~two months in the life of a lifelong learner~ peaceful protests and a lot of alliteration

it’s been a good couple of months to be review listening to harry potter audio books, with so many themes having heightened relevance to our current events. it was quinn’s idea to listen to them again, when we finished with the heroes of olympus. while we were waiting for the order of the phoenix to come in at the library, we briefly reviewed some lemony snicket, and quinn observed, “these titles sure have a lot of alliteration.”

when he turned 10 *gasp* a month ago already, i borrowed from some of my lifelong learning notes for the birthday post, so you’ve already heard about peaceful protests, fourth person point of view, and our chatty walks up to the school building each morning.

the peaceful protests, of course, were a residual effect of his essay on martin luther king jr, an essay of which i think he is quite proud now that it is finished. he put a ton of effort into it, and i personally learned facts i hadn’t known before, such as that the day of his assassination, mlk:

“…went to Memphis, Tennessee to help black garbage collectors get the same amount of money as white garbage collectors for the same amount of work.”

i could copy and paste that snippet of his work into this post because we live in such a fancy modern age that our children can “share” their google doc essays to their mama’s email address when prompted to do so!

i went to school one friday while they were doing their martin luther king jr essays and i was circulating and helping kids. the first 10 minutes of the 45 minute class was a mindfulness breathing exercise… the teacher had them sit tall and breathe along with a drum beat for each breath, and a breathing ball (it expands and contracts) that the two team leaders handled. this was followed by a loving kindness meditation: “may i be safe and healthy… may i be happy… may i be… ” was the first of 4 rounds; second, she had them think of a person they love, and hold that person in mind and repeat “may he/she be safe…. “; third, “this one is harder… think of a person that it’s hard for you to like… “may he/she be….”; and finally, “may everyone be…” this was such a good investment of ten minutes, because the kids proceeded to spend the next 35 minutes acutely focused and getting so much accomplished on their essays. with lots of direction from her (they were working on conclusions so she provided examples of transition phrases that work well for beginning a conclusion…. and then had kids share their first sentences… then they worked on how to include the 3 main ideas of the essay in that first sentence… and went back to work on their first sentence some more… very methodical with them on actually how to write.) quinn had a ton of writing on his piece of paper, and also arrows going here and there of places he wanted to insert sentences he wrote later… the kids completely understand “drafts” and they get excited when it is time for “publishing” and writing their final drafts… he picked the right year to work on improving his writing, with such graceful guidance.

 

he is a certified… guacamole masher, steam mopper, fireplace filling technician!

(i clearly was unable to put a log in the wood stove, with 30 pounds of cat on my legs, so someone had to do it!)

risk and play date fun with a panda, and birthday celebrations with a koala.

beach clean-up class field trip! we found some cool rock formations including some that quinn claimed were dinosaur eggs in a nest! we filled a pretty big pile of garbage bags from our little stretch of beach.

 

first belt test at his new dojo! quinn earned his half yellow belt, something he was very keen to do. i appreciate sifu’s approach, and the way he tunes into the individual needs and interests of each kid. he knew and understood that quinn wanted to “collect them all” and was happy to oblige with a half belt test! quinn actually already knew almost all of his yellow belt curriculum, so his full yellow test was scheduled for soon thereafter.

this dojo is a really good fit for us. i personally enjoy the self paced curriculum, because if i feel ready for new techniques, all i have to do is ask for them. if i need more time to practice, i can take more time. i am not lumped in with a group all trying to advance at the same pace, and yet somehow teaching everyone new individual techniques does not seem to become unmanageable even with large class sizes. i am trying to use as many opportunities in life right now to help quinn learn to assert himself in positive ways, to advocate especially for what he wants to learn. since our debut in public school, i have wanted to reinforce his right to self-direction in his learning choices. in the conversations we’re having about learning, i keep trying to set the tone that what he wants matters, and that speaking up about it is always a good choice, even if his wishes can’t be accommodated right away. he is getting to practice that in his karate pursuit, and i am glad for the parallel to his schooling that i can point to as an example.

creative reading postures; eye rolling

a visit from ruby tuesday! she’ll even hop up on his loft bed with him to snuggle him into bed at night. we are so lucky to be her fairy dog family.

games! playing games with panda, playing games with grammie e, who recently added quinn into the weekly rotation of her grandkids so he could play games with her and have some undivided attention. they played monopoly for their first round. when he’s not playing games, he’s usually making games…

some recent game themes included wilderness survival, owl evolution, battle islands, an angry birds spinoff, and a few others that he didn’t not have fully developed or named yet. graph paper!!!

most of his peaceful protests had to do with bringing graph paper, pencil and markers along to work on a game design. he also made some new “elements game” cards one afternoon, based on magic the gathering, but with his own spin. i was glad i had already turned on google safe search when he started google image searching terms like “mermaid queen.” all of the mermaid queens he found were fully dressed, thank goodness!

it will be fun to find out how this game is played!

one of our vacation house roommates came to visit! he hadn’t been to our new house so we got to give him a tour and feed him dinner and treat him to our air mattress. he brought a king cake for dessert (awesomeness, straight from NOLA) and i made soup and bread for dinner and we all ate and got caught up. we told him he needs to bring his other half and come back in july for a get together we’re having. we also showed him the bayou, the name of which was of course inspired by our new orleans roomies.

after dinner we got out the king cake which had a warning label “inedible baby figurine included” or something to that effect. they don’t hide the baby in the cake anymore because of litigation so the baby was sitting inside the wrapper. i took it over to the counter and hid the baby under a piece that had green sugar on the frosting, thinking quinn would want a green piece, so maybe he would get the baby. (if you have never had king cake this all sounds incredibly ridiculous!) i brought it back over and handed rich the knife and he asked quinn what color he wanted. quinn said green, and rich cut the exact piece where i had put the baby (which was a long shot!) and the baby popped out as he was putting it on the plate. lots of laughing, quinn was happy he got the baby, and our friend told stories about king cakes he’s eaten in the past; how some high end places use gold babies, and how his cub scout leader had a king cake one time with 15 babies in it so all the kids got a baby and it was a fun surprise, and several other funny scenarios involving king cake.

our friend had been tracing the geneaology of his family, who it turns out have been living in the 9th ward for something like 8 generations. he has been visiting old family homes, graves, and digging through old microfiches to trace family members back even farther. we were talking about the naming conventions of various family members and he would say to quinn, so who is your grandfather’s son (and quinn would answer, um…. my uncle) and then it got more tricky and there was a discussion of what “once removed” means in cousin terminology. i told the story of how luigi always called q “cousin quinn”, and that one time when we went to visit when q was 5 and luigi 4 and i was coaching them on being kind to each other “after all, you’re cousins” and luigi saying, “wait, i’m a cousin?!” mind blown. that led to principles of family like “you can’t have a cousin without being a cousin” and you can’t have a sibling without being a sibling, and quinn was coming up with more. then we talked about how it applies to friends too, but can you have a friend without being a friend? that was discussed, but then it got silly with “but what if the second friend is really a spy, and only acting like a friend to extract information from the first friend…” so then to be even sillier i asked, “well then what if the first friend is a double agent” and then it was “oh yeah, what if the second friend is a triple agent?” and by this time we were all giggling hysterically at the table, to quadruple and quintuple agents, and beyond.

