Aug 26 2016

Flashback Friday: I Want to Hug My Poor Self

flashbackfridayBeing as organized and Type-A as I am, you’d think that my files would be perfect and easy to access. You’d only be half right. I can get to any paper files or anything in Evernote in 30 seconds flat. My digital storage is a dumping ground of nightmarish proportions. If I think about it too long and hard I start to get the shakes. Finding anything in there requires a solid block of time, prayers in seventeen languages, and the tears of a Vestal Virgin.

On the upside, digging around this morning trying to find a short bio for a couple places that need them, I found some ancient journaling gems from before I started blogging.

And I just want to go back in time and hug my poor, parenting-young-intense-boys-not-knowing-WTF-was-going-on self and give her a glass of wine. And a back rub. And a copy of the book her future self would write, because she sure as hell would need it.

A few of the choice tidbits, with more than a little of it redacted:

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2/9/05

Andy continues to amaze me.  He is so smart.  He can spell: stop, exit, mommy, Andy, Jack, on, off, go, and who knows how many others.  He just won’t hold a marker or crayon and write out letters.  Gotta work on that.  I just spent a whole lot of time researching kindergartens.  I have no idea where he is going to go.

note: He wasn’t quite 4 here, and 11+ years later he still hates using writing implements. At this point he’d also been reading for awhile and was demanding scientifically accurate bedtime stories about the solar system.

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1/10/2005

I have ten minutes of peace left.  I live for naptime, I don’t know what I would do without it.  All I ask is for some time alone every day, so that I can recharge and not want to scream when a child asks me for the umpteenth time to do something for him.  But now Andy has come out of his room for the 4th time, ensuring he’ll be in bed early.  More time for me, I guess.

So much for timely New Year’s goals.  I wanted to start this journal six days ago.  That’s what you get when you’re sick and have kids and are trying desperately to keep up.  I’ve decided to keep this journal for awhile, practice my writing, and eventually work my way into writing a blog.  I’m afraid that if I went straight into blogging that I wouldn’t be very good, that I wouldn’t keep it up, that I would have nothing to say.  By practicing here, for my own eyes, I can get ready for it.  And I can see how fast I can type in the limited time I have.

I just feel words screaming to get out these days.  I feel I have so much to say and I just can’t get them out fast enough.  My mind races with conversations to the world that I would love to have; I have trouble falling asleep because I can’t stop writing in my head.  I keep wondering if I should be a writer; I’m certainly not doing that great of a job as a music teacher.

Well, my peace is up; it’s 3 o’clock and Andy is up from “Andy Time”, also known as my time for me.

note: The kid STILL won’t stay in his room and leave me alone and it’s 11 years later.
note: Apparently I had PLENTY to say, because I’ve been blogging for 10 years and counting
note: I did become a writer, and I’m now kicking ass as a flute teacher.
note: Still looking for that “time for me.”

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1/14/2005

I love going out with my husband.  We don’t do it nearly often enough, but I love going out with him.  It reminds me why I love him, why I married him, why the hard times are worth it.  I just enjoy being with Tom, just being with him.  We don’t even really have to go do anything, but just the two of us, I just love being with him.  He makes me laugh, he makes me feel all warm and loved and I love him for it.  I need to remember this during the busy and difficult times, when I want to pop his eyeball out with my thumb, just to hear the squish.  Marriage is tough, they don’t tell you that at the wedding.  I saw a friend last month and she was still all starry-eyed from getting married in June.  Yeah, marriage is great, wonderful, all that…for about the first 24 months.  Then it starts to get difficult, then kids show up and it gets really tough.  But you hang in there, and there are times when you remember why you love that man so much and it’s great again.  But it’s not moonbeams and roses anymore, it’s something different, something deeper and more meaningful.  But you can’t go back to that newly married feeling, nor would you want to.  The replacement is so much better.

If you can get over the feeling about wanting to pop out the eyeball.

note: I still love that man, and twenty years of marriage has seen us weather some serious stuff.
note: I thought my writing sucked at the beginning and only improved over the last several years, but that line about the eyeball made me laugh out loud and wonder why I never used it on this blog.

