Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I was aware of the word eminent, as in famous. I was aware of the word imminent, as in a coming disaster. Though, I did not realize these two words were spelled differently. I think I gave both a vague common definition of bigness and let that suffice in meaning, in my mind, justifying both as the same word. And until yesterday, I had never heard of the word immanent, which means suffused from within. 

None of which should be confused with emanation: to flow outward. Nor its opposite, immanation: to flow inward.
Everyone got that?
The Potato Famine

"In 1847, midway through the Great Irish Famine (1845–1849), a group of Native American Choctaws collected $710 (although many articles say the original amount was $170 after a misprint in Angie Debo's The Rise and Fall of the Choctaw Republic) and sent it to help starving Irish men, women and children. "It had been just 16 years since the Choctaw people had experienced the Trail of Tears, and they had faced starvation... It was an amazing gesture." Judy Allen, editor of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma's newspaper." (wiki source)

There are a few things to understand about the Irish Famine. It wasn't a famine. The potato crop failed,  and potatoes were the only food poor people grew for themselves. So when that crop failed, they all starved--many to death. Meanwhile, the country of Ireland exported more than enough food---beef, pork, and diary products, to feed everyone. There was no famine. There was forced starvation in service to the wealthy making money to feed the wealthy. Huge implications in this for our current world economy and coming climate change, especially with regard to Monsanto's intention to monopolize DNA and seeds. 

Had the poor cultivated goats and chickens, animals capable of foraging most of their calories, the poor may have still been poor and possibly hungry. But likely not started to death. Cultivated crops deplete the land but livestock, well managed, increase land fertility in perpetuity. 

I tell ya, this series about New York history keeps pointing to issues frighteningly current. The things they fought about 200 years ago are still not settled today. And notice, as John Steinbeck points out over and over, its always the poor---the people who have been there---who turn to help the poor. The wealthy don't concern themselves.

Monday, January 28, 2013

My girl wanted to go shopping this weekend with her bff. Christmas money was burning holes in their pockets. So I took them to Target. While they were busy I perused the book section and chose 5 to buy on behalf of my kids. Not to make them read, not in service to some specific curriculum, but just to leave laying around. Because the things laying around home are things they will stumble upon. More like as not, books stumbled upon often get read. They surely can't be read if they aren't here. Yes, the kids do choose their own books from the library. But my choices are generally outside favorite genres and often above their radar. I tend to buy up and have never been sorry.

We are now working our way through the history of New York by PBS on Netflix. Last night we watched the first one, beginning in 1609. I chose this series randomly in the same way I chose five books at Target this weekend. I have a dim notion we will visit NYC one day and history can only enrich, right? I had no idea I was bringing in an excellent introduction to the history of the United States with special emphasis on our political heritage and the development of Republicans and Democrats.

Over simplified: there are Hamiltonians and Jeffersonians. Hamiltonians are civic oriented and believe investing money from the public into public works creates jobs and wealth for the community. Jeffersonians believe our strength as a nation is largely agrarian and the national government has no business concerning itself with the economy of its citizens. Perhaps ironically, Hamilton was an orphan immigrant and completely self made. He was a brilliant creator of wealth and brought the entire city (and it could be argued, our country) up with him. Jefferson inherited his wealth and died deeply in debt. Republicans love to tout their self made self reliance. ..Star Belly sneetches and all that.

The other thing I found rather electrifying was an explanation of The Grid. Sometime in the early to mid 1800s city officials decided to completely level the entire island of Manhattan. Every hill, every spring rivulet and pond, every quirk, every bank (The steep banks of Brooklyn?!), every thing was erased. They wiped it all in an effort to triumph over nature, and to simplify real estate and navigation. It was purely intentional. Some of that worked. To say they forgot about planning green space would be silly. The entire continent behind Manhattan was green space. They simply claimed the island.

Which is why I feel creeped out to the depth of my soul when I am in Manhattan. I thought it was just me being a country mouse. No, it is partly my culturally Jeffersonian roots, to be sure. But its also my inner perception of a profoundly perverse intention.

