This year in honor of Martin Luther King Jr, I was thinking about all of the words that we whispered into Asher’s ear on the day that he was born…the world is here for the taking, little man, you can be anything. Even in the most dire of circumstances, I believe that every child hears some version of this on the day that he or she enters the world. If not from a mother or father, perhaps from a nurse, a family member, a social worker, but I think that nothing inspires hope like the face of a child taking a first breath. If even only for a moment, I do believe that we all start here.
We forget that as we age. We forget that we were all that baby once, that little vessel of possibility. We start to see color, money, differences, dogma, fear, selfishness, pride, partisanship and power. We forget that there was a moment for each of us when it was possible to become anything, love anyone, learn everything, become triumphant, all simply because we were born. Yesterday I was thinking about all of the children that Asher has brought into our lives and the way that their curiosity erases stigma, the way that their openness invites smiles, and the way that their intensity brings parents and people together because children are so thirsty for the experience of this world, not the divisions within it. We see examples every day of people taking one step and then another in a steady march toward this narrow brand of forgetfulness, but yesterday there were words all over the United States that were about hope and love and equality. Words that helped me to remember that every person is created equal. That every single person, every person, all of us, are created equal. Yesterday reminded me that I can be doing more to be working toward acceptance in my actions and with my words, that I too am forgetting our universal starting point and sometimes seek out what separates from us one another before looking for what is common between us. It reminded me that there is still work to do and that equality is not something that is to be earned, it is a birthright.
And on a lighter note, Asher is deeply absorbed in Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things that Go. Heartwarming to look in the backseat and see that on a chilly Tuesday morning.
And because why not…here’s my post from 2010 on the subject. Little has changed.
Last week was a bit of a study in contrast, which is always welcome. I traveled to New York for work and returned home in time to unpack my heels and take advantage of the warm weather to knock out some much needed and welcome yard work. I love brushing elbows with the city, with any new place really, but more and more I’m always chomping at the bit to return home to the quiet hills and my fellas.
On Sunday it was gloriously warm (Old Man Winter must have known that we all needed a break) and Drew and I woke up reaching for our work clothes. We decided to tackle the compost bin that we’ve been wanting to build, despite the impractical nature of starting a compost pile in January. You hush. A friend had suggested that we wire pallets together for a quick (and free) bin, but Drew felt pretty strongly that since the bin will be in a pretty visible part of our yard, it needed to look a little more polished. Nothing like having something polished looking to let your banana peels turn to dirt in! So we combined the two ideas, building the majority of the body out of salvaged pallets, but Drew put his trim carpenter’s background to work to frame it out and put some ‘finished’ looking sides on it. He also built some pretty sassy doors for both bays so that we’ll be able to access the pile for turning/soil as it’s ready. This shows the pallet back (which will eventually butt up against the garden fence and won’t be visible) and the start of Drew’s frame work. It has two bays so that we can eventually have a pile going and one to grow on, quite literally. Gardening puns, anyone?
While Drew was hammering away, I worked on cleaning out a long neglected flower bed and raked up a pretty hefty pile of leaves. As I ripped out the remnants of last summer from the flower bed I was surprised to see various bulbs making their way through the soil. Also, just to keep things real, I’ll tell you that I stayed with my family tradition of taking down Christmas for the New Year, but had left the tree on the porch because the woods seemed awfully far away the day that I was doing all of that. Compelled by the fear that it might really be Spring, I took a turn at the Highland Games and did my very best to haul it and then pitch it far into the woods. If you’re wondering if I looked graceful in this moment, the answer is a resounding no. No, I did not. But it was oddly cathartic to pitch the tree, and I did wish it well.
Proof that it was a good day:
I’ve let this slip again, haven’t I? Well let’s see if we can back to it with a promise and a confession (two of my many favorite things). The promise is more to me than anyone that might be reading (Bueller?…Bueller?…) but I promise to post at least twice a week between now and March. That seems reasonable and it’s a good exercise for me. So there’s that.
