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 Legacy, Nuts & Bolts, Takes a Village

Democracy & the library

(written just after the 2016 Presidential election)

When the kids were little (and before the internet), we spent hours in the library each week. Dashed out to the car with coins, not once, but twice, even though we all promised: “Only an hour on the meter this time!” Filled growing arms with piles of books even though we brought the beefy canvas tote and committed, ahead of time: “10 books each is plenty!”

Inside the library, there are still places, long neglected by my feet, which are so familiar to me. Stacks and rows, like old friends… 100s, 200s, 300s, 600s. Places where I opened my world, narrowed my world, explored my world, defined it as a new mother, as a mother beginning to reclaim herself, as a woman stepping forward.

There is the table in the mezzanine where I sat working while my kids were at school. There is a view of the town. Of cars passing. Of leaves falling. Of first flurries.

And inside–readers & writers & viewers & nappers, of all ages, and race.

There are those who always vote. Those who never vote. Those who voted democratic for the first time. Republican for the first time.

We all remain quiet.
(Most of the time.)

We share tables and chairs and computers and books.

Posted in Fathers, Fragile Life, Milestone Moments, Nuts & Bolts, Round Two, Teens

aidan sick

i pulled the socks from his feet and rubbed peppermint cream into his soles, while his father went in search of tylenol. and as i rubbed, i said to myself, whose feet are these? they’re so huge! even the toes! and i wondered, was I wrapped in his feverish delusions too? and later, when we brought him into our bed, and he tucked his shivering body against mine, and i wrapped my arms around him like i had when he was a boy, i was surprised to find a broad back and big boned shoulders, and i reached further still to be sure i wasn’t touching my husband; while my baby, at 16 & a half to the day, oblivious to his child-to-giant transformation, went on tossing and turning and sweating, between us, until we brought him to the shower, and his father, seeing his body, as if for the first time, said to me: how have we missed this?

(february2017)

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, 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.)