Wednesday, November 28, 2012

When Jada Pinkett-Smith was asked why she let her daughter Willow shave her head, this is what she said: "This subject is old but I have never answered it in its entirety. And even with this post it will remain incomplete. The question why I would LET Willow cut her hair. First the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don't belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power, or self determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit, and her mind are HER domain. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It's also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother's deepest insecurities, hopes, and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be. More to come. Another day."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

When I was pregnant with my first child, my mother in law said something beautiful. Actually, I think she was paraphrasing something her Grandmother had taught her? Its written on a card she sent when she heard the good news, which is saved in a box upstairs somewhere. Basically: the more children you have, the more you come to understand your heart is capable of infinite expansion. Its the loveliest thing she's ever said to me.

We have to come to grips with the fact that our time on earth is limited. That is the hardest part--mortality. After that, it is slightly easier but no less relentlessly true that we have to choose what we will do. And in so choosing, will also be choosing what we won't do. Where we will and won't be.

I heard of an old woman who spent her entire 80-something years on the Outer Banks of N.C. She never left Hatteras Island. Hatteras is a fragile and fierce spit of sand staring down the Atlantic ocean and only about two miles wide. She lived her whole life there. We could say that is sad, thinking of everything she missed inland. But there is also something extremely beautiful about her life, to me. She is of that place wholly, as much as the oysters, sea oats, local accent, and salt. The people of Hatteras were so isolated for so long, to this very day they carry an Old English lilt in their speech, from their ancestors the Pilgrims who landed there and never left. Much like the isolated folks of Appalachia who arrived from the Highlands of Scotland, found solace in the mountains, and never left. They also retain local quirks of language, though the accent is lost from what is was, even since I was a child. I can clearly hear these regions as distinct from each other and from the accent of central NC.

Its cool to be of a place. But the world is huge. There is so much to see. Every time I've gone out into the world, my heart has expanded in a thrilling happy way. I've met and loved new people, heard new accents, discovered new foods and wonders from the geologic to the mystic. But always with a longing for home. Only to return home to discover a new longing for the wider world, a heart expanded in both joy and longing.

When I was pregnant with my first child my sister in law gave me a copy of "Operating Instructions" by Anne Lamott. Its a journal of Lamott's first year as a mother in which she learns she's "basically fucked" because she loves her son so much. She comes to understand she is now eternally vulnerable to the pain of unimaginable loss.

Its not just babies that expand our hearts. And its not just land we leave, when we roam. I'm ticking all of this around, wondering if my husband's work will ever lead us further afield. Its so hard to think of leaving. Its so sad to think of never going. But the truth is, life is for breaking our hearts open wider and wider so we can love more and more. Even though more and more always twins with less and less. We can't make life hurt less, but we can figure out how to enjoy it more.

"RELISH!" Bradbury said.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

My daughter walked into my room yesterday and I started to cry. Then I kind of laughed while crying at the same time. Was it Dolly Parten in Steel Magnolias who said, "Laughter through tears is the best emotion"?

Some years ago my thyroid freaked out. Actually, I never felt freaky. A run of the mill blood test during a checkup showed I was running high. Alarmingly high. So high the clinicians couldn't figure out why I had no symptoms. But thyroid issues run through the women in my family, I'm always tested, and no one was terribly shocked to hear mine was off. Though my sister, to her credit, made me repeat it three or four times. "High, they said your numbers were high?" Let's just say, I don't exactly look hyperthyroid...

So I trotted over to the fanciest hospital in this state, redid all the tests, confirmed my hyperthyroid diagnosis, and got a treatment plan. Through all of this I was sort of stoic, I guess. Let's just say I was stoic and graceful and taking it in stride. I've had friends with much worse diagnoses lately. The doctor told me they would have to remove my thyroid and put me on thyroxin. Right. I hardly blinked. She said they could do surgery. I was there when they wheeled my sister out of that surgery. Uh, no thanks. "Or," she said, "we can destroy your gland with radiation, there won't be any damage to the rest of your body, and that's that." I said, without blinking, I'd have the radiation. The doctor was pleased. I made the correct choice.

She went on to explain how it would go, the steps, what happens, etc, "then you go home and you can't touch or be near anyone for about three days." Hold the fucking phone. What do you mean three days? I can't touch my children for THREE DAYS? Right there, I burst into tears--the whole shabang with sobbing and snot and hiccuping. The doctor, who is as cold a bitch as I've ever met in my life, was totally flummoxed by my tears.

