Posted in College, Holidays, Insight, Nuts & Bolts, Teens, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Puzzles & Families, A-Z

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A 1000 piece puzzle may be the most revealing of family activities, exposing individual traits that shape the function (& dysfunction) of the dynamic of shared lives…

a. A few years back I bought a Will Moses “Thanksgiving Snows” puzzle as a charming kick off to the thanksgiving break

b. (even though we have never finished a puzzle in a decade)

c. my youngest and i started the puzzle; while my husband repeatedly asked if we were ready to pack it up.

d. i finally gave in (gave up) and sorted the edges and the finished bits into ziplocks to give us a better start in the following year

e. a year later i put the puzzle out again

f. my husband taped cardboard together so that the puzzle could be easily relocated

g. our oldest, home from college, never approached the puzzle. (in 2015 or 2016)

h. our youngest and i began the outer edges

i. he complained that no one was returning to the puzzle

j. he then devised a flow chart to assemble the ample sky pieces which he sorted–by cut

k. i showed our oldest his brother’s flow chart of sky pieces as a point of amusement; he was only slightly interested. maybe.

l. i ignored the flow chart and sky pieces and began with the recognizable barns, houses & people

m. i insisted that my husband join me

n. he claimed that he was too overwhelmed to participate so I suggested he begin with the large yellow house, and I set him up with a pile of yellow pieces

o. He insisted he needed all the pieces to the yellow house in order to continue and proceeded to handle every piece in the box in search of more yellow house pieces.

p. From time to time I looked over at his work, and annoyed, ran my hand randomly through the box, and found more yellow house pieces instantaneously than he did with his methodical sorting

q. looking up, he accused me of “taking all the glory,” because I put together the pieces of a man he had apparently found. (He told me to stick to the barn i was building.)

r. i told him that i didn’t realize that the man was his and also that i was working on three barns, two wagons, a few turkeys, a bunch of people, and other unidentifiable items

s. he continued sorting pieces one by one, while i suggested he return to the house with what he already had;

t. i left the puzzle. puzzles are fun for me for a moment, and then maddening.

u. an hour later, i insisted my husband step away from the puzzle

v. we are both afraid of what our youngest will say when he comes down and finds his system ignored

xyz… (to be continued)

post script: in 2017 we finished the puzzle! (in 2018, my husband claimed that he couldn’t find the puzzle in the attic.)

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Posted in (Actual) Empty Nest, Home again, Mid-Life Mama, Mother to Crone, Nuts & Bolts, Twenty-something, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Mother as Nourisher

 

They’re 18 and 23, and they don’t live with me anymore, but if we’re eating together, or worse yet if I’m simply watching them eat, I’m compelled to get involved.

Aren’t you going to finish that?

Do you want more butter?

Does that need to be heated up?

Don’t you like the soup?

WTF!

And it’s not just loving, motherly attention I’m expressing, but anxiety. PTSD even.

As a mother of two, and as a lifelong early & elementary educator, and as the oldest of 8, not to mention being born FEMALE, I’ve attended to children at mealtimes since I was old enough to talk—from bottle-feeding to spoon-feeding to fixing meals and to taking my youngest siblings (and later nephews & nieces) out to Pizza Hut long before I had any kids of my own.

Over the weekend my husband and I went out for brunch–with our grown kids–and we were seated near two different tables, each holding a mother and a young son and no one else. It was adorable.

At the table closest to us, the mother had a fruit cup and her child had waffles or pancakes or french toast (I can’t remember which). At the other table, it was the child who had the fruit cup while the mother had yogurt with granola. I noticed this and something else on my way to the bathroom.

The child with fruit was on a device.

“Did you see those two tables?” my husband later said as we were walking to our car. “I felt so sad about the mother who missed out on talking to her kid.”

I paused before I replied, and then I suggested that perhaps my husband had a gender bias/blindness, unaware of how demanding it is on mothers to eat out with their children.

My favorite scene about this parental gender differential is one that takes place at the dinner table with the Incredibles. For years, I dropped this phrase on my husband:

BOB, it’s time to ENGAGE.

“Maybe that mother and child had a really good connection before breakfast,” I said. “Maybe they’re going out for a hike afterward. Maybe this was her only quiet moment of the day.”

Our own kids were device free and maybe that had been a mistake. Maybe I would have been more relaxed if they were more fully occupied without my attention at the table.

That said, I have two lasting memories of eating out with my youngest son when he was a boy: There was the morning I had tea and he had waffles at the restaurant attached to the Butterfly Museum (because we had mistakenly arrived before it opened), and there was the first time he tried sushi and to my surprise loved it.

I remember being in Japan for work and dining at a traditional restaurant where no one spoke any English and I was served a breakfast on a tray with a dozen ceramic dishes of mostly unrecognizable foods without any directions on how to use or not use the accompanying condiments.

