Pages

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Why nobody shares about family mental health issues: TMI

Alternatively titled: Timing is Everything.

Today is #NAMIWalks and my virtual team has thus far raised about $350. During my virtual walk today I got a message that a close family member had called 911. Hmmm, I thought. That could be anything. My anxiety meds kept my heart-rate low and my thoughts from racing. My friend Felicia had arrived early to help me around the house a bit so I focused on that. An hour later I received a message that another close family member had done self-harm behavior to themselves with their pain medication. The paramedics could not tell the close family member who called 911 where they were taking the suicidal family member because of HIPAA.

This is why we need organizations like NAMI. This year NAMI helped pass legislation that will give more leeway to communicate with family members in cases such as this one (SHB 1477). I’m proud to be a member of their public policy committee that lobbied for this change. I lived practically next door to NAMI for 30 years and never stepped foot in the door until I went to talk to them last year as part of my personal reinvention. Yep, it’s been only a year, but I’ve learned so much and participated in some cool projects: Mental Health Awareness Month, King County Family and Youth Council, NAMI Washington Public Policy Children’s Mental Health Lead, NAMI Walks Virtual Team Captain, and learning to navigate Olympia with a bill that has a very strong possibility of passing next year and bringing decision making regarding at risk minor children back into the hands of their parents!

The great thing about doing this work is when a close family member self-harms to the degree that they are taken to the hospital, I know there are people in my life who get it. We can use social media to get support if we break an ankle or our kid gets cancer, but how does one talk about how the severe self-harm of a close family member affects one while being respectful of the privacy of the vulnerable person? If I don’t talk about then the friends of my close family members who experienced this trauma today won’t get support. My hope is that my close family members will get the help they need. I hope that insurance will cover the necessary treatment for the suicidal family member. And I hope my extended family will be able to talk about this with each other and support one another.

Today I found three items that could have warned me that another attempt was imminent. But even if had I found those items earlier, I am not certain there would have been anything I could have done to prevent what happened this morning, during the NAMI Walk.

NAMI is part of the solution to our state’s woeful mental health services. I hope you will consider giving to my virtual team here [link]. No number of suicide awareness posts protects close family members from the trauma of having a close family member attempt suicide. Processing it alone isn’t my hope for my close family member who had to make that call. I hope the next time something like this happens to a close family member of yours, you will consider sharing it as openly as I have here. 

Namaste.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Not All Children Learn from Natural Consequences

This article speaks powerfullly to my experience. Some children need extra support and guidance to keep them safe and give them an opportunity to mature enough to live independently. SB 5706 gives parents the ability to help their children when the child doesn't have the ability to help themselves.
The following excerpt gives a good idea of the rest of the article:
"Natural consequences do not work like they do for “normal” kids. A kid on the autism spectrum will NOT necessarily eat if he gets hungry enough. A child with anxiety will NOT necessarily learn from her mistake of forgetting her homework. Instead, she will most likely give in to all of her anxieties and insecurities and just give up completely, berating herself for being such a failure."It might look like we’re coddling our kids. It might look like we’re indulgent helicopter parents. But it is just not that simple. We can’t always just let our kids have free play and learn to resolve their own conflicts, because they don’t react and learn like “normal” kids do."
I once had a King County Designated Mental Health Professional (DMHP) tell me that she agreed that parents of children with certain diagnoses, such as autism, should be automatically given the ability to make mental health decisions for those children.Does this resonate with you?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Psychitzo, psychitso, skitso, schizophrenia-------

Today I had coffee over in Redmond with Lisa. I met her when I spoke to the NAMI Eastside public policy committee about SB 5706. Lisa has been on the same lonely journey as all of us. I know she'll be sharing her story with all of us on Support SB 5706 soon.
She is supporting our bill because she's been there. Her daughter is now an adult and still struggles. Lisa said something profound that is relevant to the long term impact of our work:
"Now that our daughter is in her 20s, mental health is asking where the family is. We say, we have been here all along, but you kept pushing us away ever since this all began almost 10 years ago. "
Our state mental health system has an absurd logic of not letting parents of 13 year olds make medically necessary decisions for their minor children, but coming to the parents of a young adult with mental illness who is unable to take care of herself.
This inability to supportively launch our children who struggle starts at age 13 when the state starts sending the message to children that they are on their own. It continues in jailing our mentally ill instead of treating them and killing our sons and daughters who suffer from psychotic episodes we seem to be unable to prevent.
I'm not speaking in hyperbole about death. The following is from an email I received from NAMI Seattle yesterday:
One of our Youth Mental Health Awareness Month Committee members... "experienced a terrible tragedy. Her brother Alex, who was living with schizophrenia, was killed by police last night [Tuesday] when their family called for assistance in getting him to the hospital. He was unable to be revived after being tased."
My heart aches for the families of children, young and old, who struggle to live with debilitating mental illnesses. I am filled with gratitude to connect with others who share my journey, even if it means the heart breaking condolence shared with a grieving sister because I know if I can see her, she can see me.
Namaste.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Rebuilding Community One Connection at a Time

Today I made an amazing first-time connection with a woman I met because of my work to help our children and families. Annie and I overlapped at Northfield Mt. Hermon. She knows at least 3 people in this community of ours who I know through 3 different past lives. She knows Mary who I met at Washington Mutual. Jerry, I met via my son's stay at Mountain Springs Prepreatory Academy. Laura was hired while I was on the board at Pride Foundation. I know several of you will see a Changes Parent Support Group theme as well.

Annie's daughter and mine sound like they have much in common tempermentally. Her daughter is about to be 18, mine 16. My son will turn18 just 3 days after her daughter does. I moved to Seattle in 1981. She came straight from high school in 79. I did my first yoga practice in the Northfield ballet studio in 1975 and still have a living practice. Annie has a yoga studio relatively nearby -- considering our interconnectedness, it's quite amazing our paths have never crossed before.

I feel blessed to have connected to all of you and am looking forward to building a movement together with each of you. I can't express my appreciation for how quickly you stepped up to back my voice in Olympia.

My work on this issue is extremely close to my heart. My daughter is still in treatment and I am activelly working to bring her safely home. Eli has not lived at home for 3 years. I have a 190 page evaluation that I will be submitting with my enrollment application for attending Seattle Public Schools in the fall. I'm going to push to see if I can get my daughter a Free and Appropriate Public Education.

Today I set up a meeting with a school I learned about through NAMI Eastside's (Lisa) incredibly fantastic children's conference earlier this month. [Aside: it's amazing how "the work" that I'm doing is so interconnected with the actual work of getting my child better ... or at least able to function in society. More on that later.] I'm cautiously hopeful there may be a path opening. Hold us in your thoughts please.

If you have read this far, I really appreciate it. Please let me know who's out there with a "like" or a comment. Each of us has walked the path alone. Thank you for joining in community. Working together we WILL get the billed passed in 2018!

(I also plan a happy hour at my home soon. There's plenty of work to be done before next year. Watch for a Doodle scheduling poll soon.)

