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Monday, July 17, 2017

The Butterflies are Inside

                                               TUESDAY (July 11, 2017)

Charles is off at Boy Scout camp; and the forecast is strong storms. I don't like it one bit. We saw Valentine off to Guatemala this morning, without us, at 4:30am. I don't like that much either.

I am over-the-top excited for them to have adventures and travel and do new things...and I really wish sometimes, that they were still doing so from the safety of the baby carrier.

Just nerves. And butterflies have taken over my stomach.

You cannot go backwards, and technically, it is wrong to live in the past, wrong to pine after what cannot be, because you lose the present and the gift of now. Memories are awfully nice, though. Look:

2005

2005; How a Flood Happens


Onward to my future: Thierry and I are going to Wisconsin...yes, it is still the Midwest, and not so very far from home, but Spring Green,WI.is home to the American Players Theatre. We are going to see "A Midsummer Night's Dream," tomorrow night, and "Cyrano de Bergerac," the next night. It is where Frank Lloyd Wright built Taliesin, his studio and home. I doubt this visit will grant us the opportunity to visit, but it is in the works for another time. We will also, curiosity oblige, visit the House on the Rock, because neither of us has ever been there, and because Neil Gaiman set a whole book, or at least part of a book in it. Scary as all get out.

MY get-away is going to be fun and romantic, and not a bit scary...except maybe for the walk back through the woods after the play in the dark, where the fairies lie in wait...

                                       MONDAY (July 18, 2017)
That was last week; the boy has returned from Scouts, happy and safe, even glad to be home. I have had one text from Valentine in Guatemala, all was well at that point, breakfast had consisted of "the best chocolate crepas EVER! And there was a strike, but now we are on our way to the village."

And Spring Green? A dream, a magical land where the theatre is better than promised and the hills are green and wooded; breath-taking, and everything has been influenced by the combination of the landscape and Frank Lloyd Wright.  The House on the Rock was built onto a rock that had a view. It is full of Japanese art, carved wooden window coverings and rock, reminiscent of FLW's work, as well as many, many other things. The hotel we stayed at, the theatre, many of the houses and buildings in the area, were FLW-built or inspired. 

The places we stopped to eat all had local produce, fish and meat. Everything was delicious, from the salmon and asparagus to the coffee and local brews. We biked a few miles into town on Friday, and rode around, being tourists and having breakfast. It was such a leisurely trip, our phones had no reception and the wifi didn't work in our room, so we were almost completely disconnected from the rest of the world. Heaven.

The plays, though, for a lover of theatre, were "a thing of beauty and joy forever." Such beautiful, beautiful Shakepeare, with drums and music and joy. The "Up-the-Hill Theatre" is an outdoor theatre, and Act I is mostly by daylight, so you can see the trees behind the set and the moon and the clouds overhead. By the middle of Act II, the sky is midnight blue, with swirls of what might be clouds, the trees a dark outline, and the stage alight.  I don't necessarily like to be sitting outside for 3 hours when the day's temperatures have been in the 90's, but I practiced letting go, and enjoying being there. And the next night; for "Cyrano de Bergerac"? Not only was the weather absolutely perfect; 70-ish, but the play...was fabulous. It was the first time either Thierry or I had seen it performed in English; there was some anticipation. It was in English...and so FRENCH! We loved it! What fun, what humor, what a beautiful tragedy, what lovely humans and fragility portrayed. Hats off, APT.

The Hill Theatre

The House on the Rock

One of many planters: House on the Rock

The (almost) invisible books lining walls of the House on the Rock

As for the butterflies; one monarch wanders through every once in a while, but no eggs, no caterpillars, a sad day for our pollinator friends. The hummingbirds and bumblebees are frequent visitors, and I like to think, a harbinger of future goodness.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Surrender and Adoration

The idea of finding peace and leading a fulfilled life through submission or surrender is one that is found in every spiritual practice the world over. The wheel does not need reinventing; "surrender, relinquish, give up: your way of viewing the world/of viewing others/of considering material goods," is a concept repeated in Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism...the list is long, and wherever you find yourself on your spiritual journey, you have most likely heard this before. When the idea sinks in though; either all at once or bit by bit, it is a revelation. It is thrilling and life-changing, but it may take the rest of your life to accomplish, reconquering the fear anew each day.

