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

Puzzles & Families, A-Z

 screen-shot-2017-02-24-at-5-58-09-pm

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 yar

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 either year.

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.

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 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 identifiable items

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

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

Blink!

Though it doesn’t make it hurt any less to look into their dark and vacant rooms, It turns out that they leave home at just the right time.

You’re getting older.
Noises bother you.
Lights. Chaos. Commotion.

You realize you’ve run a marathon and you’re not sure how you did it.

You’re more and more attracted to simplicity, ease, slow.

Exhale.
Inhale.
Exhale.

They’re home!

Posted in College, Insight, Round Two, Takes a Village, Teens, What's Next? (18 & beyond), Wisdom of Youth

Children as teachers


Turns out that we no longer have paints at home, yet another casualty of grown children. And so I’ve made my very first rally signs with marker and crayon. Seems like I’ve been to lots of rallies in the past few years after barely any before and I’ve always been too shy to bring my own sign.

While I’m not on the frontline when it comes to the plight of LGBTQ folks, I do know what it is to be marginalized, dehumanized and physically threatened so I’m showing up to listen and learn in the hope that others feel less alone.

~

It was 2013 when I noticed a non-gendered bathroom at my first born’s college. I ducked into it because I was intrigued and because it was closer than the women’s bathroom and mostly because it was private and I’m an introvert and bathrooms are sometimes the quickest place to regroup.

At some point, around the age of 50, or was it 40, the world started moving too fast, and I couldn’t keep up, and didn’t want to try. (My youngest talks a lot about Mars.)

When it comes to human rights, however, I have to try. My best. I know what it is to be invisible. To be marginalized. To be targeted. To be excluded.

Today I looked up the term: Gender Queer.

My youngest has long accused me of binary thinking when it comes to my use of feminine and masculine to describe what I insist are non-gendered qualities. I remind him that he’s ahead of me and that I’m still learning.

This summer when asked by older friend what I thought of parents allowing their children to be trans (she was furious), I answered that I was doing a lot of listening these days, instead of judging.

On the contrary, I do my best to ignore #45’s antics when I can. This is a survival strategy that I developed as a young woman when faced with the outrageous behavior of men addicted to substances, rage, power and privilege.

But sometimes attention is due, particularly when what He says further marginalizes those who are vulnerable, even if he’s saying it to galvanize fear in order to bend the arc of history further away from justice.

So to those who are marginalized by gender expression or identification, I may not understand everything and I may say some things wrong, but I’m with you. I want to be with you. I’m willing to be with you.

Keep speaking.

I’ll keep listening.

You matter. Just as you are.

#Transrightsarehumanrights #VOTE

 

Posted in (Actual) Empty Nest, College, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Half-Life

After 6 weeks apart, a week-long school break has served as the turning point for this half-life we’ve been living since we deposited our youngest (and his most cherished belongings) into a dormitory room on a campus 100 miles away.

Before this half-life becomes any more normalized, I want to attempt to capture what it is to be without children in the home after revolving around their presence for a quarter of a century.

I did not fill the vacancy so that I might truly know the absence and grieve it, and as such, create space for something new to grow.

I did, however, just ahead of his departure and in the weeks in between his visits home (weekend whirlwinds) rearrange some things, including the bathroom, the livingroom, the kitchen, and the mudroom.

It’s only now that I notice that I’ve turned the linen stand and the bookshelf and the kitchen island on the diagonal. (I suppose I would have turned everything upside down if I could.)

In the absence of a primal scream in the middle of a college campus, it helps to have one’s private world reflect how life’s tilt.

The simplicity. The silence. The ease. The futility. The vacancy. The despair

Who am I now?
Where is my grand retirement party?
Is my best work behind me?

And have I become irrelevant to it, like the founder of a fabulous company who is suddenly dismissed by the very board that she created to help it grow?

(Where is my severance package!!)

I know this half-life has reached a turning point because when he was home for the long stay, I felt myself e-x-h-ale as if I’d been holding my breath underwater for weeks.

There was some talk of my oldest returning home in the New Year, but those plans have since altered, as I, through the trial and error of attachment (favorably or unfavorably), continue to learn that the pronouncements of young adults
are always in flux, like the pronouncement my youngest made on his first weekend home:

“I don’t think of our house as home anymore. I feel sad here actually. I miss my dorm room and my friends. That’s my home now.”

Separation is hard work. For each one of us. Made more challenging by strong, healthy relationships. (If only we were happy to be rid of each other!)

None of this comes as a surprise. I’ve been preparing for it since I held my first born son at my breast, and realized in the depth of unfathomable love, with chilling sleepless clarity:

Heartbreak is my destiny.

No wonder men like Trump say they won’t have anything to do with their children. Loving is a fiercely courageous act.

It is only now that I realize how the radical separation between mother and child is also in store for my husband and me.

If not divorce, then death.