when our friend asked quinn about school, quinn said they are learning mostly about martin luther king jr. right now, and also about native americans. he told us all how their land was taken away, and talked about the sioux and knew where in the country to point to on the map of where their land was, and didn’t know what states’ names that corresponds to now, so he went to look for an atlas, and wandered away. i went and found him after a while and he was on his bed reading calvin and hobbes. we looked at an atlas together and he pointed right to the dakotas, with an “oh yeah, that’s right.” i am glad to know he is learning such things right now. i got him a young peoples’ history of the u.s. on audio cd (howard zinn), one of his stocking presents for christmas and i think he will get into it once he starts. knowing how he absorbs auditory information, he will be an american history expert (from the zinn perspective) in no time.

i chaperoned a field trip to the art department at the local community college. the kids had all prepared a drawing they would use to carve and print a linocut, so they set about carving right away. this was full of ups and downs for a few of the kids who struggle a bit with perfectionism. not that i  know anything about that. at one point he wanted to give up and felt he had ruined the whole thing, but as he worked through it, he found equanimity again, and then he tried a print even though he wasn’t finished carving and beamed, and said, “it looks like an old black and white photograph!!”

using the brayer; printing his first draft

pleased with his print

“just like an old black and white photograph!” i guess i’m not the only one in this family who likes spirals… i quite like the way this spiral has a beam of light shining out of it, and even if he continues to carve away the rest of the outer portion, i will treasure this first print.

recently the name “the happy spot” has come back into vogue; lately he likes to get cozy in my chair with my laptop and my heating pad on the low setting… often it is his first activity upon arriving home from his dad’s week.

he started back up studying computer programming on khan academy and got caught back up to the point where he left off a year or so ago in one night. after that quick review he moved forward. this was a totally self motivated effort.

in the department of “life lessons we wish we didn’t need to learn” these past few months, one of the teachers quinn had for walk to math last year in third grade was arrested for sexually assaulting a teen minor at a summer camp. the teacher had already left quinn’s school, and was now teaching in a different county, and so our school system did not even appear to address it, which was disheartening. for my part, i discussed it with quinn, preferring him to hear about it from me rather than from classmates (i heard about it via facebook, where a friend had originally learned of it from her 6th grader reading the online news article aloud at the breakfast table (!), so i felt it was safe to assume it was going to circulate around school), and we sat together and read the brief few pages in it’s perfectly normal that cover the things that are not normal or okay when done by an adult to a child. i had just recently ordered this book, since we had the 7 and up book it’s so amazing but are now approaching 10!

the song happy by pharrell williams came on the radio on a random weekend day when we had npr on the radio. quinn loves listening to all of those shows (wait wait don’t tell me, radio lab) and laughs at the political jokes. happy came on and quinn was singing all the words and rich and i made eye contact over his head and grinned as we do when stuff like that happens.

he’s getting so big… he has favorite songs he knows the lyrics to…

he got past the part where leslie dies in bridge to terebithia.

he has inside jokes with me like “whatever sleet is.”

karate is a fun long evening twice a week, and i feel good about the time we’ve spent every time i’m leaving there. he is learning a lot in sparring, which in this dojo has a lot to do with control vs pummeling your opponent, and he is finding he likes working with some of the adult class green belts because they teach him while they spar.

one day quinn and i were all by ourselves for a day class, and he got to go through all of his moves for his full yellow belt test. he had fixed one foot maneuver sifu had worked on with him in his short one form, and sifu noticed that he had fixed it and said “i’d give you your belt just for that.” that was a nice acknowledgement of quinn’s attention to detail.

and the full yellow test was again a success! this time he tested with a friend, and they both did a wonderful job. and better yet, they left feeling like they knew they had done well, their hard work had been affirmed and encouraged.

valentine’s day; excuse for dorkery in the kitchen and receiving handmade cards!

some random learning moments this month; listening to his friend read to him (as part of their daily 5 reading program, i think quinn has probably helped this one boy with his reading quite a bit this school year, by being such a loyal listener and patient decoding helper. plus they are awfully cute sitting in their camp chair together. we also attended a fun movie night at the dojo, to which each and every student brought their fuzzy fleece blanket. before the show, board games were played, which of course is always a good time for quinn! he even got to eat an off-brand lunchable, poor deprived child that he is, he has had precious few of them in his lifetime, like possibly only one other one, but i succumbed to his special request.

and then he turned ten….

his birthday weekend was nice, and not stressful. by deciding to keep it simple, i ended up free to make it fancier. he helped, and it was so low key that i could have fun and be creative. the pizza pokeball and the type symbols on the veggies were last minute add-ons, because i had time to sit around and briefly google “pokemon party.” quinn set up the pokemon figures, and also decided he liked my balloon curtain idea, so he hung 4 out of 5 of them, after i hung up the first.

the boys played outside quite a bit, and would come in and do pokemon and legos and stuff in between. quinn got a minecraft medieval fortress book from grammy and grampy and that was his favorite. for a while they played minecraft, and then they would revisit the table and load up on more pizza and veggies. the three of us sang to quinn and he joined in singing to himself and laughed, and then he made his wish and we ate cupcakes. we put on a movie in the evening so the boys could transition to inside voices. we watched indian in the cupboard  since they’re both familiar with the book.

then they went to bed and read and drew and talked. i turned the light off at 9 or so, and they fell asleep 9:30ish. not too bad, they were actually noisier the next morning.

it’s wild that he’s 10 and having sleepovers…

he hasn’t parted with the minecraft book (it rode to school in the car with us several mornings) so that definitely won best present. he does like his jedi robe though, and he was listening to music on his mp3 player morning while he got dressed for school. because he’s happy… “clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth.

other posts you may enjoy:

~black and white wednesday~ spring textures

date nights

bayou walks

dappled sunlight

wedding day imaginings

seeds

ephemera

friends

new beginnings

renewal

blooming

rain clinging to petals

wishing you an abundant and energetic season as we emerge from hibernation!

other posts you may enjoy:

~rainbow mondays~ the whole spectrum

i am a summer girl at heart, but early spring is a very happy time of year for me, because of all the hopeful new beginnings, new growth, and flowers! the first flowers after the longest period of going without flowers are some of the sweetest. part of the changing of seasons for me is allowing myself to feel the associated dread, diappointments, anticipations, longings, awe, wonder, and magic that each ephemeral moment holds. giving myself permission to feel the whole spectrum of the human emotional experience.

pink: as i was brainstorming wedding cupcake ideas with wedding boss and co., we settled on flowers in every color. i won’t spoil all the details, but i am happy to say that cherry blossoms will be representing in the candy pink/baby pink department. to explain why, i wrote that to me they symbolize “the saga of a tree and an over-extended metaphor about renewal.” the ornamental in the above picture at dragon house 2.0 may actually be a plum, but the metaphor lives on for me in every blossom i see, and is always a reminder for me of what can bloom even after brokenness and devastation.

