these ordinary moments: staying rooted

“Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that leads to gratitude, joy and understanding.  A way that allows me to create an environment in which my family can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary things by replying below or leaving a link.”

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Last week I found myself trying to decide if I should take a child who may or may not have chicken pox to an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon whose job it was to tell us if they needed surgery.  This would have been a more straightforward decision had it not been nearly impossible to get that appointment before our move, and more impossible to reschedule it before we packed up that child and moved them to the Land of Out-of-Network, rendering our insurance coverage somewhat useless until September.  The POD was supposed to have arrived a few days before, but the driver had refused to deliver it: something about low hanging branches and a too narrow driveway.  The long distance house hunt had begun in earnest.  And there I was, A Guide to Child Health in hand, staring at suspicious spots on an otherwise healthy child and wondering which compromise held the least risk for all.

“Don’t kids with chicken pox feel really sick?  Don’t they get a fever?  Or a cough or something?”

“What if they wear a mask?  We’ll never get them in if we cancel now.  Did you call the doctor?”

“Yes, but he hasn’t called me back.  Did you call the POD guys?  Get an estimate for a piano mover?  Pick up more packing tape? Talk to the Realtor? The lender? The school nurse? Remind the teacher about the AIP diet? Buy the special crackers?  Send in a new change of clothes?”

How do we keep the current from crashing us into the rocks and splintering us into can’t-be-put-back-together-again pieces?  That too familiar current that rages around us in times of transition.  Or, let’s face it, any time it seems like there’s something in the air and the Universe keeps slinging stuff in our direction without letting up?

“Ride the wave,” I told myself at first, but that is not quite right.  We might have a better chance of staying upright, but where will the wave take us in the end?  Some place we want to be, or, not?   A boulder standing firm in a stream?  No.  Because we all know that as the stream rushes past, it stealthily carries away microscopic bits of stone, until one day, without even realizing it, the boulder is just gone.

It came to me while walking to the mail box, reminding myself that I need to collect our old co-sleeper bassinet from a friend tomorrow and tell the new owner of our house that he’s collecting a small stack of mail on our problematic piano.  And taking a lot of deep breaths.

My bare feet, the surf washing over them, in and out, that slightly uneasy sucking feeling as the sand washes out beneath you.  Sinking in deeper with every wave.  Letting it all come and go.  Becoming more deeply rooted in the exact place I have chosen.

“Yes, they’ll need surgery,” but it can wait a few months.  Forget it for now.  Make the counter offer.  Buy more moving blankets.  Squeeze in the Well Child Checks.  Finish that last paper for school.  Be the Tooth Fairy.

“Yes, it’s chicken pox.”  Cancel the Goodbye Party.  Pack another box between oatmeal baths.

And sink deeper into the sand.

 

 

 

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these ordinary moments: grief

 

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Grief, I find, is not felt by the heart, but in the deeper parts of us.  Where the unnoticed everyday moments weave together to make us who we are.  Perhaps that is why we don’t miss grand gestures, but the ordinary.  The small, regular things that wash over us year after year, shaping the way we come to make sense of the world and who we are in it.  And why, when those moments begin to reorganize around us—by choice or not–what is most difficult to navigate is not the loss of moments or places, people or things, but the loss of ourselves.  Who am I now, if I am not a backyard farmer?  If this is no longer my community?  If the home my children were born in belongs to someone else?

I ask myself everyday now.  Tucking the children into their beds in the very same room they first emerged from my body into the world.  Watching my daughter play fairy dress-up with the best friend she used to roll into during tummy time.  Eating the last egg of a chicken I bred myself, who is now simmering in someone’s soup pot.  Warning John that Gypsy is about to squarely land a nibble in the…pants region…while he deftly repositions to finish trimming her hoof  before sending her off to her new home.  Exchanging that look with a dear friend—just a look and we both know what it means.  Waiting for the tulips to burst into life, just as I did in the last days of my pregnancy with Opal.  The tulips we planted as seeds of hope for our some-day-whens in this place,  Some-day-whens that won’t happen, not here.

I ask myself because a lot has happened in this little red house since I last posted about sensing a coming change.  A few days before Christmas, John and I looked at each other and realized that too many of those regular moments just didn’t fit anymore.  Who our family was and our place in the world had reached a threshold of out-of-sync-ness that we had to change something, and something big, if we were going to honor the unfolding of each of us and what we can offer as healing to the world.  So, without knowing what the future might hold, we began to turn our gaze from our life here in Denver, to a new place, a new community, a new home.  To a life that was filled with more ordinary moments that rejoiced in who were becoming, instead of compressing us into the narrow places of the past.

Sometimes, we cannot see the wide spaces along side the narrow, until both are falling away.  The pain of the narrow spaces, and the struggle to make room for ourselves in them, or move on from them, grips us.  Until that fleeting moment when the decision is made, and out-of-sync-ness in the old gives way to disorientation in the new, then we set about righting ourselves again.  Always re-righting ourselves again.