So, shopping and Netlix both offer excellent ways to do something unschoolers call Strewing. We sprinkle information all over the place. You have to walk around it to get the bathroom. And push it off the table to find a place for your drink. Enticing information is hopefully part of the atmosphere around here. At least, that's the basic idea.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

This Kid's Reading List 2013
A Storm Of Swords  ~G. Martin
Too Many Curses  ~A. Lee Martinez
Monstrous Regiment - Our favorite Pratchett
Dog On It ~Spencer Quinn
Sick Puppy ~Carl Hiaasen
Fragile Things ~Neil Gaiman
The White Company - Arthur Conan Doyle
Sir Nigel ~ Arthur Conan Doyle
Unseen Academicals - Terry Pratchett
Four And Twenty Blackbirds ~Cherie Priest
Lock Down, Escape From Furnace I ~A. G. Smith
Wings To The Kingdom ~Cherie Priest
A Short History Of Nearly Everything ~Bill Bryson
The Golden Apples of the Sun ~Ray Bradbury
True Grit ~Charles Portis
The Disappearing Spoon ~Sam Kean
Interesting Times ~Terry Pratchett
Guards! Guards! ~Terry Pratchett
Basket Case ~Carl Hiaasen
Equal Rites ~Pratchett
The Kingdom of Bones ~Stephen Gallagher
The Truth ~Pratchett
Small Gods ~Pratchett
Borkmann's Point ~Hakan Nesser
The Kings and Queens of Roam ~Daniel Wallace
Life of Pi ~Yann Martel

This Kid's Reading List For 2013
Catching Fire ~Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay ~Suzanne Collins
Before I Fall ~Lauren Oliver
Dog On It ~Spencer Quinn
Just Listen ~ Sarah Dessen
Emily The Strange, Dark Times ~Rob Reger
Girls In Love ~Hailey Abbott
To Fetch A Thief ~Spencer Quinn
The Dog Who Knew Too Much ~S. Quinn
Prom Crashers ~Erin Downing
What Happened to Goodbye ~S. Dessen
Sleight of Paw ~Sofie Kelly
Shut Out ~Kody Keplinger
Ripped At The Seams ~N. Krulik
Glimmerglass ~Jenna Black
The Red Tent ~Anita Diamant
Real Live Boyfriends ~Ruby Oliver
Leap Day ~Wendy Mass
13 Little Blue Envelopes ~Maureen Johnson
I'm So Sure ~Jenny B Jones
dirty little secrets ~c.j. omololu
The Darlings in Love ~Melissa Kantor
Epic Fail ~Claire LaZebnik
Along For The Ride ~Sarah Dessen
The Bean Trees ~Barbara Kingsolver
45 Pounds, More or Less ~Kelly Barson
So Over My Head ~Jenny B. Jones
Shadow Hills ~A. Hopcus

Friday, January 25, 2013

     Verb: Criticize unfairly; disparage: "there is a tendency to denigrate the poor".
     Synonyms :blacken - slander - defame - vilify - asperse - malign

I sent this definition to my son in an email this morning. Because last night at dinner I reminded my husband that job interviews resulting in no job should never be a source of self denigration. Job interviews, especially at his level, are a HUGE compliment. My son questioned the meaning of denigration. I pointed to the dictionary we keep on the coffee table. (Which we should probably rename the dinner table, since it's where we eat dinner.) It turns out denigration is not included in our unabridged dictionary.

     1: not abridged : complete <an unabridged reprint of a novel>
     2: being the most complete of its class

If someone were to try and explain unschooling to me right now, if I had never heard of it, I would assume I was talking to a crazy person. Unschooling sounds like unbounded and total bullshit, even to me. Even rereading my own writing here, unschooling sounds like unbounded and total bullshit. Of course, I have a lot to learn about writing...

As I write this morning I am also boiling presoaked beans to presoak them an extra hour while I'm out walking with a friend, (after I milk the goats.) And I'm making cinnamon oatmeal with currents for breakfast. I want to simmer and type at the same time, but I hate the sound of our timer. I'll have no alarms shattering this delicious quiet morning. So I had the bright idea to look for a youtube timer. They exist and I set one. When next I looked at it, it read 32 seconds and my first thought was: What bullshit, this thing doesn't work at all! There was a confused pause in my mind. My next thought was: Oh, four and half minutes have passed, right. 

