Monday, October 31, 2011

Chicken Farm

The summer was winding down as it drifted into August. The last of the hot days were upon us. She was staying with her grandmother after a visit with her father. This had not been part of the plan but here she was in the two story white farm house with her grandmother, her step grandfather, her uncle who was younger than her, and two older uncles plus their friend. She suspected it had to do with her accidental running over of her stepsister. Her stepmother refused to believe it was an accident but it was. She was ten and wasn't going around hurting four year old kids. But it was okay because the "farm" was fun.

She woke each day to hear her grandmother leaving for work. When she went downstairs she could help herself to sugar cereals that she never got at home with her mom. After breakfast, she and her younger uncle would begin a day of exploring. They were not allowed into the chicken barns that bordered the property letting off a foul smell that one didn't quite ever get used to. There was a good climbing tree near the barns so they would climb up high and try to peer into the slit like windows.They couldn't see anything though so they just speculated about what might be happening inside.

Often her uncle got bored and would go inside to watch t.v. Sometimes she'd follow him but mostly she stayed outside. She liked to take a book, and go hang out in Toby's, the Doberman Pincher, dog house. Everyone said he was mean but he wasn't mean to her. She'd crawl in and he'd follow her,laying his head on her lap while she read her book. She read until lunch time and then go inside to eat bologna sandwiches with chips. The older uncles would sit with them and tease her. She liked this time. They laughed at the things she said but not in a mean way.

One day after lunch, her younger uncle didn't want to go outside. She wandered over by the chicken farm to stare at a distance. Sometimes you could see the men going into the barn to feed the chickens. They'd open the doors and the roaring of hundreds of chickens "BOK, BOK" would roll out the door and over you. Today the door was open, and she couldn't see anyone. This was new occurrence. She snuck closer and closer, pulling her foot in the dirt to slow her walk as if this would make her somehow invisible. Finally she was at the door. She intended to only peep in but once there she could see much. The rank smell was overpowering and she gagged a bit as she tried to let her eyes adjust to the dark. She slided inside wanting to see beyond the shadow of cages.

Once in the gloom settled into the hard outlines of steel bars. Bits of light from the fans sent whirling bits of light over the imprisoned chickens. They were huge, and nearly motionless. They didn't even look at her as she peered at them. Some of them had sores that were open and oozing pus. In one cage, a chicken lay dead, occasionally pecked at by it's fellow inmates. There were no pleading looks. Just the a slight motion of each head pecking out to give a pellet of food in the tray before them. Worst the chickens were everywhere. They were piled high in monstrous proportions. She felt like she need to throw up and began to ran. She ran past the man who yelled "Hey" at her. She ran past the good climbing tree. She ran until she was panting and crying stopping at Toby's area. He was chained to the tree, and turned to look at her, his stumpy tail wagging. She crawled into his house and curled up into a ball. He lay beside her. She was not sure why she was crying. She knew it wasn't just about the chickens but she was too young and too ignorant to  know what other meanings lie in the strip of sunlight gleaming over steel bars.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Far Away So Close

This morning she woke and a few seconds later heard the sounds of her son thrashing against the floor. It puzzled her how she always managed to wake right before a seizure. She hurried from the bed and ran to his room down the hall. He was curled up on the carpet, his arms against his chest, his hands bent down. His knees were curled into a fetal position as his body jerked. His breathing came in rapid gasp "Huhhuhhuh." His eyes stared at her but not at her.

She pushed away all the Legos and books so that he would not hurt his body against them. All the while speaking to him even though she knew he couldn't hear her. When the tremors eased a bit, she gathered him into her arms, feeling the last remaining jerks vibrate against her body. His body was heavy and too big for her lap but she held him close. He was her first person, and she loved with the passion that came from him indicating her into motherhood. She had been cradling his body for a long time now.

Now that he was older, he didn't want to hug her as much. She knew it was normal and it didn't hurt her as she had imagined it would. She enjoyed watching him become a man, and his sweetness and openness made up for his pushing away physically. And now that he had seizures, she was once again holding him but sometimes it didn't feel like him she was holding. He started out with those eyes but they did not see her. They were looking out into a world where she could not go, and he could not bring her. He could not even tell a story about that world.

Slowly his limbs began to still, and his eyes began to lose the far away look. He was slowly returning to her. At these times, he drew himself to her body and she held him. For a brief minute, he was once again a baby who needed to be held and soothed. And then he was groggily getting back to his bed and falling to the heavy sleep that followed each episode.  Gone to her once again into a world that only he knew.

(No Umberto is not having seizures again).