Second, the confession. 2012 became a hard year to rattle on about round about June of last year. In some ways it was just because life got so dense, and pardon the tree-laden pun (for those of you that have been following along) but I couldn’t see the forest through the trees. Or is it for the trees? Well, the point being, our cup did runneth over, mostly with heart-filling stuff, but with some heart-tugging stuff too. And because confessions are supposed to be honest, I’m going to come on out and say it. 2012 kind of kicked the shit out of me. If there is a delicate way to have such a thing done, then I’ve been on the business end of a delicate butt kicking. It was good for me. Sometimes it hurt.
So here we are, 2013, right back to it. My backside is recovering, my ego is humbled, our home fires are burning, and in the scope of the first world universe, even a tough year was undeniably a good one. As with most people, we’re setting our sights on patterning for a good year ahead, but unlike many years in the past, Drew and I both seem to be at a crossroads where the work that we want to put in this year isn’t dedicated to a trimmer waistline or a more frequently cleaned bathroom (though, let’s do those things too), but really we’re focusing on life in terms of decades. One turns 30, one starts thinking about What Comes Next. The word that I would like to give to 2013 is pivotal.
In the dreamy summer that I spent in Madison, Wisconsin nearly ten years ago, my dear friend Nelle and I would steal away with a canoe and paddle through the locks between the two lakes that hug Madison. We would paddle into one, sink down with the water, have the lock open up and glide through safely to the other side. Something big was happening around us, we were dwarfed by larger boats with big engines, but even in the narrow little canoe, we were able to stick our paddles in the water and row to what felt like the other side of the rainbow. It was thrilling and a simple enough mechanism, but one that was ultimately transformative. This year feels like that adventure. perhaps 2012 was the distance that I needed to travel between my twenties and thirties, a slow and discreet move between the prolonged adolescence that America is so fond of and my arrival into womanhood. It seems though that right now, on this day, and this point, I’m sitting in the locks watching the water slowly drain, waiting to see the gate in front of my little boat open. It seems like I might be about to paddle through to the next phase of my life.
You see why I haven’t been blogging? I’m like the weird weepy aunt at the family picnic that everyone wishes would go wandering off to find the nearest man selling a horse. Perhaps if I get all this I’m-on-the-threshold business out, I can go back to telling you things about wanting to build a chicken coop and my concern for Tuesday’s dinner. I don’t know though, there’s something different here. I needed that delicate butt kicking. It made my heart grow.
So there we go, a new year, a promise, a confession, and a long winded boat metaphor. It’s as though no time has passed at all. Happy New Year!
Despite our deep love for Halloween, Drew and I took it a little easy this year and let Asher do the majority of the heavy Halloween lifting.
Asher’s school had a parade for the kids on Friday before Halloween, so here is Asher walking in the parade with Miss Betsy:
And here he is a couple of days later hanging out at a Halloween party with his buddy Austin:
Don’t you just wonder what they’re chatting about there?
My adorably wonderfully dear darling little sister Julie Claire and her charming boyfriend Joe took a weekend off from college life to visit and we rang in the Fall spirit with fires and pumpkins and chili and hot cider and board games. I keep trying to convince her that it’s not lame at all to move in with your sister and her family, but I think she sees through my scheme.
Here are the perfunctory pumpkin pictures:
(Asher believes that ALL letter A’s are for him, so I couldn’t resist making an A pumpkin for him. He and Drew (Drew) carved the silly face on the left)
Joe’s pumpkin was definitely the winner for details and thought, but of course I don’t have a picture of the completed pumpkin so here’s a process shot:
We weathered Hurricane Sandy just fine in these parts, although Drew and I definitely had our eyes, fingers, and toes crossed for all of the (remaining) trees on our property. Our efforts were rewarded with only one small tree snapping and a loose shutter. We’ll take it! Asher got to come to work with me one day, and then we taught him about the very best thing about lousy winter weather: blankets, a movie, and hot chocolate. He took to it like a champ.