No wonder Trump cheats and trades in his wives so that in their youthful reflection he can hide from his own demise.

For the first time in 30+ years, my husband and I began sleeping apart. (There are so many beds!)

Recently, however, we’ve come together again which was the most notable sign that something had shifted in our half-life.

But first, our unusual separation was punctuated by the night that I brought my old blankies and ragged puppy to bed after a banishment that took place out of necessity when I placed a baby beside me in bed.

It appears that before I turn toward my husband again, I am turning toward myself.

Just yesterday in the midst of one mistake after another, I overheard myself say, “You’re so adorable, Kelly. I love you.”

And although Casey was the more reluctant one to sleep apart (to do anything apart really), to my dismay (and deep appreciation), he found in the space between us greater self-love, taking time to tend to his needs in ways he never much heeded before.

As we turn the corner on this half-life, I find myself thinking back to the great disruption that parenting first presented, of how quickly it swept away the sweet sense of ourselves as two, so that when our second child was born, there was the bittersweetness of nothing to lose.

I’ve been catching glimpses of that two-ness lately, we both have, and it’s a quickening that is hard to bear now that the end of life is coming into focus.

And yet, aren’t both our names Celtic for “Warrior,” and haven’t we been courageous in loving, each in our own way, for 30+ years.

There are times when I suspect that we will age to the end, and there are times when I feel the pull of an earlier desire–to be without the weight of home and belongings.

I think that Moms should go too. At least for a time. To rediscover who we were before we gave our lives to others.

“I can’t live in a museum of our family!” I’ve said again and again, to each of them, but if I’m honest, I am speaking to myself.

What I do appreciate in remaining present to this vacancy, is the slowing down, which brings to mind what the poet May Sarton said:

“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is… an instrument of grace.”

And wasn’t it my child, who brought me to my knees, to see what he was seeing, and aren’t I forever the better for it.

Posted in College, Insight, Mother to Crone, Sexuality, Teens, Twenty-something, Violence in the home, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

My son. My son.

I feel a chill come over me each time a man and especially a woman dares to say:

“Aren’t you worried about some girl ruining your son’s life?”

After the chill, I feel grief.
After the grief, anger.
After the anger, despair.

My mind flashes on RAINN’s statistic:

“Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. And every 8 minutes, that victim is a child.”

Do my friends mean to suggest that my job as a mother is to turn away from girls who have for centuries been sexually assaulted in fear of some hypothetical accusation against my son in the future? (A statistically negligible one at that.)

What also chills me is this other well-meaning admonition:

“Teach your sons not to rape.”

I’ve got to say… I’ve raised two boys and I’ve skipped that one.

The idea that I would have to “teach” my boys not to assault another human being just because that being is female is appalling.

This is a close second to:

“Teach your sons to respect women.”

“Respect women,” is something I’ve never said to my boys, but you can be sure it was everywhere implied. Because women. Are human beings.

It’s the little things.

My boys were raised in a home that practices boundaries and respect, kindness and consideration, anger and connection.

As they came of age, we let them know that their relationship with me had to change in some ways. Though I would always be their mother, I was also a woman, and they were becoming men. Given the difference of size and strength between us and given the history of what it is to be female in a society that perpetuates inequity, my boys would have to be even more mindful of any physical expressions of frustration, anger and persistence in my proximity.

We practiced this. I reminded them. Over time I shared some of the experiences of what it was to grow up female so that they might be more aware and sensitive to the adult gender dynamic between us and between them and women in the world even perhaps if they were innocent of any harm.

All along, since they were very small, we practiced responding to and respecting: No.

If they said, “No,” to tickling, we stopped, no matter how much fun we’d been having.

If they said, “No,” to more kisses or hugs, or to kissing or hugging a friend or relative, we allowed for that.

If they said, “No,” to an experience that made them uncomfortable, we listened, even when it was awkward, say with a doctor or other authority figure.

Violence was neither a form of discipline or a form of entertainment welcomed in our home.
Killing was not a game celebrated.
Degradation was not a source of enjoyment.
Trash talk was a chore.

The older of our two boys was not permitted to physically intimidate or violate the boundaries of the younger brother; and the younger, in turn, learned to reciprocate.

If the day comes that “some woman” accuses one of my beloved boys of rape, I will be horrified, not because my boys were always “good boys” or “played sports” or “studied hard” or “worked their tails off” (all of which they do) and not because “I taught them better,” but because to violate another in this way is one of the most trauma-inducing acts of violence known.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine: “Rape is about four times more likely to result in diagnosable PTSD than combat.” (The Guardian)

The odds, however, for “ruined lives” have long worked in favor of my sons. Not because they have been raised in a responsive and disciplined home without violence. Not because we engaged in a consciousness practice that allowed us to feel and express emotions, including anger, as well as monitor and modulate those emotions. But far and beyond because my children had the good fortune to be born male (not to mention white, educated and middle class.)

