Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What we are doing and some stuff about us

Poppop is 67. Grama is 65. Harry is 5. Me, Maddie, I am 8. Mom is 42. Dad is 43. Sunny is 1 and a half. In dog years she is 7 and a half. Maggie is 14 and a half. In dog years she is 101 and a haf. We are baby sitting fang, my Grama's dog. He is a white german shepherd. He is 3. In dog years he is 21.

Getting ready for a visit with the cousins at the beach!

We're waiting for Cindi and Chelo and the boys to arrive this weekend. Our folks have gotten a beach cottage on base next week, so Steve and I are rearranging work schedules to take some time off. It will be great fun to be all together!

I'm going to be driving back to Colorado with Cindi and the boys when they leave, to spend a couple of days checking out the community in Fort Collins. I've been wanting to move to Colorado for several years now, and last summer, both Steve and I were quite taken by the downtown and art scene of Loveland, which is just to the south of Fort Collins. We came back from that trip full of energy to get our house on the market and move, but as the fall progressed and we got involved in starting up our new UU church here, the momentum ebbed.

I keep telling myself that I should be happy wherever I am and find my contentment internally, but I just can't shake this urge to live somewhere that isn't so thoroughly conservative, religiously and politically. (One of the things that struck me about Loveland is that a few people had liberal political yard signs in their yards. That does not happen here. I get so excited when I see a liberal bumper sticker on the freeway here -- once every few months -- that I'm compelled to wave and give a thumbs up to the usually bemused driver.)

I can make up all sorts of good reasons why we should move -- we can buy something small outright and work less, being top of the list -- but in truth, I just want to move. I want to experience seasons again. I want to have chickens and a bit more land. I want to be involved in a vibrant "out" liberal community (the Fort Collins UU Church has over 500 members!) I'd like to be closer to my sister and her family. (And I want my parents to move out there too!)

California, or my corner of it at least, is crowded, its culture revolves around buying stuff and we seem to be so busy earning money that we don't have time for each other. It may be that the rest of the country is like that now, and I'm imagining points east as they were 30 years ago. Hence, the scouting expedition. And we'll go again with the whole family, so that the kids can get a feel for where we're talking about moving.

When we returned from Colorado last fall on fire with plans to move, we were astonished to hear that our wonderful neighbors down the street, Don and Brenda Gray, had just decided to move back to Oregon. We were struck by the synchronicity of our decisions and I was further convinced our exploration of community here was playing out.

Steve, for his part, would probably never move from here. He's mindful of the huge effort and disruption involved in moving, and he finds contentment where he is much better than I do. When I point out, however, that we cannot sustain our current lifestyle here without earning more than we have of late, he says, "Let's get the house on the market then."

He's been putting in many hours in the studio lately, exploring, more intensely than I've ever known him to go, his fine art. He says it has not only improved his craft dramatically as an artist, but his newspaper illustrations and his children's work has benefited as well. I'd hate for him to have to put that back on the shelf to focus on more "profitable" pursuits, and I feel like I'm in danger of burning out on massage if I try to keep up my pace of the last year. I like how much time we've been able to spend at home with the kids -- these childhood years are starting to fly by, especially once I started to work again. All this seems a strong argument for downsizing right now, and that isn't going to happen in California. (Well, we could move to Yucca Valley on a little bit of land, but we're talking Mojave Desert. I suppose I could adjust to that...)

I'm not sure I can generate enough sustained enthusiasm and momentum to get the four of us moving, I'm not sure we can really find something suitable for us in our price range, and I can't guarantee that I'll be happy forever in Colorado (I think Steve would like this assurance), but I do know we'd fill our lives with fresh energy and new experiences and I'm trying to keep myself convinced that that is worth the effort!

Lady bugs

A couple of weeks ago, I was washing some swiss chard from the CSA farm when I noticed a couple of little brownish red and black globs stuck onto a leaf. Ladybug larvae! So I set the leaf aside in the kitchen window and hoped that the trauma of harvesting and a day or two in the fridge's crisper drawer hadn't killed off the ladybugs-in-waiting.

A few days ago, I noticed something wriggling as I was washing the dishes. One of the larvae was hatching! Unfortunately, its wing was stuck in the casing and it was valiantly trying to work it loose, tugging and walking backwards, walking in arcs around the casing. We all watched it for a few minutes, not knowing whether we should interfere, then Steve went upstairs to get some tweezers. By this time, I was feeling anxious and (ridiculously) guilty, wishing that I'd tried to help it out as soon as I'd noticed it, since it seemed obvious that its wing was damaged. I went outside to collect aphids while Steve worked to get it free, finally dropping some water on the casing, which softened it up enough for the ladybug to get its crumpled wing free.