I took cues from the small children at the table across from mine, thinking it more acceptable to stare at them then at a table with only adults.

They ate, like everyone else in the restaurant, almost silently, without a fuss, tasting everything on the tray, for a meal that lasted as long as a fancy dinner might.

Maybe my husband was right. Maybe that other mom was missing out. Maybe she was on the road and needed a break. Both mothers and sons seemed to enjoy a relaxing meal. I admired them both and was grateful to be eating with grownups.

Posted in Fragile Life, Insight, Mother to Crone, Nuts & Bolts

Voting: HOW TO

There are so many things important to me when choosing a candidate.

Character is key as are issues related to those most marginalized in society.

Years ago I remember overhearing my son explain to house guests why I couldn’t accompany them on a day trip.

I was on a grassroots organizing call around health care with President Obama. My youngest thought it was just the two of us on the call: Mom and the President of the United States of America. My older son had a better understanding.

“You don’t have health care!” our guests said, concerned.

“We have it,” my older son said, “But Mom wants everyone to have it.”

Gun Sense is another one of those issues that deeply affects the marginalized in society, whether it’s people of color, women (50 a month killed by intimate partners) or most painfully–children–killed–at schools and in homes–by their peers–when guns aren’t properly stored.

As an adult I feel morally responsible to take action with regard to these deaths. Voting is one way I do that.

Vote on November 6. (Or vote early.)

Posted in College, Insight, Milestone Moments, Nuts & Bolts, Round Two, Teens, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

My baby


I’m pretty sure we’re breaking up.

It’s been a long time coming.

The thing is we have a child between us.

Himself.

Which means just like divorced parents, we’ll always be connected.

But we’ll need to find new ways of relating beyond the swiftly outdated dance of dependence & provision.

Extracting two beings from we who had once been one.

Inside this never-ending flow of love & letting go.

Posted in Fathers, Fragile Life, Insight, Legacy, Milestone Moments, Mother to Crone, Nuts & Bolts, Round Two, Takes a Village, Teens, Twenty-something, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

“Someday” has arrived


Our community came together one day in June to raise the frame of our home–along with 3-year-old Aidan who spent the day hammering nails into the floorboards of what would be our kitchen; and 8-year-old Lloyd who knelt beside his preschool & primary teachers laying down the floor to what would become his bedroom; and Casey, age 38, who lifted beams with friends & family (and even strangers) to realize a dream come true; and me, age 40, who never had the chance to live in one place very long and who climbed the frame at the end of the day and tapped an evergreen branch to its peak while everyone cheered below.

14 years have passed.
14 Christmases.
14 wedding anniversaries.
14 winters & springs.
14 summers.
14 autumns.

Over the years, Casey spoke of needing an addition—the living room was always too small; but I countered that the boys would be gone someday and the house was already too large for two.

“Someday” has somehow arrived.

What was “raised” to be a home for 4, becomes a home for 2 at the end of summer—which is almost as unfathomable as building this home for ur family once was.

Posted in Mid-Life Mama, Nuts & Bolts, Teens, Wisdom of Youth

a boy and his vacuum


I’ve either done something right or terribly wrong.

Our very first vacuum was an Electrolux from our Wedding Registry, 1990. It was with us through our move to Vermont, through the birth of two kids, and into the home we built together.

Our oldest was 15 & youngest 10 when we had to replace our old pal. The kids were ecstatic. I was alarmed.

Should kids be this happy about a new vacuum?

Did this mean they were too involved in housekeeping?

Or were their lives unduly deprived of new things?

We did lead a very frugal life. I did expect them to be full participants in caring for the home we shared. Maybe I had gone too far.

Fast forward 7 years…

We’ve been without a vacuum for over a month now. It’s the second time this new Electrolux has stopped working. My husband and our youngest have been in a stalemate over how to move forward.

Repair–for this machine whose life was a quarter of that of its predecessor; or
Replace–and with what? Another Electrolux? Something new?

My husband wanted to play it safe.

Our son, the high school engineer wanted something technologically advanced.

I finally intervened.

“He only has a few months left at home,” I said, “Let him have this.”

“Exactly,” my husband said. “Why should we get the vacuum he wants when he’s leaving.

The Dyson V7 HEPA arrived today. The moment I messaged him, Aidan wanted to leave school.

When he walked through the door at the end of the day, he went right to the boxes (which I had to promise that I would not open without him) and he began unpacking, affectionately examining each piece, and bringing them to me, one by one, to illustrate the technology and the design (are those two different things?), and particularly the interlocking components.

It looks like a Cuisinart to me.

I will never be able to operate it.

But right now I’m headed to my husband’s yoga class and by the time I get home, no doubt I’ll have clean floors again.

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.