Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What'cha Doing?

A couple of weeks ago a friend wrote a blog post has stayed with me. It was one of those post that kind made me reevaluate what was going on with the beastie's home school day. She was describing how being an unschooler places some responsibility on the parent to model what one does in a day. In other words, unschooling ought to make a person look closely at how they spend their whole day. And this really hit a nerve because frankly I am a lazy type unless I have a lot on my plate. Being in graduate school kept me always moving. I was constantly reading, writing, discussing, etc. It was pleasurable and I loved it but what little down time I had was valued and used wisely. This schedule also kept me on the straight and narrow with the beasties as well.We didn't have time to catch up or to  put off a project until later.

Now that I am essentially freed of these time constraints. I do nothing. Seriously. I spent a lot of time on Facebook playing really inane games. My friend's post made me realize that I am squandering this precious time that has been given to me, and that the beasties are watching me squander this opportunity. In fact, the beasties are COPYING ME by becoming hideously addicted to computer games and pushing other pursuits from their minds. This is not how I want to live my life. There are so many things I want to learn and to do.

So I made a list:
learn Spanish
brush up so I can pass a French reading test
write a kick ass paper on the comic book "Priest" with lots of great monster theory
revise my thesis into a couple of articles
read THE WHOLE OUTLANDER series. Oh yeah!
knit a sweater

This is really just a bit of what I want to do but I need to do it. I need to start using my time in a wise way so that I can do the things that really give me pleasure instead of the things I am addicted to. And I need to do this not just for me but for the beasties.

Feeding Christ

The beasties have been in religious education class at the Catholic Center for a couple of months now. H and I were both a bit apprehensive as we knew some of our theological perspectives might clash with what the kids learn. Thus we grilled them relentlessly after each class, and in true beastie form, they wouldn't tell us shit. Sometimes Umberto would regal us with stories of the horrible kid in his class who mouthed off to everyone. But that was about it. We let it go figuring if something that if something so theologically shocking came up, they'd likely talk to us about it anyway.

A couple of weeks ago the gospel reading was from Matthew 25:
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink? 
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you? 
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'
And the king will say to them in reply,
'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.'

This is one of my favorite gospel passages and the one that has lead me, a rather (snort) liberal, socially progressive person, to the Church. We studies this in RICA, and the beasties learned about it in their classes as well.

Now I've been trying for years to convey to my children how lucky they are. How they have a duty to those who have less. How we must care about the poor, the sick, the desolate, etc. How we are obligated because we care to fight for social justice. And I tried desperately to steer them away from seeing this obligation as charity but rather as responsibility to ourselves because others are us. This is not always an easy thing to pass onto a child. This scripture captures all of that feeling. It implores us to care for others because those others ARE CHRIST. Not LIKE Christ but Christ HIMSELF. This is a big deal. It means that every time we turn our back on suffering we are turning our back on Christ., This is no pansy ass scripture either. This is tough. This about judgment. Christ took the suffering of the world seriously, and he expected his followers to do the same. And this is why I love Dorothy Day. She lived this scripture in a way that I likely never will.

Back to the beasties. At least a week after this reading, we are driving somewhere, when Camille asks me "Is it true if we feed the poor, we feed Jesus?" This comes out of left field. We were just riding in silence (blissfully) so for a second I am a bit flummoxed. "Yes." I answer immediately but I'm scrambling for how I'm going to convey to this to my eight year old. She's never shown interest in poverty before so it's an important moment.

"How does that work?" she asks. "Jesus isn't here."

"Well what Jesus was saying was that he is here. He's inside every poor person we meet. His spirit is there inside them. And it's inside us. Which is why when we see someone who needs food or clothes, we need to help them. It's why Mama and Daddy get angry when rich people keep too much for themselves."

I look back quickly and can see that Camille is pondering my words. Piper is listening too.

"Does this mean we should give our food to people who need it?" Piper asks.

"Well do we have extra food?" I ask her.

"Yup. Lots. We should give some of it to people who are hungry." she answers.

"Right and then we'll be feeding Jesus too." Camille pipes up.

The rest of the trip is spent planning what food we can give to the local food banks. And the next time we go to Walmart, Piper sees the Angel tree, and wants to pick out a little girl to buy some gifts for. Both girls decided to give some of their allowance to the Salvation Army. I hope this is only the beginning of a life spent fighting for the disadvantaged and also for giving, willing and with an open heart.

Year of Pleasures 29

Yesterday I went over to someones house. This might not seem like a big deal but for anyone who suffers depression, they know what an effort it takes to get yourself out the door. I don't have it as bad as some or nearly as bad as I used to. But I do suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, and it's bad enough that I'd rather just hibernate then go anywhere. It also effects my perceptions. Thus I blow things out of proportion. Misread social cues. Participate in sending myself into my own pit of depression. So making myself go out to someones house was a big deal. 

