Road School 2017

This Spring, my son announced that he had two life goals: quitting school and living in a van.  His love of learning has been with him from infancy, but ever since 6th grade, he’s slowly and progressively been losing interest in school. Over the past four years, I’ve watched the light go out of his eyes while in the traditional educational system.

By April, things had spiraled rapidly downward; my son was depressed, uninspired and feeling powerless to change his life.  Uncharacteristically, he wasn’t getting up in the morning, he was isolating from friends and was refusing to go to school.  I had no idea what to do or how to help him.  Finally, at a crisis point, Harlan opened up to me.  What I heard more than anything was that he really and truly doesn’t want to go back to school and wants to “drop out”.

As I listened to him, I had an “Aha!” moment.  What if we “Dropped In” and hit the road?  What if we took this Fall Semester of 2017 and he got to live and learn in real time, in the real world, seeing life through the eyes of a traveler?  As a mother, I knew I needed to act quickly to come up with a creative solution that might serve to inspire my son into not giving up.  Since nothing traditional has worked (and we’ve tried it all), I wanted to come up with an out-of-the-box learning opportunity that would spark his innate curiosity.

Without knowing exactly how I could pull it off, I proposed the idea of living on the road this Fall to Harlan.   Almost instantly, like pumping a bicycle tire with air, I watched him come back to life.  He became motivated and finished 9th grade.  He joined a gym and is working out daily.  He’s working with an inspiring mentor who is teaching him about meditation and healthy living.  We’re training for our first Sprint Triathlon in October.  He has a summer job and is saving money for the trip.  We’re working with an educational consultant to design a personalized curriculum for Harlan.

We’re plotting our itinerary on the map:

Vancouver to Baja from September through December.

Along this route, we will be researching people and places that inspire us, in order to learn from these interactions. Together with an educational consultant, we will design a curriculum that Harlan resonates with; creating projects that involve writing, music, photography, and natural science – all with the rich backdrop of the Pacific West to support his education.

Since I have announced our decision to hit the road this August, miracles are happening.  People are reaching out with places to stay, well wishers are offering words of support, and we are packing up and moving out of our home on July 31!  Finances are an issue.  I’m a single mom navigating work, life, and parenting two teenagers, the oldest of which is heading off to college in September.

I’m a grief counselor. I work with people who have lost a loved one and are navigating life without the person they love. I have teenagers. I know angst. I have lost family members to suicide. I have close relatives that struggle with clinical depression. I know life is short. And mysterious and powerful and awe-inspiring. I know that I love my son with all my heart and will do anything within my power – anything – to help him get the light back in his beautiful brown eyes.  And yes, that means even asking for money, something I’ve been raised never to do.  I’ve started a Go Fund Me Campaign, called Road School 2017, to help with our costs.

Donations will go toward:

  • Online Educational Consultant
  • Used laptop
  • School Supplies
  • Educational Experiences (e.g. Museums, State Parks)
  • Gas
  • Campgrounds

NOTE:  5% of what we receive in donations will go to Pacific Sands Academy, a program that offers an accredited, interest-led, passion-driven independent studies program for teens.  This money will help families afford an alternative choice for children who may be struggling with the traditional educational system.

There is no training manual for what Harlan and I will are about to embark on, but there is a road map – the one he and I will follow along the highway.  As a parent, my job is not to mold him into a smaller, younger version of myself, but to hold a safe container large enough for him to expand his wings.  To quote John O’Donohue, in his poem The Traveler, I want to introduce my son to “the invitations which wait along the way to transform” him.   Stay tuned, Road School starts late August 2017!  #roadschool2017

 

Passover 2017

Screen Shot 2017-04-10 at 10.59.19 PM

Just coming off a whirlwind weekend visiting a college with my oldest, soon to be 18, my daughter.

We landed in Denver and I stopped to fill my water bottle at Root Down, my favorite stop at DIA.  After filling it, I screwed the cap on tight and turned, just in time to see a man being wheeled past, only a few feet from me, a swarm of paramedics administering CPR.  I could see his chest going down and up, an alarming amount of distance really, it was not natural, not at all.  They were pumping his chest with their hands.  He was wheeled down some hallway I’ve never noticed before – the whole thing happened in seconds.  “This is an emergency” I thought.  I sucked in my breath.  It did not look good.

Right there in terminal C a man was possibly dying.  Probably dying by the look of the whole scene.  I shut my eyes and felt the tears.  Heading down the escalator to the train, I wanted to stop and tell the people swarming from the doors, “There’s a man possibly dying up there!”   Life and death so close.

