A photographer friend noted how common it was for her women clients to refuse photographs of themselves. They are too ashamed of how they look, so they erase themselves from their children’s lives for shame. What happens is that children, when as adults looking back, children then have no photographic keepsakes of their mothers. Their mothers have been erased from their lives.
I was horrified at the thought of my son looking back when he becomes a young man only to find no pictures of me or his father. Sure, we’re not model beautiful. Yes, we have our own identify issues, but to erase ourselves from our son’s life because of shame of how we look?
I was simply horrified.
Until that day, I had accepted that I needed to be in photographs. But, that need was limited to special occasions. At Levi’s birth. His birthday parties.
When I heard that anecdote years ago, now, I resolved to be in Levi’s photos unashamed.
I have tried to make a routine of taking little selflies whenever Levi and I do something. Maybe we’re getting coffee or playing in a park. Maybe I’ve taken him volunteering or brought him to a social justice something. Maybe we’re with friends.
I also take pictures of Levi and my husband, lest that stage be forgotten.
I always cringe looking at certain pictures. Criticizing myself for my looks. Continuing to be very uncomfortable while trying to be unashamed. I try suppress the shameful thoughts while I embrace the things I love: my son and my husband and the moments we share.
I am my son’s mother. My husband and I are his immediate role models. I want my son to be able to express his emotions. I want him to look back at his childhood with fondness. It takes a sense of courage I never considered.
It takes acceptance of where I am. I cannot figure out how to get more movement into my days. If I can’t get more movement into my days, and I eat a moderately healthy meal, and I know there are obstacles stacked in front of me, then I need to be somewhat okay with what I present.
I am not sharing this to say: do this. Rather, I am sharing this to capture this journey I am on. How I have faced hating how I look, being ashamed, facing the model I am to my son, and trying to assess how I want to show up in life.
I am trying to remember that I like it when I am truly cheerful, despite my (perceived) flaws. I am trying to remember that I like having even emotions so that I can be present to whatever situations arise.
I can’t be present when I am dwelling on things I cannot or am unwilling to change. So, I must face them with owning who I am and being unashamed about that person. I have a story, just like we all have a story. I am living my story, and it is unique to me. It is special for my family to share, and I have to be present for them. And, to be fully present, I will not be ashamed.
This week, we just got by. Peter started his new schedule. Seven years after working at TriMet, we have finally been besieged by the dreaded midnight schedule. In large part due to TriMet management’s refusal to understand scope of work and fail to fill 7 retiree jobs. So, our schedule is upheaved, again.
Here are a few pictures of a few moments that captivated our attention during this adjustment to upheaval.
What’s the most time you’ve ever spent apart from your favorite person? Tell us about it.
I was in Italy. Well, first I was in Michigan, then I was in London, then I was in Italy, back to London, back to Chicago, and home. I was gone nearly 4 weeks. It was a Sustainability Tour of Tuscany. It was absolutely divine. But I was gone, away from my beloved Petey Pie. So, we had to establish some ground rules.
First, let me begin by expressing how astonished I am that I haven’t taken the time to write about this experience in this venue. Granted, I started this space a few years after I took the trip, I just would have assumed I had done enough retrospective writing that this amazing opportunity would have been included.
Alas, I cannot find proof, so I will begin anew with this veil of thought. How did this trip effect me and my favorite? What did we do to overcome the distance.
It must have been April of 2006. I was on the heals of figuring out that my goal in life is to, “educate people on the importance of a sustainable society.” Once I figured out this focus, it seemed like everything fell into place. shortly afterwards, PSU announced a “Sustainable Urban Development” minor. Classes were popping up everywhere – specific to my interests! I was able to find so much opportunity, and then, I saw the advertisement for the “Sustainability in Tuscany”. It was a two-week study abroad that studied the ins and outs of an agri-tourismo property near Siena, Italy – in the heart of Tuscany.
There was no way I could pass up this amazing opportunity. So, I applied, I scoped out loans, and I secured airline tickets. Soon, the date approached where I would fly out. In September, I was armed with my luggage, my cell phone, and my international calling card. First, it was Portland to Chicago. Cristi picked me up from the airport and drove me back to Greenville where I spent a few days with family. Then, it was back to Chicago to London. I spent a few days in London, walking the streets, exploring the museums, drawing in the park (Hyde), and learning the tube system.
