Saturday, August 31, 2013

Seeking Refuge

Trying to. I woke up this morning with that thought in my head: we are seeking refuge.

Who better to describe what this is than Keanu Reeves?

(hard to shake the Bill and Ted image of this guy, but
he really does a good job explaining)

I don't know what I am doing, so I am pretty sure I am doing it wrong. I don't feel sheltered and peaceful. The key is, of course, that even as you seek refuge in the sangha, you are still being mindful of the fact that this is mostly an interior process, and true refuge has little to do with outside forces.

Yeah, but I'm not Buddha, so I am pretty far away from achieving that understanding truly. I am good on the practice of getting away from attachment to material objects (not perfect, but working on it), and I totally get that life is suffering. The hard part is in actually dealing with the suffering. And I am doing a poor job. The last few days have been extraordinarily difficult. I can't begin to explain, which seems odd that I am writing this down but I have to get it out of my head and somewhere else because I am having violent, awful dreams and that isn't helping.

My father died seven years ago, and that was one kind of awful because he had cancer, he's my dad, and watching him suffer was difficult. I had the honor and privilege of spending his last day with him (we watched The Last Samurai, one of his favorite movies, but I muted the fighting scenes) and being with him when he died. I still miss him, but since it was a gradual process it was different. Painful immediately when he took his last breath.

Dane was alone when he died. I was a thousand miles away. He was 43. He left behind a daughter who adores him. Suddenly, we are without him. There is no refuge from this fact, no place we can go to get solace and comfort. Sicily and I are the only ones who really understand this feeling, and we are not doing a great job of helping each other. I am not doing a great job helping her or myself. Some days are better than others, but the reality is that there really is no refuge from this.

There is a stupid song whose name escapes me, but one of the quotes is, "If you're going through hell, keep on moving." I feel like we haven't even reached the part where we are going through hell. Every day is a new layer of awful, and eventually we will get to the point where we are in hell.

This is today's revelation. I am not a pretty sight.

Friday, August 30, 2013

I Have Met the Enemy, and It Is Me. I Am Her. Whatever.

I think we have hit a wall.

As mentioned in a previous post, we will win no Best Tourists Ever Awards. Too Lazy.

We might end up in a Lonely Planet guide, but more often on someone's front porch or backyard swingset with a  beer or a muffin or a coffee or whatever.

Well, all of this (non)activity has hit me square between the eyes here in DC.

Maybe it was the 800-mile walk yesterday.

Or the two museums punctuated by a one-hour sit eating ice cream on a bench.


Guess what? When you are on the road for long enough, the person you aren't really interested in being catches up to you. And that's where I am.

I figured out that I am not really trying to escape the reality of Dane's death; he has been in my dreams, voiceless, for the past three nights, and every morning when I wake up I am well aware that he is not here.

I am trying to leave parts of myself behind. Refashioning myself back to Me after no longer being We. Getting rid of the annoying parts that crop up in a relationship because they are necessary or habit or whatever. The parts that are no longer necessary when the relationship is terminal (pun intended).

Well, turns out that's a pretty hard thing to do.

So here we are at a wall. With a teenager who is fully a teenager (although I am grateful for the excellent human she is, she is still a teenager), no desire to go home but no desire to stay on the road but no desire to go home, formless, aimless. No energy to get up, sleeping poorly. No desire to do much but with an overwhelming feeling of wasted time, accompanied by the overwhelming feeling that it is all of it pretty pointless anyway.

I am trying to be gentle with myself, enjoy my nieces and nephew, be grateful. I take it out too much on The Child. With so much swirling it's hard to make the important thing the important thing when the important thing is amorphous and shifting.

I have met the enemy. I am sick to death of war.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

MLK's 50th Anniversary and a Life-Changing Milkshake

In the midst of Miley's moronic performance and Syria's chemical warfare against her own people, the 50th anniversary of MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech was yesterday.

To celebrate, we shared a life-changing milkshake and an 800-mile walk. And a chat with a  new friend.

First, our friend's store:

I can't recommend this store enough, not just because it's a friend's store but also because it is filled with some cool stuff, not just random crap from China but lovingly found and restored object and one-of-a-kind pieces in addition to carefully selected funky home furnishings. There is one in Charm City, too. The store in DC has pieces of petrified wood that are 10-15 million years old, a selection of beautiful old typewriters, and an $11,000 table handmade from a hunk of maple. Among other things.

