Sunday, April 25, 2010

Promised Land

In a few minutes, while the turkey roasts, I'm going to the garage so that I can paint. I'm repainting a canvas for the fourth time. It's a nice sized canvas, taller than me, and wider; I stretched it myself almost twenty years ago.

The first painting on that canvas was a dog howling at a lady draped erotically over the moon. When J was 4, I repainted the entire canvas Ochre yellow. I worried that the naked, arching lady would emotionally scar J. The third painting was never finished. It was of J, age eight or nine, sitting on an old mattress. I stopped painting that one when I got pregnant again. I didn't want to expose Z to the brain-altering smell of paint thinner, besides, I had no energy to spare.

Five years later I've decided to paint again. This time the canvas shows a troubled lady refusing to leave Mitzrayim, or that which enslaves her. Start painting during Passover; this is what you get. Anyway, I'm painting again, and that makes life better.

Teaching requires constant creativity. Each day is different. I can't approach the same subject in exactly the same way twice. Taking into consideration class, curriculum, and current events, I strive to create something gorgeous. It must help children learn, make families stronger; it must also resonate with me. It has to be honest to my vision. In order to create this artwork known as a classroom, I must interact with children, their parents, co-workers, and the community. As pleasant as this can be, it also drains energy from an introvert like me.

Painting restores me. It is the same as teaching, except that the energy flows in a different direction. Rather than giving, I take. Instead of converting information from my brain into understandable lessons, I find my own voice mixed in with the Universe and let it speak. There are other selfish activities that help me regain balance after a long day. Embroidery, cooking, and writing are three. Doing any of these makes me a better teacher, mother, and friend.

So the woman in my current painting: what's she holding on to? What is her Mitzrayim? That's the question for us all, isn't it?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cards on the table

Speak or shut up? No question consumes me more than that one.

Ask anyone. I am not by nature circumspect. I am more likely to say more than less. I want you to understand me; I'm sure you'll like me better the more that you know about me. I like information to flow. The world will improve when every card from every deck is laid face-up on the table.

On the other hand, some things are better left unsaid.

Today Z asked what her father and I fought about. It is difficult enough for a child to witness parental fighting. Does one magnify this burden by asking her to join the fight at any level? Daddy and I fought about grown-up things. You didn't cause it; it's between the two of us, and we shall take responsibility for our stuff.....Does a five year old really need to know any more?

If I confide to Z the reasons why her dad and I fight, I imply that our issues are her concern. I give her truth, but she hasn't developed the life context through which to understand it. My children need honest information in order to best evaluate, negotiate, and thrive in this world. They also need me to withhold information that interferes with their secure development.

When emotions run strong, and I have to unload, the most likely person to be within earshot is my 14 year old daughter. I've often shared too much, but I've learned to be more careful, and considerate. I want both girls to possess the security needed to face age-appropriate challenges; how can this happen if they are coerced into my drama by what I choose to share?

A blog is not quite a journal. Not this one anyway. Even as I record thoughts close to my life, I keep essential parts out. And there are things that our children simply do not need to know.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Kale blogs of note

Low to the ground, and with modest coloring, kale is easy to overlook. I named this blog on a lark, but the more I find out about kale, the more inclined I am to join a Kale Cult should one materialize. Who knew, for example, that kale has the highest nutritional density of any food group? And good news for gardeners: kale grows in the lousiest of soil,and is largely disease resistant. I googled kale and came up with tons of information, but also some other Kale blogs. Here I share three Kale blogs of note with you.

I love Diana Dyer, MS, RD's blog: 365 Days of Kale. Her blog focuses on Brassica vegetables, with an emphasis on... kale. Dyer's blog includes recipes, nutritional information, gardening information, and research about kale and other brassica vegetables.

I am interested in making her Brassica Tri-fecta stir fry , but
not quite ready for the kale smoothie . I like this blog a whole lot, though. The pictures are fabulous, and the information about kale is bountiful.


In another outstanding kale oriented blog, Lettuce eat kale., food writer Sarah Henry shares her musings on food, family, and growing greens. She writes about both the pleasure, and politics of food.

There are many creative approaches to giving American children access to healthier lunches in the news lately; school lunches are an important focus on her blog. Seven reasons why the times are right for school lunch reform and Jamie Oliver: School food revolution or reality tv rubbish? are two recent articles. Nothing about Alice Waters. yet, but I'm patient.

Henry also posts information about food related events like What's on Your Plate which documents two Nyc middle schoolers, Sadie Rain Hope-Gund and Safiyah Kai Russell Riddle, who track down a meal to its source.

