no one could find them. The story has a happy ending. They lost the boat, everything they had with them, and I think maybe a lot of their clothing. But they managed to grab ahold of a tree and climb it. The spent a long cold night in that tree before they were found. They were friends and our community had already lost several teenagers in drinking and driving accidents. We collectively held our breath, our hearts, and each other as we waited for those boys to be found.

I was waiting that day in the nearest gas station when one of The Mothers, a mother of one of the lost boys, walked in. She was crying for him, calling his name. "Where is Woody? Where is by baby?" I will never forget it. Looking back on that memory now, as a mother myself, is rending. Even knowing her son was at that moment relatively safe, if not yet found. He is a surgeon and a father now.

Many years later I walked into that same woman's office seeking advice. She was a wise therapist and I needed help. My best friend had just been diagnosed with a fatal cancer. I couldn't figure out how to manage my grief while still parenting. I didn't know what the boundaries are for a situation such as profound grief while parenting, protracted slow grief, at that.

She was so grandmotherly and warm and sympathetic. The exact same thing had happened to her as she parented through the cancer of a beloved friend. She told me it was going to be okay. She told me knitting helps. She introduced me to Pema Chodron. And she gave me a curious image. She told me about a mother pig she once saw that was covered in little baby pigs. The little pigs crawled all over their mother, nursing, rooting, scrambling, squealing, playing and napping. While the mother lay perfectly still, resting. She told me to rest with my grief near my children so they could see me and be with me and not be afraid.

So I like to think of myself sometimes as a big fat pink mother pig, in the moment, with my children, not dishonest that life does occasionally hurt. Woody's mother died this week. She was a great woman.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Date three, I had no urge to weep! We've been so busy and rushed, we almost forgot about dating again. Until the children reminded us: "Aren't y'all supposed to go out together?" Oh right, thanks! It took me about 20 minutes to move from sitting in my pjs on the couch unbrushed and unfed to slapping a hot lunch on the table for the children, brushing everything, and heading out the door. 

We landed at the local gas station, which may sound unlikely but was awesome. The south is charmingly quirky. There are hidden local places you can fill all your tanks in the best ways. This Texaco just so happens to serve local grass fed meats, organic produce, and good beer next to the pump along with their moonpies, nabs, and B.C. powders. 

We sat on a shady patio watching a Harley gang roll through. And watching new mothers out with their lovely babies. Oh so cute. Oh so not me. I told my husband I wanted to sit right there admiring the new mothers and my beer for brunch in equal measure. I gloried in getting deliciously hammered in the warm fall sunshine, which only took three quarters of a beer to accomplish. Then we sat by the river and dibbled our toes. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

"I'll light the fire. And you place the flowers in the jar that you bought today."

I got my first job when I was 14. I remember there was some question about the legality of me working as a waitress at that age. And OY, was I awful! I was too young. After quitting that first job in abject shame over my total inadequacy as a waitress I went on to a 1000 other jobs. There was basically never a time from age 14 to September 1998 at age 31 when I quit my job as a nanny to go home and await the birth of my first child, that I was unemployed. Eventually I mastered the arts of waitressing, bar tending, dental assisting, and nannying. Throw in some midwifery on the side and professional cooking. I'm hell on a line--fast, Baby, fast! And I'm not a bad prep cook, either. 

The better part of most of those jobs was daydreaming about what I would do when I got home. Perhaps light a fire and make dinner for my husband. So that when he walked in the house he might have the opportunity to think to himself: my wife rocks! Or perhaps draw a bath, light some candles, and admire a glass of wine sweating on the side of the tub as I sank into frothy warm bubbles. Or perhaps rearrange my living room furniture in a more pleasing way while cleaning every inch of the floor underneath. When I had an outside job, my house was never kept perfectly but almost always perfectly cozy, warm, thoughtful, and clean enough. 

"Such a cosy room. The windows are illuminated by the sunshine through them, fiery gems for you."

Being home with my children became my job. I've never had a more difficult or gratifying job. And at first I wanted to keep everything as adorable and precious as I did before I had kids. More adorable and precious, actually, because of course now babies were involved. And a whole lot of the time our world looked good. Toys were organized sometimes, floors were cleaned fanatically while they learned to crawl, ditto for tubs which remained spotless for fat bottoms. I scrubbed and arranged and stocked low shelves full of high quality art supplies. Stacks of books became decor. Cooking was simplified nearly to the point of weeping--how many boiled lima beans can one man eat? Laundry, always clean never folded, lived in a mountain on the couch. And I believe I alone know the secret of getting that pee-pee smell completely out of the bathroom. 

