Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Maybe it's age..maybe it's just super sensitivity. maybe..I'm just tired...

but I keep finding myself teary-eyed this evening.

It started last week. I went to the laundromat (our washer is broke again). I brought a book..

Then? Some of the Club kids spotted me. They introduced me to their dog. They told me their grades. They helped me put clothes in the washer...and then another Club kid -a graduating senior-joins us to discuss his plans to join the air-force. As we were sorting clothes and coins, I notice two children at the vending machine.

One boy, one girl. These children are younger than the Club kids. More pre-school/kindergarten aged.

The younger of the two..a little girl.. catches my eye. She comes over to join the growing laundry party. She shows us her mosquito bites.  Her mouth is covered in candy residue. She is hungering for human interaction..and upon closer examination..I notice she has rat or roach droppings in her hair. Shortly her brother comes over also (mom has left to her truck to talk on cell phone). He assures me he is a good boy and a good clothes folder.

I want to cry.

I wish these kids were old enough to go to the Club.

They are not.

And I am reminded, once again, of the ripple effects that often come with rural poverty. We visit (these mysterious kids and I) as they help me with my laundry until I have to go.

This girl and her brother have been lingering in my mind this past week.It would be safe to say they are haunting my mind.

Then today? I am working on this BIG grant for a local non-profit, when I receive a call from Big B. He  asks in a strange voice if I have talked to Brian-Scott.

Immediately my heart starts pounding What do you mean? Is something wrong?

Oh no. Big B responds..I just thought you would have heard about the shooting and be worried.

What shooting?

The one at UT..at the library.

That is all I heard. The library is home away from home for Brian and Angee. We (friends, family, themselves) make fun of them often for the amount of time they spend at the library.  

My head begins racing. I want to cry.  Big B must have heard the panic rising in my thoughts. He's okay.

How do you know? How about Angee? How about their friends? What happened?

He embellishes me with what he knows about the shooting on the UTAustin campus and assures me that as far as he knows..no one has been killed other than the shooter.

I am relieved. I call Brian-Scott.

He assures me he is fine. They are on lock-down..expected to be off soon..and  he was asleep in his own bed through the entire thing! Oh..he says..and I called grandma to let her know I'm okay. I thought they might be worried.

It is not until later in the day that I learn that this boy who committed suicide is a 19 year old math major. I think of the boy. I wonder about his family. How are they tonight? I remember the children at the laundromat..and I cry.

Later I speak to Brian-Scott again. I wonder if they knew this boy..and if so..how are they feeling.
No..he says..I checked my class roster..I don't recognize the name. Angee does not either. They say their friends do not either...and I wonder about this boy and friends. Was he lonely? Was he angry? Suicide is always difficult to process. I cry again for this boy.

Now..I am treating myself to a break from dinner. We are eating breakfast for dinner here on the homefront.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) I take Levi to my parents house..and try to wrap up this grant.

Thursday I leave for the Mills Reunion. Friday hanging out specifically with fellow Reinhardt roomies. (the dorm I lived in a zillion years ago). Saturday..we return to Texas. It will be a quick trip so we can go back to prison on Sunday. (barring no paper-work glitches, etc.) and then dinner for the birthday of a family friend Sunday night.

So maybe..just maybe..I am letting myself be sentimental and teary..because I have the time to do so.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Working Again...really???

What can I say?

This is not the plan..and we all know how well I follow through with my grand plans...

I am seriously considering a cool job.. I don't want to go into too much detail. Bad Karma and all that.

But it is SURE tempting..and unlike some jobs..this opportunity will not wait for me to be done with my year at home hiatus. (sigh..)..and just when we are getting a real rhythm going around here to0.

I've talked to la familia. Both immediate and extended.

Austen just grins and shrugs because he really doesn't care what I do. 

Cody says we're poor and could use the pesos.

But sometimes Cody is tricky. He has a good poker face..and despite pretenses otherwise, will tell me what I want to hear.

I try to counter with how much I want to spend time with him this  year..that he and Austen are my first priority..and while this job has a lot of scheduling flexibilities..it is very demanding..and will be time consuming.

Cody looks at me like I'm insane and repeats we're poor and could use the pesos. Austen nods his head in agreement, grins and puts his headphones back on.

