Tag Archives: parenting

Pick any three

How three become a story.

This morning I found a big pile of finished Soul Collage cards in my studio (what can I say? And also, aren’t there more somewhere? And what happened to the two dozen plus color copies ready to be trimmed and mounted? — This is what ADD looks like).

Years of Tarot reading (and now Soul Collage card pulling) have taught me that while within every single card there is a story to be found, with three cards, the story tells itself.

These three narrate a tale of parenting. Happening right now. There’s the young man being launched! Into the mountains, specifically.

After a bit of a fall (Humpty Dumpty) and emergency care (doctors have more skill than all the King’s horsemen).

Now the three of us huddle close, two holding up the third for the moment. Fluid, shared creativity will outsmart that horned and hulking bully. Bye bye big reptile guy!

(Fluid creativity is also what ADD looks like, PS).

The meaning of the dance photo is heightened by the fact that the image came from a glossy Vail resort magazine that I clipped years ago. We were at the resort while both boys were still in high school. It was a really special, once in a life time kind of get away (courtesy of my brother). D. fell in love with the Rockies during that trip.

There are a lot of “launch” cards in my deck. That I picked the one with a snowy mountain range demonstrates how synchronicity informs the process.

‘Nuff said. Much still up in the air. There and here. I have tons of pictures from our wonderful trip to Charleston and need to figure out how to share them. Reconsidering Flickr: yahoo keeps getting hacked.

It’s fifty degrees here. Hotter, I’m told, in Boulder.

Monday metta 

May you be peaceful. May you be free of inner and outer harm.
May you dwell in freedom and act from clarity.
May you be cared for gently as you walk upon this earth.
May you know joy, wisdom, and compassion.  
K and I visited the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston yesterday in a successful attempt to “do something”. It doesn’t have to be complicated, does it? I was texting Son Number Two on the way there and the way back about when to talk. There are things to talk about. Things to put in place. While I hope those parental supports matter, sometimes I think that the single best thing I can do for him is to say Metta on his behalf. And so I do. After saying it for myself of course.

It looks like rain. It’s getting weirdly warm again.Between Trump’s ascendancy and climate change, I feel disoriented and alarmed on pretty much a day-to-day basis. But I don’t want to think about any of that today. Maybe tomorrow. We met with Coach Mike for our third training session with Finn on Friday. My boy is coming along! We walked back and forth in front of a fence behind which three neighbor dogs were barking their heads off. It only took one or two times before I convinced Finn that he didn’t have to worry about them. He did beautifully after that!!!

P.S. The way I am allowing focus on writing right now is keeping me away from my favorite blogs. Will be making time to make the ’rounds this week. Can’t wait!!

Top photo is one of my favorite African sculptures.
There was an installation of fashion illustrations by Kenneth Paul Block. They were wonderful!

Drop off and the twice forgotten bag

 I have a woven bag made out of old lawn chairs. It’s ideal for van-travel because it doesn’t collapse and fits neatly at my feet. Sewing, reading, and snacks are easily found during the long drive up to Montreal and the long drive back.

Twice, I sail out of my son’s new place without it. It keeps accompanying me to his 13th floor apartment because there are curtains to hem — 218 inches of curtain, in fact. Scissors and thread!!  Scissors and thread!!  The second time, we are about to head home. We say, “Goodbye, goodbye.” Not, “See you tomorrow, goodbye.”

In the elevator, my husband (who is unhappy with his haircut), holds out a clump and says, “See? See? It’s too long!” He swings it to the other side of his part, where it doesn’t belong either. I don’t really see a difference between this cut and the decent ones, but I humor him. . . probably because its so refreshing to be confronted with a grating annoyance that’s easily fixed (as opposed to, say, construction noise at home).    “I’ll snip it!” I say, which is when I realize that my scissors are still upstairs — in the now twice forgotten bag.

Really? Again?