Monday, October 24, 2011

Super Special Brooms

I am struggling with keeping the house in good order. I thought that the lack of a job would free up time, and it has. What is has not done is create within my bosom a deep love of cleaning or even a desire to keep things in order. There are a hundred other things to occupy my mind rather than counting grass blades or staring at clouds. Really anything is preferable to me than cleaning the house. I love cooking, rearing and schooling the beasties but I just hate cleaning. As much as the idea of a housekeeper makes me uncomfortable, if I had the money, I'd indulge but honestly I don't know what housekeeper would take us on.

And the simple reality is that we can't afford for someone to come and muck us once a month much less once a week (which is really what we'd need). So I clean because if I don't stay on top of it things become bad. Quickly. Things get lost. And gross. And at some point, it just makes my skin crawl off my bones. Then I clean. I spend all week in a frenzy of domestic goddess energy until the house looks as close to as Martha Stewart as I'm ever going to get (not very close for the record). For a week, I'll keep up with it, and then I'll grow tired and it will return to the usual state of filth we call home. The beasties of course rejoice during these weeks because I'm so busy cleaning, I don't have time to nag them about math work. Instead they get to read whatever they want whenever they want. They're not so thrilled that I make them help but they seem to think it's worth the sacrifice to not do math work. Me? I'd prefer Math work, and those who know me know how I feel about Math.

The other day as I was scrubbing the awful white tile floor in the kitchen (I mean who DOES white tile in a kitchen? Seriously?), I started to think that my life would be better if I had a super special broom like my friends had. I am not joking. This what I thought "I remember so and so writing about a SUPER SPECIAL BROOM that sweeps and mops!" All I could think about was the SUPER SPECIAL BROOM. The only problem was that I couldn't remember the name. I did remember that they cost a small fortune but I decided it would be worth it if it made cleaning easier. All day long I thought about SUPER SPECIAL BROOM. It grew to be an epic tool of the domestic Goddess. Thor has his  hammer, Domestic Goddess has SUPER SPECIAL BROOM. I imagined myself whizzing around sweeping and mopping at.the.same.time! I even dreamed about the damn broom. But I couldn't remember the real name. And i knew there was no way I was going to spend 60 on it because I'm a cheap bitch. But for awhile the thought of that broom brightened my domestic fog.

And then I was scared. Had I really become a person who LUSTS over brooms? Even super special brooms? How frightening. How not me. I used to lust over 600 shoes and now I was drooling and day dreaming about a broom that sweeps and mops. I actually felt a little sad the next day. I am not sure what to make of this housewife stuff. I love being with the beasties but I hate keeping our home the way it needs to be for us to function. I sometimes resent that I can't just sit down and read. I hate that sometimes I have to stop right in an amazing writing insight to go make lunch, dinner, or a snack. But then I imagine a life where I didn't have the responsibilities and that life is even sadder. The messy house, the endless meals, the constant cutting of applies into little slices is a sign of love. A sign that I am completed by the beasties and by H. This life may come with some drudergy but it also comes with a hell of a lot of magic. Like SUPER SPECIAL BROOMS!

Welcomed and Accepted

"A conversion is a lonely experience. We do not know what is going on in the depths of the heart and soul of another. We scarcely know ourselves." Dorothy Day

When I stumbled upon this quote, I brushed it aside as not likely being much use to me.Later,  I thought that perhaps I could use it as another point where I differed from Day. But as I began to flesh out this blog, the quote came back to me. Day titled her autobiography "The Long Loneliness" which seemed a bit odd to me because after reading her journal and letters, I saw that her life was filled with people. However as I reflected on both the title and the quote, I realize that to a large extent she was spot on, and that her loneliness came from a lack of connection to God, and I suspect also from a separation with the Church.

Conversion is always filled with people of course. Having spent some time studying conversion and deconversion, I know at an intellectual level that these experiences always involve other humans. We are never truly isolated nor do we come to the places without some human suggestion. But now that I am undergoing my own conversion experience there is an element of loneliness to this process. The loneliness that comes from being outside of community, outside of God even in the midst of those prayers and wrestling. 

For 12 years, I have waffled on converting formally to the Catholic Church. There were, and are, many arguments against such a conversion.  I fought the pull of God in that direction. There is/was so much that I disagree with the Church on in terms of formal doctrine. But for every objection I meet people on my path who helped me to wrestle with these objections. I found books to read that showed me that there was room for someone like me. But in the end, it was me and...well, God. And that was hard. And lonely. No one could be in that space for me. I had to be there alone with my doubts, my fears, my anger. Because frankly I was pretty pissed off at God/Jesus. For along time, I spoke only with Mary because that I could handle. When I prayed the rosary I didn't feel the anger or resentment from my past. 

When I decided to finally convert, the loneliness began to ease a bit. I found a wonderful church in the UGA Catholic Center. Both Father Tom and Father David are good guides and compassionate leaders. Sister Marie who runs my RCIA group is wonderful. She is knowledgable, strong, and always there for a conversation. My RCIA group itself is the right fit. The conversation is interesting, stimulating, and agreeable even we don't agree. I believe that we nurture each other even as we challenge each other. And in this place, I have found someone who I think will become a very close and good friend. In other words, I have come home. I feel safe with myself in this place. Safe that I will not be thrown out or pushed away. 