Namaste.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

We Aren't Done Yet

Fear not my friends, the bill isn't really dead, it's just in a statis state until the current legislative session ends.
I had two very positive experiences today. First, I attended the NAMI Eastside children's conference. First off, incredibly well planned and a strong attendance.
Thank you to the Pride Foundation for sponsoring this conference! I hope that has something to do with my outreach earlier this year.
I had to forgo the LGBTQ Gender Diversity session in lieu of hearing the first hour of a presentation by Overlake Specialty School. I am seriously thinking about it as an option for my child, Eli.
I handed out cards with address of the Facebook Support SB 5706 Group. I'm posting the pdf in the group docs. I heard a TON of support from this group of professionals, parents and educators. Parents SHOULD be making medically necessary treatment decisions for the adolescents in crisis!
I couldn't stay because I had to jet out and book it back to Ballard for the 36th Washington State Legilstative Town Hall in the Leif Erikson Lodge! I heard Reuven Carlyle say that 20 years from now we'll look back and wonder why we kept mental health separate from physical health. Visionary!
I told him that I had heard ffrom a Republican Caucus staff member who will be leading a roundtable discussion on the issue in the interim. (Look to this group for news of any dates or actions over the summer.)
The town hall was truely inspiring. There were seats for maybe 400 and there were 100 people standing along the perimeter of the room. Sold out! People are thinking about and questioning the issues.
Carlyle also extolled the crowd to get involved with a cause you care about. Consider yourself ahead of the curve!
Thanks for reading. :)

Friday, February 27, 2015

On Facebook: 2-26-15

I have come to appreciate my mother's house cleaning skills. She is thorough and does it all herself. She sews. She makes kettle after kettle of jam. She prepares 3 meals a day. Every day except Sunday. She embodies home arts-- a difficult skill of devotion and act of sheer willpower.

As a comparison,  I once went 10 years without washing the exterior windows of my home. Whereas Mother would put all the storm windows on each fall and wash the windows when she took them off in the spring.

Monday, February 23, 2015

To the boys at Catalyst RTC

These are the questions I am asking myself right now. Which ones do you connect with?
Am I doing it right?
Is there right to be done?
Is there right in the doing?
What right have I done?
Can I accept my own forgiveness?
What is right for me?
Who am I deep in my core?
What gives my life meaning?
What brings me joy?
Who do I connect with?
What do I feed myself with?
What's important to me?
What do I value?
Where do I want to spend my energy? What makes me happy?
What is my passion?
What is my gift?
What is my responsibility?
What are my goals?
What questions do I ask myself?
Which ones do I need to answer again?
What do I need to do next?
Am I on the right path?
[A special note to E, or any of you who go home before I next see you: this method is a way I find the strength to live as my own person out here. Good wishes!]

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Want vs Need

We have enough for everything we need, but we don't have enough for everything we want. #ADHDteensRULE

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

#ADHDteenagersRULE

Levels of grounding: PHYSICAL
Level l
Come straight home from school.
No going out except with permission.
Friends at our house okay
No sleepovers
Level ll
Come straight home from school.
No going out
No friends at our house
No sleepovers
Level lll
Come straight home from school.
No going out.
No friends at our house
No sleepovers.
No media.
Levels of grounding: MEDIA
Level l
No tv/Xbox/Wii
Phone and text within standard hours
Level ll
No tv/Xbox/Wii
Phone and text within standard hours
No wireless
Level lll
No tv/Xbox/Wii
Phone and text within standard hours
No wireless, no computer
No texting

Thursday, December 19, 2013

To do:

I want to write. I want to draw beautiful words. I want to provoke and inspire. I want to raise questions. I want to connect with you. I want to contribute. I want to create meaning. I want to write.
I want to sew. I want to collect buttons and beads and notions. I want to draw feelings with thread. I want to speak with my grandmothers' craft. I want to make crazy connections between us. I want to sew.
I want to paint. I want to spread the pigment across the rough paper. I want to immerse in myself within the puddle of color. I want to show you another way of seeing. I want to see your reaction. I want to talk with pictures. I want to paint.
I want to take pictures. I want to capture a new perspective. I want to show you my views. I want saturate the pixels. I want to tell a story. I want to take pictures.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Notice me!

Inspired by Jodie Foster's Golden Globe remarks




I'm not ashamed, I love to filter my photos. // the cropping, the framing, the saturation. // each with its own emotion and visual lux. // an embellishment created for each of you, my followers. // whether friend or family or stranger. // sending each one out hoping to connect with you. // your likes thrill me shamelessly. // I go trolling for hash tag comments. // yearning to move you. // I want to touch your awe. // find transcendence with a stranger. // notice me! #



http://instagram.com/p/Zj7aEZoKYD/

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Courageous Conversations


Somewhere along the way through motherhood, I missed out on an important meme, Courageous Conversations. Sure, I’d heard the term, but I didn’t realize it was capitalized.

I bet I’m not much different from the rest of America. I have a vague idea it was a phrase Obama said, and one that many of my “culturally competent” friends will drop into our conversation, signaling they are in the tribe.

I haven’t read the book and I didn’t Google it before beginning my thoughts. My jumping off point today was the article in Seattle Times today regarding a US Department of Education probe into discrimination in the classroom. When I finished it, I heard “courageous conversations” ringing in my mind.

Before speaking further, I must identify myself to anyone who has not met me. I am a divorced white mother of a mixed race 13 year-old black son who is at the racial identity phase of development.

I wanted Son to read the article, of course, but knew that was not going to happen. Instead I reread it underlining quotes and data I wanted to share with both Son and his teaching team at the meeting about his attitude tomorrow afternoon. (Spot on timing, Seattle Times.)

While there have been no suspensions at our house, there have been plenty of lunch detentions. Plenty. Lunch detention doesn’t sound like much, but think about Son’s perception that others are getting away with just a talking to.

“[He] has heard countless stories of black students who receive harsher punishments than white students for infractions that seemed identical.” “Yeah, so, I already knew that,” says Son.

“Some of the biggest disparities show up in schools with relatively small numbers of black students.” There are just 5 blacks in Son’s grade. Five.

“Where the racial disparity kicks in, all the discipline data says, is when you look at subjective reasons for discipline, things like disrespect or being disruptive, excessive noise, or loitering.”

Some of Son’s white female teachers have found him disruptive and disrespectful. Son feels he is singled out unfairly, the only one being called out at a table where everyone was talking. (Yes, he admits to talking and goofing around. The problem is the added edge of being singled out for reprimand when you already feel a bit of an outsider.)

What’s complicated is that all of the adults in the situation are well intentioned, culturally experienced white people who sees things very differently than Son.

I sincerely believe every one of the adults involved are doing their best. They’ve been through the training. They even have family across racial lines.

But if I am honest, if I am courageous, I must admit that I can’t recognize in myself any deep-seeded bias I might have not yet discovered. Have I been more protective because my son is black? You bet. Do I worry more? Absolutely.  Of course I’m biased, so why aren’t they as well.

And what parent of a young black man growing up in this country isn’t doing her or her best to help their son build the necessary armor and savvy to keep them safe out in a world who expects them to be either thugs or Oreos.

So tomorrow I will do my best to have one of the courageous conversations that ends in smoothing the way and keeping Son on the right track. I will follow Dr. King’s teachings and begin with a compassionate heart.

And tonight I’m going to meditate on the challenge of self knowledge. Can we ever see into our subconscious motivations and their resulting actions? 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Message from the late winter garden


The chill of the damp soil seeps through my gardening pants soaking in the earth’s dark dampness.

Though the air is chill and the soil still cold, life is erupting everywhere -- hundreds of weeds pushing up into the growing light.

Now is the time for the hoe: the bulbs have all shown their heads and the sprouting weed’s feet have not had time to hunker down. Slicing through the top of the soil, I turn them under.

I returned today, into the garden -- my own little speck of earth. This 5th garden hour, I feel myself opening, breathing freer as bright yellow daffodils and velvety crocuses herald Spring’s arrival.

Under my fingernails I smell the earth. A switch flips and I feel the stirrings in my body’s neural memory.  Wake up!

The wheel turns plainly in the garden. A ceaseless flowing of light and dark growing first longer and then slower until the turn begins the cycle again. Though I cannot see the stars through my LED streetlight’s glare, I can feel the infinite’s presence connecting to my small, but important, place in the cosmos.