Next, our life-changing milkshake:

(not our picture. TOTES accurate, though)

If you are anywhere near a Good Stuff Eatery, stop reading and go get a Toasted Marshmallow Milkshake. Yes, they toast the marshmallows. Yes, you need a spoon, but they don't have one (use the straw, which really should have been wider but the frustration and reward is part of it, like milkshake S&M). Yes, you will want a large but won't really need one, so get a small or share a large. I can also personally recommend the Sunnyside burger (served with cheese, bacon and a sunny-side up fried egg, HELLO) and a side of fries. Good LORD it was delicious. I almost bought a t-shirt, and those of you who know me know I am not a commemorative t-shirt buyer. LIFE-CHANGING milkshake.

Next, our seat at the party:

Can you see us? No? That's because we were not even within earshot. It has been a long time since I have been to a function in Washington, Bill Clinton's inauguration to be precise, and apparently you can't just waltz up to the Lincoln Memorial when the President is speaking and get a decent place to sit. Or stand. Or hear. So we took a picture of us and walked on. And found a guy who was selling t-shirts who opened his car and blasted CNN radio so we could hear Bernice King speak. I felt more  a part of the speech on Constitution Avenue then standing with my back to the Washington Monument. The t-shirt guy offered his umbrella to a couple sitting next to us, which was a small but significant display of how awesome people can be.

So here we are, right before we left to walk the 400 miles back to our car:

Sicily is still smiling, which belies how much her freaking feet hurt. In reality, our walk from the car to the speech and back was approximately seven miles. This was a very, very long walk. We consoled ourselves will a large Icee, a large buttered popcorn and the movie Jobs, which was just meh for me but which Sicily liked. I am going to make her read the book, which we just so happen to have on the Nook.

This newsy little post on what we did yesterday doesn't quite cover how the whole day was. It is always pretty amazing to be in DC when an event like this is happening. Regardless of your politics, it is a privilege and an honor to be able to walk in and around the buildings of your government, to be able to listen to your leaders and to join a mass of humanity who may or may not agree with you but who come together to participate in the democracy of the land. It's not perfect. It's not even close. I am not a nationalist, and I criticize the hell out of our government and our system. We could be so much better. But. There is something about the potential of this nation's people that is stirring, and although Obama's speech yesterday was just okay, the ideas behind it, the distance we have come together and the road we still must travel, resonated with me. Being in DC is inspiring (if a little tiring), and I am glad we got a chance to be here on this day, even if we couldn't be in the middle of the action.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tourist Failures

As tourists, Sicily and I are better couch potatoes.

Translation: we are not the type to wake up at the crack and rush around all day, seeing everything we can see. We aren't wired that way. Whenever we think about what we want to do on any given day, too much is overwhelming, and we just get tired and make another cup of coffee. We have spent hours on the porches of friends, planning our day, only to realize that the planning and the swinging and the snack-having actually became the day and now it's time to decide on dinner and that might take awhile, so how about a cocktail?

Sicily is following in my travel-type footsteps: I like to learn a place and live like a local. Yes, I love the touristy stuff sometimes (like the double-decker bus in Philly that was more fun than expected), but I am just as content to get a Mr. Softee ice cream from a food truck on the Mall and watch people go by (we may have done that yesterday. For an hour. It was hot, okay?). I want to do what I would do if I lived in a place; I don't need to see all of the "high points"; generally those places are packed cheek-to-jowl with camera-toting, baby-hefting, sweaty, impatient people. I don't like to join those ranks. I like to find the hidden gems and sit with the locals.

(Thinking from the sculpture garden at the National gallery)
Which is not to say we didn't do stuff. Yesterday we went to the American History Museum (and saw Julia Child's kitchen, which was wicked cool. I want her stove very, very badly) and the Natural History Museum, but we also wandered around the National Mall, aimlessly, and then we went to the Silver Diner (not what I remember; this iteration of it featured local produce, organic meats and nitrate-free bacon. DELICIOUS.)
Today we get another chance to earn a little tourist cred; President Obama is marking the 50th anniversary of MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech with a speech of his own on the steps of the Lincoln memorial, and La and I will be there. Thankfully, it doesn't start until 3:05, so we have plenty of time to rise, shine and mosey our way over there.
For now, though, this is my morning view, and it's just grand:

Monday, August 26, 2013

Memory is a Tricky Thing

Memory is a tricky thing.