 



When I was very young, we were taught to trust God, He had a plan. "Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?" -Mathew 6:26. I remember moments of what felt like divine inspiration, as these words translated into a reassuring message to my small self; "it will be OK. Someone else is in charge and you can trust them to make it all OK."

A basic human emotion is denial of change. A basic law of physics is that it is all changing, all of the time. Poets know that the power of beauty in the bloom of a flower or the crash of a wave on the shore is in its very fleetingness. When I wrote about giving in to the changes in our family's lives, it was the admission that things change, children grow up and their needs are fulfilled in different ways.  My mindset needed to change if I did not want to suffer and make them suffer while they did what they should be doing. It was this moment of dawning that I wanted to share with you here.

Later, I would hear the message of surrender from another, unlikely source. My yoga teacher would write on the blackboard before class. The quote I remember her writing the most often was; "The Universe is falling into place as it should." She was 40 years old and dying of cancer, the mother of two young boys.
 
It is just as difficult to give up the all-consuming desire to fix the misery that fills the world as it is to let in the joy and sunshine. Giving in, accepting that the way to end suffering is by accepting that it exists and accepting that there will be sadness along with joy and pleasure in life, is the way to a full and peaceful life. 

As a mother/daughter/wife, it can often feel that you are in a unique position to take responsibility for a every situation. "I am the only one who can make sure; a healthy dinner is served, the kids get to the dentist, mom talks to the physical therapist, my husband doesn't feel neglected." The reality is that you do not hold as much power as you think you do, and that others also are the only ones who can take responsibility for their reactions, thoughts and feelings. A mother fundamentally gets that we are all connected, that never again will she be just one body; there is at least one more walking around that holds your heart, oh so negligently, in its worn-out, full-of-holes pocket. What a mother, or a father or the mayor a a town may forget, is that they do not hold absolute power. A sunburn, an accident, another point of view, an economic disaster may or may not happen. People may fall in love and get married and have crazy-irresponsible children who grow up to be soccer moms, feed their children fast food and not mow their lawns in your neighborhood. There is no merit or utility in trying to hold on to it all. And it will make you insane.

The flip side of this is that the one thing you can take responsibility for and work on, every single day, no matter what the weather, time, place or circumstances, is your own mind, heart and soul. People will say hurtful things, and your reaction can be to be hurt/angry/vengeful. Or your reaction can be to see that they are just like you; this person is suffering too. You cannot control what someone else will say; see above, but you can control how you view what is said and how you react to it. Meditation or practiced mindfulness and prayer are my methods of renewing with this pledge to let go, yours may be another spiritual practice; daily mass, contemplating nature, yoga. May you choose yours, make time for it, and find peace.

Gifts to be grateful for, from above and below: pink violets

 The Iowa City Courthouse:(humans make cool stuff too)

 Minion with a teapot, by youngest for his mama:
 The earth's inhabitants:(pirates of mine):



Thursday, July 6, 2017

Surrender to...the Thrill of a First Car

Here is my sweet boy, Duncan, 19 and finally getting his first car, with his own, hard-earned money, the way it simply must be in a family of seven. He is so proud, and I am very proud of him. He has worked his tail off over the past year, and I have watched him grow up, mature and realize a few things about life and living. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Resist Not...Hahaha! But,

What if...obligations were opportunities in disguise. What if "family time"with older children, in the United States, was easily obtainable, at a price? Isn't there always a price for what you want most dearly? For what is sacred and good and worth fighting for? What are the things you would fight for, and what would it look like to let go for once, instead of battling?

Falling victim to one's own superior vigilance in not letting the world and its values interfere with parenting the "right way", may have a couple of draw-backs. Maybe. I have been so careful about not scheduling too many things which take away family time for so many years it has become a reflexive mechanism of self-defense. "Don't over-schedule!" Not the kids! Not me! Not my husband!