"Our house is a very, very fine house, with two cats in the yard."

Do you know what happens over time, if you work from home 24 hours a day? It all becomes invisible. Most of the corners of my rooms have cobwebs. Walls are splattered with dirt and fingerprints. Window sills are brown and furry. Toilet bowls? Ugh! Our adult shower is moldy. Stuff gets caked onto stuff and stays there. Empty spaces accumulate, mysteriously and nefariously--insidiously.

Yesterday I told a friend these things are beneath me. Then I sat there and felt guilty about saying such a thing. These things are not beneath me at all. These things are my job. But thinking about inane details does one of two things to a person living in one space 24 hours a day. It either makes you obsessive or very boring. Noticing this minutia is beneath my attention because none of it matters very much. Sure, all of it matters a little bit and must be kept in balance for health as well as self esteem, but only in balance.

My attention is full of other details and questions: what makes children grow smart and kind? What's for dinner other than lima beans? What if we grow more of our own food? The light has quickened in my son's eyes, why? My daughter needs something more, what? Can I give my children a richer perspective of now, in the future, if I write our life down? Knitting is good. Willow caning is perfectly imperfect, does life create metaphor intentionally and is that God at work? Stuff like that. 

Ever notice how it feels to walk into a magazine worthy home? It feels lovely at first glance. Then it feels sterile. Then it feels sort of dark when I begin wondering what these people actually care about, if all their time is sunk into caring for material objects. Are they thinking shiny matters? Does shiny matter? Usually, I can't get back to my own dust bunnies fast enough. And I'm sorry if that sounds judgmental. But honestly, who cares about mud on the walls when you could be holding a napping cat, hearing your own heart whisper, and protecting sacred space for your children? 

"Come to me now and rest your head for just five minutes." Because five minutes from now we'll all grow up, figure out what matters, and get on with the good life. My good life isn't shiny, it isn't as clean as it used to be, but it is full of love, ideas, and space to create.
It's happening. Mothers are writing messages of love.
 And its working! Yesterday, as I was photographing a message of love, a mother new to homeschooling walked by and happened to glimpse the message. She didn't know we were doing a project targeted specifically to all new homeschooling parents. But she saw the message and stopped in her tracks. Then she said, "Whew, you HAVE NO IDEA just HOW MUCH I NEEDED to hear that!"
Well yeah, actually we did know; we do know. 
Yesterday this project generated a lot of discussion about what it feels like to decide to homeschool. It feels like fear in the beginning. And later that feeling transmutes into joy. 
You can take your shoes off now and just be with your kids. You don't have to be afraid anymore. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A lot of the children's games, when they were little, were verbal. They created stories with each other, collaborating on elaborate worlds. Pez was the most famous. This semester they are taking a creative writing class and it began with a demonstration on character development. And a homework assignment to develop a character. Which has led to lots of interesting discussion and reminiscing about Pez characters and character development in general. The process should feel a bit familiar to them, as its something they've already done.

Dear Girl tells us JK Rowling was planning to kill Hagrid. But she decided not to, because she enjoyed the symmetry of having Hagrid deliver Harry both to and from the Dursley household. Reading through the Pottermore fan site is a good study in the construction of story lines.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Our boy and his father began a running program last month. They run together every other evening. For some reason there is something very cozy about seeing them suit up and head out together. They come home smiling and chatting and all aired out. Its getting very manly around here.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

April & May is a magazine started and edited by a local homeschooling friend who is my daughter's age. It is an online magazine for girls aged 11-16, run with no ads, completely free, and is welcoming submissions. If you check out the first edition, you can see my daughter's contribution on the first page. I am hugely proud of the editors, staff,  and contributing authors of the magazine. And, of course, I am proud of my daughter.

The next edition is themed mystery. A few weeks ago my daughter began reading a new murder mystery series called Curiosity Thrilled The Cat. Because the next edition of the magazine is themed mystery and she's fallen in love with a new mystery series, and because she thinks a lot of kids have never heard of the series, she has decided to write a book review for submission.