red: the hummingbirds have certainly recognized that spring is upon us, and are emptying the feeder in frantic four-hour periods this week in preparation for nesting.

orange: also in the “it’s officially spring” department, robins! (we saw a turkey vulture soaring over the bayou the other day as well!)

yellow: more work on the rainbow terrace garden was accomplished as providence provided another sunny sunday, but a few bulbs in their bucket transitional homes have bloomed before i could transplant them. these crocuses will be leading off the early spring end of the yellow terrace level in years to come!

yellow: 3 trilliums, petals of 3, sepals of 3, and leaves of 3. the magic number! a sweet-smelling spring favorite of mine, always just before my birthday. (39 this year on the 3rd! more 3s!)

green: spring brings signs of life, signs of renewal, signs of love. tender new leaves emerging from long dormant earth.

blue: speaking of love, i haven’t moved all of my 8 yards of compost yet, but this handsome man moved most of his 10 yards of gravel in a little over a day. it’s hard to get my own work done because i get distracted by watching him! (or at least, that’s my excuse.)

purple: sprouting broccoli at the farm stand on saturday, and since my kiddo has been requesting broccoli lately, i brought some home for him to try.

purple: another fresh spring arrival, the pile of radishes featured one rogue bunch of purple radishes, of which i couldn’t resist snapping a photo. the farm seasons offer a comforting continuous awareness of renewal as last season’s crops fade away and new arrivals make their appearance. i find the farm work especially grounding in this current life season, as i have had about all i can take of looming budget cuts, grant-funded research, and the restrictions and expectations of carrying on an unsustainable lifestyle in order to be under paid and lack job security in a project i can therefore not invest any life force in, since i only having a master’s degree. looking forward to renewal in the area of career in the upcoming months.

brown: a squirrel heartily enjoying a pine cone. rich and i got to watch it peel each seed and spit out the husk, turning the whole thing over and over in its paws like corn on the cob.

i didn’t have a major topic lined up for today, which is probably another case of providence, since i think we could all use a little breather after my previous post! i want to say that i appreciate each and every comment and the effort and time you each put into responding and searching and digging into the meat of a difficult topic with me! the one link i want to share today, concerning empathy, is one that i felt was helpful for me in articulating why it hurt to hear many versions of “get over it” following the election wherein folks were  “sick of” hearing others expressing fear and sadness. we are all human, and i want to be clear that one reason i appreciate my readers so much, is the way you all already regard my and each other’s feelings as entirely valid; the “get over it” sentiments are not ones that i heard in this space! empathy takes us a long way past many of the roadblocks to dialogue that much of our society seems to have a hard time clearing.

When we react to our emotions with rejection or repression, they become complex story bundles, locked in our hearts and bellies, and we call them things like depression and rage. Allowed to exist on their own, they are weather patterns, and the rain they bring renews the despairing or apathetic soul with life giving force.”

mary good’s post also talks about how we can “give our hearts permission for the full range of experience,” including those very vulnerable feelings that can be uncomfortable. when we let the ephemeral clouds drift across our skies and simply observe and validate them, we get to both experience them more fully, the whole rainbow of emotion, and find much greater ease in letting them go. i’m finding this to be an excellent and much-needed reminder for myself right now, with uncertainties and unanswered questions stirring in my own life, and knowing there are vulnerable times ahead for so many of my friends and family as well. let’s be rainbows in each others’ clouds as we embrace the renewal that spring brings.

~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday

a photo study documenting the colors of the spectrum: the balance points between light reflected and light absorbed

other posts you may enjoy:

~black and white wednesday~ the least of these

for today’s post i’m sharing photos by sebastiao salgado.

it was a couple of hours of my time well spent, wandering through the berkeley art museum back in 2002, absorbing salgado’s amazing collection migrations: humanity in transition. i was adrift myself, recently relocated far from home in a post 9/11 political climate, when i took in these visually stunning photos of displaced people from all over the world. something about them really touched my core; my account of the exhibit and the feelings it evoked, complete with the exhibit pamphlet and newspaper clippings of salgado’s photos, fills several pages of my journal from that time. that journal is full of many other long entries as i was sorting out a lot of my own values and beliefs – as you do when you’re 23 and know absolutely no one. i had landed a technician job in a marine mammal genetics lab, relocated 3000 miles away in my 1988 corsica, which promptly blew a head gasket, and i spent the next 5 years making my way around the bay area on borrowed and second-hand bikes. at the time i saw this exhibit, i was still pretty fresh off a schooner, both broke and nursing a broken heart, and eating rice and beans and whatever fresh vegetables i could fit in my backpack on the 6 mile uphill trek home to the oakland hills.

there are adults who have lived their whole lives in camps where only the oldest remember where they were displaced from. there are children who have been separated from their families in the chaos of flight from violence, warfare. whole orphanages full of them.” the journal entry was seriously grappling with the privilege i felt guilty to be enjoying, compared to the poverty and fear experienced by so many.

i don’t feel such overwhelming guilt now, but i do feel a sense of responsibility for maintaining an awareness of the plight of people much less fortunate than myself. as elie wiesel put it so well, “as long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true. as long as one child is hungry, our life will be filled with anguish and shame. what all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours, that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs.”

elie wiesel is also quoted as saying, “no human being is illegal.” which, when you think about it, is a no-brainer. i like how he thinks, which i guess is why i’ve kept insisting on quoting him recently. he seems to have understood that someone else having rights, not only doesn’t detract from one’s own rights; on the contrary, it enhances everyone’s freedom.

a country based on freedom should have policy that reflects it. i remain unconvinced of the supposed threat we face from refugees, and remain convinced that it is our responsibility to treat “the least of these” with compassion. in the aftermath of muslim ban 1.0, before the judicial system rightfully put a stop to it, many legal permanent residents were cast into uncertainty about their lives, careers, and futures in their legal country of residence, scrambling until judges upheld their right to not be illegally deported, their right to have their families reunited. a breastfeeding (american citizen) baby was separated from her (legal permanent resident) mother at an airport, for hours, unable to receive comfort or nutrition from her mother because of this chaos. an eleven month old infant: truly, the least of these.

muslim ban 2.0 cannot be allowed to stand either. my safety, my security, my freedom is not enhanced by separating nursing infants from their mothers; it is degraded. my security is not enhanced by refusing to accept someone who is without a homeland.

i understand that those who want to join our country need to be vetted. but this is already happening. what part of the already extensive vetting process needs improvement? what’s the plan to improve it? in the meantime, how can you evaluate the vetting process accurately without seeing it in action? if it was truly so flawed it needed to be halted, what were the problems that were identified? who slipped through the cracks, what harm did they cause, how did they get through vetting undetected? what is the actual threat prevented by a ban? (hint: there isn’t one.)

this author, who claims, “i’m pro life, but i hope to become more so,” put this lack of threat in perspective. “since 1980, three million refugees have been resettled in the united states. in that time not one has taken the life of an american in an act of terrorism. the conservative cato institute estimates that the likelihood of an individual american being killed in an act of terrorism committed by a refugee is one in 3.64 billion a year. somehow it does not feel truly and fully pro-life to be unwilling to give up one-3.64 billionth of my security to make room for someone bombed out of their city, someone who is homeless, cold and unwelcomed.”