And it was pretty awesome. This friend is someone I knew first online, and had finally met when we moved to Athens. I didn't get to see her as often as I wanted because of distance, and because I was busy spiraling into my own pit of self-pity. But it was worth all the effort emotionally to get there. I felt very comfortable in this friend's house. We talked and laughed, and I felt were pretty real with each other. Our kids had a great time. Umberto was pretty impressed that my friend's son mixed his own music. Piper disappeared for most of the visit, and Camille had a dog to play with (what more does she need). Even Rowena felt comfortable enough to throw a huge tantrum right before we left.

I may not be a BFF kind of person but I suspect I'm on my way of making a good friend.


I am not really sure if the universe/God really speaks to us. Perhaps the voice we listen so closely for is as H says "The Super Ego OH NO!" Or maybe that voice is something inside of us. Maybe it's all of these things. But I am not good at listening to these voices. I doubt them. Doubt myself. Second guess all my decisions. I rarely feel 100% about anything including small things like what we're having for dinner. Life is complicated for people like me. I had a friend whom answered my question about God's voice by stating "I tell him to knock me upside the head" (or something along those lines).

First I got John's response, which touched me and gave me a little faith. And then after a very pleasant day out, I was checking my cell phone for Facebook stuff, and found a post on my all telling me that my review was in the Bulletin for the Study of Religion. My first response was "What review?" And I really couldn't remember until H reminded me. I wrote a review at my post-adviser's request way back in May. Well it's finally out and headlining the journal. Smack in up across the head noted.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ginger's Great Indecision

Today I dropped H off at school because of the rain. Normally he rides his bike and I avoid the god awful traffic that is UGA. But it's raining much too hard for bike riding. After I leave him off at the library, I am stuck in traffic. I watch as students scurry off to their various classes. They look alike in their jeans and sweat shirts. Then I see some guy who might be a grad. student or a professor. He has kind of longish curly blond hair, and a beard. He's wearing a corduroy jacket with jeans, and an oxford shirt. He's in intense conversation with one of those jean and sweat shirt clad kids, and it the longing hits me. Not for him. Rather to be him.

I thought  I was okay with not going. With maybe going into another field. But I don't think I am okay. I think I am trying to bury the disappointment, the fear of more rejection. Mostly I think I am trying to deal with feeling like a failure. I feel so stalled. And because I feel stalled in this area, I am stalled at everything. Nothing gets done. I sit in front of this computer and eat. But I don't know how to break free from this apathy that has overtaken me.

When I lay out things, a Ph.D seems impossible. Yes, if UGA got a program it might be doable but that means placing everything in this one basket, and frankly after the Austin rejection, I am not confident that I can get in to a new program. I am scared of putting forth so much effort to be rejected. I know it is fear but I am not sure how to move beyond it or even if I should. Maybe I am not cut out for this world, and the rejection is a sign. To fight against fate or not?

And therein lies my problem. I feel like I found something I love to do. I found something I thought I was good at...I seemed to do well in terms of grades, etc. But then that something was snatched away and I am left in this limbo of self doubt. The whole bullshit about just doing what you love, and keep on going, drives me crazy because really at some point, you have to stop fighting battles against the inevitable. If I am no good at this, there is no point in wasting my time convincing other people, I am. And then if that is the case how does one let go? How does one move on?


Pain is not easily described be it emotional or physical. There is no way to reach inside yourself and pull the pain out to show someone. Sometimes words fail, and even those animals sounds we make when we hurt don't fully convey what is happening inside our bodies. There is no way to full share with another human being the experience of pain. Perhaps, this is why some turn to God. 

My own pain grows in my belly like a fetus. It swells throughout me, making me big with the hurt. When the pain is bad it as if my skins is stretched taut and on fire. I lay on the bed curled around myself as if I need to shelter that agony from the world. I feel as if I have swallowed sorrow. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Right Here, Right Now

Last night, I took some time to do the rosary. I find that this act of praying through the beads is meditative in way that most meditations have not worked for me. I am able by the fourth or fifth Hail Mary to just enter into a space where I am not filled with hectic thoughts. Last night, I came to this moment filled with a bit of sadness and some disappointment. I was praying for grace last night. Grace for myself and for my feelings towards others. By the time I hit that fourth Hail Mary I was feeling calmer and in that space I remembered something H had said to me on Thanksgiving day "Be happy for what you have right now."

At the time, of course, I took his words like a sulky child. Unwilling to be comforted, I did not take to heart what he was telling me. I wanted something for the future and was feeling angry that I had to wait. But last night, I looked over at my sleeping baby. Her arm curled over her head. Her lips pursed into a little pout. The curls that frame her round face. I was slayed once again with the immense love I felt towards her. And then I was there in the moment.