I say but and before I can even think of a good but..Cody repeats himself again.

Big B says I think you'll be happy. It's a good fit...and it would sure take off  a lot of pressure! (financially)..and he is right.

My mom says, I think this is a C.P. Snow decision..and you just need to send in your resume and be done with it. (the deciding factor). C.P. snow decisions in my parents house means..a decision you have already made but are not willing to admit you have made yet. Based on some poem.

I don't remember the poem.

I also didn't realized I had already decided..but I had..and she is right.

If I actually GET the job..not just the strong encouragement to apply (back to the karma and stuff) we -as a family- have figured out a way to make it work. You know, logistically, with continuing to study together, finishing the parish ministry training program, watching Levi and following up on soccer commitments and stuff.

We all seem to think it's a good move. For no other reason than it feels right. ..and these things never happen at a good time.

So..hold breath..cross fingers.

.and it's off to update, print and send a resume.

What's for Dinner:
Saturday: lasagna, garlic bread, green beans
Sunday: baked tilapia, baked potatoes and salad
Monday: community dining: chili (both vegetarian and carnivorous), corn-bread and salad.
Tuesday: soup and sandwiches
Wednesday: ? Austin with friend Rhonda, Brian and Angee..Salvation Pizza?
Thursday: ? arriving in Oakland! 
Friday: ? Mills reunion

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Life Lessons

I received this as a forward recently..and thought I would share here. I will be the first to admit I fall short on some-many of these words of wisdom.

We have been busy..you know..studying. My parish ministry training class has started. I am, among other things, keeping an ethics journal (which I will spare you here), seeing worship in a new light and having many "aha" moments with administrative stuff. The boys continue with Sherlock Holmes, math, econ, French and O-chem. Soccer season has officially begun. I was looking forward to this last  year as a soccer mom...only to find myself an assistant soccer commissioner?  And most exciting of all, I am about to take a short trip to Oakland for a Mills College reunion! REALLY looking forward to it.

So...I thought I would share these life-lessons which helped me remember to be grounded at a time when I can easily get caught up in the "busyness" of life.

Hope you enjoy.

"To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most requested column I've ever written.
My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more:
1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.

16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?'

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.

35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood.

38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.

41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

42. The best is yet to come...

43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

44. Yield.

45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift."

by Regina Brett

Monday, September 13, 2010

In my mind's eye, this photo of Austen and Cody is how I see them in real life.

Austen is often dreamy, tender-hearted, curious..and sensitive to the moods and temperaments of his brothers. Cody intense, loyal..and always aware of what his brothers are up to..while never moving from whatever he is focusing on.

Here Cody is engrossed in..I don't know, actually. not the point. If you look, Cody is slightly tilting the computer -which he shamelessly took from Austen's room- so he can share his discovery (whatever it may be).

They say nothing..No eye-contact is made. They are brother-bonding.

They do this often.

But catching it on film?..a rare deal.

What's for dinner?
Sunday: fajitas and veggie burgers
Monday: (community dining) Irish stew, parmesan knots, salad, corn-on-the-cob
Tuesday:  minestrone, grilled sandwiches, sliced apples with honey
Wednesday: spaghetti, garlic bread, green beans
Thursday: baked fish, baked potatoes, salad
Friday: make your own pizza

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

natural learning

It is 2:30 on a wet, rainy Wednesday afternoon.

As I write, Cody is playing his bass guitar. Levi is pretending to sleep on my bed. Austen is watching a zombie movie...and the Rethinking Everything Conference in Dallas is coming to a close!

What was formally the Rethinking Education Conference has expanded to EVERYTHING. It is a conference that I hope/hoped to attend every year...for the past 12 years. But realistically? The cost exceeds our clearly defined economic boundaries. Besides..now? We are coming towards the end our learning at home journey.

Knowing about the conference, however..has had me wondering how we became so darned structured looking this year. (today not counting) I am a firm believer in natural learning. Hanging with Levi these past few months has reaffirmed that belief.

Someone asked me recently just who is training who here?..after I picked Levi up and carried him as soon as he began crying. ..and I responded by shrugging my shoulders and grinning. (I've learned this trick from my family).

Truth is no one. No one is training anyone. We are building a relationship. We are learning.

