Monday, December 24, 2012

Take a Sad Song and Make It Better

Note: I wrote this when we first found Jude had Down syndrome which is when I was about 16 weeks pregnant. I'm posting and then adding some new commentary at the end.

This is Jude. Beastie 5, and our fourth girl. Despite the blog title and what you think, she is not named after the Beatle's song. Instead she's named after St. Jude with whom I cut a deal with on the eve before finding out her gender among other things. St. Jude the patron saint of lost causes. Seems like a strange saint too as Jude is not a lost cause but St. Jude has been my go to ever since meeting my wonderful mother in law. He was familiar and safe and that was what I needed. I was so scared she was dead when I lit that candle on Sunday night that I found myself making deals with the supernatural...again. "Please St. Jude, let her be alive. If she's healthy and alive I'll name her for you."

Everything with Jude seemed okay. At first. At our initial ultrasound, she was measuring small but it made sense in terms of when I tested, etc. I opted for early testing which involved another ultrasound. Piper came with me and we laughed at "Skippy's" (Piper's name for the fetus) antics. She was rolling around, standing on her head, and just being super active. I felt her rolling around very early on, and was reassured by her energy. But there was something there at the edge of my mind. I had never tested with the other four kids but here I was testing. It's my age I thought to myself.

Then we got the call. My results from the first trimester blood test had come back with a 1:5 odds of the baby having Down syndrome. That's a really high risk. Really high. It was hard to find people on the Internet who had such a high risk. We scheduled an amniocentesis. I was devastated. I sobbed and cried. I got really angry at God, at the universe, at the world. I felt like I was being punished for wanting too much. I mean come on I already four children and this is what happened when I pushed for five. I knew this was not a diagnostic test but I was convinced that it was and lived my life with that conviction. For two days, I cried. I researched tons of information and tried to bolster myself with some hope. Her nuchal neck count was 2 mm which was normal. The Dr. had not mentioned anything about her nasal bone and I scanned her ultrasound pictures hoping I could fine the bone. But deep down I was convinced she had Down syndrome, and frankly, I was utterly devastated.

The three weeks before the amniocentesis was spent trying to distract myself from the abyss. I read vampire trash, swam with the other beasties, mucked out my house. I knew I couldn't abort if the results showed Down syndrome but I also didn't know how I was going to be able to function with a disabled child. When it was dark, I laid awake, listening to the soft breathing of R. "She is so perfect" I would think, and then start to cry because if the baby inside me had Down syndrome would I think she was perfect? 

A week before the amino, I stopped feeling Jude move. Because I was also at risk for Tri 18, I believed she had this much more severe chromosome disorder and that she was dead. I tried to not think about it but it was always there. My baby is inside me, dead. I am not carrying a living thing anymore. 

My mom came down Sunday and on Monday accompanied me to my appointment. I wrapped my white rosary around my wrist, and brought a Mary card with The Memorare on the back. During the hour I waited (yes an hour), I prayed that prayer about ten times. Mary was a mother, and she had lost her son. I felt very close to her as I sat there waiting for them to jam a giant needle into my womb. I wavered even then if I should have the test or if I should just wait. 

When we were finally called back, I was near panic with fear. I wanted H there but for some reason I had pushed him away that morning. I fingered the rosary and said the Memorare a few times, as the tech readied the machine. And then there was the baby, moving around, heart beating perfectly, and I started to sob.The baby was alive. Suddenly, Tri 21 didn't seem like the worst option possible. What mattered in those few seconds was that the baby was kicking, swallowing, pumping blood through her tiny heart. The tech was very through but acted impatient with me, and kept saying "This is all really hard to see at 16 weeks. We usually do these tests at 20 weeks" and then "If you choose to do the amniocentesis..." It was clear that she had no idea why I was there. I finally said "Um..we are here for the amniocentesis." And then my mom said something about not aborting for Down syndrome and the woman again acting very annoyed said "Well you have two soft makers. She has no nasal bone and her bladder looks bright but we'll have to ask the Dr. what he thinks." And then she left. I cried and texted H the news. I told him the baby was a girl first because I knew he was hoping for another girl. I softened up for the blow...not just high risk but two soft markers. The Dr. came in and performed a careful but really long amniocentesis which really did feel like having your blood drawn. The worst part was that because he was so careful I started to cramp up from being in this odd position. He refused to speculate on the soft markers but the lack of a nasal bone confirmed what I had accepted three weeks ago.