this article outlines all “major terrorist attacks” since 9/11 on american soil… “of this list, zero fatal attacks were carried out by immigrants from the seven muslim-majority countries targeted by the ban. two attacks were carried out by individuals with ties to the seven countries: the 2006 unc suv attack, and the 2016 ohio state university attack. neither of those plots resulted in american deaths.”

terrorist attacks carried out by american citizens from  montana, tennessee, arkansas, texas, wisconsin, new jersey, kansas, nevada, south carolina, and colorado did, though.

which is why i think it’s important that we keep the “countering violent extremism” program focused broadly on all forms of violent extremism, including the domestic white supremacist brand.

another article succinctly laid out the facts concerning the “phantom menace” a muslim ban would claim to combat:

nationals of the seven countries singled out… have killed zero people in terrorist attacks on u.s. soil between 1975 and 2015.

zero.

six iranians, six sudanese, two somalis, two iraqis, and one yemeni have been convicted of attempting or executing terrorist attacks on u.s. soil during that time period…

over the last four decades, 20 out of 3.25 million refugees welcomed to the united states have been convicted of attempting or committing terrorism on u.s. soil, and only three americans have been killed in attacks committed by refugees—all by cuban refugees in the 1970s.

between 1975 and 2015, the ‘annual chance of being murdered by somebody other than a foreign-born terrorist was 252.9 times greater than the chance of dying in a terrorist attack committed by a foreign-born terrorist…’

i mean, call me crazy, but i’ll take my chances and open my arms to refugees.

in the words of jack white, “love is the truth – it’s the right thing to do.”

 

other posts you may enjoy:

~rainbow mondays~ the colors of silence

i’ve found the rainbow connection, at least when it comes to potluck dishes. i was assigned veggies for the family st. patrick’s day get together (celebrated early this year) and though i would personally make a rainbow for any occasion, the leprechaun believer in me felt this was a fitting occasion.

white: we’ve been learning about sleet…

pink: but now we are starting to see more very hopeful signs of spring! high up in the plum tree, a burst of pink blossoms really made my sunny sunday. i even broke out the old heart-shaped lens for the occasion.

red: this might not look like a heart-shaped lens photo, but it is the real deal. the sister who made too much dinner for her family on a friday night so she made dinner for mine, too, that kind of heart-shaped lens. also known as providence.

red: said sister had a perfect viewing/photographing spot during our st. patty’s celebration for our hummingbird friends. i may have to do a whole hummingbird post!

red: rich in raspberries, the boy can talk his mama into buying out of season fruit once in a while.

the raspberry

ilse, a childhood friend of mine,

once found a raspberry in the camp

and carried it in her pocket all day

to present to me that night on a leaf.

imagine a world in which

your entire possession is

one raspberry and

you gave it to your friend.

~gerda weissman klein, holocause survivor; new england holocaust memorial

red: there was a story that went along with the hand gestures…

orange: my fall-planted bulbs are starting to bloom! these little crocuses brightened my weekend.

i sing sometimes

like my life is at stake

’cause you’re only as loud

as the noises you make

i’m learning to laugh as hard

as i can listen

’cause silence

is violence

in women and poor people

if more people were screaming then i could relax

but a good brain ain’t diddley

if you don’t have the facts…

…for every lie i unlearn

i learn something new

i sing sometimes for the war that i fight

’cause every tool is a weapon –

if you hold it right.

~ani difranco

gold: i love this guy, such an individual.

ani also says:

and half of learning how to play

is learning what not to play

and she’s learning the spaces she leaves

have their own things to say

then she’s trying to sing just enough

so that the air around her moves

and make music like mercy

that gives what it is

and has nothing to prove

 

yellow: first dandelions! so, this week’s rainbow includes a little collection of quotes that kept finding me as i was researching some of my earlier posts. it seems that the theme of silence is a big one, when it comes to threats facing vulnerable people. i have been struggling with finding the balance between “learning what not to play” and letting my silence suggest i’m complacent. i’ve also been feeling like i’m saying too much, and being pulled in the direction of staying quiet, and at other times, have felt that i’m not saying enough. i’m definitely not going to claim i’ve found that balance, and will probably continue to err on the side of verbosity, just to make sure. but for today i’m letting others’ words do most of the talking.

first they came for the socialists, and i did not speak out—

because i was not a socialist.

then they came for the trade unionists, and i did not speak out—

because i was not a trade unionist.

then they came for the jews, and i did not speak out—

because i was not a jew.

then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

~martin niemöller

yellow: a lone skunk cabbage on the new bayou vista, reflecting on things.

green: a couple of old souls

green: this is serious business, the feeders require filling daily during this busy frenzy before they nest!

green: some years i am able to snap a before pic of the green jello… not this year.

green: i had 8 yards of compost delivered to the dragon house, and used my sunny sunday to wheel 20 loads (4 buckets each) to dump into the terraces. it’s really starting to look like a garden in there! handsome fiance overseeing the documentation of progress in the late afternoon.

green: then we went for a walk to the bayou, heart-shaped lens in hand.

green: a thursday afternoon stretch of highway on the way to eugene with my love to see some more live music. unintentional rear view selfie and soggy farmland. more reflecting, while i enjoyed my place on the passenger side.

we must take sides. neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. sometimes we must interfere. when human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.

~eli wiesel

blue: farmland, with trees, more passenger side view.

elie wiesel declined to have his memoir night produced as a feature film. he felt his story would lose its meaning without the silences in between words.

blue: we got to see these lovelies, the shook twins (an oregon country fair favorite of ours) after that lovely ride through farm country and a killer burger. they are some inspiring young women with something to say. they just happen to say it, as they put it, with “the face drum,” the “telephone opera,” and a giant egg. they also play the heck out of their guitar and banjo, but they played an amazing version of the tears for fears song mad world, all just with their voices. very powerful.

they were the opening act, and then we got to see the wood brothers, who were a new band for us.

and if you ask him

how he sings his blues so well

he says

i got a soul that i won’t sell

i got a soul that i won’t sell

i got a soul that i won’t sell

~wood brothers

 

purple: miner’s lettuce in abundance at the dragon house! i love the vibrant green mossy backdrop for this purple spring yumminess.

red violet: so much easier to get a non-blurry photo of a primrose when the sun comes out!

black: an exciting blank canvas, waiting for rainbow flowers!