Sometimes I think what I do isn't all that important or challenging these days. Then I get a little cold with the tiniest little fever and have to spend the briefest few days laying bed. My husband absolutely picks up my slack. He's pure gold. The kitchen is kept clean and food is lovingly prepared and served. But I'm unable to do my job. What I do. I'm unable to be there for my kids. And my daughter walks into the room and I burst into tears. At the same time I begin to laugh. Because I love my children so much. And I am so lucky.

As for that bitch-three-days-doctor and her diagnosis, it turns out I only had something called thyroiditis. It resolved spontaneously. I never had to have any kind of surgery, radiation, or otherwise.

I'm on the mend, y'all. Thanks for the well wishes! :o)
Joe Heller

True story, Word of Honor:
Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer
now dead,
and I were at a party given by a billionaire
on Shelter Island.

I said, "Joe, how does it make you feel
to know that our host only yesterday
may have made more money
than your novel 'Catch-22'
has earned in its entire history?"
And Joe said, "I've got something he can never have."
And I said, "What on earth could that be, Joe?"
And Joe said, "The knowledge that I've got enough."
Not bad! Rest in peace!

--Kurt Vonnegut

The New Yorker, May 16th, 2005

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Big Daddy Lion has been in bed for an unprecedented two days, with a virus and hives. He'll be in bed this coming day, Thanksgiving, as well. Though I think he's turned the corner. I've been awake most of this night and I haven't heard much coughing coming from our bedroom. Which I presume means he is actually sleeping. And people, SLEEP is the key, the light, the way. Right up there with food. Sleep...why am I awake at 4 a.m.?

It looks like we will have modified celebration this year. For the first time in ...ever?... we don't have any guests coming nor travel plans. We're invited out to the country for a bonfire with old dear friends in the evening. I'll take the children out and that will be soul celebration. Later, maybe another day when the Lion is able, we shall feast on food. Before that, a feast of naps! And everywhere, gratitude.

Thank you, God, for this bounty, for life shelter food love and grace.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

It hit me at 3 a.m. that homeschooled children get to sleep, on average, at least an hour longer than their schooled peers everyday. Often two hours longer, judging the sleep of children in this house and figuring most middle schoolers average bed time at 9 and wake by 7. I'm guessing stress at home may be about half of the stress encountered by school kids? That is a wild guess, based on personal school experience and observation of kids at home. Life is generally a lot less stressful at long as Mom gets the sleep she needs... Anyhow, sleep and lack of stress probably have a lot to do with the academic advantage homeschooled kids enjoy.

Here is an interesting resource. Homeschooling: The Pros And Cons

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

 What I keep noticing lately is the long strange whole impossible length of them these days. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

"one criminal type [of face] consistently crept under the radar [of people's ability to thin slice character traits based on facial cues]: Rapists. Shockingly, women, (but not men) thought that the convicted rapists would be less likely to commit a crime than anyone else. Nonthreatening, even attractive, their faces didn't fit the stereotype. There may be a slyly adaptive reason for this disparity. Men who look aggressive or dangerous will have a harder time luring potential victims into situations where a rape can take place. A lesson: While our instincts can protect us from harm in a general sense, we can't depend on them to protect us from sexual assault.

~from What's In A Face by Jena Pincott

Sorry. I don't mean to be so quotastic on the blog. I'm distracted by the intrusion of actual life. But this little quote deserves serious consideration and I need a place to stash it in full view.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"I want my daughters to become women who remember me modeling impossible beauty. Modeling beauty in the face of a mean world, a scary world, a world where we don't know what to make of ourselves.

"Look at me, girls!" I say to them. "Look at how beautiful I am. I feel really beautiful, today."

Thank you to the woman who wrote this. I may reread it everyday for a long time--the whole article. Click over and read it. Please. Go, read, now. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

To everyone who spat at my feet in contempt, calling me racist at worst and a bad liberal at best for pulling my children out of the public school system, consider this little gem from the Virginia Board of Education:  Firestorm Erupts Over Education Goals.

It can hardly be made more stark. Racism is endemic to the system. I want no part of it. This is from VIRGINIA, people. We aren't even talking South Carolina or Mississippi. Florida, apparently, has done the same thing but at least set higher standards. This is from modern educators working now in today's world. Who could possibly think this is okay? Sheesh.

On the upside, at least "No White Children Left Behind" is an honest statement of intention.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Harsh truth time. My project: Messages of Love has been at a small stand still because I don't know how to convert a bunch of digital images into a slideshow with music. I know its done all the time. I know its simple. I just don't know how. I have vaguely assumed my husband knows how. And I mention my desire to him from time to time: "Hey, I'd like to learn how to do this thing." And he is always amenable. But somehow no one had ever gently taken my hand, sat me down, and said, "First, begin here..."