This, of course, goes along with more reading, draconian screen-time limitations, regular chores, family meals every day, and sunscreen. They really hate the sunscreen. 

I have spent years and intensive effort, making sure I make time for the things that are our core family values. What if it were time to make more allowance for what they love to do? AND...join in the (fun?)?  What if, two of my biggest bug-a-boos: scouts and The Boat, were, in fact, if I allowed for it, actually a way to stretch and grow AND keep my family together?

Boy Scouts is the grand master of insinuating yourselves into every bit of our lives; home, hands, hearts and minds. This is the same troop that I have admired exceedingly over the past two years, as one with exceptional leadership and place of growth for my son. They do so much with the boys and for them; the effort and dedication are astounding.
I might take the time to wonder if the Scout Masters we so admire, perhaps have more life experience and another approach to life that holds some validity. Naturally, this came to me later, not while I was having a mama melt-down yesterday when I heard of a third Eagle Scout project requiring my son and/or my husband's labor. That was a last straw. Right then, which came on the heels of a few weeks of "special ceremonies" for other Eagle Scouts and brand new baby scouts, a two-day bike ride, 2 camping weekends, as well as the regular weekly meeting and weekly bike ride, right then, I fear I gave in to a rant, while I drove home from taking care of the boat-we-never-sail for an entire day.

Upon meditation, I decided to classify the Boy Scouts and the Boat in the same vessle; that of opportunities not to be missed. 
For example: look at that doe! She and her sweet little fawn were wandering around the boat yard when we returned from scrubbing.

First the scouts;  who says I cannot come along as well when the guys are landscaping or cleaning up yards? All hands are welcome, and I bet a batch of cookies fresh out of the oven would be my ticket to a warm welcome. Nothing is keeping things from being a family activity except my own dictionary's definition of the concept.

Sunrise, or The Boat, which we have outgrown and yet love with all our hearts, really needs to be sold. And yet...and yet, we've just spent two whole days working, all together, to clean, repair, polish, wax, and rinse it. This was fun. It was! I highly resent the hours and hours the stupid boat takes without giving back a whole lot. A few passes back and forth across a lake or the Mississippi? In the hot sun? Bah. Yet, our family's identity as a sailing family has meant a lot to us.  We have super-sweet memories of fishing, camping and sailing together on our little boat.  It also provided a chance for leadership, activity and outdoor living to Cate when she went away to college. We now regularly meet up with her at the boat-house near her college campus, to watch her sail or even take out a boat with her. She teaches and races and sails solo when life is stressful and the wind is just right.

Today, I will practice surrender. They say it has fantastic value for all sorts of reasons, this "giving in" or "letting go." I really should give it a shot. The temperatures should be in the 90's, my favorite (ugh), and everyone but me has been looking forward to finally getting Sunrise out on the water. My mind and heart have been changed (or they are working really hard on it, at least), and this chance to be together doing something that can be pure fun, is not one I am going to pass up.


Friday, June 23, 2017

Tending my...

Flock Herd

Because my family is more like a bunch of goat kids with their own wild ideas and dispositions, than a docile bunch of geese, though I watch over them like a mother hen sometimes. This post is a reminder that we make choices every day, and each new day is a chance for new choices. My own, the past twenty years (really, already!?) have been all focused on doing one thing well; raising a family, creating a place for this family to grow and thrive.


I have had to come to terms with the consequences of my decisions, over and over again.  This was one of those weeks of facing the music. Before I go on; warning, this post contains an image of a very, teeny tiny spider, but it is a spider, so (Mom), beware. 

I attended the annual conference for interpreters and translators in Iowa last week; (IITA). When interpreters get together, we are just like parents everywhere, and we compare notes on our kids. It is never football or music with interpreters; it's all about languages. And...on the topic of bilingual children, I came up lacking. Sigh. I always meant for them all to be perfectly bilingual, it was the plan. My lovely children are bilingual, but not all of them are perfectly fluent, at least not when they are in the States. Give them a couple of weeks in France and it all comes back...but it's been three years. Other interpreters HAVE succeeded, some of their children are fluent in not only two, but five languages.