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1/20/2005

I’m so tired of being stressed and feeling like I’m behind when I’m really not.  I need to be in control.  There, I said it.  I’m a control freak.  I want things to go well and get stressed out when they don’t.  That’s why I’m having such a hard time with Andy.  He wants the control also.

note: Oh, honey. Babe. Sweetie. Here, have some wine. He’s not even four yet, the age when you were quite sure you weren’t going to let him live to see age five. You’re barely at the starting gate of the flaming fustercluck the next eight years will bring. You don’t know what you don’t know and honey, I wish you could have been better prepared for the journey ahead. 

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1/29/2005

So what I’m wondering is, HOW THE HELL DID I GET HERE?  I mean, last I looked, I was a high schooler with a future in front of her, the rare date, all possibilities there.  So time blinks and now I’m a wife, a mom of TWO BOYS!!!, a stay at home mom.  Hello?  What happened?  How did I go from kicking ass on the concert stage to changing innumerable diapers a day?  (Made worse by the preschooler with diarrhea today).  I’m even typing this right now with a baby squirming on my lap.  What the hell happened?  Most days I feel like I’m having an out-of-body experience, though that could be the sleep deprivation catching up with me.  How did I end up being almost completely responsible for a husband, two kids, a house, and everything else in our lives?  How did that happen?  Granted, it makes sense that I do it, Tom works so much and I’m a SAHM, but huh?  What happened to ME?  What happened to MY dreams?  What WERE my dreams?  Did I ever really have any?  I know I always planned to be a stay-at-home mom, but was that my lifelong dream?  If so, why did I bother to go to college and grad school then?  I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

note: Well. Damn. Where do I start? Eleven years later I’m still a SAHM, but now topped with a delightful reluctant homeschooler sauce. I’m a teacher, a writer, a flutist, an advocate, a volunteer, and somehow manage to balance all that with CFS so sleep issues never again become issues. My dreams are well underway, made considerably easier to chase with kids old enough to not only wipe their own butts but make their own meals. Kinda. Blog post for another day. I know what I want to be when I grow up, I’m living it now. 

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2/20/2002

I can’t let myself get that overwhelmed again.  It’s one thing when it’s just yourself, or married and you both kinda go your own ways.  It’s another thing entirely when there’s kids involved.  I was so stressed that I wasn’t a good mom.  In fact, I didn’t like being a mom, and that’s just not me.  I absolutely love being a mom, it’s what I’ve always wanted and I love it.  But I got so stressed and burned out that I couldn’t enjoy it and I saw it as just one more thing I had to do.  I never want to get to that point again.  It was frightening.  It has to get better.  I’m tired of always feeling on the edge of tears, that anything could send me over the edge.  I need help with things, and I feel I can’t ask for it.

note: Bwahahahahahahahahahahahaha….gasp….hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!! Oh girl, welcome to the personal challenge of your next dozen years! You’ll eventually crash enough times that self-care and searching out assistance become a huge priority. You’ll also fall in love with Malbec, which helps but isn’t the answer. In 2015 you’ll get a chronic fatigue syndrome diagnosis and finally get serious about sleep and boundaries and saying no. But honey, you are going to suffer hard before you get there. Hang tight.

 

We went to the pumpkin patch this afternoon.  Last year Andy was too little to enjoy it; he couldn’t even sit up!  This year we chased him all over the patch.  He was more interested in stomping on the dried vines than choosing a pumpkin, though.  He is such a little boy, loves to play in the dirt.  He is so very inquisitive—what’s that, what’s it do, what’s over there?  You can just see him sucking in information like a sponge.  He’s amazing.  He’s very two, but he’s amazing.

note: Yeah, you gave up wearing shoes with laces shortly after this because of that chasing. And him sucking in information like a sponge? It will never, ever end

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Aug 25 2016

Back to School: Once More Into the Breach

Back to school_ once more into the breachDespite the sultry temperatures outside, the calendar doesn’t lie and so this morning Jack hopped on the big yellow cracker box to start 7th grade. It was a glorious summer, hot and sunny and fun and relaxing and chaotic and crazy and all things summer should be. But damn, I am glad school has started again. I’m ready for a little more routine, and I’m really ready for a full flute studio again. I am NOT ready for winter, so I shall enjoy my sultry temperatures as long as humanly possible.

