I mean that not just in the sense of telecommuting, for once upon a time I did work for a big corporation from my home office. That was when my kids were babies, and it was such a blessing to be near them.
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
I mean that not just in the sense of telecommuting, for once upon a time I did work for a big corporation from my home office. That was when my kids were babies, and it was such a blessing to be near them.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
It means investing your entire heart and soul, as well as your time and dollars. It means never being "off work" because you carry it with you every waking (and dreaming) moment. It means taking the kids to "play store," instead of playing at the park. It means organizing book signings, concerts, art shows, psychic readings, aromatherapy workshops, Native American ceremonies, mimes, and yes, six-year-old gong players, employing absolutely every idea that you (and a business coach) can muster to get people to take notice of your shop which sits a little too far back from the street, has too little parking and is too easily overlooked. It means that you do most all of the accounting and ordering and marketing and the website and the graphic design and the reporting yourself because you aren't selling enough to pay for a lot of help. Being a mother of small children, it means doing most of those things in the wee hours, because the only "free" time you have is when the kids are sleeping.
Although the Blissful Soul was only open for 2.5 years, it lives on in my memory, too, in vivid detail. I had invested my severance from ChevronTexaco to fund the purchase of an existing candle store, then called Smellzgood. My husband, David, came up with the name The Blissful Soul. My children were just 4 and 6 years old when we opened the store, and I thought "having a little store" would give me more time with them than being a lawyer did. Little did I know that "having a little store" is so much more consuming than being a lawyer.
It also means meeting more people in the neighborhood, some of whom will love your store as much as you do. It means being eternally grateful for the help you DO have. It means creating lasting memories with your mother who will not outlive the store by more than a few months. It means collaborating with artists and authors and all sorts of gifted people who share of their gifts so generously. It means quickly learning to trust your intuition because it's the only "free" resource you have. It means having something to show for your work, whereas all those contracts you wrote as a lawyer just seemed like piles of paper at the end of the day. It means creating a community.
Thursday, October 3, 2013
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Sunday, July 28, 2013
The heat of the blazing bonfire before me competes in intensity with the melting sherbet hues of the setting sun on the horizon just beyond it. I'm snuggled in a lawn chair, comparing and contemplating each, when my daughter begs me to chase after lightning bugs with her. We are visiting friends at their lake property in the Midwest. Bugs that intermittently punctuate the dusky skies with flashes of light are a novelty for my California-born children. She extends her hand to pull me from the comfort of my chair. I cannot resist.
We chase the fleeting and elusive bugs into tall grass and up on top of the neatly stacked hay bales. At last, she catches her prey, and we race back to the gathering at the bonfire to display her prize. She receives accolades to her satisfaction, then sets the little guy free, and he speeds away into the night.
I reclaim my lawn chair, and I tune back into the ongoing conversation around the fire. Our friend is explaining that a neighboring farmer rents some of his land. The farmer has has planted these miracle beans which are the only thing that survives the deadly herbicide the farmer sprays on the land.
I feel as if I've been punched in the stomach, with the wind completely knocked out of me. My dreams of quiet contemplation are extinguished, and I squeeze back heavy tears. I recall the front field where my daughter and I had carefully avoided trampling the sweet little plants, barely three inches tall, when we were chasing lightning bugs. In the fading light of early dusk, that field appeared a sleepy nursery full of drowsy green heads, bobbing in the breeze like babies so sleepy they can no longer hold their heads up.
Cast now in the shadow of my dislike and distrust of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), it appears to me as a battlefield, one where my friend's desire to pay for his property, the farmer's desire to make a living off the land, the local wildlife's desire for uncontaminated food and water, and the desire of people like me who want food from heirloom crops, confront each other with weapons drawn.
Those sweet little plants, waving in the evening breeze, are undisturbed by the drama of it all. They are simply doing and being as Nature intended: establishing roots in the soil, taking moisture and nutrients up their roots, mixing with sunshine to create the food they need to grow.
They are not cursing their lot for their clinical and calculated derivation in a laboratory. They are not ruing the lack of diversity in their field. They hold no grudges against anti-GMO people like me. They greet me as pleasantly as they do the sun, the moon and the stars.
In my heart, I hold us all in Oneness, as well. Though different in form, we are all born of the Divine; we are are all created in the likeness and Image of God. Who am I to judge these cheery plants who have extended such a welcome greeting?
That is not to say I choose now to eat them, more any of their other genetically modified friends. Nor will I now support the cultivation of food that requires the application of chemicals which poison the earth and other life forms. Yet my quarrel is not with these peaceful plants.