The wisdom of the garden is continually revealing itself to me. I grow with the flowers and die with the weeds. Sending out thanksgiving for being blessed with a home that has its own patch of earth; place enough to grow flowers and pumpkins and chickens, and where my children have room to grow.

“Wake up, wake up!” The garden calls. “My work is no chore and the harvest begins now.”

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Philanthropy: Groupthink of the privileged?


Today I attended @SeattleCityClub’s #PhilanthropyForward event. It was a discussion full of hashtag jargon like #engagement #collective #collaboration #connect #advocacy #influence #progressive #community #capital #accountability.

I was astonished that an entire conversation surrounding the topic of collective giving did not mention the United Way. In fact, people seemed to think it was a new idea -- just like the power of the $25 donation.

Not so long ago, the United Way spearheaded the concept of collective giving.

Not so long ago at the Pride Foundation we talked about the $25 gift being equal in significance to the $25,000 donation. It’s in no small part this view contributed to the passage of Marriage Equality.

Yet we are continuing to talk about how to impact same problems of 20, no 100, years ago as if we live ignorant of history. It appears to me we’ve simply found a new language to describe our efforts.

Meanwhile, the problems of global inequality and poverty only seem to grow worse.

Not so long ago, non-profits would hold out their open hands with the statistic “lower-income Americans give proportionally more of their incomes to charity than do upper-income Americans” so therefore give.

This statistic is very comforting to charity’s majority stakeholders –staff, leadership volunteers, donors. It gives them an out to not have to look at their own privilege, the paradox of comfort vs. calling.

Have you noticed? All of the progressive, hard working, virtuous people of change have high levels of intellectual, emotional, or monetary capital. They have the time, energy and resources, not to mention responsibility, to invest in making the world a better place for all living beings.

The outsiders of this change process are the tired, the weak, the overwhelmed, not to mention the poor. When your intellectual, emotional and financial capital is depleted, you are too busy trying to make it through the day. You don’t have the resources to think about philanthropy.

This divide is at the heart of the philanthropist’s angst.

Back to collaboration and engagement. Change must happen at the level of the people to move all of America forward. We need all people involved to make significant, lasting change. A large segment of society has not found a way to join the forward movement.

We need to widen our circle. Seattleites are notoriously private, some say unfriendly. I know I feel it anytime I walk into a new group, like today at the City Club.

Aren’t the best parties hosted by the people who welcome you at the door and introduce you to someone new? Why don’t we practice this more frequently in our community gatherings?

We must do more than talk to each other at events and donate to Aunt Suzy when she is fighting cancer.

We must practice intentional, authentic living. (More jargon, it’s true.)

We must strive as individuals to connect to others by our heart strings and

Groups must embrace each individual through common values and human experience.

And, yes, we must organize.

Do we need fresh organizations? New jargon? New methods?

Perhaps the most significant and insightful answers to the questions at hand can be gained by thinking about the United Way omission in today’s Philanthropy Forward discussion. Let your subconscious work on it. The answer is found at the nexus of collaboration.

Were you there? I’d love to hear what you think.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Life on the Split: confessions of a rebellious woman

I have been revolting against being a full-time mother -- and all of its accompanying responsibilities -- by laying my disorganization at the feet of my ex and my children instead of taking ownership of it myself.

Yet I see myself capable of going more deeply into motherhood than I am now. But I fear if I give my all to the most important thing in my life, my children, I will lose myself; I, the professional woman will become irrelevant.

Ladies, sound familiar?

Let me digress a moment. Of late I’ve been reclaiming the ground in my home (no longer “our home” after 5+ years of divorce.) The chaos of the time seems to be waning, but a new one – the rebellion of my children – is looming.

This is my feminist *existential struggle. This is the struggle of all women: finding the balance of career and personal expression with the nurturing of family and maintaining a loving home. It’s living on the split between yourself and yourself. Exhausting ground. And housework is the first thing I want to cut and neglect. That and household finances.

And yet.

Recognizing I am exhausted, I have allowed time for myself to lapse, to drift, to a fallow time that is both frightening and needed. Finding my new footing in this dance called life mustn’t be rush. So I find time to do things like reorganizing the kitchen and cleaning my children’s rooms for them. Time that feels indulgently spent while at the same time feeling oppressive and never-ending.

Reorganizing my kitchen was inspired by opening my new gift from my mother – over and over again. The new bottom-storage fridge made me think twice about remodeling the room’s organization, so I installed a pot rack and spoon hooks, made the nook into a craft room/homework table. Utensils and pots are gradually finding their new homes and bread is starting to live in the shiny new breadbox.
So tonight I started by cleaning out the icebox, then I turned my attention to the Tupperware cupboard.

(Yes Son, this is the mysterious activity I do when you are away. Clean and write.)

I’m down on my knees organizing the Tupperware cupboard finding homes for each lid, each container. I I take care to be sure all are matching. Culling the homeless lids and casting them into the hall cupboard to rest until I clean that out soon. I’m paying attention to how it feels to do the job. I’m practicing mindful housecleaning which allows me to have an epiphany. I need to teach these kinesthetic kids by example. (Duh.)

Teach by example

I set the standard for order, calm and organization. If I don't work hard at it myself, how can I expect them to? Instead of blaming others, I can pull up my bootstraps in this New Year and strive for a different kind of perfection. One where balance and harmony reign. Dramatic cuts will be made in some areas while restorative activities will need to be increased in others. Intentional living.

I can do it without complaining because I am showing by doing and they are learning by living it. This feels right for living it needs to happen for a kinesthetic child to learn it. They need to see how it’s done now that they have been taught how it’s done and lived with doing it for five years.

So a radical idea hit me. Instead of having them do chores, I will free them from doing them. I will not criticize their contributions  should they volunteer, but I will quietly rearrange and pick up while they are in school. I will do it the way that feels right. Do I have the energy to do it? Will they learn anything or will I benefit mainly from household peace and order?

So ride with me down the path a bit here. Will this plan work?  I'm taking bets it will.  I hope you’ll vote.

QUESTION 1: How long until they ask what's up?
QUESTION 2: How long will I hold out until they have to do chores again?
QUESTION 3: What should I tell them?
This plan could be a lot more complicated. Every little detail could be all thought out. But I think it's better to wing it a bit. Lord knows I’m the mistress of complexity and tend to overdo that. Besides, I’m always reserving the right to hold on. Wouldn't you? And if I lean into mindful living and acceptance, I'll bet they learn from that too. And that, my friends, is a lesson not to be discounted.

*Existentialism, n.  is the philosophical and cultural movement which holds that the starting point of philosophical thinking must be the experiences of the individual, and that moral and scientific thinking together do not suffice to understand human existence, so a further set of categories, governed by "authenticity", is necessary to understand human existence. ("Authenticity", in the context of existentialism, is being true to one's own personality, spirit, or character.) Wikipedia. I’ll be making a contribution to Wikipedia in appreciation of the definition of existentialism. Will you join me?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A bunch of tips on being creative


First, don’t turn on the internet.

Second, don’t have a piece of hardware go south (like my memory card isn’t readable right now, but I will get it working before I finish this blog.)

Third, don’t have a year-old computer that already can’t keep up the data storage issues.

Fourth, don’t spend time considering whether you can afford to buy yourself a new computer nor time to crack open that new external drive you bought yourself for Christmas.

Fifth, do not take phone calls from your children who are having troubles at your exe’s house.
The way to be creative is to turn it all off…and for me that even means turning off music (but I know for a lot of you out there, music is a critical “fidget” that helps distract a portion of your brain so the other part of it can focus). But I digress.