This year I am making a stand. I am backing away, far away from the responsibilities the boys should be shouldering. By ages 12 and 15 they are relying on me a great deal more than they should, even taking twice-exceptionalities and puke poor executive function into account. Example. On Tuesday I was upside down scrubbing a toilet, sweating through my own stink, hair dangling into my eyes and mouth, when my darling son asked me to make him a smoothie because his braces had been tightened the day before and they hurt. Right. Lemme get right on that. Care for a little scrubbing bubbles in your smoothie? Because I am not yet a horrible mother, I did make him the requested smoothie (long after I had finished cleaning the bathrooms and my disgusting self), but walked him through it in such a way that he’ll be able to make his own if he ever wants another one again. I’m also sick to death of being the alarm clock for the both of them, a nagging alarm clock at that, so last night I splurged and bought the loudest alarm clock I could find; it even has a pad you put under the mattress to shake the everlovin’ heck outta the bed (<–yes, affiliate link, but dude, if this thing works, we’ll all be singing hallelujahs). Apologies to the neighbors for the 113 decibel alarm you’ll be hearing next week.

I have a good feeling about this school year, and I hope it’s not just the remnants of the lovely summer talking. One kid has an exciting multi-disciplinary college level co-op class for the year (along with math and writing and mom bugging him about covering other stuff), the other has cool new classes at the middle school. Both boys will be enrolled in Tae Kwon Do just as soon as I have my teaching schedule sussed out. As of today, everything is peaches. I may have even seen a rainbow-farting unicorn frolicking through the fog on the other side of the pond behind our house.

But I hesitate to relax, even a little; previous school years have beaten that into me. Don’t let your guard down, ’cause that’s when the other shoe not only drops but kicks you in the naughty bits. It’s a mean shoe, with pointy steel-tipped toes and glitter. The bruises it leaves take months and years to heal, if ever, and the glitter never goes away. So I don’t want a visit from The Shoe Of Glitter and Pain, thankyouverymuch.

My one tool against all of this is experience. I know what to say and how and when and to whom, and most importantly, if at all. I have resources and connections and a tribe.

And the one thing I want to share as we all start this school year?

We all have those. We all have experience and resources and connections and a tribe. Not a single one of us is diving back into the breach alone. As we muscle up and gird our loins for the next 9 months, I want you to imagine an entire mob of people who have your back. Instead of torches and pitchforks (as much as we’d like to sometimes), we’re carrying research, support, and wine (<–yes, affiliate link, of course!). WE GOT THIS, PARENTS! We’re going to be strong in the face of epic homework battles, we’re going to be strong in the face of IEP meetings, and we’re going to be strong in the face of a society that doesn’t understand why homeschooling is oftentimes the last and best option for G2e kids. We’re going to virtually band together and make this school year free of The Shoe of Glitter and Pain. We’re going to take care of ourselves so we can fight for (and also with) our amazing kids without running ourselves into the ground.

School Year 2016-2017. Now with less glitter, more wine, and a lot more tribe.

Let’s do this.

Aug 24 2016

Why does my child’s giftedness bother you so?

Why does my child's giftedness bother you so?Another “giftedness doesn’t matter” blog post has surfaced, this time on HuffPo, and until this morning I wasn’t sure I had the energy or stamina to respond. Eleven years of shouting into the gale-force wind that is the willfully ignorant and you get a bit tired, with a sore throat (and frustrated psyche) that no amount of scotch can soothe. I’m tired of it. I can see, quite vividly, why parents of gifted kids fall off the advocacy radar when their kids are older. They’re exhausted from the battles, they’re sick of the willfully ignorant, and they just want their lives back. I get it. Boy howdy, do I get it. But before I tumble into that “screw it, I’m done, I want my own life” abyss, I have some questions I’d like the willfully ignorant to attempt to answer:

WHY DOES MY CHILD’S GIFTEDNESS BOTHER YOU SO?

How do my twice-exceptional sons, my gifted household, threaten you? How? Please, I really do want to know, because I cannot see it and I am trying. It’s not as though my boys are breaking into your house at night, tying you up, and talking at you about quantum physics, programming languages, and computer servers. They save that for me.

Are you alarmed by children who have a thirst for knowledge that is rarely quenched by the traditional school system? Does it keep you awake at night in horror that humans are all wired differently, and thus there are children who are quicker and deeper learners, who advance far faster than their age peers? Is it disturbing to you that a young child might be able to read and reason like an adult? Do you worry that giftedness is not what you have been led your whole life to believe?

What are you afraid of?

Are you afraid of giftedness?

Think about that, really think.