I don't have to live with this constant leaning into the future. Right now in this moment I have what I need. I can focus on what is before me without letting go of what I dream. But I can't let those dreams consume so much of me that I forget what is right here. Right now.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

This is Sparta!

Yesterday we are sitting outside at Jittery Joe's. Hanging out at coffee shops is a favorite treat for us, and we're teaching R the finer arts of this simple pleasure. C and P, never able to sit still for too long, have run up a slope that borders the patio area. It's reinforced with a bricked wall, upon which Camille stands. She looks down at us, raises her arms up and yells "THIS IS SPARTA!" H and I both laugh but I'm feeling pretty proud at the same time. We've been studying Ancient Greece, and I'm pretty impressed that she's shouting things like "We are Sparta" instead of something inane.

She's pretty clever. I tell H. And how cool is it that our kids shout things like that?
H nods and I can see that he's proud to. "It's not like they've seen the movie." (the movie 300...we do have some standards around here). We bask for a moment in how awesome we are as parents. Our kids don't quote t.v. shows. Instead they quote stuff about Ancient Greece.

And then comes the humbling. Umberto tells us about how there is a sign in the game they play online (Roblox) that shows a Sparta man kicking someone off a cliff with the line "This is Sparta."

Children...they have a way of humbling you.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Year of Pleasures 28

Reading fiction. I've always been a varied and prolific reader but grad. school limited my time. I read a lot of short, cozy mysteries and of course Charlene Harris but avoided thicker trashy fiction. Instead, I immersed myself in theory and religious studies articles some so bad I wanted to poke myself in the eye. Now that I'm free, I find myself laying around reading thick series novels whose only redeeming qualities are that they are well written and pleasurable.

I wish I could express in words how delicious it is to curl up with a book and just...escape. I love my life but so enjoy being able to be transported somewhere else. To another world, time, person. To fall in love with characters. To cry if they are killed off. To put off eating because I just have to know...while at the same time not wanting to the story to end....savoring every page.
This is how I read as a child and it is perhaps the only thing I have maintained into adulthood. The ability to be lost in the pages of a good story.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

French Press Mornings

I am not a morning person. I stumble from bed, blurry and rumbled no matter how much sleep I managed to get the night before. Having children has not improved this state of being. The first order of business is to get coffee into my body, ASAP. Most mornings H has made coffee for me even if he has already left to go to work or school. And on weekends it's a guarantee. But this morning, there was no coffee. And I was extra tired after a rather rough night with both R and P.

I groaned some kind of primitive sound and he hurried in..."I wanted to make you a French Press this morning." he said, hurrying to set things up. I repressed the urge to hit him with something because even in morning zombie mode I knew he meant to do something nice for me. You see, I love French Press coffee. It's hands down the best to brew a truly excellent cup of coffee. But it's also slow which is why I save French Press for afternoons and special occasions. I use French Press to enjoy a particularly nice blend of coffee or to make ice coffee. But never ever do I use it for the mornings. It takes way too long. It is not the fastest, most effective way to get coffee into my body (really the ideal thing would be an IV).

But this morning I just kind of leaned against the counter and watched R torment the kitten. As I waited for the water to boil, I made my breakfast in the soft morning light and listened as H sang silly songs to R while dancing with her in the living room. And then H poured the water into the press, and I wandered through the house to look in on the sleeping beasties, marveling at their still beauty, and the vulnerability of their temporary absence. These are all things that must be done in the slowness of time. There is no rushing through these moments.

As I pressed the lever slowly down through the water, pushing the grinds to the bottom, I thought that a lesson could be learned from this careful act. Life rushes by. My baby boy is going to be 12 next year. My girls are growing into these graceful, lovely creatures. Life is made up of moments both quiet and dramatic. It is too easy to lose those quiet ones. Too easy to rush through them. To easy to push forward with impatience, and to stumble right over them. And then there is the sadness that comes when we rush into things we should not rush into...knowing things too soon instead of waiting for the fullness of time.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Clearing Up...

My last post was not as clear as I had intended. First, I am not pointing fingers, or calling anyone out. People who don't like me certainly have that right. And for the record no one has come out and said "Wow Ginger you suck." I am speaking of my own position where I am finding a hard time finding something.This something might not ever exist. And my expectations that this would be the place where I would find this magical something (in terms of female relationships) has not materialized.

When I was in Charlotte, I watched as the woman around me paired off. They would form very close friendships. Go out for coffee. Go shopping together. Eat lunches. I was envious because I don't seem able to form these bonds with other women. I told H that what I wanted was someone like him who was female. In other words, I long for a BFF. Some one I can be myself with. Someone who forgives me my big mouth. Someone who wants to have coffee with me and talk about things.  And I hoped that someone would have kids so we could spend time at each other's houses while the kids played. I thought Athens would be that place, and it's not.