I am starting to realize that I don't have much of one.

When I was 16 I was in a car accident. I remember waking up in the passenger seat (I was driving and ended up over there); I remember the spider web of broken glass, the shaky voice of the EMT who was swabbing blood off my face, my mom yelling at me in the ER. I remember the doctor telling me that a head injury could affect my short-term memory.

Turns out, my memory was already pretty crappy and oddly selective. I don't remember pretty major things, but I remember some of the most inconsequential things very clearly. This is distressing to me.

A couple weeks ago I went through all of the letters I wrote to Dane when we first met and he was out on the boat in the middle of the Bering Sea. They were long and newsy, and Dane saved every one of them (I did not save all of his, which makes me feel even more like an asshole). Two things jump out: A) Dane was important to me pretty quickly, and B) I don't remember anything that was going on in my life at that time. I don't remember concerts or poetry readings I went to (some of them stand out in the letters - Exene Cervenka, TC Boyle). I don't remember the details of my friends' lives at that time. I don't remember things people did for me, things I did for them.

I would list more of what I don't remember, but I don't even know what I missed.

When I ask people what they remember,  they remember it all, clearly. I can recall the time when they are telling me, but to summon up the memory on my own is impossible.

I feel like I have been sleepwalking through my life. Even now when I try to figure out where to look to keep something in my mind I feel like I am missing details.  

This feels bad. Like way down deep bad, like I am careless or a bad person or selfish or self-involved or all of those things that I desperately do not want to be. Sicily says I can try and fix it from now, but now it feels like I am so desperate to make sure I don't forget that I am trying too hard, and it makes it worse. Everything is blurry, like Vaseline smeared on a lens, and I cannot keep anything in my head for five minutes. I have to write down and take notes and keep scraps of paper close at hand to remember the smallest of things; the "handy memo" function on my phone is getting close to capacity.

This feels like a major character flaw to me. How can I not remember? What have I forgotten? How quickly will I forget Dane? What has already slipped through my grasp?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Last Day in Charm City

We have spent it in conversation. And at the Waverly Farmer's Market. And eating fresh caprese salad on the front porch, swinging, watching the world go by.

I have no brilliance for today, nothing monumental, just gratitude for friendship and sunshine and simple living.

Off to DC for a week tomorrow...We the Pizza, Boneyard Studios, national monuments and museums, and family. Should be fabulous...


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Home Is...

Today we are taking a school day break; La has to finish up some French and work on a new blogging adventure (she is taking a year-long class with Wandering Educators on travel blogging), plus she has some PSAT action to study for (reminder: research where she is supposed to take the damn test. I am avoiding that, not because I think she won't do well but because I just don't want to do it. Testing is dumb.).

I probably have lots to do, too. I just don't want to.

So I am wandering around Kerry and Mark's house, reading, eating peaches that are about to turn, contemplating lunch; in short, I am doing exactly what I would do if I were in Georgia, avoiding work, only I would feel way more guilty there because there is so much more to avoid.

Later today we are picking up a friend of Mark and Kerry's at the airport; he is returning from six months in Kuwait, assembling various government intelligence reports from assorted war zones. I will make sure and chastise him for all of his grievous intelligence failures, Republicans, but only after we give him a big hug, a warm welcome, and a huge crabcake (which he insists on paying for. Seems unfair, but hey. A crabcake is delicious no matter who is buying.).

Last night was the O's game, and because we were there they won (I have never attended a loss at Camden Yards, and I have also attended multiple O's games in Seattle and Atlanta, and the O's have never lost when I am there. Yes, Orioles, I am for hire and will travel with the team. I'm just sayin'. You can draft La and me pretty cheaply.) Davis smacked number 46, and he hit one when we were there for the Father's Day game, too (that one needed a flight attendant, it traveled so far).

Tomorrow is the water taxi to Fort McHenry (we're taking the free one; we're not stupid), then some touristy shopping. A friend asked me if we were still enjoying our favorite part of the country, and that made me think for a second. Is it really my favorite part of the country? I don't think of it like that; I just think of it as home. It feels like home; it feels like we could plant roots here. I love Seattle and New Mexico. Oregon is lovely, and Colorado was majestic. New York City is amazing. Seattle felt like home on the west coast, but Baltimore is warm and inviting, poverty, vacant homes, tourists and all.