Of all the things I kept thinking about this weekend, “Life is Short” was one of the most prevalent thoughts.  Memories of my girl as a toddler, scenes of her as a youngster, bed time, reading her stories, singing to her.  Watching her struggle and falter and careen into some hard years.

Now a young woman, going to college.  Beautiful big eyed girl.  At ease (mostly) with herself and with life.  She’s ready.  I watch her from a distance.

Leaving the airport, we drive straight to her dad’s house.  It’s Passover and we are going to his “Bob Marley” Seder.   Passover celebrates the liberation of the Jews from slavery and people will play instruments and sing Bob Marley’s Redemption Song.

On the way, we stop and pick up my daughter’s boyfriend.  I hear her in the back of the car whispering to him, “You are part of this family”.  We arrive and the table is crowded with friends and relatives and exes and children.  We open the door for Elijah.  As usual, everyone is starving as we slog our way through the Haggadah – the book we read that tells us what Passover means and why we celebrate as we do.

On this night I sit between my son and my friend Starling.  There is laughter, and the usual chaos.  There are people complaining that they’re hungry, and children who would like to drink more wine, there’s raucous singing, and music breaks for more Bob Marley songs, there’s dancing, and food.  And more food!  Tsimmis (my favorite), and brisket, and smoked turkey with gravy, and matzah and charoset and soup and gefilte fish.  Everyone is stuffed.

I look around the table.  There is love.  There is forgiveness.  There is laughter and subtext.  History.  There have been heart-aches and illness and crises and hard times.  Tonight we celebrate Redemption – being saved from sin and error and gathering together to celebrate another year with love and grace.

I raise a glass and thank the cooks.  And I remember the people that can’t be with us; the people that can’t be here and the people that have passed before, and yet they feel so close tonight.  And I say a prayer for the man at the airport and his family.  We all drink.  L’Chaim.  To Life.  Life is short.  We are all part of this family.

I do the dishes.  The kids stay at their dad’s.  My heart is full with just a tinge of sadness.  The full April moon follows me on my ride, lighting up the mountains that wait silently for me to arrive, home.

 

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery

None but ourselves can free our minds

Have no fear for atomic energy

‘Cause none of them can stop the time

How long shall they kill our prophets

While we stand aside and look? Ooh

Some say it’s just a part of it

We’ve got to fulfill the Book

Won’t you help to sing

These songs of freedom?

‘Cause all I ever have

Redemption songs

Redemption songs

Redemption songs

-Bob Marley

Chakra Series – 5th Chakra

Throat Chakra - taken by my son
Throat Chakra – taken by my son

Vishuddha – Throat Chakra – Sound, Creative identity, (self-expression)

This is the chakra located at the throat and is related to communication and creativity.  When open, you are free to speak your mind, express yourself fluently, and feel as if you have a right to your voice.  I’ve been hesitant to write about the 5th chakra because I’ve been in a funky place of self-doubt, insecurity, and writer’s block.  The antithesis of a flowing 5th chakra.  But then I realized, I was waiting until I had something “good” to write, instead of just sharing what is living in my heart and speaking my mind.  That I can do.

This is the time of year I always, always begin my descent down into the underworld, to shed my layers and hang on Inanna’s meat hook.  I feel like my insides are exposed and I get protective, isolated.  Something about the holidays and my birthday approaching.  And an internal wisdom to hibernate and go within that bumps up against our society’s demand that we Celebrate!  with a capital ‘C’.

Yesterday was the Day of the Dead.  The veils are thin at this time of year.  I feel it.  The clocks have turned back this morning, and while I write this, the sky is putting on a show for me;  rose pink, lavender gray and pale orange behind inky trees.

November Sky
November Sky

Where does the time go?  I spent Halloween night quietly, not a lot of trick-or-treaters on our street.  I spoke to Andy, alone on Halloween just like me, in another state.  We texted each other using emoji’s = Modern Love.  We were walking down memory lane about past Halloweens with our kids.  I was looking at old pictures of parties we used to have.  I was feeling melancholy looking at the small fresh faces in all the photographs, dressed in their costumes.  Pirate cheerleader, angel, ghost.  “I know, those days are gone forever” texts my husband.  “Thanks for cheering me up!” I text and include a gun emoji pointed at my head.  (my sense of humor)

I had one tiny little girl who stared at me with wide eyes and, when prompted by her parents, whispered a hushed “twick or tweat”.  My heart ached with the purity of that age – her family’s future spreading out before them in an amalgam of hopes and dreams.  I’ve aged.  I’ve become cynical.  My heart is broken.  This is the first Halloween ever that I haven’t spoken to my daughter.  I can’t.  She’s not here.  She’s in a therapeutic boarding school.  This is our life right now.