~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday

a photo study documenting the colors of the spectrum: the balance points between light reflected and light absorbed

other posts you may enjoy:

~black and white wednesday~ international day of women

manger ~ gertrude kesabier ~ 1899

 

on this international women’s day, i want to share some thoughts i’ve been collecting since before the election, concerning the experience of victims/survivors of domestic violence. i realize domestic violence is not a rainbows and butterflies topic, but it is one of the most important topics i write about, and on a day that is all about women, it’s important to me to remember how very alive this problem remains.

there are a few statistics that jumped out at me when i went a-googling, in order to give some context to just how big a problem we are talking about. the national coalition against domestic violence says that in the united states, about 20 people per minute are abused physically by a significant other. also, although we know that toasters don’t make toast; people make toast! it does seem significant to me that the risk of homicide in a domestic violence situation increases by 500% in the presence of a gun. this article portrays the problem in another shockingly succinct statistic: “The number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 was 6,488. The number of American women who were murdered by current or ex male partners during that time was 11,766.”

with that i would like to share a friend of a friend of a friend’s words that i saw posted as a comment on one of dan rather’s pleasantly sane facebook essays. to me, it reads as a poem of sorts. it explains exactly how i feel about certain refrains i keep hearing about the current administration.

“Karen Rose says: A few things I’ve heard the last two months:

  1. Give Trump a chance.
  2. Maybe it won’t be that bad.
  3. All politicians are horrible.
  4. He’ll get better once in office.

.
Just a few things I’ve heard from victims of domestic violence.

  1. I’ll just give him another chance.
  2. It’s not that bad.
  3. All men are like this.
  4. He’ll get better once we’re married.

.
Just a few things I’ve heard months/years later from victims of domestic violence:

  1. She’s dead
  2. She’s in a coma
  3. He killed her child.
  4. He’s now beating his new girlfriend. “

this article is probably the one that hit home the most during an election campaign cycle that i personally experienced as déjà vu. many other women experienced it the same way. roughly, i’d say, one in three women, might have experienced listening to one particular candidate as traumatic or triggering, because of how it reminded them of emotionally violent partners. physical violence is only part of the story, of course, and almost always goes hand in hand with psychological/emotional abuse. in my case, the emotional violence was far worse, went on for far longer and was far more responsible for eroding my coping skills and morale than the one physical attack i endured.

 

actress margaret vale howe marching in 1913 for women’s suffrage in washington d.c.

(public domain, found for me by my fiance)

i’ve talked about memory issues that i have, and one of the reasons i write is a need to put my storyline back in order and keep it in order after it was fragmented by trauma. this fragmentation in domestic abuse situations can stem from the way in which the rules of fair discourse go out the window, and the rapid fire pace at which lies, denial, and fallacies of logic are lobbed at you. the shifting of blame, the abuser framing himself as victim (and finding plenty of folks who are willing to assert his victimhood!), the gaslighting (aggressively denying objective truth is a definition i like for this term); the way the subject gets abruptly turned back on you when you try to address an issue; the appeals to “everyone” who is said to agree with him about whatever egregious claims made about you; the use of voice as a weapon (the therapist who mediated between my abuser and me told me privately that he observed me becoming meeker and quieter as he got equally louder and more forceful in his speech); the confusion of being accused of dishonesty by the person who was a seasoned veteran at dishonesty (confusion, because i was receiving these accusations before i knew that he was a cheating liar. my mom saw that coming, and  knew the accusations were a red flag. i now see it in other people the same way she did, and know to avoid them.)

these tendencies in emotionally abusive individuals became normalized during the election. everything i just said is represented in the way the president has spoken and acted these past months. insistent denial of a very clear public record of lying; when confronted on his appalling record with women, bringing up the other candidate’s husband’s past record with women; when confronted on tax returns, bringing up emails; grossly overgeneralizing; making sure his voice is the loudest one in the room. jane goodall, renowned expert in ethology (the study of behavior) calls it like she sees it: he behaves like a male chimpanzee asserting dominance.

the article on emotionally abusive debate tactics didn’t mention physical intimidation (since it’s not a verbal debate tactic) but invading someone’s space and positioning one’s body in threatening ways is another thing survivors are familiar with. i’ve had door frames filled by a man’s bodies who wanted to trap me, i’ve had my own space invaded in order to back me down from sticking up for myself. there is a whole world of women who know what that looks and feels like, along with me.

i’m weary of the way people are treating each other. i’m disheartened by the descent to the lowest common denominator, the name-calling, the number of times i’ve heard people i thought were otherwise decent human beings use terminology such as “libtard” (and much worse) on other human beings. i was condescendingly criticized for my “thinking style” and accused of twisting words by a childhood friend on another friend’s facebook post. i stood up for “lefty liberals” when another friend of a friend slammed “them” for bringing the demise of recreational salmon fishing, since i was able to speak firsthand about my own work to ensure that there are any salmon left for future generations (including but not limited to recreational fishing). i’ve also chimed in when called out for “crying victim” which is how some “friends” would summarize the intent of the women’s march. there is a whole post to be written on the subject of shaming and invalidation of emotions such as fear and sadness, the natural and proportionate responses to things going on in the world.

this violent, careless way of speaking to people is not limited to the political divide. sitting in karate with coparent a few months back, who shares many liberal political views, he passive aggressively spoke about what an idiot his Psych 101 professor must be, because when he asked her to define codependency she failed to respond that it is, “the refusal to take a look at your own issues.” it’s been almost 9 years since i had a restraining order, but some things (victim-blaming) still haven’t changed.

and my situation, as tough as it was at times, reeks of what a place of privilege i experienced it from, and am able to reflect on it from. there are others with far fewer resources and who are therefore far more vulnerable to the effects of domestic abuse. you caught that 98% of domestic abuse cases also include financial abuse when you read through the statistics, right? my case did as well, but i had a way bigger safety net to jump into than many women.

which is why i don’t buy that anything this administration says they are doing in the  name of protecting women is really motivated by actual care for women. this (very current) article sums up how clauses in executive orders targeting domestic violence (of a certain religious bent) are more likely to pose an increased barrier to reporting domestic violence, and more like to threaten the very group of people they are claiming it will protect: immigrants. as if financial hurdles and the common threats of losing child custody and housing stability weren’t enough, these women have to deal with potentially being deported on top of it all if they speak up about abuse.

migrant mother (florence owens thompson, who at the time was a single mother of 6, and worked farm labor jobs during the depression) ~ dorothea lange ~ 1936

“After September 11, 2001, we had abusers from certain communities who affirmatively used anti-Muslim hostility as a tool of abuse… ’If you contact that police, you’re exposing our entire community, our household, and you’re likely to be treated as a criminal as well.’”

any provision to target the violence of only one religious group (and ignoring all the other religious groups with domestic violence issues), is a thinly veiled targeting of immigrants, rather than a source of help for victims of domestic violence. this administration’s threat of removal of funding from all 25 VAWA grant programs makes this case; this executive order is motivated by something other than care for the welfare of women.

which is why when it comes to abusive men, something we all need to learn (i needed to learn it!) is that even if you can’t trust anything they say, you darn well better watch their actions. as maya angelou said, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

i’ve quoted her once, and i’ll quote her again. she and the women in the photos i’ve borrowed to celebrate today, are great examples of women to look towards for inspiration, as women step into the strength that is already ours, but that the world still hasn’t embraced.

other posts you may enjoy:

~rainbow mondays~ the rainbow connection

i’ve been thinking about how we can move towards finding connections, instead of focusing on differences. i see the image above and i think idealistically about how the united states would be so cool if we lived up to our image as a place where all are welcome. (i do not know the source of this artwork, and hope the artist does not mind it being shared!)