While my son was looking up the meaning of denigration other words snagged his attention. Because that's what happens to humans who read the dictionary. He noticed that "cut" has 82 definitions, which reminded him of this day. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

I've just noticed my vision for homeschooling is permanently set forward, to the East. I can only see the coming days. Two days after we got home from Albuquerque, I announced with a feeling of shame that we had nothing planned for this coming semester. Which is true, we have nothing planned. For the first time I can remember since the children were quite small, I have not nudged them, unschooling style, into choosing plans. And it feels like a disaster about to unfold. Even though I call us unschoolers. What is up with that? 

I do like to point to concrete things. I like to say: Here There Be Kids Doing Things. See the book lists and the classes and the projects? Yes, we definitely are-be doing things. But what about the last three weeks? What about a four thousand mile road trip that included geography, history, sociology, hyper-enrichment, and a freaktastic balloon ride? Just how long do we allow for digestion, integration, simmering, and composting? If you never test, you never call an end point to learning. And the fact is, intellectual compost is permanent for the life of the human. 

The bigger danger is in doing too much. That was the very first homeschooling advice I got. And I can still remember my deep suspicion of that advice on a warm summer day in Texas in 2004. Oh yeah sure, I, the laziest human on the planet, should fear over scheduling, over exposing, over worrying, and generally over doing homeschooling? Yes. Doing too much is the very most common mistake in homeschooling. Which is a trait we share with institutional schools, by the way, the Arby's of education. 

Its easy to see why. Humans can see neither into the rising sun nor the future. Not even mothers, not even  Superintendents, no matter how long and willfully we stare. Planning up future time is all we can do. It gives us a cozy sense of pride and solidity. We have plans, we have the will to follow through, we shall proceed. But we have no evidence that much planning and following through without pause is good for children intellectually, neurologically, nor emotionally. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary. 

Which is why we call ourselves unschoolers. Which is why, this semester, I'm taking plans as they unfold or as they originate with the children. And by semester I mean, for a while. My kids are never exactly forced. But coercion is strong with mothers and where do we draw the line? 

Here. I'm drawing the line on planning here. I am not paying for classes this semester. I'm supporting the will to learn as it arrives in the foreground, in focus, immediate, in the moment. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Eat Like A Mennonite ~F. Williams This is an interesting article. A woman has her blood tested for pthalates and she has her daughter's blood tested as well. They both test high. Everyone living and eating the normal American diet will test high, though exposure is far more vast than simple diet. By adjusting their diet, she drops their levels way down. She concludes the government should fix this pthalate, endocrine disruptor, toxic chemical saturation problem. As she suggests she can't really be bothered to give up nail polish and canned refried beans because, hey, they're fun! So I guess until the government cleans up our act, her daughter is just fucked? I don't know.

She said, "For detox, I became an isolated Anxiety Mom." Yeah, that would be me she's describing. I'm Anxiety Mom patiently balancing my children's lives so they can feel and behave like normal citizens but protecting their food choices so their endocrine systems, genitals, and brains are safe. Yeah, I'm guess I'm anxious like that. Or as I prefer to think of it: Intelligent Mom.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Long ago, in a galaxy far far away.... My sister unearthed this gem from the past. I recall we dressed for this engagement party in a tent by the pond at Warren Wilson College where we camped that weekend. Where did those purple shoes get to? Those are some cool shoes! And I have no recollection of that dress at all. My husband here, has no memory of this whole event. This must be about 1993. Wow.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Me: Where did we wake up this morning?
Dear Girl: I don't even know where I am now.

Atlanta Georgia, that's where we are. This is our last night of travel. Tomorrow we'll be home. I have plenty to say and I'm just too slagged to write. My kids are now well heeled patient easy going awesome travelers. I can't think of any way they could have been more completely awesome this whole time. Truth is, they were consistently better behaved than any of the adults on any part of this whole adventure. The last hotel room:

Thursday, January 10, 2013

We rock-touched the Mississippi today. Which means we got as close as we possibly could, even going so far as to trespass. Then we threw rocks into the river. It was mighty. Getting closer was absolutely not possible, and I was willing to take plenty of risk getting there. The banks were unstable. Still, we made contact and that matters to me. I'm not sure why, I just needed us to touch the river somehow. 
Thank you from my soul, I-Hop, for your consistent and honest use of real butter.