Sometimes I wonder if this an expectation that is just not going to be meet. And I wonder if my expectations lead me to expect things too fast. It's hard because I have a group of "internet" friends that I meet while pregnant with my daughter. I love them, and value their friendship deeply. But they have set a high standard. Their friendship is almost painful because it's wonderful but they are not "here" in a way that I long for. I had hoped that perhaps, here, in Athens, I would meet those people in the flesh.

Backdrop Athens

I haven't talked a lot about Athens, and living here. I think it's because I've had a hard time putting into words my feelings about this town and our move here. Yesterday H said something to me that summed up how I felt. He said "It's not really the people in a place that make me happy. I see the places where we live as the backdrops for our story." And that resonated with me so much that I carried it tucked away so that I could write about it when I had a chance.

Athens is a wonderful town. I love the feel and look of it. The funky downtown filled with little stores, bars and eateries is an amazing way to spend a Saturday. I love the tree lined streets and the grand old houses. I love how  we can walk just about anywhere. I love that everything is so close. Our little house is perfect for us. We spend evenings curled up on the couch (finally big enough for us all) and read, knit and watch movies. I love that there is lots for us to do here from hiking trials to Girl Scouts. The Catholic Center at UGA has become a safe place for me to explore my new found faith. This is a charming back drop no doubt.

But I've also struggled with feeling lonely. My expectations may have been too high for this place but I had imagined we would meet lots of fun, intelligent, engaged people here in Athens. I had these plans for family gatherings where we adults would sit and talk while the kids ran around and played. Umm...not so much. I"m sure there are these kinds of people here but they either don't have kids or they have one or two. Our big family seems to freak them out. The other mothers here all know each other and it's hard to break through years of friendship to make a place for yourself. I've reached out a few times and while the offer was accepted, it seems that the initial excitement frizzled.

For awhile I blamed myself and wallowed in a pity party about what an awful person I may be. But as time stretches out I am able to see that it's not my fault. I know there are things about me that make me hard to take. But I also know that there are things about me that make me a great friend. I am not sure though how one gets that across to people. I've also though a lot about what I'm looking for in a friend or even if it's quantity that I'm after. I've meet a few people whom I think I will end up becoming friends with, and so far the tiniest sprouts are there. At this stage, I am focusing on nurturing those bits of green without compromising myself in the process.

Thus this is the story. Beautiful town on which to continue to write the story of the beasties. I'm sure that eventually other characters will float through, adding to our narratives. Meanwhile I bask in this wonderful place and find myself thankful for the closeness I have within my own home.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


On Tuesday, my sponsor squeezed my hand and told me she had something special for me. During our break she gave a medal blessed by one of our Friars. I held the small silver circle in my hand, and felt tears pushing a bit from behind my eyes. For a moment, there was just nothing to say. Here was a small quiet sign from someone I did not yet know well. It was as if I was wrapped in love.

These little material things come to me when I need them most. They fill up my house and my car. They hang from rear view mirrors. They are tucked away into nooks in my hallway. They lean against olive oil bottles. They hang on my fridge holding up brightly colored pictures drawn by the beasties. These images traveled with me through states and through religions. I have held them longer than I have been on my conversion journey.

And this medal came to me when I needed an answer. When I need a little assurance. And I think that these physical things are vital in my journey of faith.They capture inside paper, metal, glass, the moments of prayer, faith, sorrow, joy and thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Gift

"Now Abraham can receive Isaac without guilt, as a gift.When they are walking back home, Issac is now Abraham's son in a way that he never was before. Abraham had to receive the gift twice by sacrificing it the first time"(Ronald Rolheiser).

When he gave her the gift the first time, she lost it. She did not mean to let it go but for a second when her hands flexed, it flew away into the stars. She watched it sobbing and calling out but it could not longer hear here. She spent days mourning that loss, fearing that she would never lay hands on such a gift again.

He did not know if he wanted to give the gift again. The first time had been fraught with fear. But he opened himself up again, and put the gift, different but the same, into her hands. This time she held onto that gift not with her hands but with faith. The second time she recognized that this was indeed a gift that he was giving her.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Social Missteps

She remembered in Jr. High, the feeling that she was too loud, too big, too nerdy, too poor. Despite all this abundance she was never enough to be popular. Never enough to be treated kindly. No one envied her. No one wanted to be around her much less be like her. In Jr. High, she would sit at the lunch tables, hiding in a book. She read literally hundreds of books because she did nothing else. She did not go over to other kids' houses. Never meet to hang out at the park. Instead, she walked the long road home (she would never submit herself willing to the torture of the bus) and would go up to her room to read. Later she would hid behind weird haircuts, drugs, and alcohol.

But it never helped. She was always out of step with those around her. Socialness was a dance between saying just enough, being just enough, being able to judge that enough in those around you. She never gained at that ability. In college, it was easy enough to seek out those who didn't know the dance. They formed a kind of family in which it was okay to speak too loudly or not enough. To be able to fuck up and know that while someone might get mad they'd forgive you. And it was a good feeling to belong.

