Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Paying attention without getting distracted by the beauty and math of the farm and cows may be my biggest challenge there, after training. Yesterday I peeked under the grain silo, to see the exact point where grain pours over the metal lip, into plastic buckets. That ten second pause nearly created a mess it might have taken an hour to clean up. I'll have to focus on the exact point of the present moment, instead. I'm going to take a camera over there one morning when I'm not on the clock.
Back home on our tiny farm, which only gains in charm and right-feeling the longer I work at a bigger place, the guys are building a new and proper goat barn. For now it sorta looks like wooden Goathenge. We are so excited to get the goats into a luxury crib and the hay off our front porch!
Dear girl has been reading her way through a series of books from Girl Town, what grown southern women traditionally call "beach books." At her age, delighted reading is the goal. I don't care what she reads. Educationally, neurologically, reading for fun is one of the best things kids can choose.

Yesterday she asked to go the library for more books. She's getting tired of beach books and wants to branch out. She picked up "Pride and Prejudice" and I tossed "The Bean Trees" by Barbara Kingsolver onto her pile. Either of these choices might resonate with her. But that doesn't matter. The point is, children will always challenge themselves when they are ready. This reminds me so much of the moment her brother spent some time with Edgar Allan Poe. Free children always reach for more at the point of need.

Friday, October 25, 2013

"Sometimes homeschooling seems like the most normal and natural thing in the world. And other times it seems like a profoundly radical choice that I get up and make again every day." ~Barbara Cameron

Other things I should be doing, but I'll weep on the couch a while instead. You only have this time with your kids. Everyday we have homeschooled is a day for which I have bottomless gratitude.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

There are three days between my Wednesday and Sunday cowgirl shifts. On the second Sunday the boss greeted me: "Did you enjoy your break?" Meaning, did I enjoy the three days between these two shifts. I looked at her and cocked my head quizzically and said yes. But the comment lingered. It took me a day to figure out why that innocent little question rang like a bell. The boss thinks milking is my job. She has no kids and therefore no way to imagine the truth. Farm work---what I get paid for? That's break time, gym time, and the time where I'm only responsible for keeping my body, 36+ cows, and a tank of milk safe.

The real job is Mothering. As hard as I work on the farm (as hard as absolutely possible) cowgirling is a sweet fiddle waltz compared to Mothering. I'm pausing this morning to savor the stillness and quiet and calm. This Weds./Sun. "break" will bracket a monakaleidocalliopeasoon of epicness. In these three days we will negotiate: meals, truth, a million brilliant leaves ablaze in the sun and winging across time in a race between beauty and decay, psyches, in-laws, parties, plumbers, allergies, and hopefully some hot cocoa. In short, very busyness.

But don't mistake the busyness for what matters, either. And don't worry, I know my children are well cooked and perfectly able without me. But the job of Mothering is kind of like Allen Greenspan's relationship with the United States economy. It was fine before him, it will be fine after him. But for a long time he refused to speak outside of his home, because everything he did and did not say mattered so much, changed people, altered courses.

We can minimize Mothering all we like. We understand children will grow and learn no matter what. But anyone who thinks they can disregard the importance, the subtleties, and the implications of the job are foolhardy and very dangerous. If you choose to no-show or abdicate your duty you will amplify suffering. Thich Nhat Hanh says we must learn how to suffer in order to relieve suffering. Just as true for Mothering, no more and no less. Trust me, cows are easier.

So yeah, I'm in the calm before the glorious storm. Our weekend is going to be very busy. Here is a nice little song to start things off in tune. Roseville Fair

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

This post, right here, actually is directly for YOU and no one else. We love you, girl. Like our own. 
If you have anxiety, if you have mild concerns or questions, if your little toenail is bothering you, it is an act of wisdom and intelligence to go talk to a doctor or a therapist. I don't care if your mother and/or father are the smartest most specialest most awesomest people on earth. Its still REALLY REALLY REALLY GOOD to just go ask for another opinion. Plus, therapists are great. Find one you feel comfortable with and have a chat. It'll do you good.
Beautiful. Homeschoolers are often accused of brainwashing their kids. By folks who, apparently, are unable to comprehend institutional agenda--even if that agenda is well intended.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