We got the call Wednesday. Jude has Down Syndrome. Initially I just felt relief from knowing. I cried a lot at how kind my friends here were. And when I started to reach out to the Down Syndrome community, I was drawn right in and welcomed which made me cry. But really I was also crying because I thought Jude was not perfect. I was crying because I was not going to have a "typical" baby. I was crying because I was terrified of the future. I was crying because I was worried about how her care would effect the rest of my family. But then I didn't dare express those feelings. H and my mom were so positive and supportive. H already loved Jude with the fierce passion that he loved all the beasties. I loved her but that love was shadowed by grief and fear. 

Over the last few days, I've swung between despair and hope. There is so much unknown in this equation. Jude could be perfectly healthy. She could go onto do college classes. To read and to write. To have her own life. She may not have very obvious physical markers of Downs. But she could also have the opposite of all these things. And I would be a fool to not worry about how this will impact my family. But I can't terminate this pregnancy. I love her. She is present to me, to my family. I am not going to make any political stands here but for me, for us, this is simply not one of our options. I find myself wishing I could go back in time, and not conceived. I still have to war with feeling like I'm being punished. 

What I do know is that Jude will be loved deeply and passionately by all of us. One thing that has come up again and again is how close and strong our family is...and it's been confirmed by so many of our friends. I

I have faith that our family is enough to take the sad song that is twining through my heart right now and make it a better song. Maybe not always a happy song but not always a sad song either.

Now...future tense...the other night I'm lying in bed. I've just nursed Jude, and she's sleeping in my arms next to her big sister R. They are both beams of light...beautiful and perfect. It never occurs me to think of Jude as anything less. Jude's song is not sad. It could be perhaps but somehow, right now, it's not. I just told some friends that I am laughing, ever so gently, at myself for these early fears. These fears that I wouldn't love her. In the first moments when she lay on my chest, all these fears rushed at me and then she looked at me...even across that distance I was feeling through all that emotion...she was mine and the fierce love that I felt for all my children was there. I would not let her down. 

Her difference is the difference I see in all my children. They are mine and not mine. They are the same and they are different. This is the nature of humanity perhaps. We focus perhaps too much on what separates us or binds us. I suspect Jude has much to give us in terms of understanding our common humanity, and I suspect we have much to teach her as well. This is the nature of love and family. 

Here's to having something extra!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Beams of Light

"There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in."
Leonard Cohen's Anthem 

After four children, I have learned that my expectations are not always my children's expectations. With each child, I can't help but package up my hopes and fears into little bottles to store carefully. And as these wee beastie babies get older, they push the bottles away, casting them to the ground. Sometimes these bottles are hopelessly crushed, beyond repair. At other times, I am able to glue them together into something new, something that is a bit of my desire and a bit of their desire. They are cracked and not so perfect but that's okay because that is what it really means to be in a relationship with other humans. When it works well, we are not wed to what we desire but rather we merge into something that is sort of like compromise but more like hope. 

Jude was born really quickly on Sunday evening. I had been having contractions all day but didn't time them as they didn't hurt and weren't regular. By three, I was starting to get nervous because they weren't stopping. I had H drive to me a gift giving event (the community here in Athens put together a really wonderful plan to help out each other with Christmas gifts). When we got home, I decided to start timing and got on the yoga ball a friend loaned me. The contractions were starting to hurt, and the pain intensified really quickly. One minute I was able to breath through them, and the next, I was almost moaning. H got ready, and as we were getting ready to walk out the door, I was already in my labor trance. I was yelling at H to hurry because I knew it was going to be fast. We had to drive even though we had planned on walking because it was pouring out. I rode on my knees, hugging the seat and begging H to hurry. He kept asking for directions and I could barely talk or think. The short walk from the parking spot to the elevators was interrupted by two really intense contractions (there was an old man waiting for an elevator and he looked totally painced when he saw us coming...lucky for him I had to stop to breath through a contraction). When we hit Labor and Delivery, I could no longer talk and was sweating. I made it to our room, sat down on the toilet and my water broke. I got up and announced "I have to push NOW!" And I did. About four pushes later we had Jude.