Riding back up, I wonder about the twice forgotten bag. It’s not that I don’t want to leave. It’s that I want to leave more of myself with C, as if he needs my trove of granola bars and thread to survive. It doesn’t matter that he’s a senior and has done this before. It doesn’t matter that we have left him to his own devices many, many times before. All the bottles of olive oil, cleaning supplies, all the tablets for colds and headaches, the handmade quilt, not to mention the recently hemmed curtains —  they aren’t enough. Can’t possibly be enough.

My conscious mind fretted over doing too much. The bag speaks to things left undone and the wish to provide more.

Back on 13 in a flash, I’m grateful for the hair complaint because who knows when I’d have noticed the bag’s absence otherwise (an hour south of the St. Lawrence?!). I doubt we’d have come back for anything less essential than my mouth guard or phone, but still, it feels like a narrowly avoided disaster.

And there I am, at C’s door knocking and knocking and getting no answer and calling his name and not caring about the neighbors, pounding and pounding some more, wishing I had the right glasses on because I can’t see to find his Canadian phone number (all the recent text messages and calls being to his American phone number), wishing I hadn’t recently, for some daft reason, rearranged my phone icons, so that finding “Contacts” without the right glasses is a near impossibility, but finally finding it and calling and going right to voice mail (didn’t we JUST talk about this?!!) and then banging and banging some more. In my deflated logic, I imagine him sitting at his recently arranged desk with his headphones on, intent on the screen, oblivious to any and all nearby stimuli (as he often is, to be honest). And I start to melt.

Tears gather somewhere below my collar bone and a baby-ish incapacity threatens to take over. Since I’m not a crier, this startles and makes me feel like my mother (who WAS a crier — YOU make the connection). There was that time, for instance, years and years ago, when I went to Departures instead of Arrivals and waited at the wrong level of the terminal for awhile before realizing my mistake. By the time I pulled up to the correct curb, she was standing next to her bags fraught with anxiety and nearly in tears. At the time I wondered what the big deal was.

What’s the big deal, Dee?

Suddenly, standing on the thirteenth floor in an apartment tower in Montreal, having just dropped my son off for his senior year and about to head home, I get that all the competent shopping, stocking, and sorting of the last two days had a secondary benefit, nothing whatsoever to do with HIS life and everything to do with MINE:  I didn’t have to feel much.

And NOW I feel. I feel helpless and a little sad. Helpless at not being able to see properly. Helpless at the frequent futility in getting C’s attention. Helpless at getting my bag back or even, with the routine task of remembering things. Helpless at yet another year rolling through. How fast it all goes! Helpless at how much it all costs. Helpless to my own feelings of helplessness.

Finally, he answers (a mere few minutes later, no doubt). “I’m not home,” he informs.

“What?!” I actually don’t take the words in at first. Finally, I understand that he is upstairs visiting a friend. I understand that while we were riding the elevator down, he was mounting the stairs up. And why not? For some reason, though, this startles too.

As I write the next day, time collapses again, back to when C. was in diapers. I’ll never forget this (or will I?). Picking him up from this church-basement program he attended a few mornings a week, he gave me a tour of sorts. It must have also been fall, just starting out. He took me into the bathroom and announced with pride, “And this is where they change my diaper!”

Call me blind, call me tired (surely D. was hanging off my arm in an incredibly heavy car seat and probably fussing), but it was the very first moment I realized that this little boy, this little blonde boy, this little boy of mine, had a life all his own. 

Musings on puppy training, parenting, and magic

“There’s no impulse more reasonable than love.”
from the movie, The Wall

puppy-chew-deemallonImagine a 13 year old boy with the chewing habits of an eighteen-month old toddler. That’s where we are at with Finn. It is a wonder that I am getting anything at all done, and blogging may suffer a bit longer. But the rewards are manifold! Too numerous to name, really, but teaching me a boatload about myself is high on the list. Here are a few notes from this morning’s walk (LOTS more exercise? also high on the list!):IMG_7366Pouring on affection is a lot easier than teaching obedience. Finn is a cuddle monster. It is so, so easy to love him (and please don’t lecture me about how teaching obedience IS loving him — I know! I know!) He has leash aggression as well as other puppy behaviors that need training. And so we train. This really challenges a Mercurial, self-doubting person like me.
105-0531_IMGTeaching obedience came up a lot when the boys were little. One well-meaning teacher after another intoned the very same chorus: “Be consistent. It’s so important to be consistent. They need structure and consistency.” I would recoil, knowing full well these weren’t my strong suits and worse, wondering just what visible evidence of inconsistent parenting they were busy collecting. What harm was I imposing? How could I do better?!