Still thinking. Still searching. We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


There is so much poverty here.

North Avenue is a wasteland of bricked-up rowhouses; trash is everywhere in these neighborhoods.

Forgotten people are scattered like the trash on the sidewalks as well. Sitting at a stoplight yesterday I watched a woman fall slowly off a bench by a bus stop; the people around her didn't even flinch when her legs hit the ground. The line heads out the door of the liquor store on every corner in these neighborhoods, too, and the people sitting on stoops look hopeless and broken.

There are far fewer people just hanging out, though; even though poverty is on full display, there are far fewer folks just standing around. Where are they? Hidden behind the bricks?

According to this article from 2011, Baltimore has 16,000 vacant homes; I would venture to guess that there are more than that now. In addition to the vacant homes, there are many vacant lots, some now up for adoption.

We are sheltered in the suburbs of Georgia, for sure. There are homeless people; there is poverty. There is trash. Not on this level. Not on display so prominently.

Here in Baltimore, though, it is block by block. The street of Kerry and Mark's house is tree-lined and beautiful; the street sweepers here are people with brooms who move block by block, sweeping trash and leaves into dustpans and putting them into trash cans that they take with them when they are done.

Five blocks away are the broken people.

I couldn't live here and do nothing about them, and yet humanity is a bottomless pit of despair. Poverty is complex, and we will always have destitute, hopeless people. But I am struggling with the juxtaposition of the bright, hopeful Johns Hopkins students and the man sleeping on the sidewalk in front of Starbucks. Most walk by and don't even look down.

I am not new to cities; I have lived in Baltimore, New York and Seattle and have been a visitor in others (Paris, Miami, DC, Philly). In Baltimore I worked for a women's transitional shelter; one night I was trapped in a client's home by gunfire. In New York I knew the homeless people on my route home by name and often left them goodie bags from work so they would wake up to food. Seattle is its own little corner of the world; the police generally swept up the homeless people and relocated them south of the city, away from tourists; when I could, I would also give food, and always money to any artist or musician on the street.

Things are different now. It's not Dane; maybe it's age. I have a hard time walking by and not looking and not imaging what I could do with my experience and resources. I have a hard time thinking about what the people on the street are struggling with. It might be too much for me right now, or it might be just the thing. #Perspective. Who knows?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Baltimore Love Project

Yesterday was the American Visionary Museum (seriously, reason enough to move to Baltimore. Amazing, amazing collection. The theme of the temporary exhibit was storytelling, and this dovetails in nicely with many aspects of our trip, including The Child's study of Big History, with its first journal question: what is your story?) and a bit of Fell's Point, where we saw Leroy, the Mayor of Fell's Point (who should, by now, probably be dead, and is not, so must be a special case with the universe, and he was sitting in front of the Daily Grind yesterday, so he must have resolved the issue referenced above), way too many tourists and a semi-gloss sheen over a pretty dumpy place designed mostly for drinking to excess and then sopping it up with a little Jimmy's. But I digress.

We are also on a bit of a mission here in Baltimore. Quite accidentally, through the miracle of Facebook, I stumbled upon something called the Baltimore Love Project last year. To date, the project has completed 20 murals with the outline of hands forming the word "Love." A couple months after Dane died, the project put out a call for donations to complete mural #19 at Armistead Gardens Elementary. I donated to the project in Dane's name, and the mural was completed. We visited the mural yesterday.

There will eventually be a plaque with his name on it posted at this mural, so there is already a little part of Dane here in Charm City. He was the advance team, I suppose. I love to know that even though this mural is across town, in an area that is obviously poor and struggling, there exists a visible reminder for everyone in the neighborhood that love can rise above everything.

Namaste, my sweet heart.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Charm City

It's raining in Baltimore.

Nothing like waking up in a place that feels like home to the sound of rain on the roof, a cool breeze fluttering the curtains and a warm dog body next to you. It is, of course, still far too early to rise, but I do anyway and make my way down creaky wooden stairs to let the dogs out the back and have some coffee.

Today is the American Visionary Museum and some shopping in Hampden. This is our second day in Baltimore, and we couldn't be in a better place right now. Sicily is on Zillow searching foreclosures, rentals and other housing options, talking about when we'll be moving as we walk down the street eating sweet corn ice cream from the local veggie-based ice cream shop.