But when she left college, she left behind that social net. She found safety in her own family but discovered quickly that the world out there was rather like Jr. High. There still people who wanted you to be something that she didn't quite understand. In defense, she started to carry books again so that she could hid behind their covers and in their words.


Some weeks I just feel like we hit all the right notes. Our lives just fall into a beautiful rhtymn that works for everyone. Our desires and needs flow into each other's desires and needs, and we all look up satisified and surprised. These glorious weeks do not happen often and the sweet taste they leave is something to be stored away for when things are dark.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


There are days that fill the soul with sunshine, flaming leaves, and the laughter of children. Those days sweep in no matter what welcome can be expected. Today she walked engulfed in this magic with the sadness like a dull ache. The joy was too present to ignore but the pain underneath was like a sharp reminder that gray often comes after the brilliance. As she watched her lovely girls, poke in the stream and balance on logs, she felt that she was asking for too much.

But that tiny grain of grief haunted her.The little footsteps behind her and to turn and see nothing. There was no way to deny that there had been a loss. A presence that once here was now gone. But as she watched the baby taking her steps through the leaves, her first real hike in the woods, she wondered if she asked too much.
To want more on such a day seemed to spit on the fortune of the universe. But she found that while she held this all so dear and close that she did long for more. Not much more but just a small bit. She could embrace the joy of now and when she turned her face toward the golden sunshine that shown through the canopy of leaves she felt that perhaps she could put her hand out in trust, and wait for God to answer.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Christmas Away

On Christmas, it was decided they would spend the day at his parents' house. They would arrive for breakfast and then she would go to her house for dinner while he went to his grandparents. His grandparents pretended to not know that they were living together. She suspected they found it rather low class, this living together stuff but she never mentioned this to him. He didn't like to think about these things.

At the breakfast, she felt conscious of her every move. Of every bite that went into her mouth. She knew she chewed too loud and yet could not figure out how one chewed in such silence. She had learned to nibble at his house, knowing she could eat later in private with no one to point out her loudness or her elbows on the table. Eating here was a tiny form of torture. A public moment where every move was scrutinized. She convinced herself it was good for her to be learning these things. Some day she would be in this social class and she needed to belong.

After dinner, came the stocking and gift opening. She was touched and surprised at the bag she was given. She had not expected to be included. His mother had smiled a bit painfully and said "Well I've always wanted a daughter." It was a nice gesture but she knew that she was not the daughter in mind. But she tried and she suspected that this attempt was appreciated. Inside the bag were tiny expensive treasures. Things she doubted she would ever use as they were so fine. She exclaimed over each thing and hoped she sounded genuine. His mother looked pleased. What she really would have enjoyed was a book and some chocolate. Something he had given her the night before. She knew that the gifts in the bag reflected what his mother thought she should want.

The whole gift opening was very orderly. The presents were wrapped perfectly like the show presents in a Christmas catalog. Everyone waited quietly while someone else opened their gift, and then there were quiet thanks. No laughing, no giddy excitement. Nothing very meaningful was exchanged. She sat the whole time her hands clenched. The tension arching through her. At these times she wondered how she could endure a life of quiet exclamations and silent chewing. Of gifts that meant so little and cost so much.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


There were three days until Thanksgiving and that was when the loneliness took up a more permanent residence. She had spoken to her mom that evening, and there had been a promise of a bus ticket home. One way was the only condition. Right now she was not sure why she was hesitating. What she had here was a whole list of bad decisions. First, moving here with no job, no friends. Just him. And he was proving to be just another check in that long list. Two, staying with a married man. Three, staying with a married man who told you were fat all the time and wasn't all that nice. Four, losing a good job just so she could hang out more with her friends. Five, letting him move her into a house that belonged to his wife's friend. Six, having to leave said house when the shit hit the fan. It was too much to list them out and she felt crushed under the despair that each check off caused.

Here she was lying in the guest room of another friend. She knew she was imposing on him and his girlfriend. She felt pretty sure that the girl friend kind of hated her. She made sure she was out either working or with her clubbing friends more than she was in but it didn't really make a difference. And she was lying her alone because he wasn't ever going to leave his wife. He had played this game again and again. Plus she wasn't sure if she actually wanted him to leave his wife. She wasn't sure if she really wanted him full time. Deciding to love this man had forged a whole chain of horrible decisions that left her in a darkness that she couldn't help but feel was her own making.

