Posted in Insight, Mid-Life Mama, Mother to Crone, New Mother, Nuts & Bolts

It all begins in the kitchen

“Wednesday is Anti-Procrastination Day,” and it still is, all these years later.

It began when I was a new mother, overwhelmed by keeping house, until exhausted by my own whining, I said:

“Kelly, you ran a classroom, a restaurant, a nonprofit, YOU can do this.”

And so even though housework did not deserve my best, especially as I had witnessed the unfair weight of it on my mothers & grandmothers, I set out to study the art and science of household management, as a matter of survival.

I created systems of sanity, engaging everyone in the household in routines that continue to this day. “I stayed home for the children not the house,” was my motto.

My sense was that this role was both sacrifice and blessing, but never an assignment to do everything alone. Along the way, a woman (and email subscription list) called FlyLady was an ally in staying the course, but this was long before I realized that housework was political.

Moral.

I hadn’t understood then that homemaking meant that a women’s brilliance was unavailable in other spaces where it is was so desperately needed. I hadn’t understood then that refusing to do everything myself was not only an act of self-preservation but a revolutionary act of consciousness.

Sharing housework with my family from the very beginning created increasing space for me to begin exploring other aspects of myself, which are still unfolding as my youngest prepares to fly from the nest.

During my first year at United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in 2012, I heard women from developing countries emphasize how much their voices were held back by an unfair share of caring for home and family.

This year women from these same regions expressed their surprise to find that #metoo was epidemic in our developed nation.

Equality, it appears, is far from being achieved, anywhere.

It begins in the home. In the bedroom. At the kitchen table.

It seeds a more just world,
For everyone.

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Posted in Insight, Mid-Life Mama, Milestone Moments, Mother to Crone, Parental Adolescence, Round Two, Teens, Wisdom of Youth

A LINE

I’m not sure if it’s #45 or #metoo or Menopause, but suddenly I have access to something I never had before and it’s something which I expend too easily like the first paycheck in my kid’s pocket.

“Don’t be a fucking idiot!”

A few weeks back, I spewed this at him.

(This, in a household, where I’ve long drawn a fierce line at: Shut up.)

Actually, a stream of sentences with fuck (highlighted in various forms) came out of my 54-year-old mouth, one after the other, none of which I could entirely recollect afterward–a sure sign of trance–but not one I’d so fully occupied before.

Anger.

Not just at the behavior at hand, or the accumulated attitude of his adolescent years or that combined with his older brother’s (and even their father’s) but all the ways that all women/mothers/wives are maligned for the same things for which we are relied upon.

“I’m sorry that I put that all on you,” I said to my son when he returned from hitting the speed bag in the basement.

But what I didn’t regret was the line that I had drawn, and that I will now draw forevermore, and which I appreciate that he also drew for me:

“We don’t talk to each other that way, Mom.”

Posted in Fragile Life, Insight, Takes a Village, Teens, Tweens, Wisdom of Youth

On hating our young

While our 17-year-old set out to march, my husband and I opted for our regular Saturday morning practice on the mat, surprised and touched to find our longtime teacher speaking to the day’s events, not just at the opening of class but into the practice, naming the young voices he admired so much–Emma Gonzales and David Hogg–and choking up as he talked about the Stoneman Douglass Ice Hockey team, so that I when I found myself, supine, in Baddha Konasana–hips and heart wide open–tears slid down & around my cheeks, and into my hair, and onto my mat, without thought, without attachment or emotion, and continued as I came into a twist, and later, off the mat, and into the day, I was struck again, as I was on Valentines Day, at how precious the sight of each and every teenager, and I understood that it is not only our relationship with masculinity and guns that will be transformed but our hatred of our young as they come of age.

 

Posted in Fragile Life, Insight, Mother to Crone

Half-Mast for School Kids


In February, I found myself stuck in a chair, inside a building, listening to people talk at me for 7 hours a day.

When it was time to leave, they filled my arms with work that would eat away at what remained of the evening.

In encountering such violence (made more apparent in its stark contrast to self-employment), my heart went out to high schoolers everywhere, and thus when I later saw a group of angry-looking teenagers roaming the streets of the city, I understood.

On the second day of this three-day training, despite the holiday, there was no mention of LOVE, and so that when I returned to my hotel room, alone, I gave in to the novelty of television, discovering that a school shooting had just taken place in Florida.