It's too hard to explain why picking up and moving would be so difficult, especially since we feel so contented in Baltimore, instantly. We have friends and community built into this place, friends and family who have known us both since birth. We don't face the shadow of Dane in every corner up here; it is easier to consider him from a distance. Present, but still much less painful.

Many people have commented about us running away, and I think that doesn't quite give me enough credit these days. In the past, I have been the consummate flee-er. Commitment-phobic. I moved every six months from age 17-24. I lived in New York, Frederick, Baltimore, North Carolina and Colorado. I am prone to long road trips with no direction. I was trying on different places to see what fit. Seattle fit best, then I met Dane, who became my home (ask me the story some time if I haven't told you; it's a pretty good one and an illustration of fate and the perils of buying a car from one of those lots with the flags fluttering, the buy-here-pay-here kind of lots), and we settled in Georgia for family reasons.

Now Sicily and I are building a home on wheels (fitting) and are on the road for five weeks, exploring and thinking hard about life (ibid). The extent to which I do not care at all about what people think of me is pretty astonishing, and liberating at the same time, but I am still trying to be a responsible adult (which is a huge drag, frankly). We have commitments in Georgia that we will honor. We have a community there who buoyed us up when the tide swept us out to sea those blurry first five weeks. We are grateful to our friends in the south.

But still. It's raining in Baltimore, and H&S is making raisin bread, and there is free yoga in the Inner Harbor this morning. The Sunday paper just thumped up onto the porch, and it's time to rise and shine The Child and get ready to start the day, Hon-style.

Easy like Sunday morning.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Philly Roll Call

What we did/where we shopped:
Now we are in Charm City and planning our week. Should be a mix of touristy things, just because those are fun, and daily life. Love this city. The O's are on a slide, but we are here to reverse that.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Cold Comfort

I walked into a kitchen with Sicily; someone else was with us, and we were in a kitchen I had seen before, but not mine and not any kitchen I had been in before, so maybe something from a photograph. Now that I think of it, maybe his grandmother’s kitchen. Someone said, “Dane’s here,” and there he was on the kitchen counter, legs outstretched. I dropped what I was holding and ran across the kitchen; he stood in front of the counter and wrapped his arms around me. I was stunned, and kept saying, “Where have you been? Where have you been?” He pulled back a little and said, “I’m right here. Right here. I’m okay.” And then he kept hugging me and all of the sudden I wasn’t in the dream anymore.

His face was peaceful, and he had more hair. He looked younger, but not quite as lean, no dark circles under his eyes, less haunted. He had his goatee, and he was wearing one of his favorite sweaters. This is the first dream I have had of him since two weeks after his death, and it is the only where I have able to touch him, and when he has been nice to me; in all of the other ones he has been yelling at me, but I couldn’t actually hear his voice.

Six months tomorrow. Since months of missing his voice, his arms, his smile.  Six months of grief. The shortest and longest and most unendurable months of my life. A million more to go.  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Weight of Expectation

Grandma is home from the hospital, tottering around on a walker that we all know is just for show. She will abandon it as soon as she thinks she has used it long enough. It seems like we are all afraid to use a crutch or to lean on someone.

Scratch that.

Let's be honest with ourselves. And by "ourselves," I mean "myself."

I don't like to rely on anyone. Contrary to popular opinion, this is not because I think I will seem weak or incapable. I know who I am, and weak or incapable is not part of who I am. The problem is expectations. My friend Michael Dean (executive chef at Bread and Wine in Chicago, shameless plug for him) said once a long time ago that you should never have expectations because that raises the possibility of being disappointed. At the time I only half-believed him and came up with all kinds of reasons why that was bitter and cynical (which it might be, but still).

For the past decade or so, though, I have come to realize the truth of this situation, and for the past five months it has hit home hard. I got lazy with expectations; I stopped doing things, saying, "Well, I know I CAN do ______, but I don't really want to," and I expected Dane to fill in. This, of course, led to arguments when things weren't done on my schedule, but it also led to an atrophy of my DIY muscle and helped me take him for granted (on the plus side, this also helped me focus on my school.).

So now I am faced with the job of being two parents and the prospect of running a school that I would not have started had it not been for Dane's unflagging support. I had to jettison the school for a year, and now it all boils down to one thing.