Going home would not involve a triumphant return. Instead she would come wounded, broken and in defeat. Those who had warned her to not go would shake their heads at her failure. She should have stayed home, they would say. And what irked was that they were right. She should have stayed home. She should have kept taking classes, and moved towards a job. Instead she had folded her doubts into a small little note and tucked them deep inside, jumping at the chance to finally escape.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Giving Forth and Getting Back

November must be all about balance for me this year as I keep coming back to this theme. Perhaps it's because I have found myself rather outspoken about political concerns I have even on Facebook where I usually just keep my mouth shut. I got so wrapped up in the middle of the road that I became rather blah about everything. I've been reflecting a great deal on how balance can be good (aka post about scheduling vs. free time) but also bad (aka not speaking out about social justice issues because I'm trying to understand the other side or some other such thing). But today I'm in a rather conflicted space as I ponder the distinction between putting forth love and thinking about what do you get back. Why conflicted? Because there is a part of me that thinks that even thinking about what you get back is a bit not the point.

My whole life, I've been taught the value of self-esteem. This lesson never really sunk in as I am absolutely soaked in self doubt. I have spent most of my life trying to gain the approval of others. I was never a suck up more like a pathetic beggar hoping for a scrap. The work I did I always did with a mind as to what others would think. I did little work simply for the pleasure of doing the work. Even when there was pleasure it was tortured with the longing that someone just one person like it. I am the person who constantly refreshes their blog page hoping for a higher hit number and maybe a comment.

And in the process of understanding this about myself I realized how amazingly narcassitic is to be insecure. One is always thinking about oneself. I began to wonder if I could solely blame my own upbringing and began to wonder if a bit wasn't the culture in which we live. We live in a world where happiness is the goal. Where the end result is to love your self. To feel about good about YOU. Our care of the body books are "YOU On A Diet." Our self help books are all about helping us to become better at being us.

Over the last few weeks as I struggled with my full time staying at home role, I realized that much of my problem wasn't so much that I hated this role but rather that I felt like I wasn't doing enough for myself. But when I sat down and thought about it, it wasn't as a big deal as I had thought. What does it mean to sacrifice yourself for your family? To lose yourself in your children? Is this as bad as a thing as I had been taught? What if by doing these things I was actually becoming more confident? A better human? What if what is important is not about me but about giving out to others? Learning to let go of expectations of myself? What if it wasn't about a constant care of me? What if in the process of caring for others I was caring for me? And what if in that process I ceased to give a shit about me anyway? Was it really all that bad of a thing?

Let me try to clarify. I am not suggesting that I have become a door mat to my family. Rest assured I am not June Cleaver. I still like to take time for myself to read, say the rosary (my form of meditation), write, talk to H about Delezue and Spanish Cinema. But I have stopped fretting about "ME". I have stopped worrying about loving myself. Stopped worrying about accepting my body. Stopped giving a shit about feeling good and making me feel better about me. Instead I am focusing on giving out love. Giving out my writing. Giving out my words. I am making each act of putting forth a conscious movement towards others. I am remodeling my life to make myself a better human not because it will make feel good but rather because it might improve things around me. And mostly I have stopped keeping taps about what I get back from these actions. I am learning slowly through the readings of people like Dorothy Day that the best way to live the example of Christ is to put out love not with any kind of hope of reward. Rather we put forth love because that is what it means to be the best possible human.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Being Present and the Art of Scheduling

The title may throw you as these two things are rarely seen as complimentary. I spent most of my life that being meant throwing out the day planner. In order to be truly present it seemed a given that you couldn't organize your life. Wonder if you missed being in those moments written on a dotted line. But my life without my day planner was always a bit of a disaster. I'm not so good without plans, and things dont' get done unless I write them down. I hated this aspect of myself. I wanted to be free. I wanted to be cut away from the chain of my day planner.

With the addition of children, I found myself ever more swinging wildly between these two extremes. Because we homeschool we have both a little more freedom than schoolers and an absolute need to make sure we plan. But planning sucks and doesn't allow us to be in the moment! So I'd throw planning aside and we did nothing. NOTHING. Maybe one day we'd have an adventure but the rest of the week we sat around and ended up bored. This spurs me to create a schedule which would be so super anal that there was no room for surprises and let's face it, life with the beasties is often filled with surprises. After a few days of everything getting off schedule, I'd just stop doing anything, and we'd back to where we were before. But bitter because there was always lots of fighting with the super anal schedule.

The dilemma is that it is clear to me that the beasties and I benefit from knowing about what's expected from us each day. And a simple check list is not going to cut it. We need a schedule, an order laid in front of us. But because we are crazy wild free spirit types we need it to be flexible. How do you create something that orders but provides room for disorder? I pondered this last night as I sat down to map out our week.

First, I needed to be organized. The beasties do better if their work is laid out already in their folders. Camille likes this because she can work ahead if she wants. Piper does much better if she has her craft stuff in one place. She's more creative when everything is at her fingertips. Umberto needs the discipline of knowing exactly what he needs to finish each day. Having their work means less frantic mornings for me.