We knew Jude had Down syndrome. And I thought I was prepared. Those bottles remember. When I looked at her all I could see was the Down syndrome, and it was a shock. It was a crack in my expectations of how I would react. Of course it was not the shock, a woman feels with a post natal diagnosis but I wasn't expecting it to be a shock at all. I didn't feel like I didn't love her, or that she wasn't mine....I just felt this distance. I am aware that this could be from the shock of such a quick birth (I thought we had at least a few hours to go) but I'm honest enough to admit that some of it was the shock of seeing those features, and sadly my inability to see Jude. But as the night wore down, and H stopped his usual baby hogging (that man loves a baby and it is, in my opinion, one of his sexiest attributes), I was able to just be with her. I first noticed that when she was sleeping she pursed her lips into a little kiss just like R used to as a newborn. When she was getting ready to squawk, her face got all red and crinkly like Piper. The shape of her lips were similar to Camille's and her tiny size reminded me of my sweet first born, Umberto. And as the night turned into the day after, the light did come in, and suddenly Jude wasn't the face of Down syndrome. She was Jude. The beastie who completed our family. She was what we needed and were waiting for even though we did not know it.

Jude does have Down syndrome but that is not her only qualifying characteristic to being human. She, like the other beasties, will surprise us with her own expectations of herself and her world. Her light, shining through my cracked bottles, will join with the light that we already have let into our family.  She will have different, sometimes harder, challenges of course. We are not naive. But we are hopeful, and we all feel pretty damn lucky that this sweet baby has graced us with her life. I hope that we're worthy of such grace.

Saturday, November 03, 2012


November is my blog everyday month..and of course I'm late because I'm always late. In my defense, I was late because I wasn't sure if I wanted to do it this year, or more accurate if I was capable this year. I think I've gotten dumber over the last year and am not sure if I have anything worth saying anymore. After some thought though I felt like I should at least try. I've sadly let myself all not in a rather lazy pattern of not challenging myself at all.

Some part of me sort of enjoys this's freeing in some ways to not constantly being worried about being smart. And then the other part of me is bored and restless..worried that H will grow bored with my preoccupation with Pinterest and cooking. Thus I find myself thinking that there has to be a balance between that constant insecurity and need to prove myself as smart person and being a total nitwit.

Regardless of where this line of thought brings me, it's time to start writing again. Writing is still that place where I feel the best,and where I do feel that my mind is exercised. So bring it on November...a month of posts...

For those not on Facebook..

Say hello to side sometime around Christmas...

Tuesday, September 04, 2012


Time to get back into capturing those moments of bliss...those tiny quiet pleasures that make you realize the fullness of life.

Today it's this:

Beastie Girls.
Cooking with beasties is not always takes a special source of patience to deal with the little hands wanting to help. But they love it so much, and I love watching these two beastie girls help each other out. And then of course while we're cooking, we're enjoying that rockin' speech by Michelle Obama. Piper said at one point "She has brown eyes like us!" and at the end "She's awesome mom!" I'm thankful that I get to raise my girls in such a way that they get to strong, intelligent woman in public political spaces. In this world, in this time, we can bake cakes and take on the political world. It struck me that I'm usually really focused on Umberto having a role model in Obama (Umberto loves Obama) but tonight I realized how important it was my girls to see and hear woman like Michelle as well. 

Time Keeps Slipping Away...

I need to write more. Time is never still, and my beasties grow and morph into new creations of themselves. And I want to capture those moments in words--words that I can go back to and savor as they get older. Plus the time I spent writing does not feel wasted and lately I feel like I'm wasting a lot of time, spinning my wheels as I wait...always waiting...that's me.

The girls are in their new school two days a week which is just about perfect. I think Piper would like to go a little more but this what we can afford for now. Camille enjoys going but doesn't talk much about the experience nor does she seem to be bonding with any of the other kids. Piper loves it. She loves to tell me about the other children. What she did for the day. And even after a full day of school, she still wants to walk, swim and craft. It's impossible to keep up with her. For Camille, it's a lot and when she comes she kind of hermits up into her role playing games of Warrior Cats.

Seeing how they are so different is always such a moment of wonder for me. They look so much alike.They came from the same parents. Same family. And while I see glimpses of H and I in each of them, they are so much their own people too. Wednesdays really hammer these differences home. Wednesdays are our big day. The girls have school until 3 and then we have Religious Ed. at 6: 15. Their first day of this schedule was last week. By the end of the class, Camille was done. She wouldn't even say hi to her good friend. Piper was still bouncing with energy and wanted to know if she was going to craft club again. Craft club meets Wednesdays from 4-5 so I guess we're doing craft club too.

Umberto has morphed into a tween for better or worst. Luckily there are slivers of his sweet baby self that shine through the fart jokes, the poop talk, and the sulky moodiness. Whenever I want to strangle him, he acts so lovingly sweet with R that I am struck anew at his capability for love and compassion. I am confident he will emerge from these smelly, yucky years as a good, gentle man. He is talking about wanting to go to High School which is scary for me but I will let him go if he wants. He's working hard towards catching up so he can do that if he ends making that decision, and it's pretty awesome to see him being motivated by something and then making plans to meet those goals. I didn't think we would reach this point even three years ago. I have to remind myself of this when nine year old Camille fights me on every bit of work she's asked to do.