Next, I was onto the smaller, Standsted Airport where I flew to Pisa. From Pisa, I was on a train to Florence then a bus to Siena. That was probably one of my worst travel days – ever. I had nearly missed connections, I ran out of money, couldn’t find my train, had difficulty finding the bus, and I got off at the wrong stop! At one point, I tearfully called my Petey Pie. Prior, we had been talking once a day. I was almost to Siena, but I didn’t speak the language and I barely knew the city where I was stranded! Very soon (maybe 45 minutes), I figured out the inter-city bus fare lasts quite a while. So, I just needed to wait for another bus. As soon as I was off the bus, the horrific uncertainty of the day was behind me, and I was walking the streets of beautiful Siena. I learned the most important Italian word (dove for where), found my hotel, and soon met with my group. After a few days in Siena, we embarked onto the rest of our journey at lovely Spannochia.
Here is where the rituals really began. There was one phone and one expensive internet connection. The phone was off the main entrance in a small booth with tiny wooden doors. If the doors were closed, you assumed someone was making a call, and you had to wait. Not only was I across the American Continent and over the Atlantic Ocean; I was also a 9 hour difference from home. I sketched out a chart of when I could call, and got in the habit of calling at 9:00 am and 6:00 pm. I would call, when my morning began, just as my Petey Pie was going to bed. Before dinner, I would surmise my days events just as he was starting his.
But, occasionally (twice maybe?), someone was using the phone when I was scheduled to call. And, my opportunity for calling subsided as I was whisked away to the day’s activities. When I had my nighttime call, my dear Petey Pie expressed sorrowful worry. I missed my check in! And, I am 9 time zones away! He can’t fix this problem!
As we were riding through Italy, all I wanted was to share this experience with him. I wanted to rent a little Fiat, and drive the windy, white lined roads through wine country. I wanted to get lost with him in the streets of Volterra as we both explored the various carvings and Estruscan ruins.
But, this adventure wasn’t for him. It was for me. So, we called twice a day while he fixed bicycles back home and I explored Italia.
You’re given a plot of land and have the financial resources to do what you please. What’s the plan?
Simple. Acquisitions. You see, there is a book, and it explains who all the owners are. They are neighbors to the plot of earth. They are longtime, and sometimes new, residents to the area. They might have had kids grow up and move away. They might be treating the space as their vacation home.
Regardless, I thought the earth was infinite as a youth, and it’s my dream to make it seem more so.
There is something that churns at my stomach when I consider those who have second and third homes. On one hand, I am envious. And, perhaps that’s the only hand. Because, then I consider all those who have nothing.
Peter is fond of saying, lately, that he does not think Levi will have the resources when he is an adult to purchase his own plot of earth. That is, the housing prices will have increased so dramatically, that Levi will be Out of Reach.
Growing up, I always felt out of reach. I suppose I was vaguely aware of aunts and uncles who owned versus those in our predicament, seemingly to always be on the cusp of another’s wishes.
So, my dream is to acquire the plot of earth. Rather, aid in its tending, and grow it. Currently, it sits at 160 acres, divided by a highway. I’d like to pick up the properties adjacent, one at a time, until everything is owned abutting the state and federal lands. Then, I would like to purchase the land Mead used to cut down trees when I was a teenager. Then, I would like to buy out the second homes. All the land would go in a preserve, an extension of the existing trust. And, we would learn from it.
“Land is to be loved and respected, is an extension of ethics. Land is ecology, ethics, and history.” – Aldo Leopold
My uncle told me that my grandfather is the first tree hugger. My uncle told me that he nurtured a certain grove of trees on the land the entire 40+ years he lived there and was able to care for it. My grandparents, in my estimation, were kind of like the original homesteaders. (Granted, this is not possible since they were born of the 20th century, but to me, this is what I’ve known.) They gardened. They husbanded animals. They churned butter. They pasteurized their own milk. They made bread. They shoveled. They tended. They nurtured. And, they grew. They grew with each other, on the land. They grew their family, together, on the land.