A heartbeat later, I would silently defend my parenting: “What about CREATIVITY, the fostering of it, isn’t THAT important?” (nothing to do with consistency) or “FLEXIBILITY, how ‘bout that? Do you know how many maladjusted rigid adults I know who would rather be consistent and die than loosen their reins on control and FLEX?!!” (I’m so GOOD at turning on a dime!) “And what about mirroring?! Isn’t the business of letting your children feel seen and heard, no matter how annoying or inconvenient, important – even if it means struggling to employ the ‘one-two-three’ method of time outs with any real efficacy?”
waiting-threeAnd then, many more heart beats later, in an attempt to feel a little better about what was happening within my episodically chaotic household, I compiled an inventory of consistency:  I was a Helmet Nazi, dinner came at the same hour every night, bedtime routines were sweet, solid, and CONSISTENT, doctor’s appointments were not missed, there was never any name calling (lots of swearing, but not name-calling – a distinction I hope mattered), no hitting, ever (except once when C lunged in toward me intending, it seemed, to bite my ear. I batted him away). We treated animals and waitresses with kindness and crashing sounds were always met with the query: “Are you okay?!”  If this roster sounds basic, maybe even somewhat pathetic, it shows how deeply that advice cut me.
IMG_7302And now the idea comes back with our puppy. I am the alpha female by default, but still, I must exert authority. This week I came to the very basic conclusion that to have authority one must trust one’s instincts. Obvious, I’m sure, to those of you who easily wield authority or have a lifelong habit of trusting your instincts, but since I fall into neither of those categories, these ideas come as revelation and challenge.

There’s a muzzle story here, which I will tell in its briefest version. The muzzle that was recommended by an expert (to whom we paid a substantial sum) arrived in its box last week, and sits in its box, still. Neither K nor I can bring ourselves to open it. I actually feel sick at the thought of putting it on Finn’s face. Yesterday, the adoption liaison called to check in. “A muzzle can really make a problem worse,” she cautioned. “Finn was beautifully socialized with dogs as a younger puppy.” And that was that. I’ll ship it back, unopened. Did I really need permission to trust my instincts? Apparently.

Next. This is true – care of a dependent will look different depending on one’s charge – their ages, abilities, and personalities. I’ll never forget sitting in a circle at a gym class for toddlers and watching D at about age three run full tilt through the group — almost like it was an obstacle course created for his pleasure. There were lots of cups of hot coffee on the floor. D wove in and out deftly and I watched as one hand after another flashed out to protect or move the mugs. A chorus of gasps rose up. But because what you live with has a way of becoming invisible, I was surprised. I thought: “Oh, yeah, their kids aren’t like this.” Their reactions reminded me that D had off-the-charts physical dexterity, so much so that it hadn’t occurred to me to worry about those cups of coffee. And trust me when I tell you, I worried plenty about other things!

Even recognizing this truth about different beings requiring different kinds of care, this morning I found myself judging a car-seated, pot-smoking dog owner whose huge white husky snuffled the edge of the Upper Field, probably just on the edge of voice range.

Because of Finn’s leash aggression, for now I will only approach the Upper Field if I see that no other dogs are present. Today, I saw no dogs, so Finn and I traipsed down the short road leading to the field. As we neared, I caught a strong whiff of the distinctive odor of vaped pot. (Let’s not ask WHY I’m familiar with this signature smell, let’s just say, I am). Being Sunday it was a little surprising to see someone parked there for a break, even though it’s common during the week. When I turned to scan the field one more time, I understood. Snow-covered grass. Pure white dog. No wonder I hadn’t seen him.

Fortunately, Finn didn’t notice him. The bacon-infused treats remained cupped in my left palm.

