Saturday, August 30, 2014

Twelve years ago I felt myself to be almost completely alone on a tropical prairie savannah, (which happens to be a very rare kind of place, geologically speaking) in terms of social company or community or extended family. I decided to seek Quakers in that place, thinking that finding Quakers would dramatically expand our options for company, community, and family. Which was a solid plan.

The amazing thing was finding two Quakers there---exactly two. Unfortunately, their inner light and love were almost horrifying to me. I was so frightened of them, I ran away.

Midwives say fear blocks love. I witness the truth and wisdom of this over and over again. And if this basic truth doesn't penetrate the dilemma, the duality between intellect and spirit, the heart of faith, I don't know what else would.

It recently occurred to me, while milking cows, the problem intellectuals have with faith is their fear of simplicity, reduction to the point of stupidity. What's missed entirely is the expansion of spirit within the framework of simplicity.

Which is an excellent place to locate a curriculum for growing children. Incite their spirits and their intellects can't help but follow.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I think my girl has a natural eye for photography. I try not to bring her work over here too often. But I love her images! Just had to share a couple:

Monday, August 25, 2014

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Moulage class was yesterday and the kids were fully engaged. Our teacher, Eric Singdahlsen, covered a huge amount of information in two hours. Riffing off moulage you could easily delve into medicine and biology, artistic vision and technique, acting, chemistry, politics, the DEA, military training, realism, and basic makeup applications. It was fascinating and funny and everyone seemed to have a great time. The kids learned how to simulate shock, bruising with black eyes, coughing up blood, lacerations, and burns with blistering. Among the various tools shown were containers of fat chunks, coagulated blood, minty flavored blood, blood in different viscosities, and something called derma-crisp. Thank you, Eric, for being such a funny and skilled teacher and for giving us the afternoon.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

After. A bit tired of lip stretching but Looking Great!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A few quick snaps of my workday from before dawn until I leave, late morning.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Cool weather with lots of rain makes huge mushrooms. I caught our new neighbor walking down the street with this specimen, yesterday. He's a geeky science person and so is his wife. We are so happy they've moved into Jake's old house. I gave them all five of our eggs from the day. She was worried to take them, "Is it okay to take all your eggs?" I smiled and reminded her there would be five more today.

Friday, August 15, 2014

In the south we don't have treats. We have goodies. But I don't use that word anymore because my husband is kind of horrified by the sound or the implication of it. I think he has secretly believed that its really just my family that says goody. In his defense, we are fairly eccentric, even for southerners. But I was vindicated last night, twice. Grandpa Beebe brings a plug of tobacco and two licorice whips down to the beach, when he goes looking for Paul and Maureen, who are out looking for Misty Of Chincoteague. Grandpa offers the children, "I brung you a goody" as he hands over the licorice. Later in the story goodies are mentioned again. Ha! Its not just my family. Its solid regional vernacular. Just like window sills winda seals.

Yesterday my girl ripped open a bag of Trolli Sour Gummy Worms, inhaled deeply, and said, "Ummmmm, smells like dreams." Pass the dreams, please.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

I appreciate this is simple, obvious, and not especially impressive. But one of the minor things I've done this month is learn how to wind a center pulling ball of yarn. Being simple, I'm quite content.

The biggest mistake we can make on our personal journeys is to assume that other people want the same things out of life that we do. Even if they all want "happiness", it means different things to different people. So whenever you're confused as to why someone is doing something, try to remember that it's probably because they think it'll make them happy. Let them find out on their own.

Its 56 degrees outside. Mammals are curled up and sleeping all over this room. Jackson Hound has his nose buried under his paw, trying to keep warm next to me on the couch. My hand is big enough to almost cover his long silky soft brown ear. I slip my hand over his ear and hold it there to warm that thin flap of hound skin. He sighs with contentment. It feels like October. A cool breeze is pushing the curtains through the window. We are supposed to go swimming in the river today. Roasting marsh mellows over a fire might be more appropriate. Is this really August?

My husband left for work a few minutes ago but doubled back to bring me the very rarest of delights: a fully ripe freshly picked chilled fig. I've never eaten a cold fig.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

We were getting one egg a day. Yesterday, suddenly, there was a nest full of first eggs under the goat's hay manger. Compared to the one on the far right, you can see how small they are. Thanks, Ladies!   
A girl and her hound. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Because the floor in our house is being replaced and every piece of furniture must be moved, I'm going through everything we own and culling what can be sent to the thrift shop or trashed. For this reason, this morning I've put my hands on all the books my older brother has given the children through the years. No one has better taste than he does. Recalling the hours over the years of reading and rereading these books to my kids brings tears to my eyes. My older brother may be nearly silent, but he is silently awesome. Thank you, Brother! I love you.

Each cover links to more information about each book. 
If you are shopping for little kids, look no further.
My livestock adventure began 17 years ago with chickens. Cows are supreme for me, of course. Pigs and ducks make my favorite barnyard noise. But pound for pound, its difficult to beat the charm simplicity honesty and productivity of chickens.