My husband loves Wes Anderson's movies. Because they are all, basically, brilliant. Last night we watched The Royal Tenenbaums, for the third time. And when it was over I sat there weeping. It took three times through, but I finally got it. Its ambiguous, confusing, and painful and joyful. Just like real families.
I just love my job so much! There was a bright full moon this morning and a brand new calf waiting for me. It was a challenging day. The new calf didn't want to take the bottle. Mama was testy in the stanchion. Another cow, in heat, was a full blown pain in the arse, and kicked her inflations off twice. We had to separate a yearling heifer for sale--which was a huge job involving four humans, one of them a super large and experienced cowboy.  All which makes me smile. I can't lift my arms much higher than my elbows today. But I'll have a nap and be up at 4:00 a.m. again tomorrow for another go round.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Getting ready...
Zombie makeup is fun but not quite the right costume for this year. Back to the costume factory...
 Who will she be?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My new job is harder physical work than I've ever done in my life, including the time I owned a landscaping company and the work I did caring for three cows, hand milking. This has come as a surprise. Its also more difficult mentally, than expected. There are many levels of things happening at once, all of which are compounded (I've just realized) by the fact that my boss is a perfectionist who runs that dairy as if its a five alarm emergency. Because, to her, caring for the cows is that important. She reminds me of myself when my children were babies. Her heart is in exactly the right place, but her beliefs are a bit...exaggerated in expression. Yeah, we're a lot alike.

All of which is great for me, kind of like joining the Army might be. If the Army was armed with pacifistic lesbians, whose goal was to run the best dairy ever, and to make superb cheese. Everyone on that farm is smart and kind and dedicated. There isn't anyone who isn't working hard. And I'm the lowliest peon there. Which is humbling. Its getting me in much better shape. I see something new almost every day I work. I can feel my neurons reaching blindly and almost frantically as they whisper, "Oh shit oh shit oh shit. Wait, this is actual shit getting all over me. Shut up, dip shit! Pay attention!" I make mistakes every time they cut me loose.

Yesterday, at 5:30 in the almost perfect darkness of a drizzly dawn, standing in slick shit on a slanting slab of cement, it was my job to herd 34 cows as they moved toward me. I was armed with a flashlight (which scares cows) and a herding stick (a piece of flexible fiberglass with a wrapped handle.) 30 of the cows had to move to my left, to enter the milking parlor. 4 of them had to move to my right, to stand in a holding pen and get milked last. Those lefty-cows were wearing plastic necklaces. I had to see the necklace, separate those cows, and get them in the right pen without falling down or missing one or causing one of them to panic and fall. I did a good job. Until I realized I forgot to properly set the gates between the cows and the milking stanchions. So they all had to come out and get resorted. First of two important mistakes I made that day. It was a good day.

I'm home this morning and went for a walk before the kids woke up. Such a contrast to yesterday, I moved on sure footing for my own pleasure and exercise, in the sun. Actually, the sun isn't such a good thing for me and when I moved into sunny glare, I closed my eyes as I walked. Walking with closed eyes is a strange and lesser known talent of mine.

I lived on La Selva beach in California for a year in my twenties when I was studying midwifery. It was a strange lovely life-changing year. I spent a lot of time alone and often walked through my neighborhood, past a grove of eucalyptus trees, and down to the beach. On the wide empty beach I would walk for long stretches of time with my eyes closed. As a form of meditation. At first it was very difficult. I would get vertigo when I closed my eyes. I would veer off in wild wrong directions. I would feel panic and worry, of course. But after a while, I began to be able to walk with my eyes closed so long that I forgot my eyes were closed.

If I close my eyes now, when I walk, I drop right into that wonderful trusting centered happy feeling of moving my body across the earth without sight. There aren't many things I've trained for in my life. I haven't tried too hard to do much of anything, other than being a good parent and a worthy partner. For a time, I knew my midwifery facts cold. I had mad skills for birth, for awhile. What's remained is an ability to move blind. Why did that stick? Maybe to help me herd cows in the dark? Maybe because I've stumbled blindly along all my life?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

 Yes, 15 candles are a lot to ponder. 
 We love you, Tall One. Happy Birthday! 

Friday, October 11, 2013

They got so excited when I came home with five pie pumpkins. Can we each have one? Of course. 
For our rooms? Of course. 
Who knows what lurks in the heart of young artists? 
Joy, delight, and frivolity judging from the sound and tone of the day.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Homeschoolers say goodnight. 
I've been experimenting with the Lord's Prayer as a structure of meditation and surrender, as a way to cope with fear and ineptitude, and as a way to deepen my understanding of the path of least resistance. If the unconscious is a dark foreboding monkey-shaped shadow jumping in the middle of a curve in the road at the edge of perception, the most profound form of that I've experienced is a feeling of fear akin to Anne Lamott's assertion she was fucked the day her son was born, the day she encountered the truth of her vulnerability. It does not get deeper or truthier than that, as far as I can tell. I'm using prayer, this one specific prayer, to face that truth. I know it makes me sound nuts. But what else have I got?