At this moment I am waiting for my SD card to upload to my computer, after having to go to the internet to figure out a work around when my computer couldn’t see it in the card reader. 
Another aside: don’t you agree that search is a critical technical skill we haven’t been teaching effectively? (Thinking of homeschooling this winter break.)
And a bunch more to dos.
  • Do keep a supply of chocolate on hand.
  • Don’t try to draw and write in the same time period.
  • Don’t beat yourself up about unfinished projects.
  • Don’t take care of the housework, holiday preparations, or other hostess fretting.
  • And DO! Put the post up even if it isn’t perfect!


Yay! I got it working!

An early Happy Holidays from my office to yours.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Worked all day and nothing to show for it

Ever noodle around on an idea all day and never manage to complete it?
The challenge of posting everyday .... posting quality every day is a worthwhile goal, but in reality I don't always find something to communicate. Or I can't figure out how to say it. Or it turns out to be too private for the interwebs.
Today its one of those days. Take that! #nablopomo

Monday, November 12, 2012

I'm making videos and I need your help!

My ardent fans (aka Mother) already know that I've been making videos this week. I want to do more of them because they communicate more quickly... and that's the direction internet communications is headed.

They are all super short and, I hope, fun. I'd love you to take 10 minutes to watch them all then vote for your favorite below:




















Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Learning Curve for Parents of Special Needs Children


Being the parent of a special needs kid is a continual learning curve. Unless you were raised alongside someone who has significant emotional, behavioral or intellectual challenges, trying to cross the chasm between you and your child requires you to continually make blind leaps out of your own comfort zone.

I, for one, never know whether my children are behaving normally for their age. Do I adjust my expectations to meet them at their level? Do I always keep raising the bar in expectations or is there a limit? How do I know when I am pushing too hard? When am I letting too much slide?

For example, today I was playing Battleship with Miss (age 11). I remember having lots of fun playing this game at her age. My son was able to stand losing at her age. But for Miss, being able to play the game to the end when she is losing is a monumental emotional journey of self-control.
She is often seen by others as not having control of herself – angry outbursts, whining, constant opposition; alternatively, a need for constant, sustained attention (ex. 12 hours virtually non-stop one-on-one Mother/Daughter time yesterday.)

At first we had fun bantering and she was cool with that when she was winning, but when lost confidence that she’d be able to win, she couldn’t take it. Yet what I saw today was a child struggling to keep herself in the game when everything inside her was wanting to throw the board down and quit.
Her bright, happy smile was gone, replaced by a thundercloud frown, strident demands and plaintive whining. Yet still she stayed in the game until the last battleship was sunk and she had lost. Huge accomplishment: she was able to leave the room without shrieking, screaming, whining or yelling.
And this is enormous progress.

The ordinary parent might praise her child for staying in the game. I tried that, but it only made her more upset. Whenever she has any strong feelings, she shuts completely down. It will be difficult (or should I say, near impossible) for us to revisit what happened even after she calms down. She closes herself off emotionally so effectively it is darn near impossible to guide her or help her reflect.
Perhaps I’m taking an entirely wrong approach with her. That the armchair judging, back-seat-driving parenting “experts” are right. I often don’t trust myself to pick the right path, to assess the situation accurately.

I often find myself checking out. While I can’t physically withdraw myself from parenting (nor do I want to), I find myself mentally removing myself and emotionally pulling away. Part exhaustion, part self-preservation.

I rarely have enough time away to gain perspective. Instead, I find myself parenting on auto-pilot. (Cruise control sounds way too fun for the checked-out disassociating state I too often find myself in.)
Do I find parenting rewarding? I’d like to say yes, but to do so would be kind of like celebrating at mile 10 while running a marathon.

I know I'm not alone, but sometimes I fear your disapproval. I hope to see you cheering me along on the sidelines.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

You can skip reading this one

Just because
I said so.
Just because
I made a commitment to myself.
Just because
I have nothing to speak about.
Just because
There is only 10 minutes left in the day.
#nablopomo

Friday, November 9, 2012

Barbie says, "It's Time to do the Laundry!"

Everyone needs to play a little, even moms. The other day I had a huge pile of laundry to do, endless rooms to vacuum, and dishes stacked in the sink to overflowing.

I could simply not motivate myself to get started. I found a Barbie in the laundry pile, began posting some photos of Barbie helping do the laundry on Instagram.

I tagged my photos #IdothissoIwillnotgoInsaneWhiledoingHousework.

When I was a girl, I always loved books with photos of dolls looking like they were alive. I thought I might make an InstaBook... but then I thought why not a YouTube series.

So today I whipped up a little video for Miss's amusement. Will she get motivated to do her chores this weekend?  Doubt it. Will this be the starting of something big? Nah. But I sure had fun taking the pictures, making the video and experimenting with telling a story a different way.

Added plus? My blog post for today practically wrote itself.  Please watch the video and let me know what you think, should I do more?





Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The closest I've ever come to praying: HeLa

I've been reading the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks for so long I'm not sure if I've told you about it yet. It's the story of the real woman behind HeLa cells -- a cell culture that has been key to most cell research.

Chapter 32 tells the story of how her daughter and the author saw the cells for the first time. I felt moved to draw out some of the chapter for while it takes us on a scientific, historical journey, it also reveals the personal journey that the author, Rebecca Skloot, undertook as she learned the story behind these miracle cells that few people had heard of.

The author says of placing her hand on the big toe of John Hopkins' Jesus, it was "the closest I've ever come to praying."


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

#barbie says, "Read my Pix."


  • Raise your hand if you hate housework.
  • Raise your hand if you are one of those people who always has (at least) one room of her own in the state of complete disaster.
  • Raise your hand if you'd sell your soul to own a magic wand that would make all of your housework magically disappear.
  • Raise your hand if you've tried Mrs. PiggleWiggle's Cure for a Messy Room. In real life.

Is there any mother out there who hasn't raised her hand yet?
***

I'm currently running a series on Instagram with Naked Barbie doing the laundry. Don't worry, she'll put her clothes on soon, (though I have received positive feedback for her unclothed state).

My plan is to print them all out, post them on the fridge, wave my magic wand and miraculously the kids will start taking care of their chores without my nagging them.

On the other hand, my house is a lot cleaner when I find a way to combine housework and art. Think about it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Paper or plastic? On a garbage management system

Seattle has been a bag-it-yourself city for several months now. I see myself, and others, finally getting used to bringing a bag when we go shopping, or willingly paying for one.

The reverberations from this change are subtle, but noticeable.

I used to have a handy supply of paper bags to take out the recyling and garbage in. Even though I use them over and over again  and only use the bag for garbage when it's seen its final use, I am starting to run low on paper bags. God forbid that I have to start BUYING plastic waste can bags!

I'm going to need to reassess my garbage processing unit.

Meanwhile my supply of reusable bags has been overflowing. They seem to stick to the children like marshmallow fluff sticks to the outside of the jar. I  handed off a bunch of mine to my ex adn the next thing I find is they've multiplied in the hall closet.

If you live in Seattle and have children, especially teens, you know what I'm talking about: compost management. Compost management includes sorting compostables three ways: for the green compost bin, for the yard waste, and for the chickens. (No, we don't have a worm bin.)

You also need to consider how many times a day (or week) you want to take out your compost. We take ours out daily, and sometimes even more frequently, because the kitchen is small and the smaller container is less likely to stink, grow mold and attract flies when left out on the counter.