Chickens in a pen make me sad. I don't enjoy them in captivity. And I guess that's an obvious thing, we all dislike cages. But its difficult to see the charm of chickens when they are penned, just standing there in their own manure. I love the way free chickens run around so busily. Their gate is funny and endearing, awkward but not without grace. You can't see that in a pen. Nor the way they work the land, chatting with each other quietly. And I don't think I will ever get tired of finding eggs in tidy boxes in the yard. Food, literally, just sitting there prepackaged and perfect. The domesticity of chickens makes them such a comfort, always there outside the kitchen door, cleaning up scraps, spiders, ticks, and grubs. They work with an easy calm dedication that is neither showy or perfectionistic and are wonderful company for introverted housewives. Every mother should have a few birds in the yard.
Country City Graffiti

Thursday, August 7, 2014

We construct our sense of reality through the stories we tell ourselves. But the accuracy of those stories is easily distorted and flawed. There was a moment this week where my siblings and I were sitting in a circle in the lobby of the hospital waiting to hear how our dad was going to come through surgery. I said we need to have Dad's advance medical directive in hand going forward for the future. My little brother responded that he has those papers. Then a conversation happened in our circle.

Someone could write an interesting novel by going around the circle and listening to each narrative we constructed for ourselves about that conversation: exactly what was said, what the words meant to each of us, what we believe was said, and how the words made us feel. Each story would be different. What does that mean? What can we learn from that?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

"In almost every case when someone says, “You are not living up to your potential,” the proper answer is, “So what?” Because it’s always someone trying to tell you that the thing you should contribute to this world is something other than kindness."

I'm grateful to Penelope Trunk for her essay about living up to potential. Her message, that kindness is the only potential we need to worry about living up to, really strikes home for me. I am one of those broken humans that has to actually work at kindness...and work at it hard. I can never be reminded about my kindness struggle too often. And thumbing my nose at any schooly notion of potential is also intrinsically pleasing. Because, of course, the notion of potential is used to bully children everyday. Potential is a nearly empty signifier with regard to humans. We have potential and that's about all we can say about that. As its unmeasurable, potential is best considered only as a direction rather than a quantity for humans.

But the more I've thought about living up to potential this week, the more I've seen internal standards I set for myself, and use to bully myself as well. I measure myself against an invisible yardstick called, Successful Mother. No one knows what successful mothering is, exactly, but my failure to achieve the fullest direction of Successful Mothering dogs me every single day. I'm actually pretty cruel to myself about it, too. 

Let's take this moment as an example. At this moment there is a load of laundry soured in the machine. Its been washed three times and soured. Apparently I can run the damn load. I simply can not put it in the dryer. There are several pots of food rotting in my refrigerator that should have been cooked or thrown out; I've accomplished neither. One of those pots contains a $28 roast of beef, food my body very much could have used well this week, now ruined. The money the food represents, may as well have been thrown in the trash. The house is dirty in a basic way, but give me a pass on that because Friday is cleaning day. We're nearly there. What is harder to forgive is allowing two different workmen to show up here for jobs I requested they do, and having them arrive to workspaces so cluttered they were unworkable. Oops. One dog needs a shave. One dog could use a bath. One child has a persistent cough, I can hear as I type. Surely I should Do something about it. Successful Mother would be pushing medicinal teas and homemade broth, for sure. And in fact, its my general failure to figure out how to serve three homemade meals daily while also working four days a week that has driven us to eat out so often. This cough is probably caused by all the shitty food my kids have eaten this summer. The garden is not happening. The lawn is straggled and neglected. The list goes on and on. My failures, on and on. And it never stops.

Sure, I have done so much this week. This week, especially, just so much. If I made the list of things done, anyone would agree. But that never stops me from seeing only how I fail to achieve my full potential as a wife and mother relentlessly. Hum....where did I learn to only notice how I fail? Maybe 13 years in a system of grades?

Let's just stop, shall we? It isn't possible to do it all. It isn't possible to live up to random standards of mythological potential. Its not even a worthy goal. Aim for kindness and honesty and a basic standard of care. Throw away the left overs. Don't judge. Hug the kids and start over. The best parents just keep starting over, don't they? They don't over achieve. They simply refrain from quitting. If you showed up, body and soul, and were kind, you're a good enough parent.

One of my little hens began laying this week. For two days she laid the tiniest cutest most perfect little eggs. Then no eggs for two days. Today I found a double yolker in the nesting box. Little Hen, let me tell you something, don't over achieve. An egg a day is plenty.
This: Scientists Say Child's Play Helps Build A Better Brain

"The experience of play changes the connections of the neurons at the front end of your brain," says, a researcher at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada. "And without play experience, those neurons aren't changed," he says.

It is those changes in the prefrontal cortex during childhood that help wire up the brain's executive control center, which has a critical role in regulating emotions, making plans and solving problems, Pellis says. So play, he adds, is what prepares a young brain for life, love and even schoolwork.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Father and daughter in the fort playing video games. Lego Pirates of the Caribbean, is the current favorite. Lego Harry Potter was also hugely popular with these two. Nothing beats a great fort!

This week has been a bit crazy. Pops had a stroke, then major surgery, and today he's leaving his wife of the last few years. Yes, all within 6 days. But then, he's always been an over achiever.

We've gotten the house power washed---it was growing algae. The back door is being replaced because it leaks horribly. So horribly that the now molded floor must also be replaced. But I loathe our cheap plastic floor, so that's no big loss. We will replace the entire downstairs floor, so its all the same. Its going to look great.

In other news, our first little chick has become a hen. She's laid two eggs in two days. Its felt so wrong, not having chickens around the house. Wonderful to finally set that right. Life is good.