And tonight I took the formal step out of my own long loneliness. I felt privileged that unlike Day I was able to participate in a formal ceremony of welcoming: Rite of Acceptance. We meet down in the recreation/meeting area where our sponsors would be instructed, and a few of us laughingly admitted how nervous we were. We were lined up with our sponsors and lead to the chapel. It was odd to march with the possession and to feel everyone giving us these questioning looks. But once the rite began it was a simple powerful moment. We announced in loud voices as one our intentions to join with this community. As we were  blessed with the sign of the cross first by Father Tom and then over our ears, eyes, mouth, shoulders, hands, and feet by our sponsors, I could feel something loosening up inside me. Some area of my soul that I kept hidden way, afraid to look at began to push forward into the light. We were each give a wooden cross, and one of the women who helps with RCIA was beaming at us. I was mostly trying to hold it together. 

Finally, we came to the Eucharist. I had never seen it so close (we were in the front pews directly in front of the altar). As I watched Father Tom prepare this feast of remembrance, I found myself slowly allowing my soul to open up and to embrace that mystery. And as Father Tom held the wafer over the wine cup, all I could see was the cross behind him, reflecting on the wafer. After the blessing, as I knelt on the hard floor I prayed "Jesus here I am. I am angry, bitter, and wounded. I don't know how much I can offer you but I am opening myself up to you. Again. I am here because your gospel commanded us to love each other as we love you. I don't know if I can fully embrace all that your Church offers but I can embrace you." At this point, I just started to silently weep as I felt myself filled with something I had thought long gone. Something that often scared me. I did not turn away but instead stepped into the light with my community behind me.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ninja Girl

As I drag out our green bin filled with Halloween decorations and costumes from previous years, the kids descend upon me.They've been asking for weeks to decorate but I am insistent that we will not start until October 1st. During our evening walks, we pass many houses decked out and the kids are bitterly disappointed at my stringent stance against early celebration. But the first is here, and the kids are overjoyed as they pull out our rather pitiful supply of orange lights and skull candles. Every year, I think "I'll buy stuff on clearance so we'll have more." Or better yet "This year we'll CRAFT decorations." None of these things ever happen but the beasties are thrilled with what little the bin offers.

As we peel apart the window clings, Camille gives a shout of joy as she pulls out Umberto's ninja costume from last year. She immediately puts it on and begins to run around the house, leaping on the couch and back to the floor. We had assumed she would be a werewolf or a wolf and I had already done some research to find her a mask that wouldn't drive her crazy. But it's clear now as she strikes a pose that what she now longs to be is a Ninja. I admit that I am a little reluctant to encourage her wondering what the reaction will be at various places but I push that aside. It's early yet and the kids are apt to change their minds a few times. We'll cross the gender bridge if we get there.

Two weeks later, we're allowing the kids to pursue the Walmart Halloween aisle. Rowena is terrorizing us with a giant scythe that is at least two feet taller than she is. Umberto has a fake orange Tommy gun. And Camille has just run to us with a plastic katana. "This is perfect for my ninja costume." she tells us. And I know that the moment has come. I don't think that many parents realize that this gender costume stuff comes up for those of us with girls. The big show is always the ultra cool liberal parents who allow their boys to dress up as girl characters or princesses. But you know the parents of girls have these moments of gender bending as well. And I hesitate not because I am not ultra cool and liberal (hell yeah I am) but because I am a caring parent who worries what her sensitive child will do if someone comments. And I'm guessing that at some point someone will because we live in Georgia. We will be attending costume parties at some conservative places. People are going to wonder why she's not a princess or a fairy. And they might let their horror that she's in a boy costume show. But I also know that sometimes you have to let you child take that hit. Not unprepared for sure but you have to let them decided "Hell yeah girls can be ninjas." So we buy her the sword.

We spend the next couple of weeks watching people's eyebrows walk off their faces when they ask Camille what she's going to be for Halloween and she says proudly "A Ninja!" H thinks people are shocked because it's cultural offensive. I point out that in a place where people still think it's okay to say "Orientals" that it's likely that she's a girl and that she's not going to be a princess. I don't know what's going to happen when she shows up at Girl Scout's or to the Catholic Center's "Fall Festival" but I suspect that Camille will have no problem setting the record straight "Girls can be ninjas."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Muddy Hands

Piper runs into the house and over to me. I have been cleaning all day. All week actually. The house has reached that pinnacle of disaster where I can no longer live with it. Today I have tided up the kitchen and dining room and started in our living room which looks less lived than as "OMG A BOMB HAS DROPPED." Piper is yelling joyfully as she skids to a stop in front of me, her hand opened. She is covered in mud. It's been raining out and during a brief reprieve the girls have gone out to play with our new puppy. Mud covers her pants and shirt. She has forgotten to take her shoes off so mud is trailed from the back door to the living room. She has her hand opened and all I can see it black mud.