And then there is baby R, who at almost 2.5 is still very much our baby. She's talking more which is a bit of a relief as she didn't seem to have too much to say for awhile. I have to admit I was a bit freaked out that we may have another Camille on our hands (don't get me wrong, I ADORE Camille but one is plenty for any family thank you very much). But now she's talking away even if we can't always understand her. She's extremely sensitive to other people's emotions as well...even on the t.v. She's a torturer and lover of our poor kitties who do well considering her idea of loving is to lay on them. She's also a fashionista which is hilarious considering how her parents are so not.

So we're updated. There's so much more...soon there are some new stories to tell. I've been waiting...remember I tell them, and I let myself stop writing until I could tell this one story but there are other stories waiting to come out so I will tell them...and make the waiting a bit more dynamic.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Old Enough To Read

When I was eleven, my favorite place was the local library. It was about a mile from my house and I walked that mile almost every day in the summer, and once on the weekends. I enjoyed being outside too during the summer: riding bikes, playing baseball, swimming. However the library was my escape; a magical world where I could hide in books.And our library was magic itself. Housed in a wonderful brick building that looked like a castle, one would enter through huge intimidating doors that creaked loudly in the stone hallway. There were a set of glass doors that lead to the adult section but to your right there was a spiral staircase that lead to the second floor: the children's section. I knew the children's librarian well. She always had a stack of books for me.

But that summer, when I was newly 11, I was tired of children's books. I was ready to move onto the adult section. All summer I had heard whispers of a book called "Forever" by Judy Blume. I had read all of Blume's children's books but this one was rumored to be different. It was about sex. And in order to get it out, I discovered you had to have a note from your parent. I learned this the hard way. I walked through those glass doors for the first time, and found the fiction stacks. The book was in the Bs so I walked up the desk and asked where I might find it. The middle age woman at the desk, looked down her glasses at me, and said "Excuse me?" in a very incredulous voice. I repeated my request in a squeak. "And just how old are you?" she asked. "Umm...11" I said. "Well then," she smirked, "you'll need a note from your parents giving you permission to read and check out adult books."

I went home sad. I didn't think there was anyway my mom would write the note. I don't know why I thought this. She had never censored my reading and while we weren't allowed to watch much t.v. she didn't really censor what we did watch. But none of my friends had been allowed to the read the book so I suspect that I just assumed I would not be allowed to read it either. But I was determined to ask because this note would give me access to not just "Forever" but to the entire adult catalog.

After dinner, I broached the subject with her. "Mom, there's a book I want to read but the librarian said I need a note from you to get it."
Now this part was going to be a bit hard.
"It talks about sex and it's in the adult section."
My mom looked at me for a moment.
"Why do you want to read about sex?"
I shrugged uncomfortably.
She was quiet for a moment and then reached over for a piece of paper.
"Get me a pen." she said.

"Forever" was rather a disappointment in some ways. I was a bit young to understand the subtleties of a teenager losing her virginity. The boy's penis had a name which I thought was the most hilarious thing ever but I remember very little about that book. What I do remember is the feeling that my mom trusted me to read what I wished. She did not censor my reading material and thus opened up another level of reading for me.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Beastie Baby Turns Two

Today was going to be A Day in the Life day but I totally forgot in my sleep haze to start the days with pictures. But nonetheless it was a special day. Our sweet little baby beastie is two! How time has flown and how much has happened since her auspicious arrival on Tax Day. We moved out of our dear little house in NoDa after the home invasion when she was only 6 weeks old.  We spent a year in the old complex which was a pleasant year. And then we moved from Charlotte to Athens, GA. Little Baby Beastie has had quite the upheaval in terms of living space but certainly not in love.

In fact, it just feels like she's always been with us. She fits right in with the other beasties: fierce and deter minded, no one leaves her out of the fun and games. R was her own self almost at once. We did the Oh she's like so and we do with them all but then after you've gone through all three kids, you realize that well R is just R. She has a fearsome temper (proving that for some twos..well you know the saying). She is not overly cuddly but she likes to gives kisses and hugs when asked. And she still snuggles with her mama at night. She's curious and bright and funny. Can you tell I"m in love...again?

Her birthday preparations started last night...