THIS is how unschooling works. This is interest driven learning. And all of this, the idea for a magazine driven to fruition by one young lady, my daughter's decision to write about current literature to help other kids find something wonderful, kids reading, writing, and educating each other through their own initiative, interest, and drive is the essence of unschooling.

People ask how it works. This is how it works. No parents made any of these kids do any of this. All of the projects contained in the larger project of the magazine are driven by the interest and initiative of the children.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

I am VERY EXCITED about my newest project. The news is getting around. And the images are coming in. Have you sent me yours? Your image with a phrase you would have liked to hear the day you decided to homeschool. A message from you now to you that day, for all new homeschooling parents. 

I'm planning to take these awesome images from homeschooling parents, with their best advice, and create a video montage which I'll publish as a gift to the homeschooling community and to all new homeschooling parents.

Join in. Spread the word. Send images to:

Friday, September 14, 2012

 Park day for homeschoolers, once a week most weeks for years. 
 Parents tend to circle up, and also circulate around. 
Magic The Gathering is quite popular. Love the mixed age groups that constantly sift and shift. 
This is the best season for park days. The weather is unbelievably kind and the day can stretch on for many many hours in the warm sunshine. We stayed from 2 - 6:30 yesterday. Because it was just that awesome out.  There was chatting, strolling, knitting, guitar playing, and card trading. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

This, by the way, is TS. He is on loan from The Farm Goddess, here because we are in the season of love for goats. I've secretly come to think of him as Mr. Tumnus. He is the the nicest buck I've ever met. If we get a buck out of him, we'll keep him. TS has a wonderful demeanor. 
 And, to me, he looks like an ancient creature of yore. Which, I suppose, he is. 

I need a faster camera, but the blurry ones are often my favorite. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

This morning as my son and I were eating breakfast (dear girl was fast asleep) I asked my son for help building a vertical hay feeder that would hold one bale of hay at a time. I had the design and the tools, but I needed help. He willingly offered help.

We sketched the basic idea. We assembled necessary tools. We brainstormed techniques and plans. And then we commenced to build the thing. Basically, we cut up a cattle panel, turned the pieces vertically, folded them into L shapes, hinged them together, and took the whole thing into the goat pen. We made a square out of two Ls, hinged together on one side, and planned to attach the open side to a T-post. Sort of like this: <>.  Very simple. Very pleasing. Only, clipping and bending cattle panel wire is precarious and difficult. But WE DID IT!

I want the hay holder in the middle of the pen so goats can access it from all around and more importantly, so every passing dog won't pee on the hay. Dear boy carried our new hay holder into the middle of the goat yard and I followed with a T-post and a pile driver.

Pile drivers are intense. They are intentionally heavy. And unwieldy. I'm pretty sure they are the reason construction workers use hard hats.

It was all going so well. We were nearly finished. It was before lunch time. And I was minutes away from giving my goats a whole fresh bale of hay at one time, in such a way that they could eat through the entire middle without fouling the hay at all.  Wahoo! I was blogging in my head, silently bragging, as I pounded the last few pounds into the T-post. Oh happy successful designing, building, homeschooling, cooperating, while being practical innovative and thrifty!!! Brag brag brag went the voice in my head.

Until CLANG! The happy bragging voice was obliterated by the sound of the pile driver hitting my head. Yes, I over lifted the thing and dropped right on top of my noggin. What a stupid fool!

I dropped the pile driver, grabbed my head, and started walking inside while calmly telling my son to get my friend on the phone. He did so and got me a bag of frozen spinach to use as an ice pack. I sat, chilled, called my husband and my mom, my friend came over, and everyone agrees I'm fine. I didn't bleed, lose consciousness, or even swell much. (I'm hard headed?) I don't think I have a concussion. But, maybe only because I'm LUCKY. Sheesh.

All's well that ends well. My husband will come home and drive that piling for me. Then my goats will have vertical hay, by God. And I've learned two good lessons: focus on the job AT HAND, and shut your brag hole while you're working!

p.s. My husband got home and sank that T-post in 10 seconds. Then he filled our new feeder and the goats began eating happily. It works like a charm and I am so delighted to finally have a proper clean non-wasteful way of putting out hay.
pps. For those interested in the usefulness of this design, I should mention I cut two holes on either side to make it easier for them to get their heads through. I cut through the bars like this: + 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My husband and I have a new policy. We leave the children and go out for a date once a week. We've done this twice now. And its just huge for me. In 13 years, we've only left the children with a sitter and gone out alone 2 or 3 times. We can't afford baby sitters. And we didn't have children to leave them. From the beginning, we've been invested in being with them. Which is lovely. But has become precarious for our marriage and my sense of self. Without a self, there ain't much wife to go around, if you see what I mean.