Gazing upon my trick-or-treater’s face, I felt like Scrooge looking down on Tiny Tim and felt my heart crack with her innocence.  I ran upstairs and got my daughter’s fancy tea set all packed away in a wicker basket (I remember when I bought it at a fancy toy store in town that has since closed) and handed it to the girl’s mom.  “Enjoy it, use it” I said.  One more childhood token removed from the house.

It feels cliche for me to write about the “cycle of life” but it always comes up for me at this time of year:  birth, death, dreams, heart-ache, babies, teenagers, the truly egregious wounds that family can and does inflict, Spring, Fall, candycorn, rotting pumpkins, plump cheek, wrinkles, baby, crone, dropouts, honor roll, fresh air, meds, the redemptive power of LOVE in family = it all swirls inside my brain and my heart and collects in an aching lump, in my throat.  Glad I got it down in words today.

Chakra Series – 1st Chakra

This is my first post since May – I don’t even know how that could have happened, but in part, it’s due to writer’s block, which happened the day I signed up for a writer’s workshop in Esalen next July.  Another reason I haven’t written is that I have been on a summer vacation at the beach.  This summer I needed to relax and restore myself.  I wrote myself a perscription, this is what it said:  Have Fun.  And that’s what I did.  I went to yoga, rode my bike, ate good food, swam, paddled, played, parented, visited with friends and family, made new friends.  I went for a lot of walks with Andy and Ruby (my dog) and slowly, slowly, my nerves thickened, and my muscles toned and my heart started to reconnect itself.

My daughter hasn’t lived at home since April 23 (who’s counting?) I miss her terribly.  Even to write this I can feel the sting of tears behind my eye lids.  She’s away, receiving support, getting better.  We are here, receiving help, getting better.  I guess I haven’t felt much like writing since she’s been gone.  Grief is a parasitic creature, living off of my creative resources.  I’ve been in an intimate relationship with Grief this year, and I’ve danced all the steps – from disbelief, anger, resentment, refusal to despair, collapse, surrender.  Grief brought her gifts ridiculously early, on the very first day of Lili leaving, I was able to see them.  I continue to be touched by the kindness of others, the compassion of mothers, the love of my children.  But it still hurts – in an open-mouthed “O” of shock at times.  Some days I can’t even handle the grocery store because it’s too painful to see somebody who doesn’t know about my life, or does know and asks me about it.

For me, the first chakra, the root, is about being grounded.  It’s my sense of place in the world and what makes me feel the safest and most secure.  It’s my energetic “home base” and my connection to the earth.  When my first chakra is open I feel a sense of well-being and peace.  It reminds me of a song my Grandmother used to sing to me:

The year’s at the Spring, the day’s at the morn, morning’s at 7, the hillside’s dew pearled.  The lark on the wing, the snail on the thorn, God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world.

Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home

This is a photo from 2 summers ago, we were all together in Santa Cruz.  This is my first chakra picture.  In the picture, I’m happy being a mama, I’m smiling at my husband, the kids are clamoring around me, and my world is complete.

These days, I feel like an amputee – learning to live without a limb, something’s missing, someone’s missing.  And I trust the universe.  I trust my girl’s path.  I trust mine.  (most of the time)  I’m standing on this earth, feet planted, my lioness heart pounding in my chest.

 

 

 

Square Peg Round Hole

All the freaky people make the beauty of the world.  -Michael Franti

Growing up I was  considered a “weirdo”.  It was the 70’s and most parents were involved in their adult worlds – use your imagination.  I went to bed when I wanted, watched a lot of TV, forgot to shower and had really bad style.  I was unpopular and lived in my own world of books and a few friends.  I was a lonely kid.  I never felt like I fit in.  I hated school.  It wasn’t until I was an adult and moved to the open-minded West Coast that I finally felt Free.  Free in the most anonymous sense of the word.  Nobody raised an eyebrow about what I looked like or acted like.  In the Bay Area I found my soul home and cultivated friends who loved me for the quirky gal I grew up to be.

I’m taking a tele-class called “Relationship as a Path” taught by Jayson Gaddis – that meets weekly by phone.  Seems kind of ironic that my relationship group is virtual – perfect for an oddball extroverted introvert like me.  Last week Jayson brought up a concept that stopped me in my tracks.  I’ve heard it before, but this time, I really sat with it.  He suggested that our children are the disowned parts of ourselves.  Think about that one for a minute.  Even if you would like to debunk that, don’t.  Just for a few minutes.  It’s a trip.