Perpetrators of sexual violence are less likely to go to jail or prison than other criminals. “Only 6 out of every 1,000 do.” (RAINN)

I love my sons with all my heart and respect the men they have become, but it is the humanity of your daughters that most concerns me and which I endeavor, along with my sons, to project.

We, my friends, are a family of feminists, which is to say, we aspire to uphold the human rights of all, particularly those whose basic dignity has been threatened for so long.

~

My sons and husband join me each year as NGO representative at the annual United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) with a shoutout to the revolutionary work of MenCare.)

Posted in (Actual) Empty Nest, College, Fragile Life, Insight, Mother to Crone, Round Two, Teens, Twenty-something, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Autumn 1st


After the truck pulled away with my youngest, I decided to sit on the front porch and soak up the day’s ending, and so I brought out the wool blanket from the couch and wrapped myself in it, and watched as the sky over Neringa Pond colored pink and purple and red.

After a while, I felt a chill descend, one whose icy fingertips I hadn’t felt since spring, and so I jumped up and ran back inside for the scissors and slipped on my garden clogs and dashed out the back door where the last of the light over the mountain lit up the stone wall, as the moon rose high above it, and I remembered: Full moons bring frosts.

I was in search of that last gladiola, the one that I had noticed earlier in the week when I’d been out soaking in the tub. I had long thought them finished for the season but I noticed then a new promising braid had appeared on the stalk. And wasn’t it now in bloom, and didn’t I find two more, and take all three which I would never think to do back in August or July.

As I turned to walk back down the stone path to the house, I stopped to admire the tall, cheerful faces of the zinnias–rosy and orange and red, and I cut some of those too, and then some quiet periwinkle-colored cornflowers bending shyly in the back (leaving the soft pink ones), and nearby in the shady spot some velvety silver plants, along with some painted daisies from a pot, and something else I don’t know the name of, because it was my oldest son, this past spring, who dug these flower beds when he was home for Mother’s Day, and filled them with manure and seeds and bulbs, returning again on Father’s day and for a week in July, planting more, while I complained about the extra weeding and watering (not to mention the debris) that he left behind in his wake.

“I worry about my gardens when I’m not there,” he told me on the phone from Burlington where he is finishing his degree. “You can’t imagine how that feels.”

“I think I can,” I said without mentioning his months in Central America or Morroco, Bulgaria and Spain.

And maybe he made these gardens off his mother’s office door beside the fox den because he could. Or maybe he made them because she is too practical for flowers. Or maybe he even imagined her pleasure when she’d look up from her writing, or when she’d pass the beds on her way to and from the outdoor shower. And maybe he didn’t know what a comfort these late blooms would be when all her children were gone, or maybe he intuited the exponential ending this summer brings.

Back when he was just a boy standing barefoot beside me in the midwife’s office, I turned to see his face, and I said: “Don’t worry Lloyd, you’ll never have to feel any of this.”

Mary was removing the stitches from the tearing at the baby’s birth that Lloyd, just two weeks shy of his 5th birthday, had attended with his father in the tiny bathroom of the farmhouse that we rented for 7 years when we first moved to Vermont.

His response was touching and rebuking and still unnerves and informs me almost two decades later as he wrapped his little arms around his belly:

“I felt it inside.”

Lloyd was home again a few weeks back for his father’s birthday–the three of their birthdays arrive in a row with barely more than a month between the first and the last, and not much left in me by the time that last one rolls around–on the anniversary of my mother’s passing just after the baby was born and the stitching removed one by one.

In between visits, he calls, especially when my texts and messages and photos and links have stockpiled in his inboxes.

“Were you writing about me?” he asked last week, referring to the piece I’d posted about a break-up.

“Don’t be silly,” I said. “You broke up with me when you were like 12, announcing that you’d never cuddle with me again, but reminding me that I still had your little brother.”

By the time I arrived at the back door and freed a hand to let myself in, I looked down to see my arms filled with flowers, and once inside, I picked up my phone without setting them down, to capture them in their gathered state before arranging them in a vase.

And that’s when I remembered the vegetables, and I ran out the front door to cover them in the dark, harvesting what I could see of the ripe cukes and tomatoes, unable to locate what remained of the basil.

Once back inside, I set to arranging the flowers but instead of tidily dividing them among the rooms of the house to make the most efficient use of joy, I stuffed them all into the largest vase and placed it at the center of our home, on the large round kitchen table, which we never quite filled as a family of four except when we had company, and where my mother’s tarot cards sat waiting, having completed my son’s Autumnal Equinox reading just before he left to go back to school and now awaiting my own.

Just then a familiar sound piqued my attention; a sound I hadn’t heard since summer somewhere in between the boys’ August birthdays—and this is how the first day of autumn ended…

An empty house, a bright bouquet, the call of the fox (which may have just been the sound of the aging dishwasher, completing its cycle.)

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.