I think I've been waiting for someone to gently take my hand and begin teaching me about digital slide show technology. But that kept not happening. Probably because making the statement of intention to learn, even to an amenable husband, is not the same thing as sitting down to actually wrestle with the available information. Finally, yesterday, I googled "how to." I stumbled on a photography forum discussing the best software for these kinds of slide shows. So I asked my husband what he thought about buying specific software. Which caused him to say, "Oh sure, check your computer, you probably already have it."

And there it sits, Windows Movie Maker. I mean, it couldn't be labeled any clearer. Its RIGHT THERE. Been there the whole time. Just seeing it gave me a feeling of glee. Which quickly caved into enormous frustration because, of course, I don't understand how to use this software.

I am sorry to admit I experienced some rather harsh feelings toward my husband all through this epiphany and crashing frustration. I loaded imagines easily. Tried to add music and it wouldn't work. But my husband understood the problem and had the power to solve it. The music was in the wrong format---it was never going to work. There was no explanation as to why. But somehow he knew. He fixed it for me, of course. He is always willing to help. I only had to ask.
Why does help frustrate me nearly as much as being thwarted by my own stupidity? Second harsh truth: learning can be difficult, knowledge is occasionally obscure, and sometimes help is necessary. Even for things that seem like they should be easy.

What shall I infer about unschooling? Am I helping the children enough? I've wanted to understand the creation of digital slideshows for, oh, about six years. Left up to my own devices, it took me SIX YEARS to figure out something as simple as slideshows. And I didn't figure it out so much as ask the question that caused someone to stop what they were doing and show me what I needed to know. True, then I spent a few hours yesterday figuring out plenty on my own. Nevertheless, as an unschooling parent, I must admit all this took me way too long.

On the other hand, unschooling is learning how to learn, about which I've never claimed to be an expert. Its good to be humbled. I'm reminded about the importance of  just finding the right questions to ask. As I'm forced to stare into the pouty delayed face of my own frustration sitting quietly in my own little mind-desk waiting for some teacher-on-high to pour all knowledge into me.

Dear sweet darling awesome husband, I'm sorry. Thank you for your help.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Open Heart Seeks Magic, Finds Unexpected Graces. Stay Tuned, Like An Instrument. 

The trouble with believing yourself a monster is that you're so consumed with your own horribleness that you forget the horribleness of others. Ego tricks you into thinking your failures are extraordinary. When a Jen Gray reminds you that we are all monsters, the compassion that you've got for the monster sitting next to you can only make sense if you turn it to yourself as easily. ~Kate Inglis

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

When we lived in Texas, during the Bush years and 20 miles from Crawford, I was surrounded by Republican women. I befriended several Republicans. Which I didn't know was possible--probably because I had never met any female Republicans my age. All the Republicans I knew were very old, male, and white. Republicans were my Dad and his friends.

I learned in Texas most Republican women are pro choice on the abortion issue. I've never asked, but I believe even my father is pro choice. Barbara Bush is pro choice. Lara Bush is pro choice. Virtually every person I've ever met with a college education, who isn't Catholic, is pro choice. So why has the Republican party made abortion a plank upon which it stands? This question has been bothering me for months. And yesterday trying to answer this very same question put to me by my astute children, I thought I'd found the answer.

In the very most base way, its possible to break Democrats and Republicans down like this: Democrats believe in helping people who can not help themselves. The party stands on a basic moral premise. While Republicans believe in protecting their money.

I like my money. I appreciate the wish carried by Republicans, that life could be made simple, we should not be called upon to extend ourselves beyond our own lives, and if we didn't have to pay for government services our lives might be less expensive. I understand why someone might have those wishes. But, I find that point of view simplistic and immoral.

Now that church has fallen away for most families, moral structure is no longer implied evenly across society.  Republican politics are on a lonely shore; there is no moral structure underpinning their platform. Which, I think, is why their politicians are constantly making a show of faith by conflating scripture and government. After all, talk is cheap and praising God wins votes without costing any money. The irony here is so huge and would make any deity so wrathfully angry, I'll leave it to Karma. Republican politicians collect votes in the name of Jesus, but leave the feeding of needy people to....the needy people, I suppose.

I'd begun to think Republicans are spouting Anti Choice rhetoric simply to try and cobble a moral seeming plank into a platform devoid of morals. Then I read: Charmaine Yoest's Cheerful War on Abortion. Please read it. Its excellent and haunting. To sum up, I was nearly correct. The Republican party, tossing our children's reproductive health under an enormous shameful fascist and brutal bloody coat hanger, blithely courts Catholic votes with Anti Choice rhetoric. And that's it.

Meanwhile, I have yet to hear anyone make the most salient point about the abortion argument. So I'll make it here.