You need to teach your children where to put what garbage. We are learning together. People still ask each other questions like, do you compost bones? Can I compost this coffee cup? I'm still not exactly sure about this one, except the cap goes in the recycling. Better pay attention next time I'm at Starbucks to see what they do.

By law (you know, those government-impositions on our freedoms that are good for us?), restaurants need to sort their waste. Bins with photos of what goes in which container greet you at every fast food biz in the city.

(My marketing brain notes that Starbucks has been inconsistent in how well this process is managed from store to store.  For a company that is trying to project a green image, they are missing the mark and fall well short of the bar that other companies with their compostable spoons have set.)

Since virtually everything else goes into recyclying, the amount of it is constantly threatening to overwhelm my dining room. It's not uncommon to have accumulated, in one day, three bags. (Yes, I take the paper.)

The most marvelous thing is that our children are growing up learning that this is how it is. They won't have to figure out which type of spoon is compostable and which isn't -- they've been doing science fair exhibits on PLA for years now.

I know from my travels to Northern Michigan, recycling has come a long way for the rest of the nation. But I also know they'll be in for a shock when the rest of them are forced to control the flow of garbage, or wind up overwhelmed by it. Some government regulations are a bit like the rules I set for my children. Sometimes they chafe, but they are always necessary.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Would you spend $25 for a lightbulb?

I did.  And here's why:

  • Non-toxic (no mercury like fluorescents)
  • Inexpensive over time
  • Excellent light qualilty
  • Dimmable
  • Instant "on"
  • They work in most fixtures

By 2014 the US plans to no longer sell incandescent bulbs. That give consumers just over a year to figure out what to replace them with.

Fluorescents take time to turn on, the light is harsh, they don't fit in some of my fixtures, they don't dim (and wear out faster if you have them on a dimmable switch), and worst, they run on mercury vapor. I'd hate to have one of those break in my face, wouldn't you?

I've tried out a lot of different bulbs over the past several years. These bulbs are expensive, but I figure if I purchase them slowly, it won't hurt so bad.

Will you try one?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Common Objects: the box


I have a box fetish

Not like I get all hot and bothered about boxes, (I know, I know) but I have a hard time throwing them out. One of my boxes is 35 years old. I used to have a box that had been around from a time before I was born.

I came by this craving honestly. My mother collected packing boxes. (Am I imagining it, or did she line a sweater box with wrapping paper from her wedding?)

The best were the citrus boxes we received from my Grandmother in Florida every Christmas. (There so many others of mom’s I could mention. Perhaps her blog fans will ask her to write about them soon. [Contact betsy.dole @ gmail.com] ) My mother gave me one of them recently, filled with my mildewed, ruined doll collection. Even I could see that the whole mess should go straight out into the garbage. The 30 year-old box included.

I have had to teach myself to throw away boxes. I’d be a box hoarder if I could, filling my basement with empty boxes that I just might need to send someone something someday.

I only allow myself to keep (er… hoard) boxes that are smaller than a greeting card box.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by boxes. Everything seems to come with a really cool one these days. We even have unboxing ritual videos for the holy god technology. We can watch Him revealing Himself to us over and over.

And shoe boxes! No one will think I’m odd for saving the fancy shoe box after the shoe is gone, will they? Even if I am paying $5 extra for the box those shoes come in, it’s worth it! Now that my kids are in the big growing feet stage, however, I had a tower of boxes that went out to recycling pastures not so long ago. Out they must go!

We don’t send things to people like we used to. Shipping has become so expensive that I am inclined to directly ship a gift purchased at Amazon. No need for a special box. No standing in a USPS queue for ages after Thanksgiving. So that special box sits in my closet waiting for me to send something.

Years pass. Dust collects.

And I wind up with a drawer full of items like Today’s. It is only loosely categorized as a box, even by me. Would you call a SLR lens covers a box? No, I thought not.

That said, I love the deep black of this lens box. How it stands unique from all other boxes, incomplete until filled with the items it is intended for. To me it holds potential -- empty space. (A bit like the sound of one hand clapping.)

My first serious camera was manual SLR. I loved it’s streamlined, modern design. I still love reading the typography of the name, Olympus. And perhaps that’s why I save the box (and the camera) long after I stopped buying film for good.

Why don’t I keep this box with my camera? Because it belongs in my box drawer. Yep, you heard me right. I have a drawer of my desk dedicated just for precious boxes.

Seems these days everyone hoards (er…collects) something.  What’s your fetish?

Today’s #NaBloPoMo entry is the first installment of series, “Common Objects I Found Cleaning out My Desk.”


Friday, November 2, 2012

My mother tells 3 stories of abortion


In these final days of the election season, my mother has been speaking to groups around Michigan,  sharing three stories of women she personally knows who have had an abortion – both in the time when abortion was done in back alleys, and a time when abortion was more legal than it is now.

(Foreshadowing: Yesterday I joked about Dick Tracey with my 86 year-old father when he joined me in a Google hangout for the first time. His first reaction to this modern marvel? Noticing the wrinkles over his upper lip, as if for the first time. I guess he only looks at his upper lip when his is actively shaving it. I bring up my father for context. While my mother was in the hospital recovering from delivering my brother Jim [b. March 1964], my father brought her Betty Friedan’s, The Feminist Mystique [Pub: 1964] Get it? Back to Mother.)

I hold deep gratitude that I was raised in the Mad Men era by a mother and father who were strong feminists. I am fortunate to have been raised by parents who planned their pregnancies and have steadfastly supported Planned Parenthood for more than 60 years. 

Election 2012 Implications

(You didn’t really think a post with that title was going to be free of politics, did you?)

If you are undecided on who to vote for…
If you are just pissed at Obama because he doesn’t have a magic wand. (Well are you? Perhaps he sent you a span dm?)
Or are you just spoiling for a fight, like those thugs who assaulted my son’s friend while they were walking home from Middle School on Halloween afternoon.

Please. Before you cast your vote. Think about abortion as a real event, that happens to real people in many different circumstances. people. Your grandmother. Your sister-in-law. Your partner. Your best friend. You?

Who is going to best represent your opinion regarding the reality of abortion versus the morality of it. It matters. And don’t let the distractions of the day keep your heart from speaking to you.

I’m voting Pro-Choice, and I’m proud of it!

Editor’s Note: Reprinted with permission. The original article is found at Granna’s Apartment. Time Suck Disclosure: 2000 words.  Please share this with your friends if it moves you.

____________________

Women's Voices Matter!

Since the Supreme Court handed down its 1973 decisions in Roe v Wade and Doe V Bolton, states across the country have constructed a lattice work of abortion law, codifying, regulating, and limiting whether, when and under what circumstances a woman may obtain an abortion. * The New York Times, in an editorial on June 15, 2012, said that “Even at a time when extreme attacks on women’s reproductive rights and freedom are nothing unusual, a sweeping measure on a fast track in Michigan’s Republican-led State Legislature stands out.” The Michigan House not only quickly passed a sweeping anti-abortion bill but also silenced two Democratic female Representatives who spoke against the bill. The action by the majority party in Michigan’s House of Representatives threatens the reproductive health of all the women of the state and has caused a huge backlash.

I feel compelled to tell the following stories because women’s votes will matter especially in the 2012 elections. This is the year that multiple and extreme attacks on women’s reproductive health are being carried out by Republican majorities in states and in the U. S. House of Representatives. This is the year that the Republican candidate for the Presidency of the United States has declared that if elected, he will close down Planned Parenthood. 

The following are true stories about three women known to me personally and the decisions they made to terminate their pregnancies. These were not easy decisions. Indeed, they were seriously thought through and discussed with their loved ones and their physicians.

So, here are their stories:

It is December of 1932. A young woman has gotten off a train, having traveled overnight with her two children from her home in Connecticut to Ohio to visit her parents. Her husband plans to come later on to spend the holidays with the family. She is carrying her 13 month old daughter and is accompanied by her six year old son. The walk along the tracks to get to the terminal where her parents are waiting is a long one. A porter asks if he can help her by carrying the baby. (The baby weighed 9 pounds 11 ounces at birth and is now a considerable burden for the young mother, he believes.) She refuses his offer of help and arrives at her parents’ home exhausted from the overnight trip with the children.

A few days later, she has an attack of tachycardia when her heart beats excessively rapidly and will not let up. Bed rest is recommended. But the heart rate will not return to normal. The grandmother’s diary describes the situation: Morphine is the only medication that can give her any relief, no visitors are allowed. The grandmother is fully occupied with caring for her ill daughter as well as her year old granddaughter. A friend offers to take the brother to her house for a few days in order to give some relief. A heart specialist from the nearby city is called in to consult, but he is not able to offer any help. Heart medicines such as we have today are a long way off in 1932. The young mother’s father is minister at the local Congregational Church. All the church members and friends are praying for her, that her heart will return to normal function and that she will recover her strength. At the close of the year, the grandmother fears that her daughter will not live into the new year.

After several weeks, the young mother recovers, and is able to return with her husband to their home in Connecticut. Once there, her physician tells her that she should never again become pregnant. The risk of heart failure and death is too great.

At that time, there being no medically reliable method of contraception, she became pregnant for a third time. When she went to her physician, he told her what he would do. He would put her into the hospital, terminate the pregnancy, and tie her fallopian tubes. He told her that when people asked about her hospitalization, she should tell them that she had gone into the hospital to have her appendix removed.
This woman went on to raise her two children and become a grandmother to five. In her late 70s she had a gall bladder attack which required surgery. When she met with the surgeon and shared with him her medical history, she told the story of her abortion in 1934 and the appendix story to both the surgeon and to her daughter who had not previously known of the abortion. Her daughter recalls that when the doctor came out of surgery and into the family waiting room, he told her that her mother had come through the surgery just fine and that she had no appendix.

I think that doctor in Connecticut was not only a caring physician but also a bold one who was willing to risk his career to do what he believed was right for his patient.

Fast forward to 1997. Imagine terminating a wanted pregnancy. A couple has been in a committed relationship for 15 and years and busy with their careers: one is a police officer and the other works for a major bank. Now, late into their 30s, they realize time is running out. They both come from Protestant families, both are college educated: they have much in common. One is Caucasian and the other is African American. They live in a large city where gay couples with children are not uncommon and where gay people in general are openly accepted. Oh, did I forget to mention this couple consists of two women?

They decide that they would like to have a biological child. Wanting a child that reflects their family as well as to be a legacy to her father; the African American partner becomes pregnant using a sperm donor. As with all women who desire children, they are overjoyed. However, as the pregnancy progresses, the normal tests that most women undergo indicate that the fetus is a trisomy 21, or Down’s syndrome child. 

They wrestle with the implications for the future of their child, one raised by an interracial lesbian couple. With great sadness, they decide that this would be a triple burden for the child: African-American, disabled, with lesbian parents. After great prayer, contemplation and discussion with both sets of parents, they decide that the appropriate course of action is to terminate the pregnancy.

They go to the largest hospital in their pro-choice city for the procedure, where the abortion is performed. There, they receive grief counseling and participate in a support group with other parents who had terminated a wanted child.

But their story does not end there. The couple tries again to become pregnant. This time, not wanting to undergo the 1:100 odds of another chromosomal defect, the younger woman tries, but fails to conceive.

The follow up to this story is that the couple has since adopted two bi-racial children. The hospital that served them so well was subsequently acquired by the Sisters of Providence who announced that it would no longer provide abortion services.

The third story concerns a young couple who married in 1992. Their first pregnancy ended early in miscarriage. So, naturally, they are delighted to learn they are pregnant again. She works at a Catholic hospital, has her health insurance coverage there and goes to see her doctor who practices at that hospital. At 17 weeks she has an ultrasound test which shows that there could be some problem with the fetus. There is a possible cerebral defect and cleft palate is clearly identified. The doctor wants her to have a second ultrasound, but he is going on vacation, so the follow up test will not occur until 19 weeks. At the time of the second ultrasound, multiple problems show up: cleft palate, heart chambers malformed and hydro-cephalic syndrome. The doctor at the Catholic hospital knows that he can offer her no further medical advice. He refers her to a specialist, a peri-natologist whose services are not available at the Catholic hospital.

The specialist recommends a further test: amniocentesis, a test which can definitively detect fetal abnormalities. The couple waits 10 days for the test results to come back. Finally, at about 22 weeks into the pregnancy, they learn that the baby has an extra thirteenth chromosome.

Trisomy thirteen syndrome babies rarely survive as long in the pregnancy as theirs has. In fact, the defects are so severe, that nature usually aborts them spontaneously. (Many women prior to the availability of low cost pregnancy tests, did not even know they were pregnant; they just thought they were having a late period, when it was actually a spontaneous abortion of a fetal abnormality.) If the fatally flawed baby does happen to survive to term, it dies soon after birth.

The specialist advises aborting the baby. At 23 weeks into the pregnancy she enters a hospital and undergoes an induced labor procedure.

The couple was grateful to have found a specialist who was able to provide this legal service. He apologized that at that time it had to occur in the labor and delivery section of the hospital, where newborns could be heard crying. Instead, this couple were the ones crying, crying over their lost hope for a child.

(It is interesting to note that had there been any further delay, at 24 weeks, they would have had to go to travel out of Michigan to terminate the pregnancy.)

The Catholic health insurance plan refused to pay for the abortion, calling it an “experimental procedure”. If she had carried this pregnancy to term, the insurance would have paid the childbirth expenses, but at the cost of an additional 16 weeks of emotional pain for the parents, knowing that their child was so severely deformed that it would not survive.

The epilogue to this third story is that the couple now has two healthy children, who give them great joy. 

In all three cases, the individuals involved gave thanks for doctors who were willing to do what was best for the women who were facing difficult decisions. With the pressure that extremely conservative and religiously restrictive legislators are putting on women today, it may not be possible for women in the future to find qualified doctors to advise them and hospitals where the doctors can perform abortions in cases such as these.

Politicians who seek to shut down Planned Parenthood, do so at the risk of causing great harm to the millions of women who go there not only to receive contraception services that will help them prevent unwanted pregnancies, but also receive cancer screening and basic health care, as well as advice on abortion services.

Abortion must remain a legal option, one that a woman can make with the advice of her physician and those closest to her, should she choose to involve them in the decision. Women must not let politicians decide if and how it takes place.

• Guttmacher Institute, “State Policies in Brief” as of June 1, 2012
Posted by Betsy Dole, Granna's Apartment at 6:30 AM 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Rabbit Rabbit

When my mother was a girl, on the first day of the month, she would say "rabbit rabbit" as she hopped out of bed to ensure good luck for the month ahead. (The charm only works when you enact the ritual before you say a single word to anyone that morning.)

Rabbit. Rabbit.

Oh to have a simple charm to weave into the lives of my children to keep them safe in the world.

Yesterday at the same time Son and friends were walking home from school, I was mulling over letting my middle-school-aged children go out trick or treating unchaperoned. Meanwhile a group high school boys were approaching Son and friends asking them to buy some weed.

When Son and friends declined (thank you!), and kept on walking, the delinquents followed, snickering.

Rabbit! Rabbit!