I wander back out to the bean field and sit
amongst them, enjoying peaceful contemplation, after all. I say a prayer, extending a blessing for all life, and I know I am blessed in return. We, these little plants and I are one in the One, after all.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
My grandmother got married in 1931 at the age of 22 and gave birth to my mother, her only child, at the at the ripe old age of 31. I once asked my cousin, a contemporary of my mother's, "what on Earth did my grandmother do for those nine years? She didn't work or volunteer and she had no children." His response made me realize how much a product of my own time that I am.
"Running a household back then was a full-time job back then. There were no frozen or commercially canned foods. People still grew and canned much of their own food. They made their own bread and cake from scratch. There weren't any freezers to keep food for long periods, so cooking was a constant and daily chore. They sewed most of their own clothes and household linens. Laundry was scrubbed in a tub and hung out to dry. There were no wrinkle-free fabrics or electric irons. And, in the 1930s when your grandmother was a young housewife, there was no extra money for luxuries like paying for help. In those days, keeping house, whether or not there were children living in it, left little time for navel contemplation."
What did I do about it? I bought a car that achieved 50 mpg, a phenomenal efficiency even by today's standards (and nothing short of miraculous in 1985). I bought my fruits and vegetables from the local natural foods market. I recycled my bottles and cans, which, back then, meant taking them to a recycling center. I gave money to Greenpeace. And I went on to live my life, pretty much the same as anyone else. Hardly the kind of bold action implied in the article.
The busy, busy bees humming all around me are telling me, simply, to get back to work, and that there's no more time for pointing fingers or self-flagellation. We have all played a part in creating the conditions on Earth and we all have the opportunity to engage in the healing of our relationship with her. I take a moment to speak a word of gratitude for my nature partners who are entreating me to act. Indeed, it is only in partnership with all All of Us that we may chart a new course for our existence on Earth.
Friday, May 31, 2013
Thank you for the purple explosion of flowers on the jacarandas in my neighborhood today. The profusion of beauty made up of the abundance of such tiny things as the petals of a jacaranda bloom remind me just how beauty is created. Rarely is it that just one single, perfect thing causes me to sigh and say, "how beautiful!" More often, it is the conglomeration of several, perhaps hundreds, perhaps thousands of little things, not all of which are perfect, as some of the blooms on the jacaranda tree are not-yet-blossomed and some are brown, but the sum experience of which is one of sheer Beauty.
Monday, May 13, 2013
On the way to church, alone in the car, I shed a few tears, recalling the days when they couldn't wait to wake me up at the crack of dawn on Mother's Day, eagerly presenting me with handmade cards and gifts and a breakfast tray. One year, Chloe even made a menu for me on which she had listed every thing in the kitchen which she knew how to make and serve. "Well, those days were sweet," I thought. "and they are still thoughtful kids. I know they were up late last night. I'm sure they will have something for me when I get home."
On the way home from church, I stopped off at the Eagle Rock and shared a blessing for Mother Earth with her. I vowed to blast all of my feelings of disappointment out into the atmosphere to be burnt up by the blazing hot sun.
When I got home, however, one child was still asleep and the other was engrossed in a video game. Since it was scorching hot outside, I decided against reminding either of them of Suggestion #2: clean up the side patio. So I picked up my book, and I enjoyed another hour of reading.
The four of us piled in the van and headed toward Home Depot. "We could get sushi for dinner," my husband said as we passed by our favorite spot. I recalled Suggestion #3: picnic dinner with takeout from Four Cafe, the local organic restaurant, on my favorite hilltop spot. The water heater situation made that one impossible, I realized, and sushi would be a good treat, too. "Sure," I said.
After debating over tankless versus traditional, we settled on a choice and bought it. I took a picture of it and smirkily posted "my Mother's Day gift" on Facebook. We went out to load it in the back of van, only to discover that it was full of the garage sale leftovers I had forgotten to deliver to GoodWill. Just another Mother's Day surprise. We managed to squeeze the hot water tank between the boxes and brought it home.
"We can let the old tank drain while we go out to eat," David said. "Where will we drain the water?" I asked. We had drained the old tank a few days ago, to assess its condition, and I insisted we put the water to beneficial use, rather than release it into the storm sewer. Water is precious in Southern California, especially in the summer. We had used that water to wash our cars in the driveway. I wanted no part of any hard labor today, however, so I resigned myself to letting the water go.
When we got home, however, David asked "Who wants to take a hot shower before I drain the tank?" Great idea, I thought. It's a beneficial use and both kids would benefit from a scrub-down. Then I remembered that a friend had left a message saying that her son had head lice. "Let me check the kids for lice before we throw them in the shower," I responded. Sure enough, I spotted some tiny bugs on one of the heads. I doused the head in the sticky goo and David helped me comb them out. We sent both kids off to their respective showers, with the bug-free child protesting loudly. "I was going to take my shower before bed!" "We won't have any hot water then," David reminded them.
We got in the car to go to dinner and David asked again, "Sushi?" My resolution vanished and my heart sank. "That's fine," I said though I'm sure my tone suggested that it was not. Instead, he drove to Suggestion #3, Four Cafe, and my spirits lifted again. How well he knows me. How well he treats me.
I enjoyed a sumptuous salad and peach cobbler, while musing over the unusual events of my Mother's Day: No breakfast in bed, no homemade cards, the hot water heater leak, the head lice, the loads of laundry, the trip to Home Depot, and the sullen silence of my children during dinner. They both had their noses in books, and the only words spoken by either of them were, "I have homework to do. Can we go home now?" Still, I got to eat a fantastic salad and even better cobbler from my favorite local restaurant. I was grateful.
We went home and David got the old hot water heater dislodged and the new one installed. It was the second major home repair of the weekend for my husband, having changed out a faulty capacitor on the aiconditioning unit the day before. We're lucky he has the knowledge and ability to tackle so many home repairs, though it means he didn't have much of a 'weekend off.' Chores completed, we sat down to watch a recorded television show before bed.
This was truly was a mother's day, I realized. Being a mother doesn't mean perfect days, receiving adulation or neatly-wrapped gifts. It means a two-way street of unconditional love, even when life is messy, even when tempers flare and even the hot water heater goes out and you discover head lice on "your day."
My gift isn't "coming;" it's something I receive every day, in the form of the heartfelt "I love you!" from my son as he rushes off to school and the "Mom, do you want to read with me?" from my daughter at night. In the eager anticipation of this day, I missed the sheer beauty of the Every Day. Mother's Day isn't something to be celebrated only the second Sunday in May. I am a mother every day, and I vow to celebrate it whenever I am moved to tears because of something my son or daughter does, says, or simply IS. Even if it's October or it's a Tuesday or it's blustery cold outside, I hope I remember to say, "thank you for making my mother's day."
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Still, it does occur to to me that laughing loudly in this precarious position is a bit unusual, even for me. My moment of mirth is inspired by a sudden recollection of my son's pained expression from the night before. Cameron is an avid Minecraft player, and he wants nothing more than for me and his father to play with him in the virtual worlds he creates there. When he invites me, I protest that "I don't like video games," and " I just don't get it." Still, he persists. And I am so grateful, because I continually remind myself, I am blessed to have the opportunity to spend time with him in his world. I'm honored to be invited.
A couple of months ago, he invited me in to his room for an introductory lesson in the operation of basic controls in Minecraft. I was so slow to learn that he got increasingly frustrated. He finally dumbed-down the lesson to match my skills. "Let's find SOMEthing you can play, Mom." He found a nice bubble popping game that I actually enjoyed. I think I could have mastered it, given the chance. After a few minutes of play, however, the realization of the level to which this lesson had sunk came over him. He shook his head and took the controller from me. "That's enough for today, Mom," he said, and ushered me out of his room. His disappointment in my performance weighed heavily on both of us.
Eventually, the pain of that experience waned and he was ready to try again. "So when are you coming for another lesson in Minecraft, Mom?" he asked, repeatedly. "Whenever you muster the courage to try again," I say, only half-kidding. Last week, he took a page from my play book and he notified me that he had scheduled an appointment for us on Sunday at 4pm.
Cameron has always always struggled with transitions. When he was a toddler, I learned to give him the 20-, 5- and 1-minute warnings: "we're leaving soon," then, "we're leaving in five minutes," then "gather your toys, it's time to go," and finally, "get in the car now" to avoid the inevitable tears and tantrums. Now that he's 13, he prefers to have warnings several days in advance, however. "We're going to visit with friends at their house on Friday night," I Skype to him on Tuesday. "Remember we go to Veronica's house tonight," I tell him on the way to school. "Three hours until we leave for Veronica's," I say at the school pickup place. "Time to get in the car now..."
I'm pleased, then, to receive his Skype message of "Minecraft class Sunday at 4pm," he Skypes me on Thursday afternoon. How nice to be invited, for a change! "How about 4:30?" I Skype back. "I am volunteering at the Community Garden event until 4:00." Long pause. He types quickly, my son, so I know he's contemplating his response carefully. Too snarky, and I might cancel altogether. Too nice, and, well, he just might make himself sick. "If that's the best you can do" is what eventually appears on my screen.
I was running late on Sunday after the community garden event, but eventually Cameron's Dad, David, and I assembled in Cameron's bachelor pad accommodations in his bedroom for our lesson. Cameron beams at his most unlikely students. He summons the most patient explanations of pickaxe capabilities and strengths that he can muster. I struggle to follow along.
I totally understand the allure of Minecraft, and, if it had existed when I was his age, I'm sure I would have been all over it. The opportunity to create to new worlds with a panoply of tools and resources is alluring indeed. What kid wouldn't want to be able to create a world where your home is filled with your favorite games, and there are no teachers or parents telling you what to do all of the time, and you can eat pizza for every meal, and you can let a pig roam the palace and mine gold whenever you feel like it? Who wouldn't want to fire up a roller coaster of your own imagination with the magical redstone? Who wouldn't want to have the opportunity to teach your dumb parents about something that you do so well and they just can't seem to understand?
My good intentions don't always match my skill level, however. Yet Cameron seems encouraged by our enthusiasm for his subject this evening. David even has the comprehension level to ask questions that, judging from Cameron's facial expressions, he feels are worthy of his time. "Yes, Dad, there is the possibility of inengag a ekioghen with a weilalk " is what it sounds like to me. I just nod and smile, so happy that my boys are doing something together.I'm glad for the opportunity to sit back and admire my bright son, working in his element. I'm thrilled to be included.
"Here's a link to your test," is the Skype message I receive the next day. "It's only five questions. Please try to complete it right away." Eager to stay in his good graces (there are so many, many, many ways that I stray out), I click on the link immediately. "What's the first level of pickaxe that can mine iron?" is the first question. Already I'm in over my head. I remember that he went over this. I remember that he emphasized the strengths of each level of pickaxe. I even remember that there was something nonsensical (to my geologic mind) about the order of it, but what was it? Wood can cut stone? Or was it gold can cut iron? Rats. I have to guess on the answer to the very first question.
I read the second question, and I realize that I am as unsure about it as the first. I feel better about my response to question #3 and I'm sure I've nailed the answers to questions 4 and 5.
A couple of hours later, I come down from my office in the attic, and I poke my head into Cameron's room. "Time to get ready for bed," I say. He turns to look at me with a most pained expression. "You got two questions wrong, Mom. TWO out of FIVE." I can see that this information is causing him emotional, intellectual and even physical distress, as if he might double over any moment as he did when his appendix ruptured. "How can you possibly get two out of five very easy questions wrong, Mom?" he asks plaintively. I see pity in his grey eyes and bewilderment in his face. He has done his best as a teacher, and the student has failed the exam. I feel deep remorse. I apologize profusely, knowing full well that it's not an apology that he wants.
It is his look of grief and pain that comes to me again as I am bent over the slant board at the Y. While his expression of disappointment was heavy and sorrowful the night before, it strikes me in this moment as strangely and hilariously funny, in the way that only something which is desperately - and wholly - inappropriately funny can. My daughter Chloë and I recently stifled laughs at the end of the memorial service for a dear friend's parent because AutoCorrect changed my text message from "we're going to the reception now" to "we're going to the revolution now." That would be funny enough on its own; coupled with the "MUST-NOT-LAUGH-HERE" element, however, made it the kind of funny where milk comes out of your nose, even if you're not drinking any. Even if you're lactose intolerant and haven't drank milk in years.
Cameron's doleful expression revealed just how much he wants me to learn Minecraft so that we can play together, so that I can be a part of his world. I'm thrilled he wants me there. The last thing I'd ever want to do is to crush his hope for me, especially at this critical juncture of his transition into teenhood. And yet, here I am in this most awkward position, in a semi-public place, howling at his clear expression of pain over my pathetic inability to grasp even the most basic concepts of something he finds as natural as when we were first teaching him to walk. He looked at us then in the same way I look at him now: "I get that it's cool to do what you do, and I appreciate that you think I can do it, too. I just have no idea where to begin."
When I regain my composure, I ask myself, "why, exactly, was that so freaking funny?" It occurs to me now that, perhaps, as is so often the case with humor, it's because I see myself in him. One of my greatest fears as a parent is that I'm not teaching my children all that they will need to know to be self-sufficient, self-supporting, kind and compassionate, practically grounded spiritually guided adults. "I should be making them floss more, cook more, clean more, get outside more, shower more.." and a whole host of other 'shoulds' too numerous to mention.
I'm laughing because I take my teaching job too seriously. This job of teaching my children is not at all like a traditional school where the system sets the teacher up as Knower of All Things and the role of the student is to memorize and regurgitate. Children - and all of us - learn best by observing and then doing. I am doing what I want them to model, though I'm not perfect, and that's part of the lesson, too. "Do what you feel called to do, take some time to assess, learn from your 'mis-takes' and get back out there and go do again." That's what I'm modeling, and that's what they are learning. The simple fact that Cameron set an appointment with me, followed up the lesson with a survey, both things I do on a regular basis to connect with my children, means he IS learning from the best I have to offer. Offer, invite, follow up, assess, reconfigure the lesson, offer...repeat.