So, I trotted with Finn toward a sloping path that dropped us to the dumpsters behind the school, and continued home without incident.
IMG_7341But the sight of that dog prompted more than mild judgment. That dog had been so white and so large, that I’d had this flash — what if it was a wolf?! Not a coyote, mind – who roam these parts — and not even ordinary wolf – but a rare (need I add ‘magical’) albino wolf? For some reason, I recalled the wonderful fairy tale illustration of a young kerchiefed girl astride a giant polar bear.*
elsa_polar-bearAnd that made me wonder: what would it be like if, at that very moment, my life was about to unfold into some strange and wonderfully weird story? Like one of those tales of power and contest that C used to devour with such hunger? My son wanted, I’m sure, to be that protagonist with the ability to see the future or taste others’ fears or twist into invisibility and communicate with dragons, all in the service, of course, of conquering a rising tide of evil, and, did I mention — before turning the ripe age of fifteen?! Who WOULDN’T want that to be that?
IMG_7311Actually, D didn’t. He preferred dystopian landscapes where a sad and fearful young boy overcame the unfair rules of the regime through some agonizing feat of bravery.

Let me wrap this ramble up by noting that before leaving the schoolyard, I had time to wonder if it wasn’t perhaps MORE weird to believe the impossibility of strange and marvelous events unfolding in my life than to deem such events utterly beyond the pale of possibility. My rational mind could be the deficient one.

I didn’t inhale THAT much passing the car of the pot-vaping dog-owner, by the way, but I did watch some Deepak Chopra on TV yesterday.

* In a rush now, will come back and properly attribute this illustration to artist. I believe it came from an illustration in “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”. I believe it is copyright-free. More later. Also, that’s a screen shot from the Game of Thrones above — a show that C watches but D doesn’t.

Boundaries and interruptions and a red thread

C peeking out

C peeking out

Parenting means being interrupted. And it means improvising.

D itching under cast just like the doctors said not to

D itching under cast just like the doctors said not to

Long gone are the days when I craved a solitary bowel movement, or wistfully anticipated the reclined dentist’s chair for the quiet it represented (those were intense times — with two extremely active boys, neither of them particularly inclined toward napping!!).  With a seventeen and a nineteen year old in the house now, the frequency and urgency behind the interruptions have changed, but the fact of them has not. They continue — as they should.

Add to the parenting — a disabled sister for whom I am the sole support (my brother sends money from the West Coast, and that helps, but NOT with the day to day) and a husband who travels often to Asia, and you begin to get the picture here. Our dog is a piece of work, too – requiring special accommodation for getting up and down stairs, for the correct positioning of his food bowl, and a three-person-applied muzzle for basic grooming. Lately, he’s been ill (I think he’s better, but not quite sure).

Relax! I have already ranted in my Morning Pages. This was done while drinking coffee in Newtonville and waiting for the camera shop to open, so that I could purchase photo paper for D. and then deliver it to the high school (speaking of interruptions)…

(I would love to know what the business types in the coffee shop thought of this deranged-looking woman scrawling across a notebook page in ink nearly as fast as one could speak the words…)

And anyway, if I was going to rant it would be about our fucking computer ‘upgrades’ which have produced a series of repeating and ever-unfolding glitches, such that it is nearly a form of torture to blog (one of the reasons for the gaping pauses of late).

No, I would rather look at boundaries.

White House with Red Boundary

White House with Red Boundary

Last night, I surrounded the White House with an edge.  It really changes the composition, perhaps in too obvious a manner, but I’m willing to entertain it for awhile. Study it some. The thread is red, it is true, but it doesn’t scream red. Maybe that’s because it was hand-dyed in India and billed as “Meditation Thread”.

Maybe it is because there is relief associated with having boundaries. From knowing where the house ends and the sky and yard begin. Recently I have learned the difference between asserting ‘a need’ and shouting a demand.  I discovered that need does not have to be associated with basic survival.

Remedial insight, perhaps. But I share it here because I think it governs my response to this red.