A fertilized cell goes through many changes during its 40 weeks inside the womb of its mother. For the first half of that time, this little lump of stardust is 100% completely and totally dependent on its mother's body. Let's name this developing embryo Stardust. It actually has several different scientific names as it develops. But Little Stardust can not be separated from its mother's body at first. It has no capacity to live on its own.

Most every person in the United States owns two healthy kidneys plus extra eyes, lungs, bone marrow, skin, and ropes of intestine they can technically live without. There are very sick human beings alive, barely, who could die without an extra kidney, lung, or bone marrow donation from someone healthy. But HEALTHY PEOPLE ARE NOT REQUIRED TO SHARE THEIR BODIES IN THIS WAY, EVEN IF THAT MEANS SOMEONE ELSE WILL DIE. This is a sad necessary difficult truth of life. And we can all see why this is so. Who would make someone else donate a part of their own body? No government could do such a thing without being monstrously fascist.

Stardust and all such developmentally dependent little lumps of love are allowed by their mothers to borrow her body. This is a beautiful arrangement, based on love and hormones. But it is not an arrangement we can legislate without becoming fascist. Yes, somewhere inside the womb Little Stardust does become capable of living without its mother (or a surrogate medical womb.) Exactly where that line is, is changing all the time. Be that as it may, this is still an arrangement that must be left up to each individual woman and her doctor. Governments can not legislate such without fascism.

Human beings are not pressed by the government of the United States to donate their body parts to keep other citizens alive. We are not even required to donate our very easily given blood. Every day, nearly every citizen alive in the United States elects to keep their body for their own use. Most of us even elect to keep our own bodies for our own use after we are dead. Women and their wombs are neither less human, nor lesser citizens, than anyone else in the United States. And unless we plan to change that, abortion must be kept safe and legal. Republicans and Democrats both know this is true, at least on an intuitive level.

Please consider: It’s hard to remember now, but for a brief moment around the time the Supreme Court decided Roe in 1973, it looked as if legalizing abortion would not be hugely divisive. Between 1967 and 1970, 17 states, including Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, lifted some restrictions on the procedure. The vote for Roe on the Supreme Court was 7 to 2, with conservative Republican appointees signing on. In a Gallup poll, 68 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of Democrats said in 1972 — the year after A.U.L. was founded — that the decision to abort should be solely between a woman and her doctor.

As those polls indicate, opposing abortion wasn’t always a moral imperative for the Republican Party. But it would soon become a tactical one. In 1979, two G.O.P. strategists, Richard Viguerie and Paul Weyrich, seized on the issue as a tool for wooing Catholic and evangelical voters to the party. As Linda Greenhouse and Reva B. Siegel write in their book, “Before Roe v. Wade,” the pair approached the Rev. Jerry Falwell with the idea of organizing a socially conservative “Moral Majority,” with abortion as the central issue. Vigurie and Weyrich also set up an early anti-abortion political action committee for the 1980 election, which they used to help get like-minded candidates elected. And in fact, around that time Republicans in Congress started voting for abortion restrictions at a higher rate than Democrats — even though Republican voters would remain more likely to be pro-choice than Democrats until the late 1980s.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Illiterate Ethiopian children are given computers with no explanation. This is what happened: 

"We left the boxes in the village. Closed. Taped shut. No instruction, no human being. I thought, the kids will play with the boxes! Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, but found the on/off switch. He'd never seen an on/off switch. He powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs [in English] in the village. And within five months, they had hacked Android. Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera! And they figured out it had a camera, and they hacked Android."

An example of absolutely pure unschooling. This little study makes my heart glow. Partly because it is fun and gratifying to participate in a cultural revolution. And mostly because children are just so wonderfully smart and capable. Thank goodness the adult world is finally waking up to the truth.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The night was perfect: nearly full moon, crisp brisk almost cold but not cold weather. The neighborhood is perfect: enthusiastic, participatory, full of children, off the beaten path, Totally Not Overdone, no crowds, and one family even had a haunted house in their garage. Our kids had what I consider to be the consummate American Halloween. The went out with good friends and cousins, went until they could go no more, had awesome self-made costumes that were also very comfortable to wear, and they hauled in a butt load of candy! Really, there is nothing more a kid could want. Right?
 This blur of whirl and fun is what its all about, a wig bigger than you and more candy. So fun. 
After tricks and treats, we went over to Clyde's town and walked the old abandoned bridge over the river, in the moonlight, to see the pumpkins carved and lit. Occasionally humans do such lovely things.

I'll get to Halloween pictures in a minute. But first, can I ask you all something? What do you think of this? I have thoughts about it. But I'd like to hear from other parents first.