The older girls and I made cat cupcakes for our family party. R likes "kitties" and in fact likes animals of all kinds.

We woke up early for Mass and she was a grump. R needs her sleep and the rude awakening at eight did not make her happy.What did make her happy was getting to pick out her own outfit. She choose her "fowber" outfit. She did okay for most of the service but was starting to lose it at the end (we hung out in the overflow room where all us parents hide) and was screaming if the other kids got to close to her toys. After Mass, we went and picked up a balloon since she loves balloons. She was pretty psyched to get her own balloon.

Once we got home, H put together her water table.

She loved it as did Piper. I foresee a lot more outside time!

Of course she has to figure out that it's not a kiddie pool.

After playing, we ate lunch (hot dogs which are one of her favorites) and then we all had cake and sang Happy Birthday in Spanish and English. 

She took a bite and then told us "Yum!" 

She's in a much better mood after a nap and is now playing with the other beasties. It's hard to imagine a time when she wasn't here. A time when we even debated if we were going to try for another beastie. I'm pretty sure we made the right decision.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Life

Lately I've been sunk back into my rut of just not doing anything. It's not good for me or for the kids. Just now I spent time pinning stuff on Pinterest and thought "What do would happen if you did those things you're pinning." And then I started to think about what I want my life to look like...and that maybe it was time to stop fantasizing about that life, or reading about it on other people's blogs, and start doing it.

I want to do things with my children. I want to do projects with them. Piper loves to make things. She loves to cook, to create with the materials around her, to draw. I want to be outside with them everyday. I want to exercise. I want to knit. I want to write. I want to organize our days a bit more than they are right now.

When I am sitting here doing nothing useful, I wonder why I do this to myself. I think perhaps it's that living in the realm of waiting. Right now I'm waiting for our stupid income tax to come in and I keep thinking "I'll make things when I can buy the materials." But perhaps I need to be thinking about what we can with what we have.

And then of course there is the waiting that comes from not knowing my future. As I let go of that concern, I find myself becoming more free while at the same time I need to fill the spaces of my day. And I need to fill it with more than cleaning the house and folding clothes.

I'm thinking that everyday needs to include writing and knitting so I can stay sane. And it also needs to involve being present with the children. It's good for us to have our space but we also need to connect and be together. It's spring and I feel like we need to be new. To do new things. To open ourselves up to some change.

Monday, April 09, 2012

The Deed Is Done

On Saturday, I ended one journey to begin another. Funny how that works, huh? We begin a job, a quest, a path, and work steadily to the imagined finish line, only to discover that what we thought was an ending was really just a crossing over to yet another journey. One would be weary if there wasn't such joy in the ending and the beginning. These beautiful, joyful moments refresh us for the hard parts of our paths yet to come. Perhaps one reason I love the Catholic church so is that she recognizes that we need the rituals to light our way ahead.

Easter Vigil is not only a lovely, symbolic ritual of the resurrection of Christ. It is also a ritualistic retelling of the journey one takes in conversion. 

We began outside around the Easter fire in order to light the Christ candle which along with our "battery" candles would be the only light in the dark church. As I watch the fire, I am reminded of the many fires in religion I have experienced. From the fire of Pentecost in the the Pentecostal Church of my youth, to the bonfires of my Neopagan days as a young adult. Here in front of this fire, I wonder for a moment, only a moment, if I am in the right place. But the peace that has come to through all my doubts this past year comes again, and I feel once again that I am finally coming home. In some ways back to the my youth but in other ways to a very different view of Christ and God.

Inside the chapel, there are no lights. Only the Christ candle, and our candles. We stumbled into our pews through the dark,lost and looking for light. And indeed, while in many ways I had come home into the grace of my family, I was still searching. Still stumbling. Feeling like there was something missing but not knowing what it was until I felt once again the presence of God and Christ. There was still a lot of missteps this year. Doubts so powerful that I almost didn't sign the Book of the Elect. But luckily in the darkness, it is not just our candle by which we see the path. There are others holding us up and offering us counsel. I am blessed with support not just from the chapel but also from all over the world. We don't always agree but their words helped me to discern my own path.

And then after the Liturgy of the Word, we all sing Gloria and a single light is shown on the cross. Oh I swear my heart leaped up and I was filled with joy.Tonight I was coming from the darkness into the light. No the light might not always be so bright but I feel that it will always be ahead of me.

And then after a beautiful homily by Friar Tom, we come forward to be baptized. This is my moment of newness.

Made all the more special by Camille's presence and joining with me. I am moved that I am able to share this experience with my children.