Times have been tender lately at our house.  My sweet, smart, sensitive 6th grader has been struggling socially.  He isn’t seeming to “fit in” at school.  I’ve always prided myself in allowing both of my children to express themselves as individuals.  But I’m realizing that I have my limits.  “Be yourself, but don’t be too weird, ok honey?” is the message I think I’ve really been putting out there.  I see that my EGO has been so proud of both of my children’s accomplishments and their bright beauty.  I’ve marveled at their seeming ease in life to be kind to others, to have people like them, to do well in school.  All things that were murky and elusive to me.  Now, with my son’s struggles, I’ve been in panic mode.  “He needs to be home-schooled!” I delcare to his dad.  “Stop posting those pictures on Instagram” I hiss at my son – “you know the ones…that make you look like a girl.”  Who is this person speaking?  What has happened to my open mind?  Where has my appreciation and celebration of difference gone?  I’ll tell you. It went out the window the day my son came home and said some kid called him “gay” after school and that he was worried about getting beaten up because he has purple streaks in his hair.  I panicked.  I wussed out.  I don’t want him to feel lonely or ostracized (like I did.)  The fact is, if I could prevent either one of my kids from ever feeling pain, I would.  And I can’t.  And that’s probably a good thing because pain can be a catalyst for growth.  I would not be the woman I am today if I hadn’t had the life experiences I had as a child.  That’s right…as I type this, I mean every word.  I am who I am today – somebody I am proud of – because of every experience I had in my life leading up to this moment.  So thank you MOM and DAD and STEP-DAD and LIFE for every teaching that came my way.  Alle-fucking-lujah!

I asked sonny boy if he would like to transfer to a different school – the one for creative types – the one that is more accepting of diversity.  In the meantime, I actually suggested he “tone it down” on being different.  His reply…”I like being different.”  I confess that I wasn’t happy with this answer.  Now he’s testing the waters of his own individuality in a small white town in a traditional middle school.  “What child do you know that likes middle school?” my wise husband asked me.  “Yeah!” my high-schooler chimes in.  “I hated middle school – especially 6th grade.”  She did?  Oh yeah…

So back to Jayson and my virtual class.  The part of me that I have rejected – the painful loner part of my Self that I have disowned – is now surfacing in my kid and making me verrry uncomfortable.  Thank you life.  Thank you for this opportunity to breathe, to love myself and all the sharp edges, to re-integrate the shadow aspects I would rather not be reminded of.  Thank you for letting me love and appreciate the unique and quirky being that is my son.  On Christmas day we went to the movies and he wore his mullet wig and his “sipping specs” (glasses that  are a large crazy straw where one end goes in the drink and the liquid goes around the glasses and into the mouth) and I didn’t even flinch.  Once.  Neither did his sister (who actually gave him props for staying “in character” the whole time) or his step-dad.  I love my family.  The kid has an inner strength, a platform to push off of and I want my butterfly to be FREE.  Teach me my beautiful children.  Break up the calcification of my judgement and release my shackles of fear.  I bow to you.

butterflygirl.jpg

When she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but of her weirdness.  They wanted her to change back into what she always had been.

But she had wings.

-Dean Jackson

 

 

PITY PARTY!!!

wahhhhh
wahhhhh

I’m home, kids are home, dog threw her back out, I have some weird virus that has settled in my inner ear, causing some hearing loss which “may or may not be permanent” says my doc.  I feel like I am going deaf, have water in my ear, or 5 cotton balls wedged in my ear canal.  Ruby’s on pain meds, I’m on steroids (which have a “30-50% chance” of clearing up my ear and restoring my hearing) and baby girl got her wisdom teeth out yesterday.  Her percocet and viocodin are sitting on the kitchen counter singing their siren song.   Got some hilarious video of #3 (Lili’s nickname since we have 5 kids combined) just after her surgery – where her mouth is gaping open, stuffed with gauze and she’s saying “I fink there’s sumfin in my mouf” – good times.  But as soon as we got home, I realized she was going to be a big fat handful, needing meds round the clock, ice, gauze, no falling asleep until the gauze comes out, she’s falling asleep!  tv blaring…needs assistance walking because she’s woozy.  #5 needs dinner, and there’s three (three!) piles of cat barf on the carpet (of course) in my bedroom.  And my husband is still at the beach in CA.  Fuck-it-all.