Second, I needed to make sure we had time to get out everyday. Even if it's just for a quick walk it's important that we are outside of our house. But I want this time to be flexible. Like if someone calls out of the blue or if we're having such a good time we don't want to leave. I choose a three hour block in the middle of the day. If we don't use all the time, it opens up that time for the kids to play or game or read. And this involved more than just a notation on the paper. It involved a mental shift. I had to stop looking at my schedule as the way things were going to be and more of a way the things could be. It was important that I reminded myself of this the whole time I mapped our days out.

Today it was tested. We had agreed, happily, to meet with some friends at the Nature Center. I was thinking one, they decided on two which was FINE because my  map had a three hour block carved out of it. I was determined to not rush through our morning work figuring that we would simply do what we could. We had to get out because it was too beautiful to not go out. And was I glad that I had made this mental shift because today was one of those amazing, magical days.

We walked a pretty decent but short hike to a pond where the kids spent nearly an hour climbing logs to get to these islands close to the shore. They had so much fun relishing the danger of crawling across logs over the cold water. Piper was scared at first but with the encouragement of the other kids she ended up crawling out to splash on the little island. Camille, Umberto and their friend, A, took an more dangerous route to another small island. On the way back, Camille fell off the log and into the pond but managed to hold onto the log. She was terrified but we all talked her back on the log (she can swim don't worry and it wasn't that deep). Again the pride of doing something on her own! Her face was shining when she returned. The kids ran around and explore an old brick works. They climbed and slid down embankments. They were filthy and glowing by the time we got back to the van. Even Umberto who had not wanted to come was laughing and covered in dirt.

As we walked back, I look over my shoulder to watch Camille walking with her friend. This was important. This was learning. This was why we homeschooled. These adventures. These moments of friendship. And they don't happen when I loose that balance between schedule and being. The schedule tells us to get out there and do something. It makes us do things at home, making those moments out even sweeter.

Sunday, November 06, 2011


Sorrow is a hard thing to reconcile within the confines of religion. Of course I found no answers for it within the bounds of atheism or agnosticism either. Last week in the midst of pain, I found myself sitting in the van sobbing, and angry. Angry at some unnameable force that had taken something precious from me. In the midst of that pain so deep that it ripped through me I wondered what kind of trickster world we lived in. I remembered the stories of Tricksters from Native American stories but in the end the Trickster always got his comeuppance. In my closed world of pain no one else was tricked. Just me.

And as I suffered, I felt a bit ashamed at my self-pity as behind little hands reached from the backseat to enclose me with love. Here I had been blessed with four little beasties so wonderful and nearly perfect. How could I blame anything for my suffering? How could I be angry when there is so much suffering in the world?

This came back to me this weekend as I saw another re post of a sign juxtaposing a picture of OWS protesters with that of starving African children. The caption chastises us by suggesting that we who are the 99% in this country are the 1% in others (a notion that has been disapproven by the way). This post infuriates me because the hidden message is that we should shut up and let our country continue on it's human destructive path of Capitalism because we have it better than other people in the world. I kept responding by pointing that silence is never acceptable no matter how small the abuse when seen in comparison to other abuses. Is it okay for us to silently not allow gay couples the same right as heterosexual couples because hey they have it better than gays in some African countries? Of course not. Just as remaining silent about the abuses of the rich in our country is not acceptable. And I also pointed that we are interconnected and the 1% that abuses power here do the same in these other countries.

As I thought about these things, I allowed myself my own small pain. No it is not big in the scheme of things but for this moment in my life it is a dark hole. And it is alright that I mourn. But it is not okay for me to lash out against those who love me and that includes God, the universe, Christ, the Buddha, whoever. There is suffering everywhere. Suffering greater than my own. I do not know why the suffering is there. Perhaps this a Mystery. Or perhaps the atheist is right and the world just destroys. It just happens without any reason or meaning. I do not know.  In the face of suffering I am humbled but not immobilized and that includes my own small pains.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Where to?

Lately, my rowboat has been doing that spinning thing that happens in a boat when you don't know how to row. It's a surprisingly gentle motion, a kind of slow aimless spinning and I freely admit to not doing much to stop the spinning. It is also not the kind of gentle drifting that happens when you purposefully put the oars up and rest back to enjoy a bit of afternoon sun on the lake. I am somewhere, then, between contentment and crisis.

At almost 40, I am feeling a deep joy in my life as is but also a feeling that I have to be doing something....more? This may not be the right word. It's more that I feel like I need to do something that is going to bring money into my home. A feeling that someday my beasties will be grown and I will be home, idle. I certainly can not imagine spending my older years being a housewife. I am not a housewife now. I am a mother who is educating her beasties into hopefully radical beings. But this will not forever. And that is where the aimless rowing comes into play.