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

~emma lazarus (the quote associated with the statue of liberty on ellis island, the entry point to our country for my ancestors, all of whom came from europe.)

some would say, “but it’s not that simple. we have to think about national security.”

others would argue, “yes, it really is that simple” to be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud. i thoroughly enjoyed reading about the refugees the pope personally rescued from syria here and here. i also love this rainbow-rific image (unknown source) of pope francis, whom i have come to admire for his practical, no-nonsense way of practicing what he preaches. it’s one thing to claim you have no problem with someone of a different religion; it’s another thing to wash that person’s feet.

speaking of rainbow-rific, this is the current boss of our hummingbird feeders, and i think he likes having his picture taken! and clearly, he has found the rainbow connection.

red: i am finally overcoming the inertia of winter and making some real progress on wedding planning! i feel some flat bride posts coming on… because there is some good comedy in taking your own measurements for a wedding dress, let me tell you!

red: a friday lunch for my ten year old young man!

orange: brightly colored driftwood on my lunch break beach run today.

yellow: the daffodils are coming!

green: a new bayou vista opened up by my trail blazing fiance.

blue: blue hair braided with black hair. they found a rainbow connection. (image from reuters)

so i’m puzzling on this, but i think that trying to find a rainbow connection means not defaulting to the scripted polar divisions and not becoming reactive on topics regardless of whether the topic is pokemon go, colin caepernick, the election, or standing rock. this neural groove of either/or is well lubricated, so it’s going to take strong intentions and follow through to avoid slipping into it. what if i could be with each of those topics, without taking a side? without having to justify an opinion?

instead, what if we used a new language? what if we stepped off the continuum of us/them, right/wrong altogether and asked in what ways do we already agree? in what ways can we move forward towards the common goals we have? can we acknowledge how our fears are clouding our solution-finding?

what if we stop seeing causes as mutually exclusive, stop assuming scarcity, and work to achieve both/and? can we both fund the national endowment for the arts, and maintain our military? can we care both for refugees and our homeless veterans? can we help young women and help unborn babies?

i’m pretty sure we can!

blue: sunnier days ahead! welcome signs of spring are all around.

purple: primrose surprises in the front yard!

as i keep seeking the rainbow connection, i keep looking for the silver lining, looking for the ways in which people are being the rainbow, even in the face of some very dark clouds…

like the judge who assigned teens to read books as the consequence for hate vandalism (refer to the article for the reading list! well worth it!) oh, and a visit to the holocaust museum.

like the subway riders who worked together with hand sanitizer and tissues to clean swastikas off the walls of the subway car.

like the community of american muslims who raised funds and provided assistance in the restoration of 150 headstones in a jewish cemetary damaged by vandalism.

like the bystander to the hate-motivated shooting of south asian men in kansas who put himself in harm’s way to help.

i think they, too, have found the rainbow connection.

“what’s so amazing that keeps us stargazing and what do we think we might see? someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers, and me!”

~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday

a photo study documenting the colors of the spectrum: the balance points between light reflected and light absorbed

other posts you may enjoy:

~black and white wednesday~ she persisted

on january 21, women marched in the united states and 57 other countries, on all seven continents (even antarctica!), for so many excruciating reasons. women marched to affirm their own lives. it’s unfortunate that so many people saw the women’s march as antithetical to life, because i believe that in order for babies’ lives to be affirmed, the lives of the women carrying them have to come first.

women did march for reproductive rights. they marched for the women who fought hard to flee countries where their families were unsafe, who now fear deportation because of their muslim faith. they marched for the women who fear deportation to mexico, being torn from their children who were born in this country. they marched for the victims who will have to go back to buying their own rape kits if violence against women legislation is undone. they marched because rape culture is a real thing, (not sure? two words: brock turner. two more words: baylor university. there are a million more words i could say about this if you’re still not convinced.) they marched for kids in public schools, and the belief that they deserve to receive an equitable education, regardless of their income or ability. they marched for the babies in nicu wards who will go back to reaching their lifetime health insurance caps before they ever leave the hospital when the aca is repealed. they marched because our great grandchildren deserve clean air, clean water, and to have public lands left to explore. they marched for the endangered species we stand to lose because they are an inconvenience to big corporations. they marched because no matter how far we’ve come, some men still think they can go around talking about lady gaga’s abs like lady gaga owes them something.

women can diverge from soft and nurturing once in a while to be strong and fierce, and it’s a good thing. we’ve come a long way, baby, and we don’t want to give up any ground.

it hasn’t been that long since women could not own property, and not long before that women were property. the property of their fathers, and then their husbands, a condition that reverberates forward through time in ways we haven’t eradicated. that time spanning between amendments 15 and 19 stands as an awkward pause belying that we value women as much as men as a nation. also awkwardly revealing is the failure of our government to ever ratify the equal rights amendment, to this day.

i phrased all of the reasons for marching in terms of “they” because i wasn’t marching that day. i was selling organic vegetables. although i was wearing a pink hat and directing anyone interested to the venue for the local march, i did not get to attend it myself. i wasn’t protesting the day before that, on inauguration day, either. on that day, i was chaperoning fourth graders who were picking up garbage from agate beach. i would have gladly participated in peaceful protests on those days, but other life affirming callings rose to the top. some nasty woman’s gotta sell the organic vegetables and pick up the beach trash.

nasty woman, circa 2000.

while we’re on the subject of life affirming messages, i want to share this beautiful song, written and performed by girls in a music theory class, who were presented with a portion of hillary clinton’s concession speech “to all the little girls.”

 

 

one of the most poignant and unifying symbols i came across throughout the turbulent time surrounding the inauguration was a gathering of women on a border bridge between the u.s. and mexico who stood with their hair braided together and hands clasped. i really feel they captured the idea of letting ourselves truly feel empathy for the “other” in such a tangible way.

these issues are gnarly to try to discuss, but it needs to be done. it needs to be done in a way that we acknowledge the humanity in one another. it’s tricky and i’m struggling to find the right words, but once again staying silent isn’t the right option for me. as we transition from black history month to women’s history month, i am still hoping that in some way, my words will encourage dialogue to help those of us who disagree to find more and more common ground.

other posts you may enjoy:

~rainbow mondays~ poke party

rainbow in the morning… the symbiosis between the warming up of my car and the redwood trees, carbon dioxide traded for oxygen, plus a bonus rainbow from the sun.

rainbow selfie in a bubble (i wanted to try the cool bubbles-on-snow trick, but our snow was already too melted and wet for crystallizing soap! but i still had fun playing!)

low-key poke party and sleepover for the birthday boy and his best bud.

rainbow streamers and balloons: decorating his doorway with a quull curtain.

being sung to, and singing to himself.

making a wish…

red: pokeball mini-cupcakes! rocking the yay, it’s wednesday cake! cake recipe once again, it’s a keeper, easy-peasy and yummy.

red: poke pizza

orange: fun with streamers

orange: fire-type carrots

yellow: electric-type oranges

yellow: i snagged the last fish print card off the shelf by local artist bruce koike, and wrote my own mama message concerning orders of magnitude on the blank inside.

green: reading his card from grammy and grampy.

green: after he set up his pokemon figures to decorate, he noticed they were forming a q!

green: bulbasaur guacamole, and grass-type broccoli for snacking

green: my fiance was incredibly productive in outdoor projects during the birthday festivities, though he made sure to be around for key moments like present-opening and cupcake-eating. he found some awesome new nooks in our backyard forest, like the one not done justice by this photo.

blue: water-type… water!

purple: instead of forming crystals, these bubbles changed color from rainbow, to various single colors, to colorless, then shrank until they disappeared. bubbles on wet snow experimental results, in case anyone wanted to know!

gray: new bathrobe for this young jedi apprentice. his old one was up past his knees and elbows, so it was time. i made this out of some organic cotton french terry (the loopy part is on the inside of the fabric).