If you do not have a gifted child at home, why are you so dismissive of the experiences of the families who do? It’s no skin off your nose. Why is it necessary to belittle and demean parents and children who are struggling with wiring that is significantly different from the status quo? Do you feel better about yourself when you do? Is it a way to feel superior to those you quietly believe are superior to you? Knock ’em down a peg, cut those tall poppies down? My family and I are superior to no one, we are just different.

It’s not as though gifted programs in schools are sucking away precious resources. Last I checked (five minutes ago) there is no federal mandate for gifted education, so it gets bumped down to the states and school districts to fund. More often than not it’s not funded at all. My home state of Illinois has zero dollars allocated to gifted ed. No identification or services mandate, no required training for teachers, no budget, no policies, no nuttin’. Does that seem right to you? That the needs of children…and I am talking about children here, not their parents who are too often seen as humblebragging…who are wired differently and require academic accommodations different from the norm, are left to the whims of a local school district? Would it be ok with you if it were developmentally delayed children? Because we’re talking about the mirror images of the bell curve here. Kids on the far right of the curve require academic interventions every bit as intense and personal as those on the other side. Yes, really.

Or are you afraid that you’ll have to teach your own children that everyone is wired differently? Yes, we as humanity have so much in common, but take a long, hard look. Deep down you also know that we as humanity have inherent differences that are not attributable to hard work, mindset, and grit. How does cutting down my tall poppy make parenting yours easier?

I’m going to repeat that again for the folks in the back:

HOW DOES CUTTING DOWN MY TALL POPPY MAKE PARENTING YOURS EASIER?

What do you hope to accomplish? What is your end goal? Why is it necessary? You’re not harming your child with your willful ignorance, but you sure as hell are harming mine. You may not think so, but by chattering on about “all kids are gifted” (which they most certainly are not), or “giftedness doesn’t matter” or “giftedness is just parents thinking they have a special snowflake,” you are perpetuating the myth that these differently-wired kids will be just fine on their own. That cream always rises to the top. That early ripen, early rot. They will not be just fine on their own. SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted) was founded after the suicide of a gifted young man. I’ve seen many kids and adults who were thought to be “just fine” struggle mightily throughout their lives, and last week I was unable to travel to the memorial service for one of them, a friend who’d had enough of the struggle. Because gifted doesn’t mean you have it easy, it means you have it different, and that difference needs to be acknowledged and supported, and not ignored or patronized or mocked.

So. Once again I have to ask why. Why is it important to you, those of you who remain willfully ignorant about giftedness and its impact on lives, why is it important to you to remain so willfully ignorant? To ignore and dismiss the experiences of those who live this life?

Why does the giftedness in my family disturb you so?

Why?

Jul 14 2016

Midsummer musings

Mid-July and my god I just love summer. It’s hot and humid and sunny and I’m not buried in snow or layers or midwinter gloom. There have not been socks on my feet in weeks. I have hope and happiness and don’t want to run away to warmer climes because I am in warmer climes. My garden could do with a lot more rain, but we live next to a Great Lake and it’s at record high levels, so I just walk outside barefoot and water every day. No veggies this year to worry about, just newly transplanted perennials that may or may not be dead and need water. And flowers. And my grass is crunchy. But it’s summer and I love it so I deal.

Mid-July also means we’ve just celebrated a birthday. Jack is officially 12 now and I have no babies left. Twelve is most definitely tween, and we see that every day. He is very tween. Very. But he is such a cool kid. He has a fantastic eye for graphic design and plotzed when I showed him Canva. He’s nearly as tech-savvy as his older brother but in a different way. Kinda like he’s probably 2e like his brother, but in a different way. This young man is incredibly sensual, and I mean that in the “all senses are on full all the time” way. He always notices the beauty in nature, the lushness of sound, the smells and flavors of food. At 12 he is not yet averse to hugs, which warms my mama heart, since I’ve been MOOOOOOOOMMMMMMM much longer than I was ever Mommy. He’s heading into 7th grade this fall, which I remember as The Most Traumatic of the Middle School Years, so I hope he emerges relatively unscathed. In a few weeks he’ll attend a two-week filmmaker camp and I’m dying to see how he likes it. He’ll get to use real video equipment and the instructors are filmmakers from the city. So he’ll either LOVE IT or HATE IT, there is rarely an in-between. I love this boy so much, even when he makes me batshit crazy. That said, dearsweetbabyjesusonapony, please let him snag the maturity train onto which his brother leapt at about that age. Because my sanity requires it now. I can only handle so much.