I asked a police officer what is the official legal age for leaving children home alone. Mine are 12 and nearly 14. Gosh, by 14 I think its beyond obvious. Though, obviously, I've erred on the side of caution. I have left them sporadically this year to run quick errands and such. But I was curious about official governmental policy on the issue. Surprising me, he said there is no official age. He said children may be left alone when they are considered "reasonable" and when doing so would be considered "reasonable" by a normal group of reasonable people. He said the criteria of reasonability was literal and specific.

We've gone out twice. Both times I've been overwhelmed with an urge to weep. On the first date, I felt like weeping for almost the whole time. The last 30 minutes of our date found us drinking a beer over a plate of nachos. I finally relaxed there and it was time to go home. A need to weep was familiar by the second date but didn't last the whole time.

I do not flatter myself that I could or should provide all my children need. I haven't stayed home with them in order to attempt to do so. But for the last nearly 14 years, I have been aware on an acute moment by moment basis, that I'm ON. Parenting and providing an education are an obligation I take seriously. If I am with my children, even if it looks like I'm just sitting on the couch knitting alone, I am aware of my job as a parent and educator. I may fail often, but I never put the burden of it down. In much the same way that forks never float off tables, knobs never turn themselves, and laundry never washes itself.

As an unschooler, a lot of my work appears invisible. I like to think there is an ancient immutable finesse about the whole situation and I aspire to that. But for a whole lot of the time, if you look in at what is available to see, it might look as though nothing is happening. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Even though it looks as though I'm sitting on the couch knitting, I'm actually deeply engaged in parenting and teaching.

Such that, I am finally willing to admit, my job is work. And I occasionally need a break.
I have no interest in keeping deathaversaries. I think its a rather ghoulish, masochistic, and punishing habit. We can better and more fondly remember our loved ones any random day. But I will say this of 9/11/2001. On this day eleven years ago at right about this moment, I was on a playground with my two toddlers in a random and curiously international group of other mothers. When the second plane hit a Russian woman near me panicked. I thought she was overreacting. I was so innocent. Our country was so innocent. In that way, al-Qaeda, offered our country a tremendously harsh truth lesson.

Monday, September 10, 2012

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart
will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure
of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to
an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries;
avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of
your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless,
airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become
unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
~C.S. Lewis

Thank you, that is all. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

I'm reposting this from my old blog, as a response to Penelope Trunk's "School Porn."

My kids encounter three serious frustrations when they play with kids who go to school. Not reflecting any one child, these are three qualities they encounter repeatedly. In their own words: kids won't listen, kids don't know how to do anything, kids can't think for themselves.

Haunting, no? Reading that list, what parent can't sympathize? These are the frustrations everyone has with most children. We've begun talking about the different cultures of homeschool and institutional school. Its in no way fixed or absolute, but in general you know when you are dealing with an institutionalized child. The children know it, for sure. So we talk almost as if they are different nations of people. Each with a need for respect and understanding. The metaphor breaks down though, because a nation never outgrows itself culturally at a certain age. Childhood, it seems, may have become something we inflict on young people by robbing them of their autonomy. We might call it: Crying Alone In Your Crib For The Next Eighteen Years.

All of these kids will grow up one day. By adulthood they should all be the same age literally, mentally, and emotionally. We have to have compassion, I tell my children, because its really very difficult to learn how to do anything when all of your learning must happen inside one room, and mostly on an eight by ten sheet of paper. When you aren't allowed your own opinions, choices, or freedom of basic movement. When you must learn what you are forced to learn and nothing more.

And when I said that thing about the room and the piece of paper my world tipped. Most of the time I spend thinking about my children's education is defensive and worried. Are they good enough in enough ways? How might they lack or exist in some mysterious place called "behind"? In making a stand for compassion, the flip almost made me nauseous. It is hard to learn when you are trapped in a box in a box looking at a rectangle all day, every day, day after day. The structure of my worry melted and I saw the elephant in the room, a cruel and dogged trap.