What I wanted most to do in that moment was to embrace my own high schooler and keep him home from school for the rest of the week (or forever), but instead, I messaged him to be sure he opened the  chocolates I’d left behind, and then I got into a hot bath, and never opened my homework.

On the final day of training, there was no talk of the shooting, and yet just the thought of any high schoolers made it hard to breathe, and when one passed me in the parking lot at the end of the day, he looked me in the eyes and said with surprising warmth:

How’s it going?

And right there, with the sun high above us, and my satchel heavy on my shoulder, and the flag at half-mast, I almost cried.

Posted in Insight, Nuts & Bolts, Round Two, Teens, Wisdom of Youth

Ode to Winter & other passings

Once the weather grows cold we often prepare soup for breakfast. On Sunday, a butternut squash with mushrooms. To the small bowl he served himself, my son added not one but 4 pieces of buttered toast, dismissing my raised eyebrows by marveling over the invention of bread, “Who was the first to think of this,” he said, “It must have been life changing,” which left me marveling over the synchronicity of the poem of the day read by Garrison Keillor on the The Writer’s Almanac.

Bread and Butter

for Michael

I often wonder how people figured
things out—simple things like bread
and butter. How did the first person know
to grind and knead and bake,
to milk and skim and churn?
How did someone realize they could soak
olives in lye or let grape juice ferment
inside casks of oak? How, when
we first leaned toward each other,
did our tongues know to touch
before our brains knew
we were going to kiss at all?

“Bread and Butter” by Gayle Brandeis from The Selfless Bliss of the Body. © Finishing Line Press, 2017.

Breakfast bonus poem:

Egg

I’m scrambling an egg for my daughter.
“Why are you always whistling?” she asks.
“Because I’m happy.”
And it’s true,
Though it stuns me to say it aloud;
There was a time when I wouldn’t
Have seen it as my future.
It’s partly a matter
Of who is there to eat the egg:
The self fallen out of love with itself
Through the tedium of familiarity,
Or this little self,
So curious, so hungry,
Who emerged from the woman I love,
A woman who loves me in a way
I’ve come to think I deserve,
Now that it arrives from outside me.
Everything changes, we’re told,
And now the changes are everywhere:
The house with its morning light
That fills me like a revelation,
The yard with its trees
That cast a bit more shade each summer,
The love of a woman
That both is and isn’t confounding,
And the love
Of this clamor of questions at my waist.
Clamor of questions,
You clamor of answers,
Here’s your egg.

“Egg” by C.G. Hanzlicek from Against Dreaming. © University of Missouri Press, 1994.

(RIP Writers Almanac)

Posted in Insight, Mid-Life Mama, Mother to Crone, Twenty-something

Companion

Lately, my sons have refused invitations or eagerly accepted them but then not followed through, while simultaneously (along with their father) they make increasingly unconscious demands on my time and energy; so that yesterday, I found myself walking to the pond, feeling sorry for myself, absent of the sweet company I so desired/deserved; and these thoughts continued with me down the road, across the brook, up the hill and down the path through the woods to the water’s grassy edge, where they slipped away with asana under the morning sun, until I found myself supine on the dock in a gentle spinal twist, looking up at the needles of a tall pine with whom I’ve communed for so many years–through so many seasons of my life–and hers–ice storms and snow storms and early springs and fair autumns (skipping high summer when the campers are here)–And in that moment I felt the steady friendship of her branches extended toward me and the strength of her deep roots sustaining our connection, and I realized how I would never be alone, not really, even when both boys are gone; and I thought about how often men forsake not only the women in their lives, but the earth, and how that brings women and the earth closer together, and aren’t we better for it; and then, something else:

Don’t I forsake Her too…

Posted in Insight, Mid-Life Mama, Nuts & Bolts, School, Teens

Flip the morning!

(Something to remember in September.)

Communal first. Personal last!

Because I didn’t figure this out until my second TEEN, and since my nesting days are numbered, I wanted to share this stroke of brilliance with others in case you’ve been suffering too.

I  don’t know about your teens, but ours rarely had time to make themselves breakfast or even eat the one prepared for them, let alone contribute in the kitchen, without keeping a ride waiting or missing it altogether, particularly after the sink hole of showering & biological/sociological-mandated prepping which led to forgetting homework or instruments or cleats; so now we’ve flipped the morning:

Downstairs first–packing up, contributing, eating, and then as much time as they want upstairs, Ie. whatever time they’ve left for themselves.

(ps. as parents, try reversing the order for yourself. personal first. communal last.)