Levi is learning non-stop. Not just the motor-skills stuff..how to roll, how to hold, how to pull, etc. But how to smile, how to cry..how to use his voice. In other words..how to communicate..and after having one son that had difficulty with communication..I am pleased to encourage Levi's vocal opinions.

Levi is a free-spirit. I hope he always is.

..and so it is with our own children.

These past few years Cody and Austen have learned tons of cool stuff.(I am leaving Brian-Scott out of this because he has way out-grown our learning at home) Cody and Austen have learned or figured out how to build a sit -n-spin car, an escalator, water-wheel propulsion systems. How to fix cars..build garages, set tile, build homes.They have designed and built rockets. Flown airplanes (you know..real ones). All of this learning occurred as a natural extension of something previously learned. Cody and Austen have learned how to cook...a lot. They paint (watercolor), draw, sketch. They garden. They have learned how to teach small children to read and write. They have learned to coach, to mentor..to listen...and they have done all this in the safety and freedom of a childhood with very limited constraints.

..and through this Cody and Austen have learned to trust...

Trust..is priceless..and encompasses many roads.

One of which is this, Cody, Austen (and Brian-Scott) trust that they can learn what they need to move on to the next phase in their lives..and they are developing pretty clear pictures of what that is.

But this is learning that does not transfer well to traditional looking transcripts. How do you document..learning to problem solve, learning to draw your own conclusions, empathy, compassion, risk-taking, creativity. You know, all those traits necessary in developing leadership?

The answer is you don't..not really. So now they are doing what is necessary to reach their individual goals. They are jumping through the hoops, so to speak.

Cody wants to study information systems.. He does not want to take out a student-loan. Meaning..he is working, working, and working on cars right now to help offset his costs down the line. He wants to continue playing soccer for his senior year...and he wants to take time to enjoy this last  year at home with family and friends.

To make this happen he needs some traditional looking course-work. Hence..the request for our more structured looking day.

Austen wants dreadlocks ..(happening Friday, by the way). He wants to go kayaking in Canada..(we are working on that)..and he wants to start the culinary arts program at St. Phillips next year. Meaning..he has to pass the accuplacer.  Now Austen is a kid with a slew of learning differences..so this is not as easy as it may sound. It was at his request..that I ordered the British Lit. It was at Austen's request, that he does nothing but study, rebuild i-pods and volunteer at the Club this year..and so..back to our structured looking day.

But sometimes? Our plans take a momentum we don't expect.

For example..when Levi starts watching the shadows from the ceiling fan reflect on our bedroom wall, he gets VERY EXCITED. His arms start flying...his legs start flying..and for about 10 minutes..he is happy. Then?!! He can't stop by himself. He gets scared..he starts crying. We swaddle him. We hold him. We kiss him on the forehead..and we will continue to do so, until he can learn to calm himself.

So it has happened with our structure. We have done well for the past 3 weeks. We want to continue..but we are getting stressed.

Cody is taking the ACT  this weekend. He is planning to leave today for a camping trip with girl-friend Ellie (one of sardine mama's coolio doolio kiddos) and family. At first I thought..you have got to be kidding. We are finally getting a rhythm going here..and then he started saying things like. you know..this test on Saturday..it like determines MY WHOLE LIFE.. and I knew he was pulling a Levi. He needed help to stop the looping he was starting in his brain. So I whole-heartedly agreed that he should go camping this week.

Who cares about writing an essay for Beowulf..I mean really..

Then? Austen starts having difficulty with his math. He is starting to get stressed. Reading, writing, more writing and then math? It would be like me trying to work a really hard math problem ALL THE TIME. So I suggest that while Cody is out -of-town..he just does whatever he wants and we focus just on geometry. He is quite relieved..and so we do.

We have discussed this (the kids and I) and have agreed that we will touch base every three weeks..and decide which two of the upcoming three will look more structured..because we all still have goals that we are striving for.. Leaving us with one week to just trust our natural learning..giving us time to breathe and learn other things.

So for this week?

Cody is learning how to grow strawberries and new riffs for his guitar, reviewing math for the ACT(it has been a couple of years since he studied the algebras and geometry), hopefully he will learn to relax a little..as well as have some fun camping in the rain.

Austen is digging deeper into geometry..and taking apart i-pods, listening to the Ender's Game series on audio..and treating himself to a zombie movie marathon.