Should I have done things differently? Should we have lived with the house as it was, no improvements, no repairs, no new AC? Should I have stayed home from that San Francisco conference?, said no to kids' dance lessons?, kung-fu?, giving to charity?, to make sure we could go to France each summer? Or was it just not going to happen anyway, with five children, the expenses daily life involves and the various activities I would have to hear arguments about missing in the summer? 

None of this is productive.  Here is what life is now, today. No one can tell about tomorrow.

I am so very contented, taking care of my children, home with them, gardening, cooking, reading aloud and cooking, along with a nice, side career, and it is a lucky, blessed life indeed. Choices have been made and whether or not others could have been made is irrelevant.

The universe if falling into place as it should. 

And look who came to explore my knitting the other night! Arachne herself! (This is where the spider-fearers may look away. I think she is very elegant. I am honored!)


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Summer Progression

The first of the "summer birthdays" has come and been duly celebrated in our home. Crazy party photos below. It was a big one for him, and a bigger one for Mama; Gael, my youngest is ten. Dang.


Those are spears, made by Charles (leaning against the trampoline), that were thrown at the pinata, along with knive..."historical reencactment" according to his gracious uncle.

Gael is a deeply creative spirit. He starts planning his Halloween costume for next year on November 1st. The haircut is one he dreamed up himself, color and all.
This week, Duncan will turn nineteen; again, eeek. He is the man he claims to be, not the boy he will always be in my heart. Later, in July, Charles will turn thirteen. Gosh.

I thought this would crush me under a sadness I could not imagine bearing, some day. But the desire to remain in the state of mom at home with young children, little ones I can read to and tuck into bed safely at night, though still very strong, has bloomed into something else. I LOVE that four of them are here with me, but I allow myself to enjoy times when they are off doing their own thing as well. We are all growing. That is a beautiful thing.

Gardening every morning for hours, for example, is not an option I had, even a year ago, when at least one or two munchkins would be up and hungry by 7. Now, sleeping in has become their favorite pastime, and my opportunity. My flowers are pretty happy about it too. There may even be some vegetables, they've sprouted at least.  I've been hand-picking pests off of the milkweed, hoping to save any monarch eggs that might be laid this year. I saw a butterfly last week...but no eggs or caterpillars yet. I can take my time in the garden.

The kids will be following some different directions this summer, and I think it will be nice. Gael is heading to day camp for a week, with the Cub Scouts. Charles will be in Boy Scout, away-camp another week, while Valentine is in Guatemala on a church, youth trip at the same time. Cate has already been to Washington DC for a leadership conference for young women through AAUW. (American Academy of University Women). She and her friends did their own fundraising in order to go, They heard and met women who have changed the world in many ways. They came back inspired.

Charles and his father rode the "TOMRV" this past weekend. This stands for "Tour of the Mississippi River Valley," or hell on a bicycle. The weather was in the 90's, and the hills are incredible between Davenport, IA and Dubuque, IA, especially when you wander over to Galena Territory in Illinois on the way. My 12-year-old made it. His dad did too, as well as a couple of other friends and the Scout master extraordinaire, who turns 70 this year. Strangely enough, this one does not figure on my radar of "things I just gotta do."

Did you notice that week where there will only be one child at home? It just so happens that the plays I most wanted to see at the American Players Theatre Festival are on that week as well. One little boy is going to spend some time with his grandparents. His father and I will be enjoying what he would not appreciate at all; "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and "Cyrano." Educating the children is all very well, but the finer things in life need some experience to appreciate. I can't wait!

I think now, it might be time for a shower, some quick tidying up and watching out for waking children. But it's been good to wake up with you.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Thank you, Mom, and Blessings to All Mothers Everywhere






First, I want to wish my mom a happy day and tell you how much you mean to me!
And this to all of the mothers in my life, and all of the mothers reading this today

Gifts from my little ones and husband

I had time to take a bike ride in the gorgeous weather AND finish a knitting project today: Gael's monster



Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Book Bird

Lucy, my daughter's cockatiel, has a taste for literature, liberty, and coffee. Note that the one she is nibbling on is "Frightful's Mountain," the story of a peregrine falcon.



Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Dear Dad

Dear Dad,

I am so glad you are alive! When you came out of surgery yesterday, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, impossible hospital gown and wheelchair notwithstanding, I could hardly believe it.

When I woke up this morning, I was appalled at how we had all treated you; admonishing you to follow the doctor's orders, change your lifestyle...only about a hundred percent or so, and telling you, straight from the doctor's lips, how very, very bad your heart had been.

Where do we get off? What right does anyone have to tell another person how to live? Then I realized; it all comes from you.

When you become a father, and you stay involved in your children's lives and are a big part of their hearts, you no longer only belong to yourself. Your life is not all the way your own, they belong to you and you to them. The same is true of your wife of 48 years, who would really rather have you around for awhile yet. Your life is intertwined with that of mom, your kids, your grandkids and, as I sit here, your granddog has not left my side, he never sits with me, so him too. It is too precious to us to simply let it be.

I know you are probably very grateful to have lived another day, that you beat the odds, and you feel so much better. You can have another donut, or piece of cherry pie or tell us one more time to drive safe on the way home. 

But this is how I see it: I have a vision of you as white-haired, (see? in many, many years!) dapper, gentleman who still sits through all of the grandkids' dance recitals, plays, kung-fu meets and graduations, who teaches them how to beat the pants off their opponent in checkers, like you used to when I was little. I see you, as ever, fussing over us all, and making sure our tires are safe, and the kids are doing well in school. You take your dog out for a walk; (he looks just like Tuxy,) and come home to a cup of tea, that you decided you would learn to love. Then you text your sons the latest dirty joke and Skype your grandkids to make sure they're OK, and go to lunch with your buddies on Friday. You and mom drive down for a visit and head to the park for a picnic with my kids, or to the lake with Sam, effortlessly, with fresh air pouring into your lungs and blood flowing freely through healthy veins, because you want it enough. We certainly do. 




Monday, April 3, 2017

Hamilton (it DOES deserve its own post title)

Valentine, 15, wanted just one thing with all her heart, for her birthday and for Christmas for the next 36 years, etc...tickets to see..."Hamilton" in Chicago. Her birthday is in November. The build-up has been long, the hype unbearable, the wait almost eternal, but really, I almost think she was right. Guess who was obliged to accompany her daughter to the performance? Yes, it was I! Ouiiii!

Valentine, pre-show
I dutifully listened to the soundtrack, even though rap is not my thing. I mean, I had happened to have read the book last summer for my lit group, with no idea there was any connection to a new show. There is always some new show, right? What's a musical compared to history?

Then I started listening to the soundtrack, and all the tracks, and trying to keep up with the lyrics.  Then I learned how to download music onto my phone (don't laugh, this was a big thing in my life), and, like the rest of the English-speaking world and beyond, I was hooked.

 Both of us, before the show; almost too excited to eat.


We had a spring break with the children, or the Three-who-still-go-anywhere-with-us, for a couple of days.

 The Field Museum of Natural Science
 Same museum, 3 hours later.
 Our pal, Sue
We did the usual; walk by the lake, try new food, visit Sue (this is how they refer to the Field Museum), and freeze our noses off half the time. Chicago in March; love it!

And...how good was "Hamilton"? It was THAT good; all I expected and so much more. There was so much going on; in beautiful dancing and scenes all over the stage, more in nuance and intonation given by individual actors, more humor and depth, more beautiful voices raised in song, that I would need to see it every night until the end of the Chicago run to take it all in, and still, l might not be satisfied. 


Detail of totem pole statue thing (I forget what the sign said, but it is definitely a reproduction of something from South America, or Central America or...so much for my homeschooling expertise.) I really like it. So there.


Friday, March 17, 2017

The Magic of Nighttime Snow/Cub Scout Outing

This was a guys' night only; Charles was skiing with his Boy Scout troop, and Thierry kept an eye on Gael and the Cub Scouts who were sledding like madmen (it was probably a good thing Mama was not there stressing). Thank you for the photos, mon cheri, they are a treasure!