I want that legacy to live on, but showing it to others.
Once our food buying club coalesced into an amazing group purchasing food together, it was very evident how much knowledge was within the group. It was also evident how much we had to learn. We needed to know how to cook with the food we were procuring. We needed to understand its nutritional value. We needed to understand the land that fostered its growth. We needed to understand how to preserve it for the off-season. And all those things require a space in which to sit around, learn, do, and teach.
In this plot of earth, I would create that space. We would resurrect the old barn into a community kitchen. Perhaps we would do some sort of agri-tourismo, though not in Italy. Perhaps we could have interns from the nearby high schools and colleges, and from far away. I don’t envision a strict back-to-the-land curriculum, more farmsteading. We would study how to plan, plant, tend, and harvest a garden. We would discuss the benefits of farm animals and varied ways to husband them while also nurturing the earth. We would explore cottage industries and economies. We would make soap together. We would make bread together, and we would break bread together. We would share knowledge, and meals in this preserve so that our children don’t have to worry about whether they can afford the next thing. They would have a space, in the family, that would help them take care of themselves.
Okay, well, not YOUR birthday – rather it was Levi’s.
It began in January, when after we more or less moved in, and after we attended a friend’s party that I thought – oh goodness, we haven’t talked about Levi’s party.
A few days later, I remembered to call the Bowling Alley. They had space, so I was able to reserve the room. I counted the kids, divided it in half then cut a few, adding a few from last year. I hoped it wasn’t that many, but I hate being surprised with cost.
I pulled the invitations from last year, redrafting and reformatting to fit four on a page. I printed, cut, and copied the graphic into an email to send off to the friends who weren’t in class. Two weeks before the secured date. My lack of planning is within what I’ve been told is standard etiquette. Victory!
The RSVPs rolled in, and didn’t, so a reminder was sent, upon which more RSVPs rolled in. Then some changed. We ended up with a manageable number, and because I forgot to update the RSVP with the bowling alley – we ended up with 5 tables and corresponding lanes! That meant the kids were able to spread out, comfortably. There was a year of maturity in which we had a calmer, quieter bunch.
The kiddos had a good time. Only one smashed finger (Levi’s), and I’m still not sure what happened. The adults were calmer too, likely picking up on the calmness emanated from the kids. And, for the first time – Levi even reported that he had a good time.
A word on the cake. I used the same chocolate cake recipe as for Elisa and David’s wedding. The 8″ cake also sported the yummy strawberry filling. The chocolate cupcakes had a cherry inserted, instead of strawberry filling. Now, this bit was done the morning of his party. This is not how I go about prepping for birthday parties. I did make a cake the night before. However, it’s been many months since I made an 8″ cake, and I forgot to measure the batter instead of just dumping the whole product in the pan. I ended up with an overfilling cake pan, burned oven, and singed actual cake. The next day, when we remade the cake, Levi was able to help. This tickled his funny bone to no end, which was likely the better option all around. I repeated the overfill pattern, though, with the cupcakes and we had at least four casualties. And, for the firs time ever – I made enough (not too much) frosting! Cream cheese, of course.
We’ve moved. After being a lifelong renter, I am now, with my husband, a homeowner. We purchased a house near our old home, only about a mile a way. It’s a little closer to our son’s school. It’s near a park. And, it’s near our favorite bus line.
We closed on the house on November 27th, the day before Thanksgiving. Since, we have experienced lessons in choosing paint, learning to decide on furniture, and cleaning together the old house. Despite our best attempts, the landlord was disappointed in our cleaning. But, I am hoping we are each walking our separate ways. I hope to write more on the last year as we begin this new year, now that I feel I can discuss the challenges we faced.
We are here, in 2014. This is the year that will mark my eleventh year in Portland. This is the year that will mark our son’s 7th birthday. This is the year that will mark my 36th birthday, and our 8th year of marriage. The food buying club has worked, together, now for 4 years. Levi is in his second year of school at Holy Cross, and he is, now, doing well, comparable to his first year of preschool.