The fruit trees we planted with the children’s placentas have courageously put out blossoms into the unpredictable sun and snow that is Denver spring.  It’s been a mild one with no late frosts, and this may finally be the year that all trees have fruit on them come August.  But we won’t be here to see it.  As I watch the pink-white blooms unfold, the green leaves emerge, I remember that we are never only the shoots of new leaves, the blossom, the fruit, or the seed.  We are the whole tree, in every moment of its cycle.  In grief, when the blossom we have been pouring so much energy into must give way to the fruit, it’s easy to forget that.  Then I remember the narrow places we find ourselves in when we subconsciously make plans for the blossom to stay fixed in bloom forever, and I let go a little bit.  Breathe out what has been, making space for a new breath.

Maine, it appears, will be where we take our new breath.  Someone asks me every day if we are getting excited, and I never quite know what to say.  Yes, of course, we are vibrating with the excitement of new adventure.  We’re over the moon to be joining the community at the Maine Coast Waldorf School.  We’re excited about returning to the natural world of New England and the waters of the North Atlantic.  And it will be lovely to be near my family again.  But, I wish there were a way to say, in those passing moments in the hallway at school, or over that too brief last cup of tea, that the excitement walks beside a bittersweet grief that has settled in my bones, as I watch every day the ordinary moments come and go for the last time, and, I ask myself, who am I now?

But, there is not a way to say it, not really.  There is only the last hugs and well wishes, and the packing of boxes.  Last Easter Sunday at church.  Last games of fairy dress-up.  Last cadmium yellow yolk.  Last time that inspiring circle of women will sit around the table together.  At least for now.

And the trust that we have done what we’ve needed to do, to make room for the fruit.

(I don’t know what will become of the blog in the the life of this new person and family I am watching unfold.  I continue to hope that it will have a place, and find a new form that fits into the future.  Until then, we will just have to wait and see!)

 

these ordinary moments: day of rest

“Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that leads to gratitude, joy and understanding.  A way that allows me to create an environment in which my family can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary things by replying below or leaving a link.”

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When did remembering who we are becomes less important than tackling the to do list?  We know it’s unhealthy enough to create a booming stress-reduction-spiritual-clarity industry which churns out the newest best practice that will transform your life for the better on a daily basis.

It’s hard to find someone who won’t share with you that they’re feeling just so underwater, or trying to keep too many things up in the air.  We’ve fooled ourselves into thinking it’s temporary, that the work load will shift, that just around the corner it will be easier.  Quieter.  Somehow, that day never seems to arrive.  Not quite.   Because missing out takes courage and sacrifice.

Our day of rest has evolved over the years.  I wish I could incorporate all of our sabbath moments every weekend because they all bring health in their own way.  Alas, that would not be very restful!  These days, when the weekend rolls around I simply ask myself, “what do we need today to help us remember who we are?”  Housework is a surprising favorite at the moment.  And whatever kiddo project requiring a jigsaw which must be completed in an afternoon.  (Alien invasion space scene hung from the ceiling of Lucien’s loft.)  Top it off with a good old fashioned walk in the woods, and we are as ready as we are going to be to take up the sword and shield again for the week ahead.

What about you, my friends?  Do you have a day of rest?  Sabbath moments?  What do they look like for you?

 

 

 

these ordinary moments: birthday cake

“Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that leads to gratitude, joy and understanding.  A way that allows me to create an environment in which my family can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary things by replying below or leaving a link.”

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Confession: kids in the kitchen, not one of my favorite parenting jobs.

I love the idea of kids learning about process and transformation, and I know that involving them in growing and preparing their own food ensures healthier eating habits, but the reality of kids in the kitchen makes me cringe.

Part of my hesitancy is our 8′ x 10′ galley kitchen which contains about six square feet of counter space, none of which ever seems to be clear.  Navigating the space by myself is enough of a challenge.  But it’s more than that. What I love about cooking is the weaving together of precision and attention and intuition.  The exact moment the muffin batter goes from just right to over mixed.  Or the stir fry crosses from crisp tender to mush.  The difference between 1/2 and 3/4 of  a teaspoon of vanilla.  Just enough whey, butter and salt in a pot of soaked grains.  It’s not the flour on the floor or the egg shells in the bowl that send me inwardly reeling,  it’s those little sticky hands fumbling about right in the middle of the flow of a sacred exchange between me and food.  An exchange I want my children to know, but struggle to teach to them when what I really want is to snatch the spoon out of their hands and fold in salt and oil myself.

Naturally, two of my children always want to help in the kitchen, so they’ve gifted me a great opportunity to be conscious of why it is hard for me.  I felt guilty about it for a long time.  Now instead, I set aside items that they are always invited to help with and know that it will be a different experience and that’s okay.  One of those items is birthday cake.

