Monday, September 29, 2008

Friday, September 26, 2008

Split Shift

On Thursdays, Cindy and I work a split shift. I go to work at the college at 8am and leave at noon to pick up Huck and Nell at the Waldorf School. Then we go to my house. At 2, Cindy comes home from work and I go back to teach a class at the college. Then at 4:30, she takes the kids to granddaddy's for music night and I meet everyone there.

Andrea says that on Thursday afternoons we should just go about our normal home activities and that we don't have to entertain Huck and Nell, but the truth is that they entertain us. Here are some pictures to prove it. The first one shows them in a game that Huck calls "pigs in rug." Nell is sticking out the top while Huckle is sticking out the bottom. Next is sand art at the counter using a bunch of stuff Cindy got from free-cycle. After I went back to work, they made cookies with Cindy. Here they are in front of the oven watching them bake. The deal was they had to wait to eat them until they went to Granddaddy's where they would share them at music night. Huck ate all of his dinner in anticipation of the "big" cookie he had shaped just for himself.

Monday, September 22, 2008


A little over a year ago, Cindy's niece Ashley moved in with us to go to college. She loaned me a book called the Faith Club for a trip we were about to take to Hawaii. The book was by three women who lived in New York City, a Muslim, a Christian, and a Jew. Their initial intention was to write a book for children to help them understand the differences among the faiths in the aftermath of 9/11. However, once they began working on the project, they discovered that they had much to learn from one another and much to learn about themselves and their own particular religions.

Ashley was a deeply committed Christian, and we had many discussions about the differences in our faiths, for I've been a practicing Buddhist for about 20 years. Still, I was very surprised and impressed that an eighteen year old would loan me such a book--one that discussed so directly topics that have so many folks in the world at odds with one another. I knew this was a very important book.

Before we came home from Hawaii and before I finished the book, Ashely died in a car accident. Her death was one of those enormous wake up calls about the fragility of life and how it can end all too suddenly. One of the most significant outcomes of her death was a clear understanding of the importance of infusing love into every interaction with others for you never know which encounter might be the last. During the days immediately after Ashley died, I finished The Faith Club which deepened my commitment to appreciate and respect the various beliefs and practices of others. Those were powerful days of reckoning with the book and Ashley's passing tightly linked in my mind.

Several weeks ago a dear friend learned that a man she had been partnered with for 10 years had died of aortic anyuerism. They had parted ways 10 years ago and had not seen each other since, nor had they resolved their differences. My friend's sorrow shot through me. It was another reminder to not miss a single chance to set things right, to follow through on a commitment, to respond fully from a heartfelt place.

It's almost impossible to explain exactly how that event led Cindy and I to decide to take advantage of the newly passed California law that allowed us to marry . . . but therein lies the impetus for our momentous decision. The ceremony took place with Cindy's parents as our witnesses--a sweet, joyful quiet event that made us OH SO HAPPY!

Several days later, Andrea decided to invite a small group of people to a reception in our honor. The group that gathered filled me with awe, for the mix was unbelievably eclectic and a tribute to the power of good will. There were conservatives and liberals, gay and straight, Christian, Buddhist, agnostic, ages 3 to 95 toasting our marriage. Cindy and I stood among these people feeling the shaky ground upon which we all stood, our differences set aside though floating close at hand.

I thank Ashley, and the Faith Club, and my friend's ex-partner for keeping me dialed into loving. I thank Cindy's parents for always being there. I thank Andrea for her amazing capacity to love and for knowing what to do and when. And I thank Cindy, whose boundless love fills me with faith every day!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Wild & Scenic

Columbia College hosted the Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival, a traveling festival that included 6 hours of films from the annual festival in Nevada City. We went last night but didn't make it through all the movies which lasted until after 11pm. However, we did see 6 incredible films--revealing and thought provoking, sometimes amusing and very often including spectacular photography.

I was looking forward to one called "Pollen Nation" which talks about the beekeepers and their importance to the agricultural industry. The folks who cart bees around the country to keep our food growing are an interesting lot.

Probably the best segment was "The Story of Stuff," an eye-opening film about the real costs of our consumer driven culture. Juxtaposed as it was to an email message Culley sent with a link to an article by Pat Buchanan, I was slinking down in my chair feeling like a real sleaze. Buchanan and Annie Leonard, the producer of the film, each point a firm finger at my generation--"the baby boomers, oblivious and self-indulgent to the end"--as being particularly responsible for the mess.

Between the economic crisis and the environmental crisis, it's hard to not feel depressed and a tad bit hopeless.

Thank goodness on the way home Cindy was able to point out a few minor ways we have personally changed our ways, e.g. no more credit card use, recycling everything possible and participating in free-cycle, and shopping for work clothes at the consignment shop.

Just to feel like the festival motivated another change, when I got home I dug out our cloth bags for grocery shopping. I also think I might volunteer to do some writing for the Citizens for Responsible Growth. The only way I can see to effect change is to start locally!!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Delayed Report

Last week Nell started pre-school. I got overly busy (nothing new in my life) and didn't get a post up acknowledging this big day, so here is my delayed report.