Monday, we will go back to school. Monday will be the first time we will start our day, our complete day, from the new house.
In addition to living in a new house, in a new neighborhood, with new logistics. I will be starting the Executive Leadership Academy from Willamette Valley Development Officers. This is a 10-month program designed to propel people into the next stage in their career. Since graduating from college in 2008, I’ve been struggling to find the right fit for me, for the long-term. I have explored different schooling, volunteering, and job opportunities. And, I hope this one fits the bill. It covers a variety of topics that are quite logical, as well as being paired with a mentor.
So, new house, new routines, and new education. Here’s to life in the new year. Happy 2014!
Sometimes… sometimes it feels like it just comes down to a few moments. There are so many moments that make up a day. One moment, someone complements you… and you are feeling elated for being noticed. In another moment, someone unjustly yells at you, and you are feeling deflated for the accusation and unjusticeness of it all. But, they are all just moments.
Two night ago, I had, what felt like, a successful parenting moment.
There are so many books, so many ideas, so many ways to parent. And, in this place I call home, so many of them fly in our faces daily… so many things with which to pick and choose. As a parent, I want my child to be successful, in however he defines that success. I want him to be kind. I want him to be thoughtful, courageous, and brave. I want him to have a good understanding of a moral and ethical right and wrong. I want him to be a strong communicator in which he will have power over his ideas. So, much, we want for our children.
And, often, I sit there looking at him, and my brain cannot help but flash forward to the moments that are to come – graduating from the various grades (K (done), 8th grade, senior year in high school, perhaps college or beyond?), working his first job, enjoying his first relationships. And, I come back from that flash forward into this moment – into the here and now – and I know that these choices, these actions are shaping those outcomes, for better or worse.
Some time ago, I realized that we all come from dysfunctional families. No family is perfect. Some families yell too much. Some families don’t say enough. Some families widdle away their monies on exotic vacations while others are so spendthrift, they enjoy little outside their homes. Some families are so afraid of the outside world, they shut their children in under the guise of protection. Some families are so afraid of being shut in, they expose their children to things they are perhaps not ready for…
And, where does our family fall? I would hazard a guess that we are somewhere in the middle, having experienced various extremes in our own lives, my husband and I hope to carve out a better future for our son.
And, I hope I had a successful parenting moment in that carving because there are so many moments that, when in reflection, I know I could have made a better choice.
We are clearing out the old, getting ready for the new. Three adults buzzing along, trying to get work done, and the six-year-old just wants to play. He had just got done helping me clear out a space, when he changed tactics and forgot “helper boy” and recalled “silly boy”. I went back in the house, and he turned the back lights off – so those working out back could not see – and then he gaily ran through the house and hid himself in his (old) closet.
We’ve had an awful lot of rule bending lately, and the line has moved. I know I need to keep the line firm. But sometimes, you just need to kick up your tired feet. But, is this the way he’ll behave on a job someday? So, I track him down. I am not angry so much as imbued with my parental duty. I walk as my feet echo in the bare room on the bare floors. I hear him giggle. I walk towards the giggle. I walk in his old room. All is quiet. I am certain he is… yes, he is – behind the door. I fumble for his hand, I have yet to say a word, and I grab it. He knows something is wrong. He resists. I grab hold of his coat, careful not to grab harshly onto his arm, trying to grab the hand, which has turned into a fist, instead.
We were discouraged from using this tactic previously. Yet, I am firm in its use, and continue to walk him.
We walk through the bedroom, the hall, the living room, into the kitchen. At which point he starts shouting, “No, no, no, you haven’t even told me what’s wrong!” (I prefer to seat him, talk, set timer, review, apologize, move on.)
I set him on the stool, “You have to have a timeout for being rude.”
The timeout ticks by. I get a few more items cleaned up. I go back to the kitchen and it’s nearly done. He pops up after the timer hits zero. We sit. We review. I remind him, twice, of what he did. He says he doesn’t know how, and resolves that he was trying to be silly or mean. I explain that the mean behavior is the rude behavior, and he has a Eurka! moment. He thinks, calmly now, “Oh, I understand,” legitimately understood.