Meanwhile…I am making homemade custard (the kind you make from scratch and pour into buttered ramekins and bake in a hot water bath), doing laundry, getting scrips filled, carrying the dog up and down the stairs to go potty several times a day, hosting playdates, making late night runs to Whole Foods for mashed potatoes, etc.  All this time, as I’m trying to take care of all the characters in this play, I am feeling bad about myself.  I am feeling guilty approaching a level of self-flagellation that I skipped my meditation practice.  I’m feeling ineffectual and like a Loser (with a capital ‘L’) that I am just walking around in a daze with no motivation to write a blog post or go for a run – not to mention I’m eating all the homemade custard that my kids decided didn’t taste as good as Kosy Shack’s rice pudding.  Go figure.

Anne Lamott talks about practicing Radical Self Care and jokingly refers to “keeping the patient comfortable” about herself when she’s struggling emotionally.  For her, it means curling up in bed with a book and her dogs and a bag of M&M’s.  “Whaaaat?” I say.  “Self Care?”  (Imagine me cocking my head and saying this in a Yoda voice.)  “What is this ‘Self Care’?”  Hmmmm.  Where can I get some of this I wonder?  The kicker is…I have to do it! After a good cry (after the dumb cat jumped up on my lap and missed, leaving 5 puncture holes in my leg) I was sufficiently beaten down enough to surrender (key) and let all expectation of having a “productive” day go.  Making lemonade people!

I decided to take all “shoulds” off my list today.  I’m choppig wood/carrying water re. the kids and animals – i.e. everyone is entitled to have food – as much as I wish everyone could just make their own cheese and crackers and we’d be done with the whole thing.  All pets will be let in and out and carried down steps.  Medicine will be dispensed.  Maybe I will do some yoga, maybe not.  Maybe I will watch the entire season of a reality show, maybe I will try and take a nap.  I’m giving my inner critic the day off.  I’m upping my caffeine level for today.  I’m going to try and show up for myself even just half as much as I am willing to do for my kids.   Let’s see how this goes…

 

Under Construction

Wild Ride
Wild Ride

I am in heavy Family Time right now.  Me/Him/Mine/His (no “Ours” – I guess that would be the cats…and they’re not here with us right now.)  We’re on a Family Vacation.  I’m learning A LOT.  The first thing I have learned is that I suck (sometimes.)  I really do.  I am mean.  I am childish.  I am petty.  Wow.  No sugar coating this part.  It’s humbling.  The other thing about this is that when you are on a Family Vacation, and you Suck, your whole family sees…there’s no hiding it.  And…some of members of this family are made up of teenagers.  And guess what?  Teenagers notice this stuff.  No getting around it.

There is a certain terrible rhythm amidst all 5 of us.  At any given point, at least one of us is feeling fed up, sad, hurt or angry.  We’re being called to stretch ourselves and make room for all that we are – not just the nice persona we show the public.   I happen to be blessed by a family that forgives and truly wants to be in good relationship with each other, even if we are not always sure how to do that.   There’s a lot to be said for the power of apologizing and the grace of forgiveness.  I’ve been doing both.  A lot.

The other thing I am learning – and this is Monumental with a capital ‘M’ – is that LOVE is limitless.  It comes from source, so it never runs out.  I run out of patience and get frustrated, but when I am running on empty, I can remember to ask for help.  For Grace.  For some “more love please”.  And guess what?  It’s working.  I’ve never been so consciously aware of this before in my life.  It feels miraculous, truly.

Sparkler

A dear friend gave me a ring a few weeks ago.  It has the letters ‘LIMI‘ on it.  They stand for Love Is My Intention.  They were created to promote more love on the planet.  Normally, my goal is to love more and to fear less (thank you Lance), but to have this reminder to breathe, to love, to recommit to my intention, on my finger helps me come back to this mantra again and again throughout the day.

LIMI = Love Is My Intention

 

On my own, I am a human being with a finite set of resources.  Sometimes I have a “raisin heart” – which means a little, dried up, Grinchy heart.  When I’m in this mode, nobody is happy, including myself.  Sometimes I indulge in shitty behavior, and like any addiction or bad habit, I don’t feel better afterwards.  Source (or Love, or God, or…) is Limitless and I can change from the “Me” channel to “Source” channel and that is magical.  mmmm.  Love.  Healing.  Grace.

To err, to apologize, to ask forgiveness, to love, to forgive…it’s one wild merry-go-round here and I am learning…growing…loving.  Grateful.