And finally I am able to participate in the mystery of the Eucharist. Can I began to explain this mystery. Not yet. But partaking made me feel complete, part of the community around me, and one with Christ. It is not something for which I have words. It is a moment that is both shattering yet rebuilding.

Finally I am here. I am a Catholic. I have joined myself to this Church with her beauty and her flaws. She in only human after all like me. Like us all. I have joined her because this is where I feel God. This is where I feel both peace and a conviction to just be a better person.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Small Still Voice

Tonight was our last RCIA class before the BIG DAY. I discovered that my marriage HAS to be convalidated before I can be baptized thus making Saturday a REALLY BIG DAY. Tonight we reviewed what we'd be doing and when...important things like how to hold out your hand for the host, and to remember that the chalice was HEAVY and that not dropping it would be a good thing.

But we also spent some time mediating over the Nicene Creed (yes the new translation) and over the "Our Father." We were asked to pick a line that spoke to us and I choose the "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Funnily the two women I was sharing with at the end also picked this line. We talked a bit about not knowing the path before us,and not always understanding what God's will was anyway. Ever since we moved here to Athens I feel a bit like each step I take is kind of blind. I am not sure what is going to happen in the next couple of  years. I don't know what I'll be doing. It's a scary feeling for an anxious person like me.  I'm used to my lists, and my goals. I'm not used to not knowing or at least not having a plan.

In addition, I am not sure how I feel about the whole God speaking to one thing. It scares me a bit to use this kind of language because it reminds me to much of my religious past where God's voice was rather frightening and condemning. I'm trying to reconcile a few different theological ideas about God's voice as I struggle to figure what it means to follow God's will.

One part of me is inclined towards the idea that the answers lies with in us and that prayer/mediation is a way of encountering that which we already know. Or that praying is a way to settle all the different directions are minds go in and to reflect upon what we have read, heard, etc. Another part of me sort of wishes that a loud voice would just shout at me what I'm supposed to do...that someone else would make a decision for me. But that's not going to happen, I'm afraid.

After class, I sat outside wating for H and watching a storm roll through lightening blazing around the cross that rises up from the chapel. Even with the thunder, it was silent, and I sort of sat there, remembering the words of Sister Marie and Julie (a woman I greatly admired) who both said "The voice of God is often a small, quiet voice. You have to be in silence to hear it." What a simple, profound statement. I sat there in that silence and didn't think about anything. I didn't worry. I didn't ask for advice. I just sat. And then later at home, while I washed the evening dishes and in the silence that comes from children doing their own things, I thought you asked if this was enough, and it is. This life is enough. If there is nothing else, it doesn't matter because what you have is a gift.

Sunday, April 01, 2012


Sometimes, when the sun it shining outside, and the children are playing, and  I have my knitting, and the world is green, I think "This is enough." And as I sit in the sun with the "green light" shining over me, I wonder why I long for more.

Today as I sat there watching the girls splash water and make mud puddles, I wondered what I was looking for...why was I always feeling like I had to be doing something "more?" What would this more consist of and for what reason did I want to do more?

I brought this sun content feeling with me to Palm Sunday, and carried it with me as I followed Friar David into the chapel, palm leaf in hand singing Hosannah! And then I mediated during the gospel about this intense belief I hold that as long as suffering exist here Christ still suffers.He is crucified everyday as human bodies are tortured, starved, jailed, ignored, kicked, abandoned, and lost. And as I listened to the Passion on my first Palm Sunday in the Catholic Church, I stopped wanting something more and thanked the Universe for what I had been given. And I prayed that the something more I yearned for would manifest in a yearning to do something more for the world.

Monday, March 26, 2012

In the Beginning (again)

Popular legend in my family portrays me as the catalyst that "saved" my family. According to the story, my four year old self "convicted" my family with the direness of their sins and lead them to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior. This was a lot of responsibility to place on the shoulders of a preschooler but in our world even the young were chosen to serve God.

My religious world was not a world into which I was born. My very earliest memories do not have any religious overtones. But those memories are only fragments from fading photos. Blue night gowns. Fisher Price circus trains. A cat. My religious memories are sharper more there and present when I think back on my life. They are the moments that informed many years of my life and even now shape who I am.