Favorite moment from least favorite day: we came off the hell-road completely fried from driving on the worst highway past the worst things through hard rain and high winds that not only felt unsafe, but actually jackknifed two semi trucks along the way. I stumbled into the bathroom at Cracker Barrel and took a seat as much to decompress as to actually use the facilities. Cracker Barrel pipes music into their bathrooms, always retro Country&Western and always curiously tasteful. There was a silent pause. I pressed the heals of my hands into my eyes as I heard the first strains of "Islands in the Stream" by Kenny and Dolly, a strangely modern choice, but welcome. And as I began to silently mouth the first words all the women in the stalls around me began to sing.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I've seen the Balroc. Today we drove the sketchiest highway in the United States: 176 across southeastern New Mexico into west Texas. 200 marginally paved miles through oil wells, some actively burning, passing special bulk fluid tankers destined for WIPP. Yes, that is a fucking nuclear waste storage facility. I can't really express how horrifying and exhausting...but hey cheer up! When you get through that you only have another 200 miles of west Texas to go.

We saw a stockyard fronted by a steak house in Texas. As I said, out here its good common sense.

Crying is the antidote to anxiety. Just let it all out, honey. We'll be home soon.
"Well, face air is better than derriere." ~Dear Girl

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Roswell New Mexico is about 50,000 cows shy of being Lubbock. Putting that aside, Carlsbad is definitely worth it, especially the descent. And I'm too tired to type any more. Tomorrow we head due east and home.
The last thing Daddy Lion said before we fell asleep last night was, "Tomorrow we visit a huge hole in the ground." We're leaving Albuquerque, hitting Carlsbad, then turning left on I-20 and heading straight for Atlanta. We had been planning on going home back across I-40 but decided to go see Carlsbad, even if it adds an extra day. Huge holes aside, there are good and bad things about the new route. On the plus side, the trip will be new again, we won't cross any mountain ranges, and we should be south enough to more or less eliminate weather threats.

But I feel like Gandalf straining to hear the Balroc in the mines of Moria. We'll be traveling through west Texas. West Texas is possibly the most abominable area of our nation. I can only hope we'll skirt far enough south to avoid even the taint of Lubbock and get through it fast. West Texas is one concern of mine.

The other is missing Sandra. Sandra, Dear Badass Cowgirl, on the way through Knoxville we were flying, anxious to get down the road, and not at all ready to stop. We blew you kisses and made a plan to try and insinuate ourselves into your home for a night on the way back. The new route makes this impossible. We are very sad to miss seeing you on this trip. You say Carlsbad is worth it? Sigh, I miss you.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Old Home Place
You think you understand going up in a balloon is a big deal and something really cool to do. But when you're standing there watching your child rising up up and away and you see feel hear and smell the scope of the situation and you register that all the folks gathered around who do this weekly are definitely jazzed and super excited, STILL, about sending up a balloon, you understand its all bigger than you thought. It is a thrilling thing to do.

After us balloon chasers on the ground safely gathered our balloonists and the repacked the balloon and gondola in the trailer, we all returned to the launching site. There any first timers are initiated officially with a ceremony and a prayer. And a tailgating party of balloonists and their crews from all the landings celebrate together. In the car on the way back to the launch site I said that Dear Girl and her Dad are now balloonists and I wondered what balloonists are called--if there is some special name they give themselves. After a momentary pause Dear Girl pipped up from the back seat, "Badass! We're called badass."

Retelling that story at the tailgating party to all the big gruff salty old balloon men made them laugh a long time. Our pilot, Mike Garcia, said balloonists are just called balloonists mostly, but also they are called trespassers because they land everywhere. Which I think is kind of poignant.

Two videos from our day. The first is the Lift Off. The second is The Ballonist's Prayer and Initiation.