I was honored to pick her up from her first day at Waldorf. When she saw me, she leaped into my arms and buried her face in my shoulder. Apparently this tough little soldier who marched excitedly into pre-school, was VERY happy to be reunited with the familiar at the end of her first day.

Here she is a little later a Dearma's in her adorable little brown cotton dress with belt--a new outfit for school.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Isn't She Adorable?

Clare is 2 months old! And whenever I can wrestle her away from the siblings who are always in line to hold her, I take my chance to enjoy a few seconds of her baby soft skin and delicious baby smell!

Monday, September 8, 2008


Mondays are going to be my day at home school. The day will look something like this:

First, I will be doing some preschool activities with Mary Autumn, Aliou, Leon and Athan. For one thing, we'll be doing fun things with letters and phonics. In the picture below, Leon is drawing an L in the sand. Today we read books about letters and practiced writing a couple of letters on handheld paddles before working in the sand.

Next, I work with the older girls, Anna Mae and Gianna, on their Little Red Schoolhouse homework. In the picture, they are hard at work in the school room. One thing that is quite clear about home school is that the kids accomplish a lot in very little time because they are able to get VERY focused. The girls did map skills and spelling work with great concentration.

Focused work was also apparent when I next headed to the Harrelson's where we are working on a Language Arts program that combines reading, writing, and grammar with some history lessons. Cody, Taylor, and Kyle breezed through the preparatory set about words like revolution, declaration, and independence, and then got right to work reading and locating main points in a short article. Their skills were top of the line and it's only the 2nd week back in school.

It sure is a pleasure to witness the kids' minds at work processing and digesting and learning all kinds of new things from latitude to colonists to nouns to the multiple meanings of the word revolution. And I enjoy the laughs too, like when Leon connected the "d" sound we were working on with deer and then his little mind leaped sideways to say, "Deer is female!" as he remembered the song "Doe a deer, a female deer. . ."

I'd say Mondays are going to be lots of fun.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Division of Labor

My daughter, who is the mother of eight, has considerable blog material but little time to commit that material to a cyber page. I hope she doesn't mind if I report a story she told me last night--one she herself said would make a terrific blog.

Five-year-old Aliou, who is a dishwasher-in-training, was receiving some instructions regarding chores when he looked up at Mama and said, "How come you never have to clean up?"

I can only imagine what went through my daughter's mind upon hearing this: dismay, outrage, counter-attack, frustration, disillusion. Apparently, she swallowed her first response. recognizing this was simply his childish perspective, and managed to reply that while he was outside having playtime, she was inside working and preparing food and cooking meals for him and his siblings.

"But cooking is play," replied Aliou.

OOPS . . . another button pushed, for like me, my daughter is not overly fond of the food preparation part of her life's work. Once again, she managed a noble reply worthy of the mother of eight: "For Auntie Andrea, cooking is play, but for Mama it is hard work."

Later that night at bed time, when the boys were asking about what the next day would bring, Mama listed the planned activities, including Saturday clean up, to which Aliou asked,
"Does Auntie Andrea think Saturday clean-up is play?"

Clearly, Aliou is processing the division of labor with regard to play if not with regard to who does most of the work.

Friday, September 5, 2008


When you turn 5, you get to go to Kindergarten, so I had the pleasure of joining Huck on his first morning at Sierra Waldorf School. Pictures show Huck and mom putting blankets and rain boots away in the appropriate cubbies after which we went outside to the central area to watch the opening day ceremony.

After the ceremony at Waldorf, Cindy and I traveled to Mariposa to spend the first anniversary of Ashley's death with family. In memory of Ashely, we traveled to her favorite spot, "Angel Falls." Ashely had on several occasions urged her grandma to climb to the top of the falls to see the view from the top, so we all decided to take the challenge. We hiked up, up, up to where the granite slopped gently and was deeply carved by rushing water. There were huge pools of snow-chilled water and the lovely scent of cedar and pine. After resting and enjoying the beauty, we headed back down and gathered in a shady glen for a picnic lunch. Ashely's spirit was omnipresent in the laughter of family and the energy of the climb.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Full Circles

The longer one lives, the more full circles one experiences. Twenty-six years ago, I was hired at Columbia College as the Learning Disability Specialist on a 60 % contract, which translates to 18 hours a week. This week I started a part-time temporary job at the College serving as LD Specialist for 18 hours a week for the Fall semester.

But the circle doesn't stop there. My boss for the position and the person who hired me was once my assistant. She's now the Director of the Program. And the position she once held is being temporarily filled by another retiree who long ago served as the Program Assistant with us. I have this great picture of the 3 of us in 1988 with the the DSP&S staff around the office Christmas tree.

So here we are--3 much older women--trying to right a sinking ship, using our considerable experience and skill to make the operation seaworthy again. We've each shifted position and assumed different postures, but we know all the right moves and it is quite pleasurable to work side-by-side with these two in a common effort, knowing almost without words what to do each step of the way.

I was a tiny bit sad to come out of retirement and take this job, but as always the thrill that I get when I'm part of a team wiped away the sadness and replaced it deep satisfaction.