So now we have Lucky, in a beetle jar, who gets fresh rose leaves loaded with aphids, and I'm making a conscious effort to change my perspective on this and other of life's little dramas. Instead of feeling distressed and vaguely guilty that the ladybug didn't come out perfect, I could have been simply amazed by this miracle of nature and our luck in witnessing it, and feel happy that we could help it survive. I wish I had that setpoint naturally, but I do think it's possible to shift one's automatic interpretations more positively over time.

(And for the record, the second ladybug hatched out perfectly two days later, was released to a rosebush in the front yard, where it still resides, three days later! It knows a meal ticket when it lands on one, I guess!)

Oh, and we can't post pics because our good digital camera is broken and the old one doesn't do macro shots!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Where was this guy 8 years ago?!

Boy, this is the voice I've been looking for throughout my parenting journey. Scott Noelle. He sends out short daily essays on mindful parenting and they're wonderful. (See his site in the links section to the right.) This one was especially profound for me. I love that there's someone out there who can see through the cultural conditioning we all share and posit how we might respond in our lives if we had been imbued with unconditional love from the get go.

:: Detoxifying Parental Guilt ::

Are you plagued by guilt whenever you fall short of
your parenting ideals? Such guilt may seem a natural
response, but it's not... It's *cultural*.

Our culture conditions people to believe that their
worth depends on their behavior, so that when your
behavior is "wrong" you doubt your self-worth, i.e.,
you feel guilty.

But if you knew absolutely that you *are* worthy of
love and respect -- *unconditionally* -- you'd never
feel guilty. You'd simply feel "off" whenever your
behavior was out of alignment with your values.

That "off" feeling would be a welcome sign that you
need to adjust your course. And with your self-worth
beyond dispute, you'd be confident in your ability to
get back on track.

So next time you feel parental guilt, say to yourself,
"This has nothing to do with my inherent worth --
that's a given. I made a mistake, but I can learn from
it. I got a little lost, but I'm finding my way."

So, even though I haven't been able to parent with unconditional love for the last eight years, I know that I can do better at it now, particularly with his insights and suggestions. And with any luck, I'll feel a little less guilt about it.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

An aye for an aye

When I was in high school I read this story, "Flowers for Algernon," that made a huge impression on me (it must have, I remember little from my childhood and I still remember this story). It was about a mentally retarded man who worked at a research lab where scientists had figured out how to make rats (mice?) exponentially smarter. They decided to test it on this man and he became genius-level intelligent, for a few months. Then he had to watch and grieve as the rat, Algernon, loses his enhanced intelligence and realize that he himself would soon be slipping back into his former diminished awareness and intelligence.

Every time I have a minor enlightenment experience and I'm flooded with insight and peace and joy for a little while, I think about this story and grasp at the moment, knowing that it will indeed fade for me, maybe not entirely, but mostly.

That's how I'm feeling today, in the wake of Karen and John's departure for Sacramento.

There's so much I want to remember about how they live and how they parent, and I'm afraid I'll forget it. But I don't think I will. Being around Karen woke up in me an awareness of how I want to be, and that's not going back to sleep. One of the simplest, but most profound ways that I want to live more like them is to change my automatic response to a yes. It's almost always a no, and it so shuts down my ability to enjoy new experiences, to find magic in life. It also creates much unnecessary conflict in my family.

Karen blogs here about their experience whale watching last Sunday. It's a perfect example of where they say yes when I would say no, and they get a magical experience out of it.

They went on a whale watching boat tour (and no, I haven't been on one since college. Too expensive. What if the kids or I get seasick. I've got plenty of reasons to say no.) They spend the money, nobody gets sick and at the very end of the trip they see a whale and feel happy. This is where I get off the boat and go home because we're done with that experience and I want to get home and clean up or rest or something. They decide to hang out on the beach and let the kids play for a few hours. Amazingly, there are two whales rolling in the surf just off shore. John watches two men wading out to the whales and says, "wouldn't that be cool?" Karen says what I would think, "What if you get in trouble?" but then she says, "What the heck, when are you ever going to get this chance again?" (Not me. I'm too worried about getting in trouble. Plus, I don't have a change of clothes and it would be too uncomfortable driving home in soggy clothes. And so on.) So John wades out and gets to see the whales up close and they have a truly magical experience to remember.

In so many ways in my life, my first impulse is to say no, and I want to change that. There's so many adventures to be had in this life, and I'm sitting here worrying about fiscal prudence and stability and what will people think.
We talked about it this morning and the kids and Steve and I agreed that we want to say yes more. Maddie made a poster that says "Say Yea to Yes!" and Steve came up with the punny headline for this entry.

Of course, one thing we're going to say yes to is making time to visit Karen and John and their boys. Who knows what else we'll say yes to? Life is so full of possibilities and wonderful experiences, it's time to start saying yes!