We’ve never made a hubbub out of half birthdays, so I was surprised on Thursday when I told Opal she was officially four and a half and her reply was “I get to help make the cake!  I want chocolate with chocolate frosting!”  In her mind it was a matter of course.  In my mind, I was preparing for a weekend cold weather camping trip and really didn’t want to think about cake and sugar highs.  But I try to say “yes” whenever I can, so I took a deep breath.  “When we get back from our camping trip we’ll make a cake.”

On Sunday afternoon we set to work baking.  And knocking the rice cooker off the never clear counter, sending it crashing to the floor.  And falling off the kitchen stool with a full 1/2 gallon glass jar of milk in hand.  And asking a dozen times if it was time to lick the spoon.  Or the bowl?  Or the beater?  And prematurely turning the mixer on high, sending flour to corners of the kitchen that will probably never be cleaned.  And sneaking back into the kitchen to suck frosting straight out of the pastry bag.  Yes, straight out of the bag.

I managed to keep my cool.  Mostly.  And she managed to be one proud four and a half year old when we put that cake out on the table.  “Doesn’t it look so good, guys?  I got to help make it.”        

these ordinary moments: hand written note

“Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that leads to gratitude, joy and understanding.  A way that allows me to create an environment in which my family can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary things by replying below or leaving a link.”

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After Las Vegas, I turned away.  I stayed off Facebook.  Unplugged the radio.  Tried not to talk about it.  I’d like to say that I was protecting myself and my family from carrying it around in our imaginations, and perhaps I partly was, but mostly, I was filled with powerlessness.  What is the point of paying attention, of opening yourself up to all of that collective pain, if you can’t do anything about it?

As the days passed I kept telling myself that powerlessness is a feeling, not a reality.  I cannot single handedly change gun laws over night, but I can take my kids to hunter safety class.  I can teach them the respect of handling a bow and arrow; the powerful finality of a gunshot.  I cannot rid my children’s world of door buzzers and 6ft fences and lock down drills, but I can teach them that the more walls we erect, hiding from other and different and what-ifs, the more we perpetuate the cycle of isolation, fear and violence.   I can show them that courage, human connection and devotion to peaceful interaction are the only true weapons we have against fear, isolation and violence.

Because, as a homemaker, I’m in it for the long haul.  The steady, small and unnoticed work of creating an example for my family of what is most human.  Praying that this world will not destroy them before they are powerful enough to change it.

Undoubtedly, the most difficult task of the homemaker is being the family’s source of goodness.  Yes, we are imperfect, we are propped up by spouses or grandparents or best friends.  But at the end of the day, when everyone returns to the hearth circle licking their wounds, deep down they depend on us to be the healing balm.  It is a burden, but it is also a gift: we can never sink into the paralysis of powerlessness for more than a few moments.  We have no choice but to seek out our own balm.  Summon our own courage.  Forge our own strength.  For them.

In search of something to keep me going, I pulled out my stationary and began writing to a very dear friend, with whom I have fallen out of touch.  I did not write about Las Vegas.  What I did write was my self into that brief hand written note, knowing that she would read it, carrying a piece of my heart with her throughout the day.  Weaving our friendship deeply into the fabric of a world fraught with separateness.  Knowing that this connection could balance the scales of humanity in some grain-of-sand-way.  Hoping that it will all add up to enough.

 

 

 

 

 

these ordinary moments: buying garlic

“Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that leads to gratitude, joy and understanding.  A way that allows me to create an environment in which my family can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary things by replying below or leaving a link.”

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I bought a bulb of garlic last week.  This would not be a momentous event for most, but it is the first bulb of garlic I have bought from the grocery store in over a decade.

When John and I moved back to his childhood home of Denver over 10 years ago, I needed to put down roots.  Literally.  At that time in my life I could not imagine connecting to a landscape without putting my hands in its dirt.  So I sent off an email to the owner of Keith’s Farm in upstate New York where I worked two partial seasons, and asked if he’d be willing to sell us some of his famous garlic.  I promised him that my regional location would create no business conflict and he obliged!  That story, and the evolution of the Reinhart Family Garlic, are the subjects of my first ever blog post.  (Look how young they all are!)

Last fall, when it was time to plant garlic, the moment quietly came and went and no garlic went in the ground.  Without pomp or ceremony, 10 years of tradition slipped into the past.

Looking back I can see that the subtle way in which this moment passed signified a new relationship to this place where our little farmlette sits.  For years we’ve alternated our summers between here and the East Coast.  Sometimes tending our garden and flocks, sometimes fleeing to salt air and rural life, needing to patch up the holes carved into our beings from this hot, arid landscape.  This year we just seemed to need oh so many more patches, and we left behind the farmlette for nine weeks.  Someday, perhaps, I will share our adventures, but for now, I will just say that it is unlikely we will pass an entire summer in Denver again.