 

black: hands down his favorite present, a minecraft medieval fortress book. he will be talking of turrets and portcullises for the next few weeks, i can tell!

~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday

a photo study documenting the colors of the spectrum: the balance points between light reflected and light absorbed

other posts you may enjoy:

ten ~ an order of magnitude

for grammy and me, and anyone else who would like to go back and revisit previous birthdays…

12 months 8 sock monkey bdaysealion Photo2196

 Photo1104 Photo505 0225131805

Picturez 006 happy 7 orange IMG_6629

last year i was startled to realize that quinn was halfway to 18, and now suddenly he’s halfway to 20. for some reason, time feels like it is accelerating on me.

the time we spend together when i walk him from the car up to the door of the school, never fails to be the time he wants to talk my ear off. i really cherish this precious “get to hear from your kid” time that feels like a secret that a lot of other parents don’t seem know about as they drive their subarus through the “hamster wheel” as i like to call it, and pop their kids directly out of the car onto the doorstep of the school. on one recent walk up, he was telling me all about the next game he is drawing on graph paper which is about angry birds, and explaining all the details to me, but he was still explaining when we got up to the door. i was hugging him, and he just held onto me and kept explaining, so i kept hugging him, and listening, and then he was finally done and let go of the hug and said bye and ran inside.

he has lived a whole year for each one of his fingers, and will have to start counting on toes next year. also, a year for each leg of a crab (they’re decapods!)

10 = 1+2+3+4… from the bathtub, he told me, “there’s actually a fourth person point of view in stories, because sometimes the narrator is telling you about everything mostly through one person’s thoughts.” he explained how in harry potter, he noticed that the narrator isn’t harry, but only reports on the thought process of harry, and observes the actions of other characters from his frame of reference without reporting on the thoughts of other characters. he noticed that this differed from a third person perspective in which the author could see inside all of the character’s thoughts. i proceeded to pull out my notes from reading word painting, specifically the chapter on point of view, and we discussed the subtle nuances between third person omniscient, third person objective, and third person limited omniscient (the magical point of view which he had identified). i had never fully articulated the differences among these points of view, until learning about them approximately a year ago when i read this book intended for writers.

what’s funny is that i had just had a conversation with him about minor frustrations with the level of material he feels he could be learning, which ended in a discussion about using his time in fourth grade to bring his writing level up to speed with his reading and math. more about that in a lifelong learning post, but needless to say, his writing skills are not a big concern.

“now wash your hair, son.”

10 is special. it’s the culmination of the numbers that come before it, and the start of a whole new set of numbers. there is still a little bit of a younger boy in there, the one who still needs to be cajoled into taking a bath, and reaches for my hand as we walk up the sidewalk to school. but there is also an older, mature and capable young man in there, whose brain can wrap around narrative points of view he hasn’t been formally introduced to, who can prioritize his learning goals, and microwave his own tupperwares of rice.

quinn is in an intensive art mode right now, mostly drawing games on graph paper but also some on regular paper and even getting out the markers, not just pencil drawing. he is coloring in and making scenery for games, and designing many intricate details of games. as a result, every time we leave the house for school or karate, he asks, “can i draw in the car?” and a few times recently when i expressed that we were really cutting it close on time, he ran back anyway and grabbed binder/pencil/markers. at one point he told me, “i’m doing a peaceful protest. i’m going to draw on the way to school. i’m like martin luther king jr.” what could i say? “if you are going to be martin luther king, i’m going to be proud. but you also need to bring your backpack for school.” “i’m peaceful protesting again,” now seems to be shorthand for, “i know you’d prefer i didn’t, but i’ve thought about it, and i’m going to anyway.”

10 is the sum of the first 3 prime numbers, 2+3+5. this stage feels like the prime time of parenting. quinn told me the other day, “lisa was being so cute sitting on the white box, and i just had to take a picture of her! so i went and grabbed the camera…. ” i had had no idea, but i adore the fact that i now sometimes get surprise pictures on my camera that i didn’t take.

he’s halfway to 20, the age that, when he was 4, he used to idealize as the magical age at which he’d be able to do all the things he was as yet too little to do.

from 2011: we arrived home to the dark house and snuggled up on the couch in the almost darkness, and i asked if i could talk to him about something. “you know how i told you i’d be going on a boat for a few days?” i explained in more detail how it would be ten days, and all the ins and outs. quinn got very quiet, then he got a little quiver in his voice and sat up straight on my lap (he had been snuggled up against me) and said, “well, can i come on the boat too?” oh god. the agony. the poor kid. i not only feel bad leaving him, but it’s his favorite dream ever to go on a boat and here i’m going and doing the super funnest thing ever (in his mind) without him. so i explained that we’re going too far offshore, where the waves are too bumpy for little people, and we have to do a lot of work with heavy equipment that’s not safe, etc. “well, maybe i could take a nap down in the cabin?” oh my god my throat hurt so badly, listening to his problem solving little self find potential solutions. sigh…. pretty soon he was just saying, “don’t go on a boat, mama!” and we both cried a little bit and i told him i would miss him so much. he asked a lot of questions like why did i have to go on the boat for work, and then finally told me, “when i’m 20, maybe you can go on a boat again and i can go with you because i’ll be 20 and i can catch some salmon and do work on them with you too.” resolved.

mother mother ocean, he’s wanted to sail upon your waters since he was three feet tall. a pirate looks at 10. 10 in roman numerals is x marks the spot!

celebrating having been a mama for a whole decade, i indulged a bit this morning in reading back through the story of his birth, which was a bittersweet time for a multitude of reasons, due to relationship strain and hospital stress all mixed up in the incredible joy of meeting quinn for the first time. i’ll admit it, i was a little teary-eyed while reading these memories. it struck me that birth stories, especially ones that were written, like mine, within days of birth, are impossibly intimate. they distill an unbelievable amount of the human experience into paragraphs, but are almost too graphic to share. i have so far spared the public the play-by-play of cervixes and contractions, dilation and doppler, perineum and pitocin and paramedics, oh my!, but i have extracted a few favorite excerpts of tmi (you have been warned!) to share on the tenth anniversary of the hardest thing i’ve ever done.