Like most mothers in our small town, my mom used vacation Bible school as a break from our crazy summer energy. I suspect also that while we did not attend church regularly, she still wanted us to have some kind of foundation in Christianity. For a week, a white school bully with "Trinity Methodist Church" in purple on the side made its way down my street picking up children from the various apartment houses. We'd climb in our white tank tops, cut off shorts, and dirty knees, hot and resentful of losing any of our precious summer time. Soon we'd be deposited on the side walk outside the gray stone church with it's stately belfry and tastefully stained glass windows. We were a pretty ragged looking bunch as most of us were the town's poor. While we made up the majority of families in our dying industry town, we  were still the lowest of the low.The other kids, the ones who parents worked at the paper mill were away at summer camp. We dutifully filled the seats in basement rooms giving earnest volunteers meaning in the hot July summer.

For five days we were soft served Jesus in coloring sheets, sweet crafts and a snack. At the end of the day, we were lead up to the chapel where we learned to sing "Jesus Loves Me" and "Jesus Loves All the Children." The elderly pastor would tell us a more or less boring story about this Jesus guy. We would go home with a cheap plastic prize and have our craft hung on the fridge with Scotch tape. We would then run outside to the freedom of no adults and hot summer sun until it was dark, and we were forced inside by the resounding of echos of our mother's voices.

In my memory, there is the musky smell of the church's old basement followed by the stuffy heat of the sanctuary. The warm sun sent rays of colors across our bare legs. Jesus was a pleasant person in the old pastor's wavering voice. I cam to associate Jesus with the warm feelings generated by VBS. He was higher than all of us but he wasn't like the mean kids with better clothes. Instead Christ was benign like the women who served us apple juice and AP brand sandwich cookies. Everyone was kind and gentle here even if they did talk to us like we were slow. People didn't yell here. They weren't sad. Everyone spoke in carefully modulated tones that blended with flowery perfume to create an affable if sleepy atmosphere. There was a complacent peace to the whole affair that was a bit appealing to a child from a rather explosive home life. None of the passion from my family, no boisterous energy that my family generated had a place in this sober world.

And this feeling was what propelled me to go up to the front on the last day when the old past asked if we wanted "Jesus to be our special friend." I was not quite sure what that mean but to me Jesus was this limp calm, this placid ennui that I associated with these sweet old ladies and the old man up front. Jesus was like a kind rich man who would give out candy and cheap plastic toys. He seemed like the kind of guy one wanted to have as a friend. Now years later I wonder how that Jesus managed to propel me into making my family realized their own destruction. How did this Christ become the angry Christ that threw sinners into the lake of fire? How did this peaceful setting lead to the passionate cry of tongues and the riotous chaotic energy of dancing in the spirit? How did this benign God lead to a grandmother prophetess?

Out There

As I uploaded pictures to Facebook, I reflected momentarily on how we look like we're always doing something. Picture after picture of roams in the woods, chilling in cafes, walking downtown, doing things with our friends. If you were to base our life on these pictures, I thought, you would think that we are always out. And then I realized we really are out there...a lot.

When we were choosing a house in Athens, we did look at a couple of places that were bigger with slightly higher rents. But in the end, we decided on a lower rent, a smaller house and a great walkable neighborhood. It was a good choice. Our house is not so small that we drive each other insane. We all have space if we need it. But we are not ever far from each other. Not that matters because our life is not just in here; it is out there. We live in Athens, GA. We live in its parks, its cafes, its library, its bookstores, its streets.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cats and well more Cats...

I realize it's been a while since I've updated about our homeschooling life. We're still having lots of fun outside of the house. I don't think our home school life would be complete without lots of walks, creeks, and small adventures.
 The girls are getting ever more adventuresome and lately it's been walking across logs. These logs it should be noted are usually crossing streams or lakes (Camille fell into a pond a few months ago). H was a little nervous about this one as it was pretty high up so he joined them to offer help.

 Beastie Boy is an awesome big brother. I always think there will be a special bond between these two as he was there for right from the beginning.

The Fam being fab. We make quite a gang whenever we go out:)

Athens has lots of wonderful places to play. We go downtown quite a bit. Last week the beasties had a lesson in civil protest when we brought them to an Anti-Walmart rally.
 They want to build a Walmart in the downtown area which is so absurd. The downtown area is just to small for that kind of structure, and in addition,Walmart just sucks.

Here are the girl beasties just chillin' while we listen to speakers.

 We've done projects. Here the beasties are making cookie Roman columns aka Story of the World. I've been using her curriculum off and on since Fall, and kind of decided to go with it in January. We're supplementing with tons of other books of course. And we are so not regular or steady with it. Shocking I know.

 There have been dance parties.
And field trips...chocolate making fun here.