Fucking plumbing.

It seems like every toilet, sink and drain decided to go Tango Uniform on February 17th. Guess who normally handled plumbing? Since I was wandering around in a fog, every decision meaningless and stupid, I didn't make one for myself but instead relied on other people to make them, but when all the family went away I was faced with the thorny problem of a shower faucet that leaked, two toilets that ran sporadically and a bathtub drain that didn't drain.

Karmic retribution. Why plumbing? Dane and I were both born under the zodiac sign Pisces, associated with not only being awesome (natch) but also being, well, watery. Or maybe it was because I always called Dane to fix it. Who knows?

So I called a handyman for the leaky shower faucet (and hung over his shoulder the whole time, with the exception of the part where I put on kneepads and crawled under the house twice to turn off the water, which was total bullshit except the handyman was a wee mite scared of spiders, so I did it), then started on the business of the toilets. Those were an easy fix (needed flappers in the crappers, as Dane would say).

For the bathtub, I stood in two inches of water every time I showered for two months before I finally got a drain snake and made some magic happen. I don't know why it took me so long.  I do know that the whole time I was doing it I was pissed. Pissed that Dane is gone, pissed that I am alone and have to do these ridiculous jobs myself, pissed at the dog who won't stop puking (and, indeed, puked on the bathroom floor while I was clearing the drain, which sucked but was relatively easier to clean up than when he pukes on carpet, which is more often than not), pissed at myself for taking Dane for granted, pissed for being stupid about plumbing and then pissed for being pissed because why should I have to know everything and being wrong or ignorant is okay.

There is no resolution to expectations, maybe. Maybe as humans that's just what we do. I feel like I am in recovery mode, Expectation Addiction (EA), curable only with a lot of ridiculous household chores, like plumbing and cleaning gutters and remembering to watch the tire pressure and change the oil in the car.

Or maybe I just need to show more gratitude. Maybe being grateful is the key. Pretty sure gratitude won't take the trash out, but it might be the key.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Catching Fire

When I was little I did all sorts of things with my dad that my mom didn't know about.

When I was in second grade, we used to go to the High's store in Myersville, Maryland and get a double scoop ice cream cone on the way to the special eye doctor I used to go to for awhile. I remember most vividly mint-chocolate chip. That and the eye exercises that I refused to do, which is probably the reason why I am nearly blind these days.

We also used to go to Friendly's in the Fredericktown Mall, sit at the counter and order the clam strip basket and a Fribble, and today I took La to Friendly's in Pennsylvania to do the same thing. There were no counters, but everything was exactly the same (new Fribble recipe notwithstanding; it still tasted the same to me).

What a rare and beautiful thing to revisit something you remember from childhood and have it be exactly as you remember; I don't think I have ever had this experience. Every time I try to go back and see what I knew when I was younger, it is completely different.

Even the conversation La and I had was much the same as the conversations I would have with my father 35 years ago. We talked about life, plans, people's expectations. We talked about moving to Baltimore, living in England, playing softball for the Washington Huskies. We talked about the weight of making decisions when you have no idea what's next, and we talked about Dane and missing him, most of all, even when his name wasn't spoken. We talked about how we could make all the plans in the world, and they really don't matter much, in the end.

We talked about how much it hurts when people don't make time for you, and how it would work if we just stopped making time for them.

I told La that what has become most clear to me is that people don't really understand what truly matters to them until they are forced to take stock and re-evaluate what must stay and what must go. It's like choosing what to grab when there's a fire in your house; what would you reach for first? Imagine this translated to people, practices and what you spend your time, money and energy on. If there was a fire (or grief, say) that forced you to select what "items" you had to watch burn, which would you choose?

I must say that I am still in the process of choosing what matters most to me. That may sound odd, but in the shock of the thing it is hard to think clearly.  I don't know how you go about making these choices.

What we saw today (in addition to Betsy Ross, at the Betsy Ross House, who was AMAZING):

(yarn bomb in Philly)

(my people: an Obama sticker in the window of Elfreth's Alley, the oldest
residential alley in the country. Haven't seen a Jesus fish in seven days; I <heart> the north!)

Monday, August 12, 2013

I'm Rubber, You're Glue

I feel like the Angel of Death these days. Or at the very least, the Angel of Debilitating, Long-term Illness with a Slab of Mortality on the Side.