(it got bigger. there was still another month to go.)

on induction:

On Wednesday I was finishing up session four of acupuncture when my water broke- I felt a small gush as I sat there all poked with needles in my hands, legs and feet, visualizing flowers opening, water flowing in and out of sea caves, baby’s heads pushing on cervixes and opening them up… woohoo! I thought that would start things off for sure. Kate visited to test that it was really amniotic fluid, and it was. I knew it anyway, it smelled like earthy water, like nothing I’ve smelled before, but reminded me of spring gardening in the rain.

on gathering:

I started finding that I could do 5 or 6 pushes instead of just 4 per contraction, and soon I was able to feel his head- I felt so much hair! This spurred me on- I knew the midwives had been able to see part of his head each time using the flashlight, but now I knew how big a circle I felt, and his hair for some reason made him a real baby and made it real to me that he was coming really soon…. I would sigh with relief to hear his heart beat, take a deep breath, and start the next gathering of my senses~strength~energy~spirit and begin the next push.

on cinnamon:

 the midwives were telling me to reach down and hold my baby and talk to my baby and there he was! a slimy little tiny creature with tons of dark hair, all curly from being wet, all curled into a litlte ball of arms and legs and butt and head and umbilical cord. this was the very first time in the entire twenty hours of labor when i wanted to be on the bed. i think i needed help getting my legs on the bed at all. all i could pay attention to was quinn, this little dark haired bundle on my belly. the cord was just long enough for him to lay on my tummy with his head close to my breast. he was so tiny to my eyes, and so amazingly perfect. that was when he really became quinn to me. we had found out he was a boy days before, thanks to a fairly insensitive ultrasound doctor, and had decided almost for sure on his name, but now it was for real. i saw his dark blue eyes, his round cheeks, his tiny pink mouth, his little hands and feet, ears, arms, legs, butt, chin, tummy, chest… his head smelled like cinnamon.

on why i might be overly attached to my placenta:

(after it was decided we would head to the hospital by ambulance) i was immediately thankful we were attached, because immediately someone suggested taking him from me. i think my placenta refused to move from that point on, feeling that we could stay together if it would just cling a little longer…

(at the hospital) i don’t remember that moment of them separating us, i think i blocked it out. next thing i remember was looking over to my right to where quinn was lying on his own little stretcher, surrounded by people in scrubs. i was taken up to the labor and delivery ward, since i had not yet delivered my placenta.  that was the first order of business. it sounded like the last thing in the world i wanted to do. i couldn’t really handle the thought of even one more contraction. they said they would need to give me pitocin (a shot in the leg) and then they would push on my belly and i would need to push once and then it should come out. (neither shot of pitocin i was given did anything to stimulate contractions. i never had another one.*) unfortunately, although my head was soaring from the meds, i felt the pain quite well when they pushed on me, but somehow i was able to push once and get the placenta out. it happened quickly, at least. sometime in this vicinity was when word came up that quinn was in the nicu and stable and that he weighed 11 pounds and 15 and a quarter ounces.

*ten years hence, i believe i never will have another contraction, including menstrual cramps. i think my uterus retired right then and there.

on wires and tubing:

it made me so sad that he had to have a tube in his throat. they tried to put him on CPAP (oxygen support that uses tubes inserted into the nostrils) but he seemed like he needed more support, so they intubated him and therefore had a tube down his throat and tape all over his face to hold it in place- i was warned it would be hard to look at him that way… It seemed like a thousand years between when they took him away from me and when I finally got wheeled in beside his crib. he was elevated (all the babies in the neonatal intensive care, NICU, are elevated so the nurses can reach them) and I couldn’t stand up, so i only got to stroke his little hand and talk to him from way down low in the wheelchair. i remember feeling sad and a bit defeated, but at the same time overjoyed to finally be touching him again. I just wanted to hold him. He was peaceful but it was a shock to my system to see how many monitors and tubes and things they had running to and from his little body. That first time in the NICU I didn’t notice any of the other babies. i just focused on quinn, and talked to him so he would hear my voice and know i was there with him. i scanned the layout of the place so i would know exactly where to find him- there are “pods” in the NICU, like little alcoves off a big hallway, and i counted which one he was in from the entrance… 

People kept saying to me “no news is good news” and I was so frustrated with that. Any time I would ask how Quinn was, that was the answer I would get. I was still feeling so weak and had to rely on others to be able to be near Quinn, and that was the most frustrating, helpless feeling.

…Now that I had been to the NICU a few times, I had noticed the other babies around Quinn. Most of them were premature, and tiny. I could gaze at Quinn for an entire hour thinking how tiny and perfect he was, then all of sudden I’d glance to the right and the itty bitty girl next to him was less than a quarter of his weight- that was surreal.

I did a lot of studying of monitors and instruments that day to learn what the numbers all meant. I learned that the settings of Quinn’s respiratory support were all very low or “ambient” settings, and that meant he was mostly breathing all by himself with just a tiny bit of enrichment to the air he was being exposed to. I learned which finger clamps and which little pads taped to which parts of his body were pulse oxymeters, which was the thermometer, which was his blood pressure cuff, and what tubing went to and from his umbilical IVs (one was in the umbilical artery, for drawing blood for his repeated tests of dissolved oxygen levels, and one was in the vein for giving him fluids, electrolytes, lipids and aminos, as well as his Fentanyl and antibiotics… I had to learn to be around for shift changes (7am and 7pm) when the nurses give each other the run down of the previous shift, so I could hear what they REALLY thought, not just what they said for my benefit.

on blood loss:

i asked if i could have help getting to the bathroom, so she got another nurse and they supported me over to the toilet and i sat down. then when they helped me to stand up again, i blacked out, i remember the nurse saying “look into my eyes! look into my eyes!” and really trying to obey, but i just couldn’t keep mine open. Then I was sitting down again, and they made me smell something to wake me up, and they helped me get back to my bed and lay down again…  My blood hematocrit had been measured that morning, a 19 being pretty far below the “normal” level they quoted to me of 33. The doctors came into my room and told me they strongly urged me to have a blood transfusion. I could live without it, however, it would take me many months to regain my blood supply, and my energy levels would also remain low for a long time. In the end, I decided to have the transfusion because it meant I could be stronger more quickly, and be able to be there for Quinn. That night I had to stay in my room all night because the blood transfusion (two units) took 6 hours to complete. I was more than ready to be up and about the next morning to go see Quinn, and I felt SO much better that I stood up and walked down to his floor myself, trailing my IV pole behind me.

on pumping:

It was so strange to have grown up on a dairy farm milking cows, with milking machines, and then all of a sudden to be a new mother and hooking myself up to the same contraption…by evening I was running on a pretty large surplus over what was needed (according to their calculations) for feeding Quinn every 3 hours. I was holding myself to my 2 hour pumping schedule, and I think that had a lot to do with my success. My midwife checked in with me and reassured me, “your body knows you made a twelve pound baby.” It was so good to be reminded of such grounding wisdom.

source: wikipedia; couldn’t resist this orders of magnitude illustration, complete with baby

and just like that, his time on earth has increased by an order of magnitude. my heart feels as though it has correspondingly expanded like a universe by its own order of magnitude to accommodate all the love i have for him.

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