Monday, June 30, 2014

CC's son invented a new game:
Lightening Bug Tag
It's like freeze tag except if you have a bug in your hands and you set it free, you get to run again. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

As I sit drinking coffee on my couch this summer morning its 65 degrees outside. Which is 10 degrees cooler than we've set our air conditioner so all the doors are open. I can see corn coming up in my front yard garden, from where I sit. Which cracks me up because I made a half-hearted attempt to erase the garden with thick mats of mulch this spring. And that is the only attention the garden has had. So we have kale, carrots, corn, squash, tomatoes, mint, and oregano coming up. All volunteer or left over from last year. I don't expect to harvest much, if anything. But still, its pretty funny, given how hard I've worked in the garden on previous years.

The lightening bugs have been Amazing this year.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Noticing my love of stripes put me in mind of "one, two, two little dolls in a little doll house." Except now its: one, two, two old people with two pain the ass cats drinking coffee while teenagers sleep.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Spent the afternoon organizing a workshop for the kids this summer. This is going to be fun:

Just in time to prepare for Halloween, Eric Singdahlsen will be leading a workshop for TAFFY teens in moulage, the art of creating realistic looking wounds. The workshop will be messy, hands on, and lots of fun. Prepare to be fascinated and possibly a little bit grossed out as he teaches you how to make anyone look seriously hurt. 

Aside from being a super funny person, a Transactor, an artist, and a Dad, Eric is a Medical Simulation Case Developer for the Val G. Hemming Medical Simulation Center. Which is a simulation center for the use of medical students from the Uniformed Services University. (Med school for the military.) He has worked there for ten years, has given several public presentations and has taught moulage to military personnel. He's also a really nice guy.

Eric says to let you all know that adults have passed out while having moulage put on them because it looks really REALLY real. Cool, huh?!

Monday, June 23, 2014

"Most people do not perform virtuous actions, they take refuge in reasoning about them and they imagine they are doing philosophy and becoming good in this way," Aristotle wrote.

~ "A Dog Walks Into A Nursing Home" by S. Halpern

Interesting in terms of mandatory reporting laws and it terms of defining love, which is a verb.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Life is ephemeral art. I love these wacky guys. I love that they're made of paper, been there for years.
 It was a cool dusky evening with nothing to do after basketball but hang for a while, eating ice cream sandwiches and taking in the local air. Everyone is getting so grownup around here. And not just in the ephemeral way. The kids are so steady and smart and they say such wise reasonable things. They have always surprised me, in this way, because wise and reasonable haven't been the norm for me.

Friday, June 20, 2014

stolen from:                                      Humans Of New York

"His grandmother and I are raising him. I worry about putting him into the public school system. I was a teacher for many years. I've seen so much confidence destroyed by the standardized system. Every human is born with natural curiosity. I've never seen a child who wasn't inspired. But once you force someone to do anything, the inspired person is killed. I dropped out of school myself in 7th grade. So I know. I taught a GED course for years, so I've seen the end results over and over. I've seen so many kids who have complexes and insecurities because they were forced to do something they weren't ready to do, and then they were blamed when they weren't able to do it. What we call 'education' today is not organic. You can't take something as complex as the human mind, compartmentalize it, and regiment its development so strictly."

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Facebook today, what our friend said:

Holy shit.
#14 will blow your mind. It’s a random number, but holy smokes, it’s amazing. Then check out this amazing person doing something with something that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. You didn’t even know that could be done. Your life is going to change forever after you see this. You think you’re miserable? You’re not. These people are. You think you’re smart? You’re not, this person is. Here’s the most clever thing in the world and oh my god, it was right in front of your face the entire time. Wait, I’m still crying. “Share” if you remember this thing that only your generation remembers. “Like” if you know the answer to this equation that only this small percentage of people know. You’re less than. You’re greater than. I can tell you more about you than you know about you by asking you one simple question. Here’s a secret that you didn’t know about something you do or eat or touch or come in contact with every day and it’s scary. No, wait, it’s funny. It is just so true. It’s just so true. It’s all true. And it’s real. It’s so real. It’s really happening. It’s all real.

and what my husband replied:

I loved reading this. But what happened next REALLY blew my mind!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

We have a difficult time remembering how old our animals are. For the record:

Jackson was born in the summer of 2008. As of now, he is 6 years old.
Daisy was born* in the spring of 2004. As of now, she is 10 years old.
Bramble was born in the spring of 2007. As of now, she is 5 years old.
Rill was born in the fall of  2011. As of now, she is 2 and a half.

*Daisy was born before our family had a computer at home! I found her birthday in The Black Book.

Monday, June 16, 2014

This goat is in the process of being starved to death. Really, even on that lush looking pasture. I found her on craigslist while idly shopping. She is obviously too skinny, but I went to look at her anyway because, I figured, it could have somehow been a bad picture or there was a good reason for her poor appearance. And she lives close by, so it was easy to go.