The SENG conference is next week and I am presenting. Lessons From the Practice Room: Problem Solving Your Own Self-Care. I’m looking forward to doing this, I’ve enjoyed putting this presentation together.

Just realized that school starts six weeks from today. That is not a typo, there are only six weeks left. I am not amused.

This post now officially ranks as one of my most boring and meandering. I shall now go work on posts of thought and worth and effort, on my book, on other writing ideas, and on my SENG presentation.

Or I shall go outside and appreciate the hell outta this warmth, for winter will be here far too soon.

Jul 09 2016

Fifty and counting

My entire life I heard “don’t get married in July, it’s so hot.” So, in my ONLY rebellion against my parents, I got married in July. In their defense, on their wedding day it was nearly a hundred degrees, there was no air conditioning, and times were different then.

Times were fifty years ago.

Today my parents are celebrating 50 years of marriage. Think about that. Half a century of putting up with loving the same person, through thick and through thin. Five decades of love and laughter and fart jokes (what, just my family?). Spinning around the sun fifty times in a row, teaching their kids through example how to love and how to live and how to be married.

FIFTY YEARS, PEOPLE!

Yeah, I just hit the big 20 year mark, but that’s piffle compared to FIFTY YEARS OF MARRIAGE. They’re so cute together. Dad is tall, mom is a squirt. Dad is quiet, mom is vivacious. I adore them both, and see the best parts of them in me, and now also in my boys.

FIFFFFFFFTYYYYYYY YEAAAARRRRRSSSSSS

When I think of how many times in the last 20 years I’ve wanted to wring my husband’s neck, or how many times I’m sure he’s wanted to wring mine, 50 years is huge. HUUUUUUUUGE.

And yet, he and I are the children of two sets of parents who made it to 50 years, dropped the mic, and kept on going.

Happy Anniversary, dear parents. Fifty is a big deal. Love you guys.

Jul 06 2016

The Big Two-Oh

The big two-ohIt’s kinda cool when you find someone you can be weird with.

It’s kinda awesome when you get to marry that person.

And it’s really a freaking miracle when you look up one summer’s day and realize you’ve been weird with this other person for 20 years.

July 6, 1996. I was a child bride. Young, innocent. No years on me whatsoever. My groom? Some years older but still young and innocent. Married in a maple grove, in a tiny chapel that’s on the National Register of Historic Places. Our friends provided the music; it was a wedding and a concert broke out. Full of love and confidence that our lives would be better having the other in it.

Flash forward 20 years.

July 6, 2016. Not so young and innocent any longer. He is silver at the temples (yum), I have an appointment for highlights. Six addresses, five vehicles, four job changes, three states, two sons, and one dog later. Not hardened by life but certainly seasoned. Many peaks and valleys, though the valleys were more numerous and felt eternal. Hard work, full of blood and sweat and many, many tears. Still full of love and confidence that our lives are better having the other in it.

Our first anniversary we ate our cake topper on a train, headed to Colorado to find a place to live.

Our second (or was it third?) anniversary we spent apart, as I was in Vermont studying flute repair.

Our fifth anniversary we didn’t sleep. Neither did the little bugger keeping us awake.

Our eighth anniversary I had food poisoning from our dinner out. Puking while 9 months pregnant is unpleasant, but at least he waited another week to be born.

Our tenth anniversary we went to Disney World, just the two of us.

Our twelfth anniversary we went to Vegas and renewed our vows with friends. And Elvis.

Our fourteenth anniversary found us replacing an HVAC motor. And walls. And doors. Because nothing says love like a/c and having the basement contractor fix an oopsie.

Our fifteenth anniversary was spent in a nearly empty house while we continued to pack for a cross country move. The house we built, the home we loved.

Our eighteenth anniversary had us contemplating the future, in all its various permutations, and realizing we needed to move. Again.

Our twentieth anniversary finds us in our dream home, with a dream career for one and dreams of a dream career for the other (that’d be me, for those of you keeping track). It finds us peeking down the path of life and seeing that The Empty Nest is an actual thing, and might be ours someday. It finds us still together, tempered by the fire of life, and grateful to still be hand in hand.

Happy Anniversary, Tom. I’m grateful to be your wife, and can’t believe you’ve put up with me all these years. May this be only one of many anniversary milestones.