Which means, no garlic.  No watching the scapes shoot out, or form into their tiny bulbs. Or ripe tomatoes cracking beyond fullness.  No more shepherding the children out of the garden before they have tomato tummy aches.  And, we are currently figuring out how to get the children on board with sending our hens to a neighbor’s soup pot.  (The economy of old laying hens simply does not add up when the family spends most of egg season buying eggs in Canada.)  The goats will be the hardest sell.  For all of us.

I try to gaze upon it all with grace as I silently lament how much more difficult store bought garlic is to peel.  (No wonder there is such a market for that minced stuff in the jars.)

It’s not so much letting go of the past that is hard, it’s letting go of a future that never had the chance to come to fruition.   But there are trade offs.  Always trade offs.  The future that needs to be, can only be when we realize that it is flexible and changing because we are.  It doesn’t feel great, to watch one future dissolve before a new one has formed, but somehow it seems necessary.   And it is Michaelmas, a fitting moment to summon the trust and courage needed to step through the doorway into the unknown.

I’m doing it as best as I can, store bought garlic in hand.

centering down for Michaelmas

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“Strongly I will think, will remember often, how within I’m vitalized by all primal spirit strength, will strongly sense within me weaving soul and power of will, will reflect in stillness how I can find a hold in my heart’s depths when my soul, quiet in itself, rests and also strongly acts out of itself.” by Rudolf Steiner, “The Heart of Peace”

I’ve been reading a great book: “Living the Quaker Way,” by Philip Gulley.  A friend recommended it after my post about searching for buffers in this chaotic world.  In his preface Gulley writes, “I’m not inviting you to a church but to a life,” built upon the Quaker values of simplicity, peace, integrity, community and equality.    And it’s in these pages I’ve learned the phrase “centering down,” a common practice before a Meeting of Friends.  (Although we don’t have a name for it, it is also what you’d experience 15 minutes before the service if you were to attend The Christian Community.)  It means choosing to create the quiet needed to reconnect to one’s inner life, making more space for whatever divine or higher presence guides you.  And, according to the author, it need not be sitting in silence.  While he described his experience with walking meditation, a vision of yarn and needles came into my mind.  The familiar feel of them in my hands became a life line during the family’s bumpy transition back to urban life and school.  I do also love to sit in silence, a more traditional centering down, but it comes much easier after the rhythm of knit and purl have passed between my hands for a few minutes.

Between that and the unfinished projects I discovered while clearing out a fiber moth infestation, there is a lot coming off the needles these days.  This Striped Linen Stitch Cowl, however, I finished up over the summer.   I received the yarn (a Mountain Girl Yarn, whose Etsy shop is currently on a little break) as a gift from my friend Kim at Mothering with Mindfulness, a few years back.  I don’t receive yarn gifts often, so I when I do, I am always tempted to extend the gift by making something for myself.  I had a few other projects in mind and actually started one and pulled it out before I settled on this cowl.  I’ve been wanting to take on a linen stitch project for a while and this one was perfect: since it’s in the round I only had to learn half of linen stitch!  It proved the perfect repeating-pattern-travel-companion for about a year.  I took it with me to Ann Arbor, and Nova Scotia, and tossed it in my carry-on when I came back to Denver in July for my training program, then, back again to Canada.  All the while I wondered if I was going to be able to double it around my neck.  I started with not quite enough yarn for the project, by my estimates, so I cast on a few less stitches, fingers crossed.  Excited to say that it does tightly, but still comfortably, go around twice!  We’ve had an uncharacteristic rainy week and it has been so lovely to pull this out.

I wish I could say that I’ve been outwardly preparing for Michaelmas while wearing it, but alas, no.  One myth of parenting I am beginning to really understand: it does not get easier as the children get bigger, it just gets different hard.  What the children once needed in physical care–diapers, feeding, shoe tying–they now need in emotional care.  I find it equally difficult and more complicated, and draining all the same.  Which is why our nature table at the moment consists of left over pictures from Lucien’s birthday (in August) and a vase of flowers from Nana’s garden that should’ve made its way to the compost days ago.

I am thankful for the years when I’ve had more space for dragon bread and harvest activities, because I think they are part of why I have an inner relationship to Michaelmas.  A simple, enigmatic relationship with the courage to act; the courage that He can plant within our hearts.  For some, those actions may be loud–taking to the streets.  But let us not forget the others.  The ones carving out a simple, conscious, life, in partnership with the Spirit, an act that goes against every grain of our more-faster society.  Let us not forget the courage and sacrifice it takes to turn off the device and “center down,” making room for whatever it is that reconnects us to our best and most authentic selves.

That’s what I’ll be doing tomorrow afternoon.  Come join me on the porch if you’re passing by.