Despite what I have written in the past, if I had to make a top 10 list of reasons why living with someone who is discovering the world from the ground up every day is wildly rewarding, the ride home from school would be near the very top of my list. Where the ride to school in the morning can be a test of my motherly nerves, the ride home in the afternoons is like a little dose of this-is-what-it’s-all-about elixir. Asher is oddly forthcoming with his observations on things (“but I didn’t want to go up the slide and I said so and she said I had to and that hurted my feelings and didn’t make me feel good in my body.” or, “We live on the earth. Is it spinning right now? Is the sky, with the stars, is it spinning too?”) and he makes the sweetest expressions as he’s looking out the window and just sharing his thoughts.
Although he clams up a little whenever the camera is out, I had the idea the other day to try to capture a little of what life is like with him on these daily rides home with the thought that if the camera was going long enough he might forget that it was there (he did). If you’re up for watching the whole thing, I think it gets the best near the end, but of course, Drew and I might be the only ones that find this kind of stuff riveting. (A few notes? Betsy works in his classroom, the spider in question is a big paper mache spider that the kids made, and this was shot on a Friday.)
When I watch this, I am so clearly reminded of how my mom could ask me how my day was when I was in middle school and high school and the perfunctory grunt would head her off at the pass, but at some point the magic of the car would kick in and I would tell her everything at fire hose speed. I think I cried more to my mother about everything in my life in the car than I ever did otherwise…there’s something about the captivity and the moving scenery that can make it a confession booth if there are patient enough ears waiting to hear what’s going to come out. Now as a mother I’m really enjoying being on the receiving end of those thoughts, and I can’t get that kid out of school and into the car fast enough at the end of the day.
(For those of you worried about the safety of this activity, I used the ol rubber band (specifically a headband) on the head rest trick–my eyes were on the road, I promise.)
Celebrating a birthday (and the man who had it):
Traveling to Atlanta for work:
Watching the light change for Fall:
Growing (and growing!) firewood pile:
Puppy play date love to an excessive and charming degree:
Another season change:
Pumpkin muffins for the boy:
A budding book lover:
Recreating the ocean in the bathtub:
And always this smile:
And because there are no pictures of me to share, I will instead off a little something that’s been on my mind:
I think that I go back and forth between fancying myself some kind of activist and equally some kind of peace maker. In this political season, I’ve felt the urge to wear both hats, but lately, that second one is feeling more and more correct to me. I’m not apathetic about the value of the political process, but I’m also not sure that I’m comfortable adding more negativity to what is increasingly feeling like a pool of vague buzz words that always seem to be true in one circle and false in another. My gut instinct is that this whole process is going to implode during my life time, and if and when that happens, (and I hope that it does, and I hope that this sentiment is a part of it) it is my hope that it’s done intelligently, compassionately, and not at the cost of our good sense.
I support our right to disagree and I support the foundation of democracy that we’re attempting to still stand on, but I do not support all of the rhetoric that gets tossed around at the cost of forgetting that there are humans behind those words, from both sides. My concern is that we get so attached to our perception of the issues, or to being the most clever or stinging in our rebuttal, that we forget which way is up. I am guilty of this, and that activist in me knows that there are things that I am absolutely willing to fight for, but not at the cost of behaving in a way that I would never allow my toddler to. I’m shelving any public name calling for a while and hoping to create another spot on the internet that isn’t based solely on what’s going wrong, as I still believe that there is a lot that is right. I read this quote in Oxford American’s June issue, and haven’t been able to shake the impact that it had on me: “Is there any sleeping person you can be entirely sure you have not misjudged?” (Eudora Welty, The Optimist’s Daughter). It’s not that I think, ‘oh, we’re all human so everyone can do anything and be just fine as long as we sugarcoat it and just say nice things’, it’s more that I think that we’re all human, we’re designed to disagree, and that the only way to move forward is to treat each other compassionately, no matter the degree of dissent. This lofty intention is, in my mind, the end of ignorance.
I think that the majority of the folks that I know and spend my time with feel this way, but as a way of affirming this for myself, I thought I might put it out there publicly too. My mouth often gets ahead of my heart, and something that I’ve been working on is being a bit more intentional with the content that I’m generating in this world wide web. I might get proven sorely wrong one day, but for the time being, I’m continuing to hope that it’s true that we can be the change that we wish to see, and in my case, I desperately hope to see a change for the positive.
That’s what I’ve been thinking about lately.