What next? My carefully laid plans for a Ph.D failed to materialize from dream into reality. I am not ever going to be a writer because while I have grands plans, I don't really write. And let's be realistic even if I did manage to discipline myself into writing there is only a small chance I could sell what I write. I am feeling ever more unsure of the Ph.D. But I don't know what I'd do with  myself if I didn't do the academy.

A recent mini crisis has thrown this all into the light. For awhile I was satisfied with just kind of spinning around, looking at the various option through the prism of motion. But now something has happened that has brought the spinning to stop and put the oar in my hand.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Pushing Forward

The loss wasn't something she could quite put a finger on. It was simply an absence. An phantasmal moment gone now in the rush of blood. This future ghost had not stayed long, and she felt that perhaps she was over reacting, being melodramatic. The loss of the future of something that could not be named was a hard to rationalize. So every time she cried, or felt sad, she also felt as if she was indulging something selfish inside her self.

Still each morning, getting up was like unraveling herself from beneath many blankets. She had to push through layers of sadness, ennui, and anxiety. The day laid out before without that invisible potential that came with a very visible sign of end. She would sit at the edge of her bed, and long to just curl back up inside the warm nest and sleep until there was no feeling. Instead she pushed forth, drawing on a tiny bit of strength that remained.

Putting ghosts to sleep is not an easy step, she would remind herself. Ghosts do not sleep in the glare of morning sunshine. The only fade to the corners in a shimmering cover of light.

Year of Pleasures 28

The sweet aftermath of a holiday. I love celebrating. The holidays with young children have taken on even more flavor than they did when I was a college student organizing grand parties. With children, the lead up to the holidays are days filled with anticipation, and a barely repressed quivering of joy. Everyday, they ask how many more days. They feverishly plan. And then the day arrives, and all the joy comes to a breaking point. If you're lucky you avoid celebration meltdown...
or not...
But really the best part for me is the day after...the sweet joy of just collapsing basking in the glow that remains.

A Post a Day

As usual November crept upon me unaware, and I missed the first day of NaBloPoMo again. I am in a funk and finding it hard to write but meeting this commitment is always good for me. The discpline of making myself write everyday is a good one. Today I have a few posts to catch up (two after this one) and then I can sally forth.

I wish I had a theme but I don't...and because of where I am it is hard to just drum up. It is hard to just wake up when I am in this space. Maybe my November theme can be writing to exorcise these demons. Maybe not. Maybe it should be ways to find the beauty within these dark spaces. Or maybe it will just be all of the above.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Putting Forth

When I announced to the general public that I was pregnant with Umberto, one of my favorite professors said "You've been longing for a family so I'm happy for you." At the time, I was a bit insulted. Not sure if this professor whom I admired was insulting me or complimenting me, I felt as if she was accusing me of wanting a child for my own selfish need to be loved.  But like most phrases that carry those rather ambiguous messages, they followed me through not just this birth but the birth of three other children. Was I trying to recreate a family that I had not had in my young life? Was I birthing people to give me love that I felt I had somehow missed out on? And if so was this a valid reason to have children? To create this large family?

But the funny thing about love is that it is hard to receive it if you don't put it out. I came to my marriage wounded and not quite whole. I wasn't confident that I deserved love or attraction or even decent treatment. Deep inside I believed was a rather sordid unlikable person who was ultimately unlovable. When H seemed to be in loved with me, it took me a long to get over feeling a bit skeptical. I was never quite sure he really loved me and because of this was a black hole of need that kept sucking more and more from him and from others around me.

I wish I could have that I could give you a dramatic moment that instantly changed me but that did not happen. Instead learning to let go of that monster deep inside me has taken work (and really I am still slaying it). But I can write that from the beginning it was clear that I was going to have to give of myself in ways that I had no foreseen. This tiny creature depended on me for everything, and the love that was returned was not an active love. I gave him, and this each of his sisters, all that I had. I carried them inside me and learned to take better care of my body for them. I nourished them with my breasts. I held them against my heart as I went about the hundreds of daily details to provide them a safe home. I failed and learned to forgive myself as they forgave me. I learned the lesson of unconditional love not just from giving to them but from watching them love me even when I yelled at them. In other words, I slowly became a better person.

And along the way I realized it wasn't so much about being loved. I'm not going to lie and say that this isn't a pleasant thing. It is a most wonderful thing. The love I feel from the beasties and from H is heaven. This love builds me up when I am sad or lonely. While this love has cut away at the beast inside, what has delivered the killing blows is the love that I give. Along the way what has become important is not getting love but GIVING love.What kills the insecurities, what forces me to be a better human, is my ability to put love forth even in the darkest moments. To love the beasties when they are being, well, beastly, is how I have learned to open myself up to love. In the end, all we can be sure of is our own actions, and that when we put love forth into the world, we let go of self. With each act of love, with each ass wiped, with each mouth feed, with each scrape washed away, with every moment that I give myself into that act of love even when I do not feel it I am filling that hole inside of my heart.