Jul 01 2016

The hardest won victories are the sweetest

The hardest won victories are the sweetestWhen you have a challenging, out of the box, G2e child who has never really fit in anywhere and who has been called “the most complex child I’ve ever seen in my life” by countless teachers and therapists and doctors and counselors…the victories earned in traditional society are so much sweeter. Sweet like that first sip of water that stays down after an all-night stomach flu puke-fest. There is nothing sweeter than that first sip, and there is nothing sweeter than finally seeing my 15 year old challenging, out of the box, G2e son grow into the man he is meant to be.

Last week was summer camp week. For me, that meant I had five glorious days of the boys out of the house. Granted, I gave some flute lessons and had things to do, but gone was the guilt that the boys were glued to screens while I tried to meet deadlines and goals. For the boys, however, it was a week of being out of the house, sans screens. Cue evil maternal laughter. Jack was at a traditional day camp, grumbling all the way, and Andy was an intern with Camp Invention.

Camp Invention. The maker camp that started it all. Nine years ago Andy first attended a Camp Invention and fell in love with the maker culture. Take stuff apart and see how it works and build new stuff and this does that and that does this and this is the best thing EVER!!!!! Fast forward to today and now we have a basement full of half-dead computers, logic boards, cords, zip ties, nuts, bolts, hardware, software, and the Ark of the Covenant. Please refrain from opening it, my homeowners insurance doesn’t cover face-melting.

So from a first grader heading off to a day long camp (where I did do a happy dance, because he would be gone all day and I could get a break from the intensity) to an intern in nine short years. He was excited at first, to get to return to the camp that he loved, and then…not so much. I don’t know what flipped, but suddenly he was worried and resistant and wanted to back out.

I, being the loving and caring mother that I am, said HELL TO THE ABSOLUTE NO.

And I made him follow through.

Tom and I had a laugh at his expense the first night.
“Mom! I’m in charge of nineteen kids (rising 4th-6th graders)! And two counselors-in-training (rising 7th graders)! I just…you have no idea!”
Dear son, you just said this to two former band directors, who had classes starting at 30 and going way, WAY up from there. Nineteen kids and two young assistants? No pity here, just a hearty laugh.

Midweek he had an epiphany thrust upon him.
“Mom! The counselors-in-training just don’t listen or pay attention! They (something something something I wasn’t listening or paying attention because I was trying so, so hard to keep a concerned and straight face…I didn’t make it)!!!”
Uh-huh. Didn’t listen. Didn’t pay attention. Made a mess. Golly gee whillikers sounds like a wee bit of karma returning to you!

At the end of the week he received a Certificate of Completion, a recommendation letter from the local camp director that he can use this year, and signed proof of 40 service hours. He was so proud of himself.
“Mom, thanks for not letting me back out.” <—Words he really and truly did say.
He wants to return next year.

The hardest won victories are the sweetest.

Jun 23 2016

Parenting Teenagers

Don’t you wish there was a magazine all about parenting teenagers? Kinda like the mags you’d read in the middle of the night, nursing an infant?

Fear not! I mocked one up for you! Enjoy.

Parenting Teenagers | July 2016

Jun 15 2016

A dose of Vitamin Get The F*ck Outside

A Dose of Vitamin Get the F*ck OutsideI’ve been doing a lot of gardening lately. Last year we spent the spring and summer just watching to see what would pop out of the ground. Watched to see where the sun would fall during the day and season, watched to see where the water pooled and where it ran off quickly, watched to see what was thriving and what was struggling. I planted four rhubarb slips, because you know, rhubarb. We had one itty bitty harvest last year, but it was a start. I threw a fifth one into the patch a couple weeks ago, and now the Gang of Five is plotting. It’s ok, I’ll have the last laugh. I have rhubarb recipes out the wazoo and a full-size freezer.

Digging in the dirt is my reward for surviving another winter, and on beautiful days I try to get out and see how it’s all growing. I’m not a great gardener, more of a “throw it in the ground and pray nature knows what it’s doing” kind of person, but I enjoy it. It gives me quiet time to think. I usually don’t listen to music while I’m out there, unless I have some heavy exertion in front of me and then it’s The Dropkick Murphys all the way (last week I was digging holes in sod in high heat and humidity, trying to get perennials a friend gave me into the ground before they croaked…”Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced” came on and thank god for that boost; my poor neighbors got to hear me sing along and yes, I know ALL THE WORDS to that NSFW song). Quite a bit of “If This is a Gift, Can I Send It Back?” was written in my head while I tried desperately to do something with the landscaping at our previous house. The language of birds and bugs and frogs and grasses…they calm me.