I open my mouth and then I close it. I was about to scold her for coming into the house muddy. For dirtying up the pants I just washed. For trailing mud all through the house into the area I almost done cleaning. Instead I swallow this all back and look at what is in her hands. She shows me some sprouts she proudly dug up. "What are they, Mama?" she asks eagerly. Proud of her discovery. I admit I don't know and suggest we look it up once she takes off her shoes and has a bath. She smiles, pleased with my exclamations of wonderment, not noticing that they are fake.

I go to run the bath bashing myself a bit for not being real. But I am upset over the mud. I hate cleaning. It does not come naturally to me, and forcing myself to do this takes a lot of work. Thus when I do it, it's hard to deal with it being undone in a moment. I have tried to be Buddhist about it. Tried to think of it as a lesson in impermanence. But really it just makes me cranky. It makes me feel resentful to be taken away from more enjoyable activities like reading or writing.

By now Piper has stripped down. Camille has entered the house also covered in mud. Rowena is whining because she wants in the tub now! As I frantically direct three little bodies into tub, picking up strewn clothes as they rush back with plastic horses and dogs, I see the shoots. They are tender white, with tiny green tendrils poking through. They lay on the side of the sink with a bit of dirty water pooling beneath them. I am awed at their fragility. Their smallness. And suddenly I remember what it was like to discover these things. Those precious moments of wonderment. Looking at Piper, her eyes shining as she hops into the top, I say with feeling "Those are so NEAT!. Where did you find them?"

Piper laughs. "They are NEAT! And we were just digging!"

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Year With Dorothy Day

As some of you know I am converting to Catholicism. The response to my conversion has been interesting, and not often kind. I find myself listening to very silly rumors about Catholics along with challenging dialogues about some serious problems within the church itself. I am not unaware that there is much within the Catholic Church that I not only disagree but I find to be repulsive and ignorant. I often feel like I don't belong or that I can't ever really belong. I struggle with this decision every day which is why it took me over a year to decide to begin the formal process.  This Sunday I will participate in the Rite of Welcoming and I will baptised sometime next week by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory.

This is not something I have often written about on my blog. I do not wish this blog to become a "religious" blog. However this is an important, complicated move in my life and to not write about it seems as if I am leaving out a chunk of my life. I've also avoided it because I'm a bit of a coward and I fear the hate. and I know there will be hate. It will come from my liberal friends who hate that I am joining a religious organization and it will come from my conservative Catholic friends because I am not a conservative Catholic. But I have decided to make the step to start publicly writing about my experience bring what it may.

I'm going to approach this in a bit of a different move though. I'm going to talk about my conversion through the relationship I have with the words and spirit of Dorothy Day.  You see I feel like Dorothy is holding my hand as I make this journey because I think in some ways we come from the same space. No I am not a single mom whose partner left when I converted. Nor am I planning on being single during my lifetime. I am married with four children. But like Dorothy I lived a wild life, and came from an extremely liberal place. We both had to learn to fit our social concerns into the Church. Dorothy in doing so blew open the rigid pathways that the church followed in terms of charity and peace. While I doubt I can ever live up to her works, I can use her as an inspiration.

And this does not mean that Green Tea Ginger is becoming a religious blog. I'll still have my other writings as well. This will just be one aspect of my life.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Year of Pleasures 27

New Friendships.

I had high hopes for making friends in Athens. It seemed like the perfect place to meet like-minded people. But after the first month I was feeling pretty discouraged. I hadn't meet anyone in the area I really connected with, and it seemed like the homeschooling folk were hiding out. It was a lonely month for all of us.

And then September happened. First, I meet up with "an internet" friend's group. I liked the other moms and Umberto was thrilled to meet a bunch of boys. They usually meet at a park that's a bit of a hike for us but totally worth it a couple of times per month. I finally screwed up my courage and "invited" a woman I meet a PE class to be Facebook friends. She's a very peaceful person and I find her really calming. She's easy to talk too and we share a common interest in religion (on a personal not academic level). Then I hooked up with an old friend from Charlotte and her son who is a bit older than Umberto but not by much. We had a great time talking academic religion. And finally I meet the family above at the UGA Catholic Center. The mom is interesting and fun, and great to talk too. We share a lot of parenting ideas so that's nice. She had THREE daughters much to Camille and Piper's delight.

We started October with a bang too and it looks like we found an excellent Girl Scout troop. Plus I'm making friends in my RCIA classes.

I feel so fortune to be building up a community. I"m hoping good things grow from these seeds.