My kids are not perfect. Its not that I'm bragging about their perfection. I'm trying to look deeply for what's right and what's true. In helping my kids navigate our world, last night, I suddenly saw a glimpse of the truth for a quick instant. How odd that I could not have been more shocked by its stark simplicity when its a thing I've claimed to have already known. I suppose learning is a layered phenomenon and unending.

Classrooms can be dynamic, in a way. And you do get a new one every year. And I have said before that school will offer children lessons they can't get at home. And no child is perfect. But I'm not writing about any specific child. I'm looking at children, who they are really, what we inflict on them, and how all of this affects the social culture of our people.

We drove by an elementary school jungle gym. My girl said, "Oh that is soooooo coool." And it is cool. Its a lovely jungle gym. Its coolness very much calculated to advertise coolness to parents in search of just the right way to socialize and educate their children. Looking at it I felt a forty year old ache. I said, well yes it is very cool but kids aren't allowed to play on it whenever they want, (or if the truth be told, hardly at all, but I didn't say that.) She replied, "You mean they control your PLAY?!" Oh, honey, you just have no idea. The things these kids don't know might fill a book, eh?

Its starts before school, of course. The culture of institutionalization begins where? In a mother's arms. And the fruition of that culture begins the day the children leave home. Lets hope they all walk out the door confident, full of rich experience, autonomous, happy, and looking for a life as full of love, truth, and creativity as they've been taught to expect.
I had a migraine yesterday. And my internet connection is down at home. I can only get online at the library. Clearly, this is a suffering time for me. So I was laying on the couch resting. My children were near and concerned for me.

I told them, "Y'all are so thoughtful, so caring and kind. You are really good children, thank you."

My daughter replied, "Hell Yeah!"

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Jackson and Rill have a special relationship. I don't know exactly how mutual it is. He certainly tolerates her. She seems to drive the emotional trajectory, though. She nuzzles him, rubs her head all over his, licks his ears, and likes to sleep curled near his face. Inside, outside, wherever napping is happening she likes to be close. Of course, everyone loves Jackson. But what does he see in her?

Just kidding, Dear Daughter! Rill is demon spawn a perfect angel, as everyone knows. See? True love!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

My daughter: "I had a goat step in my mouth one time. It tasted all salty and weird."
You know those tightly controlled neighborhoods that have review boards to sign off on any decision a homeowner might make such as painting their house, putting up a fence, cutting down a tree, or planting a garden? I'm talking about the kinds of neighborhoods that don't allow folks to hang laundry, keep a few chickens, park an extra car, or do anything visible. All that process, review, and standardization is done to protect property value. And perhaps less consciously, to make a statement: Here live people who have money and a desire to set a certain tone. I think these folks mean to suggest a certain level of trustworthy sanity and sanitation.
I can't figure out if all this process, review, and standardization (hey, does this sound like life is school to anyone else?), if all this control, is more pathetic or more ironic. Who lives in those places? Well, of course we can't really know. Perhaps people acclimated to false authority? People obsessed with appearances? People uncomfortable with the chaotic nature of reality----ah, this one most probably.

Clyde's neighborhood was nothing more than a backwater cancer cell, dirty, dirty cheap, and on the other side of everything anyone wanted in the 1970s. This I remember well. (Yes, sometimes memory is meaningful.)
When you drive through today you can't mistake a well tended cohesion. Every house is tidy and cared for lovingly. The vibe is thoughtful, intentional, and suggests smart people (well educated, liberal, intelligent, good) live there. Its the kind of place you drive through and think to yourself: This would be a good safe sane place to raise babies.

How did that happen without any review boards? How did that happen in the face of chaos and everyone allowed to do anything. It happened through art. What is art?

I asked a smart man the most important thing to know about life. I was fresh out of school and woefully uneducated. I needed to know what 13 years of institutionalization, standardization, and control had failed to teach. He told me there are two kinds of people. People who avoid chaos and people who confront chaos. He suggested confronting chaos was the way to go, attending reality.

Only art and love are capable of establishing cohesion and sanity in the face of chaos. Love does this ineffably. Art does it through confrontation, questioning, and release. Art makes irony its bitch, shines light on the insides of things, attempts to see clearly, and creates more than it controls.