The sky poofs and tuckers in places and will require some attention. I find a lot of quilting to be (in my case, anyway) the resolution of problems created earlier in the process. Not unlike parenting, yes?

buckling-sky

buckling sky

As for the bump in the bottom edge and the frayed intersection of the thread-ends, I am going to let those be for awhile, too.  I like the idea of an imperfect boundary, or one that flexes to its surroundings. I like the idea, too, of having an obvious place where the boundary’s ‘gate’ resides, so that it does not come across or function as a solid and permanent fixture. Maybe having had a swinging door for so long makes the idea of a fixed boundary too difficult.

when the edges meet (and a bump)

when the edges meet (and a bump)

In any case, it is food for thought.  And, here are some red lines from the garden this morning. Once you start seeing a red line, or a window (right, Jude?), or a bird in your work, you start to see it everywhere.

red lines as stalks/support

red lines as stalks/support

Around the other side of the house, rhubarb is ripening! Almost time for my annual Strawberry Rhubarb pie. An exception to 2013’s gluten-abstinence will have to be made!

stay cool

cool-waterStay cool, my Northeast friends. It’s gonna be another hot one!

Off to the South End. This time I am wearing sensible shoes. I had forgotten about the bricked, uneven, heaving sidewalks. And, leaving more time to roam around the neighborhood, because last time it took me 25 minutes to find a place to park.

I took Jack back to the vet yesterday. His panting, lack of appetite, and weakness are not heat-related. When the tech took the leash over to bring him in the back for blood work, Jack stared and stared at me without turning around and actually backed his way to the lab door. Poor boy.

And sleeping, 17 yr. old D? Upstairs. THAT poor guy worked the pizza ovens last night and came home completely wiped. Maybe NOT such a great summer job, afterall. His brother, C., didn’t come home last night. Which probably means he and his friend gamed until 5 or 6:00 a.m. What game? I can’t say.

Which reminds me of a moment, perhaps a year ago, on the release date of a hot, hot game, how weirdly proud I felt about being ‘in the know’ when a supermarket employee strolled down to another supermarket employee who was stocking the shelves (both young men, naturally), leaned in, and said, “Got Black Ops II yet?” – and I knew what he was talking about.

Yesterday, driving around, I started talking outloud (I do this. Sometimes with the phone held near ear to hide the true nature of my speech). I was noting hypocrisy, or let’s call it ‘the flexible nature of judgments’. Mine. How in law school I had written (and passionately written) a paper scorning the legal decisions that allowed the First Amendment to trump the safety of women (we’re talking pornography, here).  ‘How could anybody possibly believe that what we digest visually does not affect how we think, feel and act??!!’  And now, having watched from the sidelines as my boys have played endless hours of first-person-shooter games, I think, ‘Come on! They’re killing Nazi Zombies!!! How could that possibly affect their sensibilties?!”

Not unlike how pretzels came to be viewed as health food in our house.

And so it goes.

And now, it is time to pack up the iron etc. and go!

A silly diversion for today

This morning, during a surface-clearing interval in my studio,  I found the little ditty below.  It was held with a magnet to our basement fridge, under a photograph.  I offer it to you, dear readers, as a little something to smile at today.  If you are like me, you have already cried in front of the television at least a few times.

It was written in haste, I’m sure, during the very, very hectic years of raising the boys.  It is silly, and it also contains a few truths (I’ll say no more about that!!)  It somehow captures (better than most scribblings of that era) what my life was like then.  It was part reaction to all the advice people love to give you when you are a young parent, part reaction to a lot of the syrupy things one can read in print about being a parent, and part reaction to the boys themselves.

Not Quite a Prayer for Parents

Try not to kill your kids

scream when they scream

change rules daily

ketchup is a vegetable and belching is

to be encouraged

buy all the toys

TV works            so do seat belts

give them lots of love

let them see you mad        medication is

an option — for all parties

celebrate victories

[photo taken at the historic Ropes Mansion Garden in Salem, MA yesterday.  These girls’ mother was sitting in the shade of a crab apple tree nearby while I took their picture]