My grandmother is in the hospital after spending seven hours in the ER, disoriented and confused. Frankly, after seven hours in the ER, I was feeling that way, too.

I must have been a really bad person in my past life. I realize that not all of this is happening directly to me; my grandma was scared and confused, and she was feeling every bit her age (94) as she laid in the bed and couldn't recall what she had eaten that day, or when she had called her daughter that day or that I was in town for some time still. It's happening around me, though, and the last time I came to Philly I left in a hurry to a life drastically changed. How much more should one person have to take? Seriously. How many more emergency rooms do I have to sit in and funerals do I have to attend and sympathy cards and fruit baskets do I need to purchase this year to prove that I am reformed from my last life's misdeeds?

Buddhism says life is suffering, and there should be no, "Why me?" because the response from the universe is always, "Why not you?" as that's just how the karmic cookie crumbles. We find true peace and joy when we let go and just understand that life is. That's it. Life just is. So our mental and emotional elasticity determines how happy we are, a happiness that has nothing to do with  the kind of car we drive or the size house we live in. Kind of the "I'm rubber, you're glue" principle, only everything should be glue, and we should be the most serene, rubber motherfuckers you have ever seen.

Great idea. I'll get started on that.

Right now, though, I question my decision to start this in Pennsylvania. This is not helpful. That sounds selfish. I get it. It's better to say that than to do what I really want to do, which  is fling myself on the ground and start screaming, or get in the car and start leaving.  I have seriously considered leaving the country for awhile. Regardless of what Buddha says, it is too much, and I need a break from worry and woe and heartbreak. I feel ill-equipped to shepherd myself and my daughter through this dismal mess.

Today we start with love, going to the Philadelphia to see the Love statue, and then maybe on to a little stargazing and spying at the Franklin Institute. Maybe we'll see some answers there.

Quote Of The Day: "To err is human, to forgive divine, and to persist devilish." Ben Franklin


On a morning walk....

At Kreutz Creek Winery:

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Running Away to Return

The women in my family are stubborn.

All of us.

Me, too.

We blame it on the men and the children in our lives, but we are stubborn, headstrong and willful. These traits can be gussied up as determined and persistent, but sometimes it's just a plain old PITA to be around us.

How do I know this? A) I am a woman in my family, and B) we are spending a week with my mother and grandmother in Pennsylvania. Everyone has a "system" in this house, and when they collide, things happen. Like planets smashing into each other, or like the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs and started the Ice Age. That bad, sometimes.

I have realized that one of the best ways to get people to like you (if you're into that sort of thing) is to let them teach you something, let them be the expert. Then they feel heard and smart and listened to.

You can't fake this, though, unless you are working with someone who is really not very smart or particularly worthy of being listened to (which brings up another trait of the women in my family: judgmental. But I digress.).

But since we know everything (the women in my family), it is hard to accomplish this whole business of being liked. Which is cool until you find yourself down a husband in your early 40s, living in a state that you despise with very little desire to do much of anything. And it's still cool until you realize that many of the things you thought you knew about yourself were wrong, and all of the smart things you poured into your brain in your 40+ years on the planet couldn't quite prepare you for the loss, and then you had to admit you were wrong about a TON of stuff, sometimes in a very public way, and then you had to go ahead and take a very deep accounting of all the ways you screwed up in your relationship with no way to make amends for it.

All the while following the grief books and ideas about "being gentle with yourself," and "taking all the time you need."  And then trying to make it through the time when people normally have a mid-life crisis anyway but then adding in the death of your best friend and biggest supporter, which you didn't quite realize until it happened. So there's that to deal with, too.

The other trait that women in my family share is longevity, which is a blessing and a curse; this means that, at some point, we all end up alone, minus our dudes who just couldn't hang with us for one reason or another (cancer, old age, trees, etc.). We all have to learn, at some point, how to unclog a drain, clean gutters and change a tire. In my case, I also have to learn how to install a window, install plumbing, hang siding, wire a house for electrical...again, I digress.

The point here. There is a place for stubbornness. It helps me put my feet on the floor every morning (that and my beautiful child); it helps me continue with the damn tiny house, even though it is hopelessly out of square and everything takes four times longer because of it, and the whole time we are working on it I am thinking about Dane and how he should be working on it, and that's what la is thinking, too, so she kind of stares off into space and makes it very difficult. Stubbornness helps me keep looking. This can't be it, I think. This can't be all.