A couple blocks later, one of them confronted our boys and assaulted Son's friend. A right cross to the chin, they later described it to the police. Those hooligans were just looking for a fight when our boys happened to cross their path, the cop said.

Ironically, just the day before I was explaining to Son that our safe neighborhood still held danger and that's why I was concerned about him being out alone on Halloween night. I mentioned several instances of young men assaulted by strangers. Little did I know that the next day he'd experience my fear in real life.

Rabbit!! Rabbit!!

No charm, no mother's warning protects our children on the street.

The cellphone they carry for the unimaginable emergency didn't ward off the blow.

The police who took an hour to get there to take their statement weren't able to protect them. In broad daylight. In a safe neighborhood. By the time they got there the perpetrator was long gone.
Did I let my son out that night without an adult? Yes, he and his friends got home safely, candy bags full and trauma left behind.

As I guide my children across the chasm between childhood and independence, I say prayers and hope for a Guardian Angel (or even simple dumb luck) to guide them safely through the journey away from the safety of home and out into the world.

Today as I muse about good luck charms and cell phones, I wait from him to make it safely home, holding him in my thoughts.

Rabbit! Rabbit!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Rethinking the timeout chair

I never thought I’d be saying this, but one of the best parenting tools I use is the timeout chair.

I had read a lot about timeouts in the quest to reign in my emotionally volatile daughter. But I had never been able to effectively use it with Miss. In fact, trying to get her to sit there escalated the emotion instead of getting it under control.

Besides the idea of the timeout chair evokes visions of children sitting in corners with dunce caps on their heads. Not my idea of positive parenting. So imagine my astonishment when I discovered putting myself in the timeout chair made me a better parent.

I don’t recall much about the first time I used the timeout chair for myself. Probably my memory is blank because I was screaming mad at something I discovered Son had done.  (Egging houses perhaps?) I just know I was boiling over. Ready to throw the book at him. No consequence felt large enough to equal my wrath.  You know that feeling, right?

Somewhere inside, a small voice told me grounding him forever was not rational. Just walk away before you do something you regret. So I went into the kitchen, sat on a stool and gave myself a chance to think.

While I sat there I realized something powerful. A game changer:
  • I do not have to react. I can give myself time to think. 
  • I have the right to allow myself time to process. Time to process is the key to staying calm.
  • A consequence that I assign 15 minutes later is still an effective consequence.
  • In fact, I learned that when I move past my anger and think things through, I assign a fair consequence that I can live with. No more backing down because I overreacted.
  • Bonus. I’m a good model for my children on managing my anger.

Do I make my children sit in the timeout chair now that I’ve found it works for me? I don’t. I narrate what I’m doing and expect them to verbalize their feelings in return. (“I’m so angry I can’t think. I’m going to the timeout chair. While I’m in timeout I don’t want you to talk to me.” Etc.) 

My current goal is giving them space to calm down when they get angry and tell me they need space. After all, if I’m allowed to calm down before I react, they should be able to calm down before they face the music, right?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Blue October Dreams



From Where I Sit

[#Seattle, today, in the moment]:
I am exploring a new frame of mind. Playing guilt free.  
To do this I must first offer up my neglected responsibilities.
Deferring the undesirable into the morrow, 
I free myself of thoughts such as these:
And sink into bliss. 
I daydream about evolving a visual language,
Combining photo, caption, #hashmarks, 
punctuation,
Tell a narrative. Story. 
Share a feeling. Idea.
Each photo evolved the story.
Each stood alone to 
Transport me into blue October dreams.
##end##

Friday, August 24, 2012

Relish the summer nights

Children are counting down the days until school starts, neighbors are mentioning they are feeling fall in the air, and Halloween plans are beginning to be made.

Tonight I'm going to sit outside, enjoy the evening, and soak it in.

Don't rush the end of summer!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Gifts of the Lake

Over the years the lake has given my family many gifts:
  • A paddleboard.
  • A kiteboarding kite (light wind).
  • A boat (okay, that wasn't a gift, it was our neighbor's).
  • Countless shovels, pails and sand castle forms.
  • Toy boats.
  • A six pack of Colt 45 that Brother and I tasted (warm) when we were about 12 and decided grown ups were crazy for drinking that nasty stuff.
  • Half smoked cigarettes we also tried and abhorred.
  • A wakeboard with bindings just the right size.
(Yes, we tried to find owners for the valuable items. Most times, however, the items had no apparent owners.)

Perhaps the best find of all time, however, was not purchased in a store. A wide tree trunk, sawed in half length-wise blew in one summer when we were kids.

The three of us turned it into a paddle board, raft, and pirate ship. Playing for years with it until it finally fell apart.

It was just the three of us, summer after summer. We didn't have an iPod, Netflix, or Wii to keep us entertained. We just had endless days, each other, and our imaginations.

Now, when I try to share that experience with my children, I feel like the storybook father telling his kids to buck up, because, after all, he had to walk five miles to school. Every day. In the snow. With no boots on.

"Live without technology?" they say. "Are you crazy, Mom?"

Times have changed, but we are still always sad to leave the lake and it's not the Wii or Netflix we'll be missing. Instead, it's the endless summer days, time with family, and the gifts of the lake we'll always treasure.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Leavings

Ever notice how the tension builds before a storm? Hours, even days before, the air outside starts feeling stuffy, adults are easily irritated and children restless or bored.
Everytime I visit my parent's summer place, I notice a sweet saddness growing in me as the day to leave draws near.
I could not feel the storm clouds gathering far across Lake Michigan. But I could feel the wind changing. Blowing a hot embrace I felt pushing me, pressing me to go.
This afternoon  I sat on the dock trying to breathe in all that I could of this place. Soak in the sunshine as if I'd never see it again.
Soon the storm was building across our lake. Weather Bug was consulted. Yes, a big one was on the way.
There is never enough time to do it all. I didn't visit the nearby village. Didn't catch up with the neighbors. Didn't have that talk with Dad. Never managed an adventure with Brother.
We prepared by covering the grill, bringing in the towels, battening the hatches. I walked out to the point to watch until the rain began and lightening was overhead.
There is comfort knowing I may return again next summer with another chance to soak it all in. But I also know that nothing ever stays the same and next year there will be a new list of life undone.
***
Tomorrow, as sure as tonight's thunder rolled along the hills shaking my bed with its rocking beat, we will leave and the weather will change. But for tonight, even the front's passing does little to relieve the pressure I feel inside as I turn my face homeward.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Precious Moments

Tonight I watched a spider spin its web. Predetermined precision, line after line. Watching the spider spinning, I marveled at the mystery of how the spider knows what to do.

Around and around the spider goes -- looking like some tiny machine. Every evening taking nearly an hour to construct the new web. 

I couldn't draw a web as well as the spider spins it. A programmer might be able to program a bot to spin a web, but under every condition? A scientist may be able to clone one, but could she write its genetic code?

Earlier Mother was telling Son about the loon migration. Every fall the parents fly south first leaving their young to figure it out on their own. Aren't you glad you aren't a loon?

What calls the juvenile loon south? How do monarch butterflies manage to make the long flight to Mexico? Even when I learned migratory creatures have some type of built in compass, that doesn't explain it to me satisfactorily. 

It's easy to be wrapped up in my to do list and miss the life that is going on around me. Swimming past along the bottom of the lake, an invertebrate. Slowly eating its way through the sand in a long, snaking path, a clam. Spiraling past in a mating dance, two dragonflies. 

It is easy to forget that all life is connected. We all came from the same source, and are here only a small fraction of time. A bat snacking on insects along the lake shore. The spider spinning its web. Me talking to my mother and brother.