Which is good, because the world is a pretty messed up place these days. I try to have hope, but it’s tough when every time you turn around there’s another pile of shit being flung at everyone’s fan. It’s far too easy lately to go spinning into an anxiety-riddled vortex of “this hand-basket is heading in a southward manner at an increasing rate of speed and who the hell is driving?” I’ve moved past dystopian novels and straight into alien invasion stories; I’m past wishing for a reset button for my life and now wanting an enormous DO OVER switch for the planet. You could live in a news blackout cave and you’d still feel the stress of the world, simply from interactions with others. Everyone I know is in pain, suffering from a debilitating case of daily life. Hate and fear are everywhere, infusing everything with their sour stench. Some days it’s hard to keep going, knowing that beyond your own personal bubble the world is a giant game of Jenga, and you’re just waiting for that final brick to be removed and it all come tumbling down.

So I open the door and get a dose of Vitamin Get The Fuck Outside.

It’s not a perfect solution, but it helps. I water my garden in bare feet, feeling the grass scratch my ankles and the dirt work its way into the cracks and crevices of my feet. I revel in the heat from the bricks on the patio, and scrunch my toes into the mud, trying to connect my soul to that of the earth, to something solid and eternal. I sweet-talk the Gang of Five and order the new perennials to GROW, DAMMIT! I cheer when I see fat and happy bumblebees, and curse heartily at the wasps building a nest under my kitchen window; I must remember to obliterate those fuckers ASAP. I get out of my head and out of the chaos of the world and try, try so hard, to find peace in the nature around the house.

I don’t know what I’m going to do this fall and winter, when darkness and cold descend upon northern Illinois just as we enter the final stretch of this hellacious election cycle. I can work off anger by shoveling (again, “Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced” is a fantastic shoveling ditty), but I can’t do it barefoot and the birdsong will be just a memory. Guess I’ll live under my Happy Lamp…which needs to be replaced because I wore out the old one.

Get the fuck outside, people. Fill your souls with dirt and sun and warmth, not the screams of insanity we hear from our screens. There’s plenty of time for that when it gets cold, and there will be more than enough craziness to go around. But for now, go get a hefty dose of Vitamin GTFO; it will inoculate you against today’s world better than pretty much anything. It poured last night, so no need to water the garden. Instead I will just walk around barefoot, talking to the plants and muddying my feet, filling my tanks with sun and peace. It’s the best I got right now, and I hope you can join me.

Jun 09 2016

gifted and averages

gifted and averagesIt is summer here in Chicago. You wouldn’t know it today, with the cool temperatures and rain, but it’s most definitely summer. Tomorrow it’s expected that the temps will hit the 90s for the first time in many months. It’s unusual to get that high that early in the season, and while I guess I should be concerned with climate change, I’m just so damned happy it’s not several feet of snow that I don’t care right now.

We’re all obsessed with the weather in one way or another, aren’t we? If the temperatures are below average we get all depressed, feeling like we’re being cheated out of the proper temperature for that time of year. If the temperatures are above average we’re thrilled with the warm boon, feeling like somehow we beat the system. If the temps are far below average we worry terribly, and and if temps are far above average we wonder just what the hell is going on.

Sounds a lot like IQ scores, doesn’t it?

BAM smack in the middle of that bell curve we feel safe; everyone is equal. A little tip to either side and we can cope but our emotions are much too involved in the result; some have been cheated and others are “lucky.” A huge tip to either side and we just don’t know what to do with ourselves; some will never live independently and others are uncomfortably quirky, strange, and weird.

Like in Lake Wobegon, we want all children to be above average. Same with temperatures. I know I’d live a long and happy life with temperatures always juuuust above average. Problem is, that skews the average and effectively nullifies it. Some temperatures are above average, some are below; some are so high as to make you seriously consider nudity as a lifestyle choice, and some are so low I could not possibly wear enough clothing to stay warm. It’s the same with IQ scores and intelligence. It’s a range. Some high, some low, some very high, some very low.

Just something I’ve been pondering, as I listen to the weather reports in the morning. It’s amused me for some time how the announcers will always comment on how much above or below average the temps are for that given day.

Enjoy your summer Friday.

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