Me? I'm learning to crochet!

..and Levi..well he is working hard on blanket eating!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

No impact experiment - and Life Goes On...

This week long experiment is finally coming to a close. Yesterday we spent the day raising awareness of our water consumption (says the blogger mom with a water leak in her front yard)..and today is Action. I. E. volunteering, etc. We are weak in water..and volunteering is our lifestyle. Always has been.

  So..as sardinemama said from the beginning. We already do what we can..and won't be changing what we don't...or something along those lines. Pretty much sums it up for us.

4 tangible changes/reminders to keep?

1-Buying produce from the local produce stand
2- Keeping the ac/heat off unless absolutely necessary
3-keeping the t.v. unplugged most of the time and minimizing our computer use.
4-use cloth diapers more often.

Now back to the rest of life..

Levi has discovered that he likes the moby wrap. I found one at a second-hand store last week. Aunt Nicole? Also has discovered that she likes the moby wrap. Everyone is much happier now.

Cody, Austen and I continue to keep some structured studying going on M-TH at home. Odd really. Nice.

We write together for an hour each morning. We read and discuss British Lit  for another hour or two.So far we have read Beowulf and Sir Gawain and The Green Giant. Next Up? The Complete Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes . We are learning economics together.(I took one class in college..but that was a l-o-n-g time ago)

Then? The boys do whatever they want for a short break (oiy..saying that is KILLING the unschooler in me!) and return to studying independently for another couple of hours. 

Austen- French and Algebra.

Cody- he is wrapping up a history book and studying for the ACT (next Sat.). Then he's on to Calculus and O-Chem.

Sometimes Cody and I just spend the afternoon  plodding through online college applications and stuff together. We discovered he has volunteered 999.5 hours (that are actually documented and stuff) during his high-school years. Who knew?

The boys are usually finished studying by 2 or 3 in the afternoon..leaving them free to do whatever they want.
As for me? I am (ugh) learning to crochet and knit. It's Cody's fault. Really.

I promised to make each of the boys a quilt when they move away from home. It was something I have told them I would do since they were little boys. When Brian-Scott moved to TAMS it took us almost 2 years! But, darn it..we learned to quilt!

This quilt was truly a community effort..especially since none of us knew what we were doing. But in the end Brian-Scott had a coolish tye-die quilt with black trim and backing. A quilt that had been made with the help of no less than 8 children and 4 adults.

So now it is Cody's turn.

I have been asking him since summer. (because I know this will take a while..because I still don't really know what I'm doing).Have you thought of what you want on your quilt? Would you like to look at some patterns? Would you like to look at materials?

Cody, in turn, has responded with grunts, shrugs and grins. Then last week he asks.

Are you still making me a quilt? I get WAY too excited. YES! Do you know what you want?!

Cody- Actually (almost sheepishly) would an afghan be okay?

and I know this is what we will do. Cody is texture sensitive. He has never been a quilt-kind of guy. But his favorite blanket in our house is a knitted afghan that used to be my grandfathers. Cody likes the feel, the smell and the weight.

I remind him I have absolutely no idea how to do this..so it will have to be a fairly simple pattern..and we will have to learn together.

We find a pattern for an afghan he likes. It is made in squares and then pieced together..almost quiltish, actually. Only two colors..cafe' and cafe' au late'. Cody likes things that aren't too busy. Visually, speaking.

My friend Brenda (who helped us with Brian-Scott's quilt) looks at the pattern with us. It is a mix of crochet and knitting. She agrees to help us learn. So...we are learning to crochet and knit.

..and that is our life right now. I will no longer be blogging every couple of days because this no impact thing is over (that was part of the commitment to the experiment..to blog about it). So..(big sigh of relief for us all!)

Today? I learn to crochet. (practicing on a beginning scarf kit)..and hopefully finish prepping the garden for Fall...and tomorrow?

Back to prison.

I'm a little nervous, actually. I (along with friends Jack and Rhonda) committed ourselves to going to this particular unit the first Sunday of every month. But, unlike with the Kairos weekend..there are just a few of us..and it is a LONG day. I'm looking forward to it. Feel like there is more consistency this way...but I guess I'm just nervous because I'm not sure what I'm doing. Kairos is very specific..everyone has a job and knows what it is months ahead of time. This? Not so much. Sure I'll learn as I go.