'As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing
That side was made for you and me.' 
~Woody Guthrie

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Winds have Welcomed you with softness.
The Sun has blessed you with his warm hands.
You have flown so high and so well
that God has joined you in your laughter
and set you gently back again
into the loving arms of Mother Earth.

 Dawn and Aunt Marge's House
Tonight's post hopefully brought you by the letter G for Gondola....

Saturday, January 5, 2013

  Resting in the living room.
Today we took the tram up Sandia Peak. It was spectacular. We played in the snow on top of the mountain, had some hot cocoa in the bar, and rode back down after sunset watching the lights of Albuquerque twinkle as the Rio Grande reflected the sunset. Its the longest tram in the world, yo!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Today we took the Rail Runner from Albuquerque up to Santa Fe. The thing is, this place is such a feast in every way, it is impossible to take it all in, or to convey what its like. While we were still home, my girl asked what we would be doing in New Mexico. She wanted to know if she had to worry about being bored. And one answer is yes, you will be bored. Visiting relatives is innately boring for children in a deeply dependable and comforting way. This is that. But what I told her back at home is also true and the kids are feeling it. When you are here, you are in a place so different and so special that just being here is an event. Grammie was trying to tell us what to look for as we road the train an hour through stunning high desert flanked by mountain chains on either horizon. I had to cut her off as an act of mercy. There is so much to see in the simple looking, its not helpful to think about what you're missing. What you're seeing is a feast. Everywhere you turn, feast feast feast. And its all just normal life here. We began with lunch at Tomasitas.  If you click over you'll hear the owner speaking God's Honest Truth. They serve the best red and green chili you can find. Feast feast FEAST!

Then we began walking around the Plaza. It only took about 4 minutes to pass an artist installing a piece in a window front. It was 1 degree here last night. So next I bought some shearling boots and wool socks and put them on my feet, possibly permanently.
Everything here is done well. Yes, its for tourists. But locals live here and they are living well. We were surrounded by locals, for the most part today. Its not tourist season right now. The people in the bookshop all live here. Imagine if this were your local book shop. We stopped for coffee, book browsing, and resting by this fire on generous warm linen couches.
I lived here in the late 1980s. So walking around was feast-full as well as sentimental. I used to live right down East Alameda, in the direction of that mountain you can see there, walking distance from this intersection. I saw shadow selves of me and my brother and sister all over these streets. We were so young, so clueless. It was so good then and its so good now. You can't hold any of it in a permanent way. You must understand you're missing it as you're living it. You can only feast.
On the train up we met an Opera singer named Dante who sang for us. On the way home, an auctioneer who cried for us. I didn't know it was called crying. I tried on a ring today in the Plaza. A translucent opal circled in tiny diamonds set in gold with no back. I studied lapidary when I lived here and I was pretty good at it too. A bunch of people in my family are metal smiths. I know jewelry. This was the most beautiful ring I've ever seen. It was magical, spectacular, a stone larger than a quarter that sat on your hand like shiny air, unbelievably subtle and striking at the same time, completely one of a kind and the man who made it was also selling it. Santa Fe is the sort of place you see such things. But these are trifling details. We exhausted ourselves just being happy stupid feasting tourists. Then we rode home. It was 16 degrees by 6:30 pm. There was frozen fog this morning and 22 inches of snow fell yesterday on the mountain tops behind Grammie's house, though not a single flake on us. We were cold, tired, almost hungry, and glad to let the train take us home.
Self Portrait 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The view from Grammie and Grandpa's driveway with clouds coming over the Sandia mountains.
 Grammie and Grandpa!
 We saw a code talker sitting on the wall today, outside their headquarters. I hadn't known about this before. But in WWII the US government hired Navajo to send messages back and forth to each other, by way of confounding Japanese and German code breakers. It worked. Pretty cool.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

 Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh, yes.

That New Mexican light, people! We crushed Oklahoma today---gorgeous driving, actually, with a soft fog the whole time. Texas was a welcome if brief homecoming. And tonight WE'RE EATING GREEN CHILI IN TUCUMCARI! Later we'll see what God meant when he invented stars.