There was no yelling. There was no gnashing of teeth. There was an exchange, and it was perhaps one of the most pleasant timeouts w’ve ever had.
Cheers to understanding. Cheers to a new year. Cheers to new beginnings.
The thought occurred to me today that, now six days before Thanksgiving, I should theme the next few days of writing. Each day, I should consider something I am thankful for. Now, that I am home, considering writing, I thought since there are six days left, perhaps I could do a count down. What six things am I thankful for today, and tomorrow five, and so on.
So, today, the six things I am thankful for in no particular order:
A school for my son that is a community,
A boss who expresses gratitude each day,
A husband who surprises me with his silly sense of humor,
A possible change in neighborhood,
A considerate son who expresses his love and need for me daily, and
A commute that, into work, is less than twenty minutes.
I started drying my fork, and then I noticed part of my lunch was clinging, viciously, to the tines. In that moment, I was transported back to when I was a preteen, staying with my uncle and aunt for a month during the summer.
Here, in the present day, the work dishwasher is on the fritz. While we’re waiting for parts to arrive, we now have to wash and put away our own dishes lest the kitchen sanity spiral out of control. A colleague put a few signs up on Monday when they walked into a complete disaster of a kitchen – dishes piled everywhere. We all have important jobs to do, but no one wears the title of janitor or maid, so cleanup really has to happen per your own incidents. I’m reminded of the adage, “Your mother doesn’t work here; clean up after your own mess.”
So, I’m scrubbing away at my semi-curry stained lunch (I made cheesy noodles last night for dinner, loaded with turmeric because the family can’t tell the difference, and I think it’s a fun way to sneak in an anti-inflammatory and whatever other great things turmeric does for you). And, I am transported to this warm summer where I was washing dishes with my aunt’s nephew. I suppose that’d make him my cousin once or twice removed (I’m not sure of the count).
My cousin didn’t clean a dish thoroughly. He left a spot. I was trained to return dirty dishes to the washer so they learned how to was dishes properly. And, as I did this, my aunt interjected. She said, “No, not in this house,” and with a flick of her finger, she knocked off the spot, rinsed the dish, and handed it to me for drying.
I think my aunt was trying to teach me about teamwork. Many hands make light work. We all make mistakes, but if we have the organizational goal in mind, we’ll get there. We’ll be kind, rather than right.
So, today is World Kindness Day. How have you contributed to our greater societal good? How were you kind today?
My husband was kind to me. He poured me a big glass of wine. I read Levi three books at bedtime, and he read me one. He read nearly every single word of 8 Silly Monkeys. I offered our back porch for a friend to store some things while she’s getting ready to move.
So, thank you flick of curry for reminding me that it is better to be kind, than to be right, on this World Kindness Day.
We are on tooth three. Levi has, now, lost three teeth. It seems like the first two teeth were over a year ago – but I think it was really just last spring.
I have a problem. That is, I forget to be the tooth fairy. I remember all the way up until bedtime, and then, somehow I forget.
So, we did a few things wrong this time. First, I forgot to be the tooth fairy. Second, I had previously instructed Levi to put the tooth in a bag. I was helping the Tooth Fairy – so she wouldn’t have to dig around under a pillow for the tiniest tooth you have ever seen. Rather, the Tooth Fairy simply has to fumble around for a bag, replace with the agreed upon trade ($1), and be on her merry way.
Levi was so excited about this tooth. In fact, he thought he lost it before he actually did because it was so wiggly, it wiggled to one side of his mouth over another that the gap left was enough for a tooth! It took another week for the tooth to actually leave his mouth, dangling by a thread the whole time. He even pulled it out this time. I did the last one – and that was awful, it made a noise. I think my son is more sensitive in the gums than I was.
Finally, the tooth leaves his mouth. It is a Sunday. he is thrilled to no end. The whole day goes by with references to what might be. He even sneaks it under his pillow before I could prep the whole bag scheme!
And, 9pm rolls around and I get into my nighttime routine. Then I go to bed. Then, I wake up, first with the husband leaving for work, and second with the small boy shrieking in terror, “The Tooth Fairy forgot to come! My tooth is still there!”