Here is an important life lesson. I encounter this frequently, so listen up. Results do not lie. If your body, or any body, is showing results, believe the results. It does not matter what you think you know. You think you drink enough water and eat enough vegetables? Not if you're constipated. You think you've provided enough calcium for your chickens? Not if they can't make shells. You think your baby is getting enough quiet down time? Not if they are obviously over stimulated. You think the goat has enough food because your eyes see what looks like food? Not if she is clearly starving.

Get it? Your judgment is subject to bias and therefore flawed. Pay attention to the obvious facts.

I told the owner, first thing, that her goat is way too skinny. She asked, "You don't think she looks okay?" (SERIOUSLY?!) I repeated myself and added "this is an emergency." The doe is in milk and has been left to free range with a buckling on her side. To be fair, the buckling looks healthy. To be more fair, the doe is about to die. She looks way worse than this picture, which was taken a month ago. She is being offered for sale for $300 as a milking doe. (Again, SERIOUSLY?!)

I don't think the owner is evil. But I could be wrong. She seemed very nice and smart enough. But then, look at the goat. The goat is telling no lies. There could be a medical problem with the goat but I don't think so. She was provided no hay or grain or minerals. She was provided the pasture she's standing on. Which looks fine to human eyes. But what do we know? The owner looked like a fine person, but what do I know? I only know that goat is about to die. I decided to make that the most important fact.

As a trained rape crisis counselor and as a teacher, I am a mandatory reporter. Mandatory reporting laws say that if a person in certain professions sees, or suspects, a child being hurt we must report that information to local authorities. We have these laws because of observation bias and because of the human capacity for denial. Children are relatively helpless dependents. If they are being abused by a caregiver, someone needs to step in and help. You just wouldn't believe how rare it is for anyone to actually step in and get help--legally. Because of denial and bias. I believe the goat owner is in denial and operating under some profound observational bias. Animals aren't that different from children in terms of helplessness. So I called the law. I'm glad I did. The owner was furious. But that's too bad for her because, again, look at the goat.

But how are my own goats doing? They aren't fat. Pasture and hay suffered last year because of drought. We limped into spring on marginal hay. And I've been experimenting with sprouted grains as fodder. There has been a learning curve, for which the goats pay. Also, I don't think I had the right minerals out. I've added a new one with more copper and suddenly the girls are shedding out their raggedy looking rough coats. Thankfully, they are sleek and shiny underneath. I'm only milking the brown goat, Cedar. Cereza, the black goat, is dry. They are both first fresheners. These pictures were taken before the new minerals fully kicked in.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The truth isn't showy and isn't usually found in grand gestures. We see what's true over time in a million small mundane ways. Consistent, calm, dependable, loving, always there. 
This dad is The Best Dad. 
Him, and my brother in Vermont. They are the best Dads I know.
 Happy Father's Day, y'all.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

H is finally getting to participate in his first scrimmages.
 It takes a lot of heart and fortitude to be the biggest kid on the court, yet not know how to play.
 Mostly, he was clueless. But many times he was pointed in the right direction with eyes on the ball.
And the amazing thing to me is that he seems to like it well enough to keep going. Its difficult for him, especially because of bunch of these kids are good players--even a bunch of the younger smaller ones. But he persists.

I'm really proud of you, kid, for giving this such a solid good try. And I'm glad you like it. Honestly, I probably would have quit by now. But you've improved from being unable to shoot or dribble to being able to dribble, shoot, and keep up. You're getting your body to right place on the court. Keep it up and add some aggression and hustle, and the game will unfold itself for you. Its an elegant game, one you can play the rest of your life. But more importantly, what you are learning about learning is hard and worthwhile and you get to keep that forever. Good job.

Friday, June 13, 2014

  Fun With Stock Tanks
You can't really see her, but that's bff under the water. The girls made chocolate cake today, which we ate after dinner while watching Singing In The Rain. Its been a strange cool damp summer, so far.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A man on NPR was talking about prayer a few years ago. He said that mostly now his only prayer is "Thank you."  Which seemed nice at first pass. But then left me feeling kind of icky. He was a professor somewhere up North. He probably lived in a brick and ivy town with a lovely wife and happy athletic kids destined for Yale. An old rich white guy has everything good. Who wouldn't be grateful for that life? And, well, isn't that just dandy for him? 

If that sounds kind of angry, it is. I'd been in an angry frame of mind for several years. Waiting for my luck to turn around didn't seem to be working. Practicing patience and meditating helped, but not enough. Woe was me. I traversed self pity and pain as calmly as possible, mindfully. Maybe all the mindfulness was trickling through the death soup of my thought process. Or perhaps the relentless repetition of pop music finally offered a gem that sunk deep enough into the mire of my thoughts. The radio kept singing, "If you want to change your life, you have to change your mind." Something definitely needed to change. My luck was for shit and I've always believed in luck.

It was 4:30 in the morning and I was driving to work, years later, when I got desperate enough to try changing my mind to change my life, deciding to jump on the Tilt-a-Tude and searching my internal database for something, anything, to be grateful about. Driving to work in a car is nice. It almost feels like riding a magic carpet. So I breathed out the words with doubt and a bit of hostility: "Thank you." I didn't allow myself to think about who or what might receive such a message. The fact is, I get to ride in a car to work. That makes my life easier than most. True, gasoline is evil. But I can not deny I am grateful to get to ride in cars.

