Thursday, February 26, 2015

 Goats peeking and wondering, "Are you coming to see us? Did you notice all this snow?!"
 This kid noticed. Sledding and snow cream for breakfast. Nothing better in the world.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

We each have our familiar circles of agony and mine has always been: want to have kids/must make money.

When the kids were babies and we lived in poverty the need for money was louder but never louder than my need to not hand the babies off to strangers---almost but not quite louder. We carried a lot of debt to get through. Over time I've had various jobs for money, working only when my husband was home, yet none stuck. Probably because our financial needs were filled as my husband got through graduate school and began drawing a salary. The things extra money covered never outweighed the cost of stricter scheduling demands with both parents leaving to work. And never outweighed Always Being On, for both me and my husband. Down time is a physical reality. You can try to live without down time but eventually the need of it will tilt and consume you. In any case, even in the face of obvious plenty, my psychological need to earn money has never been silenced. Nor my need to spend, come to think of it.

Since walking off the farm, I've been officially "unemployed" for a week and 3 days. This morning I sat weeping with coffee on the couch, next to my husband. He's heard my concerns before. His response has been level steady and pitch perfect from ground zero: "I've chosen a career, no matter what you choose. I support any choice you make. The work you do at home matters. Being a parent is a full time job, if that's what you want."

Yet, I feel a very deep sense of shame at being nearly 50 years old without a career. My skill sets are all insanely specialized: talking to toddlers, assisting birth, milking cows. I do not know what I'm going to do with myself 5 years from now. Something, but what? Please don't suggest I go back to college. I could. I would rather be a waitress. And maybe that's exactly what I'll end up doing.

Something crucial finally hit home this morning. There is nothing I could have done differently.

Other than finishing a college degree in my 20s. *Mark me, children.*

This is the dilemma of women in our society. Every parent I know has faced the same and we all find different solutions according to our own values and needs. But we are the richest society in the world and we spend the least amount of time with our children. What children need to thrive may be the biggest taboo subject in American culture. As a taboo subject its bigger, even, than men who get raped. We can talk all day long about choices for men and women. Just don't let anyone suggest children might have needs. That there might be conscriptions of a sort to parenting, beyond gender or money, for God's sake.

There is no way my husband and I could have raised our family the way we wanted, and could enjoy the relationship we have with our kids, if I had also simultaneously run a career. Smaller piddly jobs, hardly worth the pittance of money they bring, might be what I do for the rest of my life. If so, the lack of income was worth it. Priceless, even. But the bigger point is, our society generates this dilemma. Women are expected, or expect of themselves, that we should, in fact, do it all. When the truth is, all can not be done. Only some can be done.

I don't know. No one is going to solve the worlds problems on a blog, least of all me. But the realization that I couldn't do anything but what I did, or else we would all have had a very different life, calmed me down. It made me stop crying and I felt slightly less guilty about not being able to step neatly and nextly into some new, high dollar high status high reward, job. Maybe I can now approach these next transitions with less angst? Without turning to discussions with Salinger in my mind, for comfort. Without making my husband hold me while I cry over our good fortune. Just once, Buddy, and maybe this time without showing up on the corner of Broad and Main in a Goddamn housecoat offering positively anyone who even looks my way a tangerine and a prayer?

What society asks of families is impossible. If all can not be done, who loses? Usually, the children.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I'm oddly adrift without a paying job. But I'm settling in, and noticing something important.

Transitions are difficult and the transition from stay at home mother to empty nester is famously difficult. I tend to run at transitions full force. As Scott B put it, "There is a way of dancing so fast that you don't notice other people watching or anything else but your own dance." Taking the cowgirl job was a way of running ahead so I didn't have to plod quietly and slowly through these last few years of being home with kids. Basically, a cowardly dash past rather than through the pain and fear of change. The job was also wonderful and helpful on several levels. I'm not minimizing that. Just noticing this other truth.

Yesterday I made chocolate snaps from a modified version of R's recipe. Then we filled homemade henna-style cones with royal icing and decorated them. The results were less subtle than we would have hoped. We learned to aim for thinner icing next time. But the project was delicious and fun. And the cookie tin, I notice, is nearly empty this morning.

Today we woke to snow. I'm rising dough for English Muffins and contemplating a long walk with kids and a camera. None of these things: cookies, muffins, snowy walks, would be happening if I'd been up since 4 working outside. Monetary values aside and disregarding the fact that neither kid specifically NEEDS me, I can say undoubtedly that more time equals more time together and more memories. And this time with kids home is still fleeting---possibly faster now, and priceless. Rushing past this would be a mistake.

I never could have predicted anything that's happened since we had kids. Not a move to Texas, not homeschooling, not cows nor farm life. I'm happily wondering what will happen next?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Surprising announcement: I'm not working at the dairy. They are restructuring and I've stepped aside to open a full time position for them, which is what they really need. After things are sorted, there may be room for me again and we're all happily open to that possibility. It may seem abrupt but I always knew this was a possibility and the timing could not be better for me. How sad am I to learn how to sleep on a normal schedule again, in these 4 degree temps? Not sad at all.