Finally, to my great delight, I found a blog called Eat more kale. As inspirational sayings go, could it get any better? You can also buy t-shirts that say Eat more kale from this site. I want one!!!
Also if you email him at Bo@eatmorekale.com, he'll send you free EAT MORE KALE stickers.

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Analyzing through rose-colored glasses

When I'm not in a cynical mood, you'll find me under a sky hung with violins wearing my rose-colored glasses.

I really do mull things over. Exhaustively, tediously, and to the irritation of everyone close to me, I weigh this side against that in irrelevant detail. Blame my moon in Gemini.

Sometimes an idea comes my way. It comes like a flash. My heart adopts a hungry, attentive rhythm while I pursue the idea. I check things out. I mull, yes I mull. But my mind is made up. This seed will be planted. I am confident that it will bloom.

You may see me jumping off the cliff into uncharted waters, but I have done my soul-searching, and analyzing. I know that I will land safely.

It was like this when I decided to give birth to JJ. This was a hare-brained idea from a certain perspective, but led by some mysterious force, I made a sure decision. I examined what I then considered exhaustive lists of the pros and cons of raising a child alone. At times I doubted/doubt my ability to mother, but I chose motherhood in an inspirational flash for which no words exist. It was the same way when I decided to travel to Boulder for Montessori training. I took out a loan, and planned logistics in about two months. I had no Montessori job waiting. I had a four year old child... Was I rash? ill-advised? Definitely. But it was also one of the most worthwhile, and even healing things that I've done in my life.

I used to go to Quaker meetings. There one sits in silence until moved to speak. When I am moved to speak, the air around me changes. My heart pounds. It is time to talk, and my words are true. Without this feeling, no matter how much I want to speak, my words come out wrong.

When I deliberate over which path to take without the benefit of inspiration, results vary. I got married and that didn't work so well. I listed pros and cons, but never had that inspirational flash signifying that I must go forward. On the other hand, getting a credit card has been a positive experience based on the same deliberation without inspiration.

I have been called naively optimistic, probably with some degree of accuracy. I tell you though, when the spirit calls me to take action, I have not yet been disappointed.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Passports in order

I just spent two days in DC with my 14 year old daughter. We took Amtrak, and stayed with the wonderful parents of one of my college roomates. Our main trip objective was to get Ghanaian visas, but we were able to spend time with friends as well.

The travel adventures have begun. Everything concerning Ghana makes us smile. Even getting yellow fever vaccinations was an exciting reminder of our plans. We are going to stay with a lovely lady whom I met through Model United Nations (My class represented the Republic of Ghana). JJ will go to school while we're there; I will observe. My five year old daughter will stay with her grandparents.

It has been a long time since I've been out of the good old USA. I look at my old passport, and can't relate to the skinny young lady in the picture. We go to DC fairly often: No war in Iraq marches, friends to visit, Obama's inauguration...but never over the big ocean. We've spent summers in Boulder,and in Silver Springs while I got different Montessori certifications. We go to camp each year in the Blue Ridge Mountains. There's something satisfying about going somewhere that requires a passport,though.

The opportunity to travel with JJ, without her little sister,Zip, is also sweet. Zip doesn't want to go to Africa anyway...too many shots. Having studied Abraham Lincoln at school, she wants instead to go to the Lincoln Memorial. No shots, or passports required for that. So toward the end of the summer, Zip and I will go, without JJ, on our own excursion.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Head of Household

I'm not crazy about the term single parent. I like Thorndike and Barnhart's definition #9 for single: unique; singular; unmatched; unusual. However, when SINGLE modifies MOTHER, all bohemian sensibility is lost.An aura of isolation, and incompletion surround the term. Furthermore, when children breathe down my neck I don't feel single. With a supportive family, and community I am certainly not raising these two children without help. I am no more alone than any other individual looking out into the multi-billion starred Universe. I am unmarried. I am a parent. I do what I need to do with varying degrees of success, and elation. There are also more precisely worded terms than single parent; my favorite is Head of Household.

But let me get down from my high horse. Clearly there is a place for the term single parent. It is a quick, and convenient label. It has all of the condescending connotations that we as a culture give it, but because it is easily understandable, I use it. I continue to search for a mellifluously precise epithet for my domestic state-of-being, because I like word games, and clarity. In the meantime....life doesn't wait for labels.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Early April Kale

In this blog I'd like to record my experience as a parent, raising children without a partner, within the context of a supportive family, and community.  This blog reflects my ongoing struggle to find equilibrium amidst  the conflicting desires, actions, and states of being comprising LIFE.

Kale? I like Kale. It tastes good, and is rich in everything wholesome. It has a frilly edge, but it's hardly frivolous. Gutsy kale outlasts winter with admirable posture, and decorum. I love it, and so do fifty percent of my children.