For the most part we're still rather laid back. As always I have grand plans on Sunday that kind of fall apart by Tuesday. We're doing a lot outside the home now. The girls are doing Girl Scout's and a craft club. Camille wants to take knitting lessons this summer. Umberto is going to start guitar lessons soon. We have a regular set of friends we go hang out with during various days of the weeks. And while I am reassured that my beasties do well on their own I do feel like we need to push certain areas now that Umberto is getting older (12 in June!!!!). He's expressed wanting to go to college so I kind of laid out what would have to happen for him to get accepted. Since that conversation he's gone willing to his work when asked. Camille is another story, and I struggle to find a balance between pushing her and letting her do her own thing.

They are creative and resourceful which I deep down believe is really key to living a full life. Even their computer play of late has been role playing Warrior cats on Roblox with various other users. Camille has been using tutorials to make Manga Warrior cats, she even taught Umberto to draw them.

Piper knows all the stories because of Umberto and Camille retelling them to her. Now they're busy thinking about creating a Warriors role playing game like Dungeon and Dragons. This kind of thinking keeps me from despairing too much over my big FAIL with a strict curriculum.

And finally...R is one sassy baby. She's fit right into our lives...hard to believe she wasn't always with us.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Life Without Facebook

I deactivated my Facebook account for the rest of Lent. After a series of events that left me feeling angry, pissy, and insecure, I decided that not only did I need a break, but that I needed some space. The things that were making me so upset were mostly likely stemming from my own questioning of where I am in my life.

We are also shaped by those around us, that is something I believe with great conviction. I do not buy that we chisel ourselves from out of some kind of biological rock. I am not convinced that we have a special "inner self" that is our true self which will lead us to great heights of authenticity. Rather I suspect that authenticity is really a piecing together of all that is around us. We become what we are exposed too...we add what makes senses to us or speaks to us. Sometimes these things come from the most noble places, and other times, not so much.

And it has seemed to me that too often Facebook falls into the not so much category. With Facebook there is a barrage of voices.Too many all at once. I have friends on Facebook that come from so many pieces of my life: school, work, the past, parenting, home schooling, music, etc. And while before it was easy to contain these people in their respective roles in my life, on Facebook, they are everywhere. I see their feeds, their posts. I know their opinions of everything from potty training to religion to politics to their views on spanking. It has become over-whelming. I find myself second guessing so many decisions with which I used to feel comfortable.No I don't think questioning is necessarily bad but these are decisions I have already spent months questioning. I am not the most secure person, and at times, I struggle with the missteps I make as I navigate the world. Those missteps lead me to new places. They expose the cracks in everything as Leonard Cohen sings. But when on Facebook, it is not the cracks that bombard me. It is the cement we all too often stuff into those cracks.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ginny's Hair Salon

Yesterday as I washing my daughter's hair in the shower, I remembered my grandmother, and her own part in this very same activity. I never showered with her but I remember clearly how she turned hair washing time into an exercise of play. My grandmother was an adept at this slight of hand. She could sprinkle a little magic on all of the tine minutia of every day life. When it came time to wash my hair, which was long for most of my childhood, I  threw a fit. Like most six year olds, I was not thrilled at the idea of being clean or at least not thrilled at the process of becoming clean. I would cry but never tantrum. One didn't tantrum around my Grams. But it was okay because she always knew what to do.

Patting her perfectly coiffed, blond hair, she say "Now Ginger, don't you want the "treatment?" My grams was (and is) one classy lady, and I longed to be as fancy as she was even in my tomboy haze of tree climbing, bike riding, scraped knees and random bruises. The first time she suggested this I was suspicious at what this treatment might include.But after the first time, I looked forward to my "treatments." You see a treatment was a homemade beauty salon.

A chair would be pulled up the sink, and I would have a towel draped around my clothes. My Grams would have me lean back and then with warm water coming from the sprayer, she begin to wash my hair. I can still feel the warm water soaking in while my Grams chatted to me about what I did that day or the day before. I'd began to relax as she massaged shampoo into my scalp soothed by the fact I could trust her not to soap in my eyes. And she didn't stop at the hair wash. She'd wash my face with her special Avon products which always smelled like her: flowery but not too overpowering. Sometimes she'd even dab on some lip gloss. She would gently comb my hair, telling me how lovely I was. On days when she had some times she'd blow dry me out too. Afterwards we would sip coffee--mine heavy on cream and sugar and light on coffee--with a little snack. I would always be quiet and still those days so as not to mess up my do. Sitting on the couch, drawing or looking at books, I'd feel encapsulated in the magic that my grandmother wove around me.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012