Though, there have been strange consequences. This morning, for instance, I slept through coffee time. I got up at 8:30 and had a piece of prune cake. I took care of the animals, checked out life online, and was just considering what the day should hold when R showed up in the kitchen. This girl has only seen one true morning in the last two years so you know she's not feeling well. She has a terrible cold. So we decided to watch Winnie-the-Pooh. About half way through my head started pounding. I took some Advil.

The kids and I decided to brave the icy roads the freezing temperatures and drive to market. We needed to pick up potatoes, onions, and vitamin D3. Apparently I am profoundly deficient--so says the midwife who drew my blood for a routine physical last week. She said to go ahead and dose the whole family. Perhaps D will help us finally kick this nasty cold we keep passing around? In any case, the Advil wasn't kicking in, my head was pounding as we were checking out, and then it hit me. I never had coffee this morning. Odd but easily fixed. We're home now, snuggled in for lounging. I'll get my routine back in order soon. Maybe the vitamins will help.

The chickens are seriously unpleased. Also, I think Brownie it going to kid in the next 2 weeks.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

“Your child must set her own goals and measure her own progress. She must identify and then solve her own problems. You have to stay out of her way so she can do that. This can be very challenging for adults, especially if they feel it’s their job to ‘teach’ their child. They want to goose things along; they want to herd the child in the ‘right’ direction. They want to point out what isn’t going to work so
time isn’t wasted. But here’s the thing — *it is not a waste of time for children to solve their own problems*. And to learn to solve problems requires being allowed to have them in the first place.”

~Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

 The chickens, born last spring, are all, "What THE FUCK is this?!"

Monday, February 16, 2015

Just watched Maiden Trip. It was haunting and sort of devastating in a victorious and beautiful way. Talk about an unschooled life! Inspired Joe to go find that old Patty Griffin song: 10 Million Miles.

We're snugged up in the house with all the chicks in all their nests, the heat up, extra water and food stored, and ice falling outside. Big changes lately. Happy to pause in a dark winter night for warmth, deep breaths, sleep. Grateful for the miles but more grateful for rest right now.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

I am now, officially, less lame at driving the tractor. I mean this exactly and I'm proud of it. I am less lame than before. Progress is exciting.

H got his drivers license and can drive his sister around, without me. This has been our first week of liberation. I go to work, come home. They wake up, eat lunch, go out. I stay behind and cook in solitude. Suddenly, I have a renewed interest in the kitchen, a return of creativity and willingness. Apparently, all the quiet in the world is not the same as being alone, for an introvert. The people arrive back here at dusk, in time for dinner, which we eat on the couch. Which is extra nice for lingering after dinner and chatting. Then I go to bed.

At 4 this morning I was tiptoeing down the hallway, making my way silently toward the kettle when I paused because R's light was on. My yesterday blending into her tomorrow seamlessly, she was up reading. I peaked into her room and our eyes locked together at a time then called now, and we smiled. She was rereading: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen, one of the more important works of fiction for young women in the United States. I bet she gets more out of it the second time round. She was a bit young the first time she read it.

Is it difficult to adjust to seeing the children walk out the door? Not really. I trust them both. H is a solid good driver. And I've said from the beginning of our unschooling life, Americans do this backwards. Adults shouldn't leave crying babies behind as they walk out the door. Capable kids should walk out smiling as the adults are left behind nostalgic, humbled, brushing off tears of gratitude. And so it is. My heart is breaking with gratitude, astonished freedom, and an expansive wonder-filled faith in these two impossibly dear and smart people I love as I watch them go. Godspeed, sweethearts.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Saturday, February 7, 2015

One of the fascinating things about working on the farm, for me, is my relationship with my boss. My boss and I are a lot a like. We're also a lot different. I like her as a person. She is fascinating, strong, driven, and very very brave. But what is so valuable for me is what she offers in terms of a mirror. She is controlling, impatient, worried, and given to a bit of drama. By which I mean, her fear distorts her ability to see clearly, sometimes, I think, which makes situations seem bigger than they are in her mind. And watching her run the farm reminds me so much of how I've run my family, especially in the early panicked years. I've been hell as a wife. My husband, not without his own faults, is a saint.

I've said all that before but I have new insight into the situation as of today. I tend to thrive and excel at work. In paid situations, if I care, there is a good chance I'll end up in charge. I work hard, don't bumble about, get into flow, kick ass. If I care to.

I try hard, focus, get noticed as valuable. And thrive on that personal sense of value, of being on a team where I matter. And that sets up a cycle of trying hard, focusing, and feeling valuable.