Each day I lean into the experiences of my life as fully as I can, to feel it all. Joy and sadness. Hurt and comfort. Anger and laughter. And unlike the spider, I have choices in how I live my life, every precious moment. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Leaving Here

Today was the perfect day. Warm, gentle breeze. Clear and sunny. I washed all of our clothes --even the jeans-- and hung them up on the line. You know it's a perfect day when you can wash the jeans in the morning and they get dry before dinner.

When I went to turn the clothes, their outsides were warm and dry, the insides cool and still damp. There is no rushing the drying of laundry on the line. The tending of it, however, marks the day's passing.

The neighbors came over for cocktails and we sat in the shade chatting until we realized it was 7 p.m. and no one had started dinner. Brother, Miss, Granna and myself all made dinner. We ate as the sun slowly sank behind the hill. It's peachy glow lasting for an hour afterwards.

Son spent much of the day cutting dead branches off the trees that Grandpa pointed out. He climbed up a ladder and then into the tall pine while I sat doing my best not to give him too much advice.

We moved the slack line across the field and tested our balance. I crossed with the aid of Son and a walking stick, pausing only at the center to test the bounce.

And swimming, swimming, swimming.


Just a few more days until we go. Trying to soak up every last bit of goodness this place has to share before heading home.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Lost!

The correct choice may be right in front of you and it is only your uncertainty or impatience that keeps you from seeing it.

I met a couple of young men in the hotel elevator this morning. They told me they went off-roading for seven hours yesterday...  5 of which they were lost.

It's easy to get lost in the U.P. Perhaps it's even a mandatory part of the experience, like eating pasties or buying fudge in Mackinaw City.

Wednesday Granna, Son and I took a 3 mile hike and found ourselves at an apparently unmarked convergence of paths. Not sure of the right way to head, we took a walk in a couple of directions before it became plain we were wrong. We started to worry we were lost. I even walked all the way back to the last sign post to check to be sure we were on the right path.

Finally we tried the only way left before us, but a way that looked certainly wrong. Yep, you guessed it. That was our path.

It was a good reminder that the correct choice may be right in front of you and it is only your uncertainty or impatience that keeps you from seeing it. Don't be afraid to test out a few wrong directions before you get on the right track.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dunes and Debt

When you look out over Lake Superior, it stretches beyond the horizon. The waves are huge even when the wind is a gentle breeze. It's impossible not to compare it to the ocean, yet it has no tides and whales do not swim within the deeps.

I tried to give Son an idea of the size of this magestic lake, but don't think I succeeded; the scale is just too large.

On the boat tour of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the tour guide said Lake Superior has 3 quadrillion gallons of water, enough to flood the entire North and South Americas with a foot of water. Can you imagine how much water that is? I can't.

It's like trying to imagine the size of the universe. Carl Sagan tried this way:

“A handful of sand contains about 10,000 grains ... the total number of stars in the universe is greater than all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the planet Earth.”

But how do I even begin to imagine all of those grains of sand? No wonder we tune out when talking about the national debt. A billion, a trillion, what's the big difference? Right?

Try turning seconds into years. One trillion seconds is equal to about 31,000 years. A billion seconds is just 31 years. Whereas a million seconds is about 10 days. It helps to have numbers correspond to experience, doesn't it?

The national debt is $15 trillion. That's about 460,000 years of seconds-- an amount of time beyond my experience or comprehension. No wonder we tune out instead of panicking.

So my mind travels back to the lake, where I climbed a dune the size of a mountain and looked out on seemingly endless blue water. I wonder how many grains of sand are in a sand dune and how many drops of water are in this fresh water sea?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Middle of Nowhere

Today we took a road trip up to the U.P. Mother likes to say it's like going to another country without needing a passport. Son says it's more like the middle of nowhere. I'm just hoping to see a moose.

We planned to stay overnight in Paradise. Unfortunately when we got there the whole town was shut down: four hours without power. Much to the irritation of the business owners, the power company couldn't say why it was out or when it would be back up.

When you live in the middle of somewhere four hours without power is an inconvenience. When you live in Paradise, it's a near disaster.

Without power the phones don't work, you can't make room keys, you can't process credit card sales, cook meals, pump water from the well, flush the toilet or check in new guests. The manager sent us 40 miles down the road to the next nearest town where she hoped we'd be able to find a room.

Fortunately the gas station had a generator, because with less than an eighth of a tank we would have been stuck in Paradise if we hadn't been able to gas up.

On the way to the next town, we drove to Whitefish Point where the Edmund Fitzgerald went down in '75. The beach was covered with beautiful granite rocks polished into eggs and ovals by powerful Lake Superior storms.

Later a "short" loop trail at Taquahmenon Falls (see Longfellow's Hiawatha) turned out to be nearly an hour's walk. We ate dinner at a restaurant where they had examples of all the local animals (including a wolverine) stuffed and mounted on the walls.

I have yet to try a pasty (a meat pie that lumberjacks used to carry for their lunches), but there's always tomorrow. I promise I'll eat one if I see a moose!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Balance of Freedom

Noise! Noise! Noise! Racing up and down the lake at top volume, Baja boats are faster, louder, flashier than any other boat on the lake. They conjure up the image of the young, sexy man with women hanging on each arm.

In reality, it's usually 40 something, beer guzzling dads who are the ones able to afford the 100k plus price tag (used). These puppies cost nearly $900 to fill with gas, and m.p.g. is never mentioned in the specifications.

The noise of their engines drowns out all conversation as they fly by. You can hear them at 10 miles away. The roar of their thunder is a rush for their owners and a curse for everyone else.

How do we resolve the conflict between the freedom of one person to blow $900 on gas roaring up and down the lake all day at with the desire of another to have quiet reflection? It sometimes seems like the people doing all the compromise are the ones who give up their quiet.

How do we walk the line between all and none? The NRA feels that assault rifles should be allowed under the Constitution. Those of us who believe that guns are for hunters and the police end up compromising far beyond our comfort level when handguns are freely available and assault rifles are used to mow down movie theater patrons.

Yes, I agree freedom is a fundamental right that we should protect. But freedom is tricky because many freedoms conflict. I want quiet, you want loud and noisy. One of us is going to lose. Instead of fighting about who is right, why can't we talk instead about how we can find the balance between all or nothing.

I'm not saying this is easy. In my own family we struggle with the balance. My brother feels fine with having his kids play video on vacation, where I define vacation as a time away from screens. Working out this conflict is fraught with landmines. Nearly as dangerous as bringing up politics or religion, but far easier than the issue of the Baja boat to resolve.

I once heard that a compromise isn't fair unless both sides are hurting. Tell me, where is the hurt that the Baja boat owners are feeling? Who is feeling the pain of assault rifles being legal? How do we bring freedom back into balance for everyone? I wish I had the magic answer.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Joy

Joy in looking and comprehending is nature's most beautiful gift. -- Albert Einstein

The Lake's Heartbeat

Where does inspiration arise from? From the sun and the lake, of course.

In the summer of the north woods, there's usually no cause for air conditioning. Morning fires to take off the chill are more the norm.

But today, like everywhere else this summer, it was hot. A 90 degree wind came out of the northwest blowing us dry all day.

We took turns in the hammock. Sitting by the water in the deep shade we tried to read, but mostly ended up napping.

Projects were started and abandoned. In and out of the lake we went in a fruitless effort to keep cool. Even the M&Ms could not withstand the heat and melted.

At sunset I coaxed Son into the water. We swam out with the paddle board and splashed and played as the sky turned from blazing peach, to coral, then purple.

The first star appeared. He borrowed my towel. I faced the wind and let it blow through me.  The waves rolled and splashed to shore, surrounding us with the lake's heartbeat.