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Parent fail. Danger, Will Robinson.
“Oh, no,” I reply. “I bet she got really busy. I bet if you put the tooth under your pillow one more night she’ll come back.”
“Okay,” replies my skeptical son.
That night, I forgot again, to instruct him to put the tooth in the bag. But, I had a reminder on my phone. I would not forget! Bedtime comes, and goes. An hour goes by. My alarm goes off. Must be tooth fairy.
I enter his room. The light is low, as we’ve been keeping it on for 6-year-old fears. He is sound asleep. I slowly put my hand under his pillows, there are three. He doesn’t move. He is very sound asleep – out to the world. I pat around under his pillow. I cannot feel the tooth. I pat more, reaching further, towards the wall. I cannot feel the tooth.
I cannot feel the tooth! And, I remember, I didn’t have him put it in a bag! Argh! Night two of this? Seriously?
He has scooted down, so I gently remove a pillow, and another, and another. Pillows strewn about his room, there is still no tooth on his bed! Now, I start to remove covers. I cannot believe he’s not waking up. I still can’t find the tooth!
There is something miraculous about this stage of boy – sound asleep to the world, thankfully not wetting the bed, but awake at 6am, every day. After about 5 minutes of pawing and patting in his room. I give up and devise backup plan. I gently put this pillows back. I gently put the boy back. I gently put the covers over his snuggled body. He stops shivering, and cuddles his rabbit further in the covers.
I tip toe out the room. I go to the back room, grab a sticky, go to the kitchen, nab a pen, grab a plastic bag.
I construct my note.
I know you lost your tooth. But I cannot find it. Here is 50 cents. Please leave your tooth in the bag tonight, and I will come back one more night.
The Tooth Fairy
I sneak back into his room, and I gently push the bag and note and acquired fifty cents under his pillow.
In the morning, the small boy looked under his pillow, but he didn’t understand what he had. I had to explain it to him a few times before he got it. Bottom line, kiddo, the tooth fairy couldn’t find your tooth, BUT, she knew you lost it so she is giving you half the value. Find your tooth, put it back under your pillow (hey, how about in this bag she left?), and then you’ll get a dollar.
I had told him that he needed to find the tooth after school, but how can you do that when that’s the only thing on your mind? So, he found the tooth before school. I still don’t remember where he said it was.
That night, I remind Levi about the instructions. After an entire day has gone by, he unfortunately forgot. So, I had him get the note, and I reread it to him, and I reexplained it to him. He got the gravity of the situation: NO TOOTH, NO CASH. So, together, we put the bag under his pillow, and this time, the retrieval is much easier. I go in his room, with a new note that reads:
Thank you for following my instructions. I am sorry I couldn’t come the first night. Here is your dollar for your tooth.
The Tooth Fairy
P.S. Keep this bag for the next tooth.
The next morning, he forgot to look under his pillow! So, I remind him, and then he’s not excited about the dollar.
Right, the kiddo still doesn’t get money. He still thinks it grows on trees, or at least mommy and daddy. And, we’re trying to incorporate a value of work by charging for odd and regularly needed jobs around the house. But, mommy and daddy aren’t consistent enough for the message to stick.
So, the dollar sits by my bed stand for over a week. Until tonight.
Today is Veteran’s Day, and Levi and I had the day off. So, we had the whole day, together, alone. A few times today, I had Levi demonstrate how wiggly his other front tooth is. I even had him twist it back and forth like a soda can top, loosening it just bit by bit, as much as he could stand.
Until. Until he asked for something more to eat and the brown bananas weren’t good enough. He asksd, then, for an apple. He asked for it to be cut up.
“No. Eat it the way it is,” I demanded.
“Okay,” he agreeably agreed.
So, he sat next to me on the couch. Chomp. Crunch. Chomp. Crunch. Suddenly, he is searching for something. I thought he dropped a piece of apple.
“Mommy! Look! It came out and I didn’t even feel it!”
We had to write two notes to the tooth fairy. It is now 9:00 pm. I am going to wait another 20 or 30 minutes before I go in there to deposit the next dollar. Hopefully it will be more appreciated than the first.