I used straight meditation from my early twenties up till recently, off and on. Which works just fine, but after 20 years leaves me wondering if I can't do more than counting to 10. I mean, yes, using the structure of 1 through 10 breaths to encounter sacred stillness is immensely helpful. It is an important and useful tool. But Stephen Levine tells an interesting story of meditation. (I keep typing medication accidentally.) He once spent a month meditating on the color blue. He quit the day he hugged an old friend who pulled back, laughing, and said, "when I hug you all I see is blue." That day he began to meditate on love, instead.

Now is a dark cool drizzly morning. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name. I'm in my husband's favorite chair with a hot cup of coffee. I am undeniably blessed. My fear is huge. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. I can not keep everyone safe. There is no quarter. Give us this day, our daily bread. I tell the cows: Milk Time, girls. Everyone has a job to do in life. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. My mind is filled with a vision of the universe in motion. Can higher power get any more obvious, or mathematical? Words layer over wheeling "day blind" stars in my mind. Lead us not into temptation. We are broken and radically free. But deliver us from evil. What I have seen again and again is that force doesn't work. Fear nurtures chaos. Ego is hindrance. For thine is the kingdom, the power, the glory forever. Meanwhile, I'm free to wield enormous ego and chaos. Now its raining. The dogs have shifted, the cats gone outside, my children are still asleep. Begin again.

Monday, October 7, 2013

A list of things for which I'm very grateful:

My husband now works close to home. Its supposed to rain all day and I do not have to worry about him on the interstate. (Wait, I think he's at a meeting in the capital city...d'oh!) But still, I'm grateful he's close to home these days.

My husband knew I was exhausted yesterday so he carried 500 pounds of chaffhaye up hill by hand for me. So I would't have to. Then he slept on the couch so I could go to bed at 8:30 last night. Because he knew I had to be up at 4 this morning.

Basically, I'm just grateful for everything about my sweet awesome husband.

I'm grateful for my new job that kicks my ass ten ways from sundown. Its physically, mentally, and spiritually WAY more challenging than I would have guessed. But I love it. I'm learning a ton of stuff. They are paying me to get in good shape. Today a heifer calf was born while I was there. And my boss is an amazing and inspiring woman who rocks.

My kids. I am so grateful that I get to be around my kids every day. I love coming home to them. I love seeing them go out to have fun in the world. I love thinking about their future. I love them love them love them. (In case there was any doubt.)

At work this morning soppy wet green manure splashed up my nose. Don't have to worry about probiotics today! :o)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Have you ever seen cuter cupcakes? My friend made these herself! And as delicious as adorable.

  Eat yourself some cupcakes while you ponder this new Moyers interview with Wendell Berry.

Friday, October 4, 2013

 This is the universe, grounded.
 This is a 3 and half foot deep hole I dug with a post hole digger. (ROAR)
 And this is the universe returned to the sky, a gift from friends we met in Texas who had recently escaped Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. One of the best things about it is when someone notices its beginning to move and says: Look, the universe is turning! Then we all rush to the window to see. Look out the window, its true and always a happy thought, the universe is turning. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

We arrived at, The Mountaintop by Katori Hall, too early this morning. With time to kill, we wandered over to the cemetery next door. Passing through the white side to the slave side, graves marked with rocks, we discussed the stark contrast. My daughter noted this was not their first slave cemetery. Much in the same way she recently reminded we've already covered Huckleberry Finn--more than once. Okay then, it was still the perfect prelude to such a wrenching and poignant show.

See it. See The Mountaintop if you have a chance. Its surprising and awful and it will break your heart. I sniffled. Then I sort of wept quietly. Then I had to have a stern conversation with myself about not embarrassing the children and getting a hold of myself before the house lights came up.

I was so grateful the children were already familiar with Malcolm X. Homeschooling win for this mom, today. We went to the fanciest place I could think of, for lunch after. It was the children's first real experience with the power of theater. We deserved respite and nourishment and something fine after, to extend the experience, to celebrate, to let it all sink in.

"Hand on heart, looking into each other’s eyes: do we think required courses do much more than salve our conscience and give our students and us a way to play “let’s pretend” much of the time? The evidence I’ve seen, personally and professionally and across many different contexts, does not support the idea that a “forced march across a flattened plain” does more good than harm. Rather the opposite."