Here is the thing about gratitude, and it happened with that first prayer, almost instantly. The moment you allow yourself to pray with gratitude, you get a simultaneous awareness of goodness that will start running toward your outer mental boundaries, if you let it. I get to ride in a car to work. Which saves an enormous amount of time and personal energy. Also, riding in a car is a spectacular thing to do. Its fast, there is wind, which you can even heat or cool. There is music. I mean, jeeze, how nice is that? A tiny moment of contentment sparked to life in me.

Practicing gratitude becomes the habit of noticing what is good, which is an inherently cheerful thing to do. It does not deny what is bad but offers a countering point of view about reality, to the relentless drone of negativity which resides so naturally in the human mind. Its a shame there is no way to discuss gratitude without sounding a bit twee and precious. But life is complex and can not be reduced, not even by death or violence, to all that is bad. You can not practice gratitude for a car ride without eventually having to acknowledge gratitude for the light in your children's eyes, for good food, for warmth, for an impulse to share, for love. It balloons quickly. And all that positivity rearranges boundaries, shifts vision, changes things. Whispering the words thank you into the void can change your life? How does that make sense? Are you talking to your higher self? Is it God's work? Is it mathematical? I call all of these things God, but when you are desperate, in pain, and looking for change the answer hardly matters. The effect is bigger than vocabulary or dogma.

My boss slammed into work in a rage the other day. At seven in the morning. Which, no surprise, caused some bad things to happen---escalating frustrations, bleeding, employees considering quitting.  I don't know what was going on for her. But I know that moment of slamming in a rage is universally human. I was busy milking cows as the drama unfolded in the milking parlor, so I could not walk away. Trapped, I almost sort of panicked. Then something new and strange happened inside me. I grabbed for gratitude. I said to myself--and it all happened in a flash--think of something you are grateful for. My family's faces filled my mind and I was instantly aware of what is most important in my life. Which allowed me to stay separate from the anger in the room. Which changed everything. Finding nothing to spark her anger against, my boss left.

An hour later she walked back into the parlor and said with a small smile, "Good morning, how are you today." We had a nice productive work day and the rage was past. It didn't stick to me or her or the cows. The practice of remembering, in an active way, everything I am most grateful for allowed me to side step a lot of pain, which served more than just me. More love and less anger happened.

I will be whispering gratitude the rest of my life. If its mostly now your only prayer, let it be. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

I should rename this blog: Over-explaining The Obvious. Because, apparently, that is a compulsion of mine.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

I can't remember if its been posted here before.
And I don't know who took this picture.
But, of my daughter and her bff, this image is my favorite.

I finally understand what objectification means. Having been so far into it my whole life, I could never really see it clearly. We can all guess that to objectify means to turn something into an object. And we are taught society objectifies women. Yet, I've never felt inanimate. I don't feel like a ball or a couch or a fork. I feel like me, like a girl grown big, not a fork.

My husband and are watching Girls and were discussing the main character's body, this morning. It pleases me, so much, to finally see a nude woman on screen with a very normal body. Her breasts are so small they look adolescent to me. She has a round tummy and a nice fat ass. She is smart enough and she has a lot of sex. And she doesn't appear, on screen, to have too many horrible hangups about her shape. She has hangups, she's a person. But she proceeds with herself. Which is unbelievably refreshing to witness. I asked my husband if he finds her attractive, physically. And then held my breath, wondering in that instant, which was the right answer?

My teenagers have been told looks have nothing much to do with attractiveness. Attraction is all pheromones intertwined with personality. And you can't do much about either. Generally, if you smell right to a partner then you'll be attractive. Shape, style, perfume, clothes, cosmetics, this stuff never fools anyone worthy. Knowing this is true, I still held my breath for my husband's answer.

Later today, I flicked through Luna Luna and happened across 33 Things I've Learned About Being a Woman. Neither the zine nor the article are earth shattering. But I was struck by point #2, especially in the context of coffee conversation about nudity and sex this morning: 

"You will never, ever, ever be another person on Earth beside you. It sounds like a cheap answer to our pathological, collective addiction to beauty and objectifying others (even when it’s not sexual) but once you stop paying attention to the comparison, you’re left feeling a lot less like you’re abusing yourself."

Oh, right! Objectification is what happens when I compare my body to other women. Objectification is when I worry my husband won't find me attractive as we age. Objectification is my daughter worrying over any detail of her insanely perfect hair, skin, and shape.  Objectification is us seeing ourselves as bodies, rather than people inhabiting bodies. And so, forgetting that our personage is the most attractive part of us, we mistake what is important about being lovable. Attractiveness is an inside out phenomenon. Thoughts to the contrary are objectification.

We do this to ourselves. We learn the process of objectification through media, of course. But it is engrained at school. Where, day after day, every day, all the time, no matter what, children practice objectifying each other and their selves. By Jr. High the gaze is relentless. From which homeschooling offers the briefest of respites. For which, on behalf of my kids, I am so grateful.