None of this happens at my current job. In my current job there is no amount of success that seems to stick with my boss. I'm only ever as valuable as the 10 minutes I'm standing in. And success is only momentary and will be followed by any failure, duly noted, relentlessly. I can't seem to achieve any kind of permanent status as Very Valuable. What's interesting is how I can't seem to rise above it. It almost feels spiritual or subject to psychological physics. My husband suggests its impossible to harmonize with disharmony. He is onto something with that.

I move as an adult with consistent purpose and intention bending my will and effort systematically, in this job. Yet I can't rise above it. By which I mean, at this job I become someone who bumbles, doesn't find flow, is capable of repeated mistakes. I don't look or seem managerial and hyper-trustworthy and superb. I seem Just As I'm Treated.

Look at that. That is an important thing to notice. I'm sure its a human phenomenon. Apparently we have not much choice but to behave how we're treated a lot of the time. That is profound. I'm trying to surpass it and I haven't been able to. Even thought I'm smart, I try as hard as I can, and I care about working with cows A LOT.

Lots of implications for parenting, education, and marriage. I return again to my new favorite quote:

What are some consequences of low trust, and high trust?

In low-trust environments, you'll see low morale, disengagement and a lack of commitment. You'll also see people manipulating, distorting facts and withholding information. There will be resistance to new ideas, bad-mouthing, finger-pointing, overpromising, underdelivering and, often, tension and fear. Everything will take longer to do and everything will cost more.

The converse in high-trust cultures is equally true. When the trust goes up in an organization, the speed will go up and costs will come down. Your ability to collaborate goes up, as does your ability to attract, retain and engage people. When trust goes up, you’ll see people sharing information, not afraid to make mistakes, more creativity, higher accountability and greater energy and satisfaction. When you move the needle on trust, you move all kinds of other needles with it. ~S Covey

Monday, February 2, 2015

My dermatologist was asking about my kids. That's always awkward because their life, what I have to say about their life, is good. And saying these good things feels, to some listeners, like an indictment. What's worse, after all these years of homeschooling and running into listener's sense of indictment and defensiveness so very often, I don't fully say the good things. I leave them unsaid. Until I get nervous or distracted and forget myself. Then the full good sometimes tumbles out, unchecked.

She asked what was new with the kids and I searched my brain frantically for newness. (I'm always very nervous in her office.) Graduating is new! That's what came up so that's what came out. Which I instantly regretted. I told her my son is about to graduate. "Isn't he 16?" Yes, he is 16. "Well! How nice!" (Subtext: harumph) "And your she on track to also graduate at age 16?" Sure, she is. Its no big deal, you know. This is normal for homeschoolers... They have so much know? "Oh, yes, of course." (Subtext: harumph)

I really don't want my dermatologist distracting herself with elementary educational theory. Just focus on the moles please, Ma'am. No one wants someone feeling competitive standing over them with a scalpel. And anyway, there is no competition from me. I'm not competing. I'm reporting from the field. As I left her office I said, "Its not special, and the kids aren't special. Homeschoolers just have a lot of time. Its not that my kids are super smart, or anything of the sort." She said, "Oh yeah yeah, I know, all that wasted time at school doing silly things." We smiled at each other. Thank God that's over for another six months.

But the truth is, everything else I didn't say. Homeschooled kids are generally ready for college at 16 because they haven't suffered, because they haven't studied all the extraneous nonsensical bullshit required of schooled kids, because of their lack of experience with the multiple choice worksheets of arbitrary authority, because their world has a simple sane kind of order to it in which they encounter and absorb reality unfettered by extraneous nonsensical bullshit. Its not at all that my son or daughter have carefully and swiftly worked their way through 80 credit hours of facts and rote and tests and slog, two years faster than schooled kids. Nothing could be further from the truth. Though that's what folks like my dermatologist assume and I will never challenge that assumption, face to face. Its not my job to fix assumptions. The truth about what homeschoolers aren't doing is a scandal, the largest part of which, is how well the whole thing works.

I experience a similar truthy dissonance when folks start talking about their kids getting into university. Its is great to get accepted into a university. As completely as I oppose elementary school, I'm for college level study. Everyone should go. Its hugely beneficial to study at a higher level. Most definitely. So I'm glad for folks getting accepted, delighted to hear about their journey, fully supportive to see them proceed. But everyone can go. Or, nearly everyone. There is nothing magical about formal acceptance and the traditional four year format of leaving home at age 18 to live in a dorm and etc. That is just one way among many. (An expensive way.) On the diploma side of the journey, the beginning will have made little difference. If everyone can go...

If everyone can go to college, most everyone, and if the way you get there hardly matters, and if disregarding the first 13 years of traditional academic preparation apparently has no affect on one's ability while there, our society is functioning under some profound misconceptions. I feel the dissonance, is all I'm saying. I feel it frequently. Its an odd feeling, not at all like winning something or being better than anyone so much as feeling astounded at how hard everyone is working toward that which arises naturally.