In the meantime..

 Today  Big B, Cody and Austen are helping a friend build a shop. Calvin is with my parents this weekend. Levi is with my sister for the long weekend...leaving me?

To a house by myself!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

No Impact Experiment - Day 4 Food/Day 5 Energy

I will keep this pretty short.


Avoid the processed stuff. Keep local. Try going vegan. (we skipped this one due to Big B's dietary limitations. Sheesh..hard to keep up with all the health restrictions in this house!).

That was the upshot of this one. Pretty much describes our dietary lifestyle...except the vegan-ism.

We raise chickens..meaning lots of eggs. Generally speaking..we are pretty predictable in our diets.

Breakfasts: choices of fruit, eggs, toast, yogurt, oatmeal (non-instant) and we splurge on those darn 2 boxes of cereal a week.

Lunch: choices of more fruit, boiled eggs, sliced veggies, hummus, pita, dinner left-overs

Dinner: try to stick to Mediterranean Diet (primarily Sicilian..a little Greek) with a touch of tex-mex (it's a practical, regional thing)

Snacks: fruit, veggies,(see lunch options), and quesadillas. When it is hot we try to keep gazpacho, tabbouleh, or cucumber salad in fridge. When it is cold we try to keep soup in a crock-pot.

Now..where is this food coming from?We found 3 food items in our home that were outside of a 250 mile radius..production wise. Most of the food we consume is produced locally (like our backyard or Bandera county) some from SA area..and then 3 items (humus, pita bread..and a Cheeto bag. The Cheeto bag? No one seems to know from whence it came...) were produced farther away.


yeah..well..we do consume it.

Taking an inventory of all products in our home that use energy and decide if we can eliminate or minimize it. We turned off the a.c. (when it gets in the high 80's..it's going back on..because it will quickly escalate to high 90's and it will take FOREVER to cool off again).  I unplugged the t.v. (Not so hard..we have done this numerous times before.) La familia is used to our NO TV tangents.

I actually felt myself sigh with relief when I unplugged the t.v.  I have thoroughly enjoyed this mind candy all summer..but it is preventing me from ..you know..letting my mind take a break from white noise and stuff. It also is the numero uno reason I have been too darn lazy to go to the river with Austen when his friends are in school. He keeps asking us. (no swimming allowed without someone with you has been a rule for Austen his whole life..) It should be for all of us..but with epilepsy? Not negotiable. So..I'm going to the river with Austen this afternoon. No more guilt!

  Computer? This is going to be the toughest one..I believe. I made a pact with myself to keep my computer use to one hour a day. It's something I've been needing to do for a while. But I can't speak for other family members. Will have to see what sort-of agreements we can come to. Fact is computers are the largest default activity in our home.

  Washer and Dryer? We use HE washer and dryer. I don't mind switching to line drying on my deck for a lot of items. Not too big of a switch..and with the extra time I've saved from computer/t.v. unplugged..I can do this.  Washer..I'm selfishly holding onto.

Cody reminded us that when he was in Europe very few people used a washer. I know he is right.Most of the world would say the same. However,.we have a little pee pot by the name of Levi. As a matter of fact, we have started singing "I'm a little pee-pot" to the tune of "I'm a little tea-pot." (uhm just that phrase..not the rest of the song) to Levi on a regular basis. He responds with grinning and trying to sing with us. But being a pee-pot is not the limit of his mess making. The kiddo also goes on spit-up binges. Poor guy. So this is my "justification" for not washing by hand. AND? One of the beauties of living in the West? A washing machine. So I am selfishly holding on to this luxury.

Those are the biggest energy consumers. The boys have been on my case for leaving too many lights on. They are right. As a matter of fact yesterday..they removed all the lightbulbs in the living room. I did not notice until evening. They grinned proudly saying We're helping you conserve energy!"

I made them put them back in so I could rock Levi while I watched t.v. (ugh..this sounds worse by the second) insisting that we were NOT on energy conservation yet. ..and my darling children? We're happy to let me know how pathetic I was...being as how, you know..(ahem, cough, cough)energy conscious, they themselves are.

So that is it. I have 20 more minutes left before I officially unplug for the day.

Back in a few days.