But I am taking stock, too. Trying to let myself be changed. Trying to be better. It is hard when you are a woman in my family, but it is necessary. I feel like a cliché, and I have to let that roll off my back, too. I don't want to be the same person I was becoming. If I have to run away for awhile to figure out how to let myself come back, so be it.


To begin with, let's have full disclosure.

This blog is my own opinion/reflection on life. It may be poorly worded or ill-received. You may be insulted. It will certainly be ragingly liberal and totally socialist. There will be accidental Buddhism, and drive-by political commentary. It won't always be logical. I am not trying to insult you, but if you take it personally, well, I apologize in advance. Unless you have issues and are mean. Then too bad for you.

I was getting ready to write that my opinions have nothing to do with my school, but the truth is that there is no way to separate the things I care deeply about from the school that I built from scratch. So although all kinds of students are welcome (and have enrolled), I am an aching, bleeding-heart liberal, a card-carrying Democrat, and proud of it.

That's done.

The subject of this particular blog post is, in fact, school. The start of school to be precise. Since HoneyFern is not enrolling students this fall (except for La), people continually ask me what I am doing with her, where she will go to school.

For the record, she is enrolled in HoneyFern, taking a high school French class with the Georgia Virtual School, studying for the PSAT (her choice), blogging daily (we hope), traveling for the next five weeks (and over the winter holidays), starting a Big History class (my choice), reading (currently on The Giver series after finishing The Great Gatsby), and finishing the tiny house. Oh, and she is also speaking at a tiny house conference in April, so she will be preparing a presentation (with audio/visual and handouts. For adults. #LikeABoss).

In addition to the above academic fare, we get to see things like this on our travels:

 (dancing pickle outside of The Cannery in Intercourse, PA. I was going to get a shirt that said "I <heart> Intercourse" but was, in the end, too cheap to spend $20 on a novelty)
And try on hats at Victorian stores in Amish country:

And then school starts for everyone else, and it makes me very sad. There are Youtube videos like this one, and a general understanding that parents are thrilled to see their kids go back to school, while kids are sad. My friend's kid told me a couple days ago that she doesn't like school because she doesn't get to spend any time with her parents, and there is too much work (don't get me going about the ineffectiveness of homework, especially for elementary kids). This kid is six.

I love spending time with La; she is an awesome traveler, smart and funny and flexible and ready for most anything. Yes, sometimes she is a total PITA (she is 13, after all), but so am I. We have spent the better part of the last three years together, all day, every day. The idea that I would send her some place that she so clearly hates, in the name of a substandard education, makes me sad.

I am here to focus on what's good with us, not what's bad for the rest of the world, but it is hard to ignore all of the messages of dread emanating from all media about school. I feel so lucky that I am able to do this with and for my kid and me, and I wish that people could see what is really going on behind the curtain of traditional schooling.

Up tomorrow: yoga, picking raspberries and a blues concert at a local winery.

What I'm watching:

Mind = BLOWN

Friday, August 9, 2013

And So It Begins...

Our first week.

For those who are just joining our journey, this happened. And this. And then this.

The last one is still in the process of trying to kill me. It is too new, too raw to even really think about too deeply. Sicily and I walk around and go through the motions; sometimes we smile, sometimes we laugh.

Check the evidence, though. No real light in any of our eyes. No real bounce in our step. Dane used to comment on how both Sicily and I bounce when we are happy. We are missing the spring.

So what are two girls to do?

Take off. It is running with an aimless purpose. Meandering in a direction.

“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadows shall spring; renewed shall be blade that was broken, the crownless again shall be king.” JRR Tolkien

So we find ourselves starting a five-week journey to the north; this is where our family is. It is where my roots are, the people who have known me my whole life. This blog is for that journey, but it is also to make me write more; if I am honest with myself I will admit that I am a lazy writer, waiting for inspiration, which makes me a kindred spirit of many writers but ultimately also makes me colossally unproductive. I am going to require Sicily (herein referred to as La, The Child or just plain old Sicily) to write daily, so I might as well do it, too.


Our first stop, Redwing Farm in West Virginia, where we harvested kale and spent the afternoon talking about Luke's new meat CSA, coming soon to an office building in northern Virginia.

What I'm reading:

What I'm watching: