Join me as I muddle through being a wife, a mother and a woman… among other things

After over 200 days without more than an inch of continuous rainfall, the skies opened this morning.  I woke disoriented, emerging from vivid dreams into the sound of some persistent something that demanded my attention.  Beating against my windows, the rain called me from my sleep.  Wake up!  Wake up!  The sky is falling!  And it is glorious! Once the truth of the symphony outside my window penetrated my still mostly dreaming mind, my body took over.  I ran for the front door, threw it open and stepped into the dawn-lit downpour.

All day yesterday, I had water on my mind– loading my iPod with every water related song I could find, aching at the sight of parched plants on the drive to gymnastics, pulling the Queen of Cups from every Tarot deck I own to scatter across my night stand.  August has been and continues to be very strange.  This is the most virulent Mercury retrograde period, I’ve experienced and observed in a long time.  I honestly cannot remember another one that’s wrecked this much havoc.  Normally, I firmly espouse the opportunities a Mercury retrograde period can bring us– opportunities to re- everything: rethink, review, revisit, renew, return……  But, to put it extremely plainly, this one is kicking my butt.  Just about everything feels off kilter.  And a large part of that feeling is the persistent elemental imbalance the whole state can sense.  The heat is unbelievable.  The total lack of substantial rainfall resulted in large swaths of earth and forest burning, utterly consumed by fire.  Even in our densely populated stretch of suburbia, the ground was igniting.  One grass fire burned only six or seven miles away from my front door.   Fire rages in hearts here too.  A friend remarked last week that she wasn’t sure if the heat was making people crazy, the crazy people were making it hot or something else was generating both.  No matter which of those is true, she’s on to something.  Yesterday, I longed to walk through and beyond the flames.  Today, I danced in the rain.

The water from the sky was wet, heavy, cold, occasionally sideways and wonder-full!  Luckily, my neighbors already know I’m a pretty kooky lady.  So if any of them saw me spinning circles in the grass, arms outstretched and face upturned, they wouldn’t be all that surprised.  Normally, I hate to be cold.  Patris Maximus teases me relentlessly about how whiney I can be when I’m cold.  But this was a different kind of cold.  This was the chill and the wet I’ve been craving.  That the earth here is craving.  That we’re all craving.  Enough wet and chill to quench the out of control flames snaking through the grass and consuming our hearts.  It was a giant leap towards much-needed elemental balance.  I stayed out in it for as long as I could, retreating back inside to shiver under a blanket until my own body heat began to dry me out.  I was still somewhat damp when the twins crawled into my bed to wake me.

I’ve been digging into Daniel Quinn’s work this summer.  It’s insidious.  But in a good way, if that’s possible to imagine.  When you read it, your mind goes, “Okay, fine.  Makes sense.”  Then, it sits inside you very quietly.  And you begin, almost without noticing, to think differently about this topic or that.  The focus sharpens here and there.  Elemental balance, really balance in general, is one of the topics shifting and changing within.  I think, previously (although, honestly it’s hard to be sure) I felt like balance was something achievable.  Once achieved, I think I believed balance could in theory be maintained– could become static– some sort of perfect state of being where all concerns and stresses, the more obnoxious aspects of existence would simply melt away.    If only I could strike the right balance.  If only my relationships could strike the right balance.  If only our nation could strike the right balance.  But is that state of being in perfect static balance observable anywhere in this world?  Do the lions or penguins or snakes or oceans or plains or forests or skies or stars or electrons or photons or quarks ever achieve it?  Can I point to another system in all of existence that strikes a perfect balance and maintains it eternally?

Not yet.  If I can come up with one, I’ll study the heck out of it.  But for now, I am twisting and turning in and around the concept that balance is great, and it’s great to move towards and away from it as I go.  However, just like the spirals and labyrinths that speak to my soul, evolution is not a linear process.  It is not a balanced process either.  So while I am incredibly grateful for the much-needed water, I temper that with attempting to maintain respect for the gifts of the flame.  Those are sometimes difficult to be mindful of when the heat seems so utterly destructive and oppressive.  Fluid is the word that floats on the surface in this moment.  That is the balance I hope to seek.  Fluid balance.  That and a few more splashtastic dances in an August rain.

Wave Upon Wave

If I had to sum up how I’m feeling these days, overwhelmed would be the word.  From within my own community to major disturbances throughout the world, there has been so much challenge.  There has been sadness, damage, transition, discouragement, estrangement, drought, loss, heat, misunderstanding, betrayal, sickness, hostility, injury and death.  A few days ago, I felt it washing over me and it really was too much.  One word remained though.  Breathe.

My primary coping mechanism this month has been just that– breathing.  My two most productive meditative exercises involve breath-work and have been very helpful for me in the past month.  In putting these exercises into practice, I have also been reflecting on and reading about breath and life force across spiritual traditions.  The general concept of breath and life, and the importance of the connection between them can be found in every tradition I poked around in from a variety of Pagan traditions to relatively unknown, but ancient traditions to the larger, commonly known monotheistic faiths.  Call it what you will- prana, chi, spirit, energy, mana- it is more than just physically important that we take time to breathe.

August is a mystical month for me.  It is a beginning and an ending place.  The beginning of the harvest season and the ending of the growing season.  The beginning of one school year, the ending of the last.  The beginning of autumn, the ending of summer.  Loose ends seem to get tied up.  Answers are revealed to lingering questions.  But in the same breath, new projects are born and new questions asked.  Even previews for new television shows and season premiers of old ones carry this feel; this theme.  August often leaves me looking for the pause button.  The opportunity to just take a minute.  Life seems to begin to accelerate and I find myself wanting a tiny space to just center myself- to prepare for the whirlwind that will sweep me up in the next few weeks, hurl me through about sixteen weeks of constant motion and drop me unceremoniously into the first week of January where this beginnings and endings feeling will return.  The world churns around me, crashing over me, wave after wave.  Meanwhile, I look for that time and space within the center of it all where I can invest in all aspects of my being and breathe.  Just breathe.

Life in a nutshell in the eleven months since I last touched this blog:  Just about everybody in the family got another year older.  I no longer have any children under school age.  Not that it really matters what school age is since we continue to homeschool in a state where homeschoolers get to be totally free range.  My marriage went through an arduously rough period which I have since learned a lot of marriages do around this mysterious decade mark.  But things are vastly better now, so yay us.  I’ve grown, changed and evolved spiritually in myriad ways, but there will surely be time for that in another post as that’s a lot more than I can stuff into this nutshell.  I’m still dabbling with moving into full on vegetarianism.  One day, I’ll probably make the full transition.  Maybe after my meat eating children move out.  And I’ve been writing.  A lot.  And publishing.  A little.

I’ve managed to draft two novels at this point.  The series needs a third, which will probably happen in November with NaNo again.  Then I really need to buckle down with the editing process.  What started as just another fun, fantasy trilogy has become- if I may be so bold as to say so- a wisdom tale; a teaching story of sorts.  It will one day see publication of some sort.  Of that I have no doubt.

I’ve also managed to publish a handful of prose pieces and a little bit of poetry here and there in a few different places.   But in general, I need to take more risks as a writer.  I am playing it way too safe, submitting to the same markets where I believe my odds of publication are high.  I need to push myself as a poet and writer and try out new, dangerous places that may very well reject my work.  I need to learn how to do that with grit and grace.  So that’s actually what I’m spending my holiday weekend working on- in between working in a garden that is in desperate need of some loving attention, playing with the kids and working with my husband to get our school room ready for the addition of two more active students and unearthing this little blog.  It’s writing too and helps me step into the writing flow more.

As my thoughts and fingers click across the keyboard, being in this space again  feels like coming home and sharing a cup of coffee with an old friend.  Sip, savor, chat, sigh.  Hello, old friend of mine.

In the past I have beat up on various parts of the Texas government with some intensity. But occasionally, they actually get something right. While taking a break from the intensity of life around here lately, I was watching a few minutes of vapid television via Hulu. I usually tune out the ads or run and refill my cup of tea while they play one or two commercials. But one ad rooted me to my seat and took my breath away. It contained a gorgeous montage of mothers and babies snuggling, playing and nursing. Yes, nursing! A voiceover shared simple, factual information about the benefits of breastfeeding for both mom and baby. The montage contained images of babies of various ages, not just newborns which was accentuated by the voice encouraging moms to commit to nursing for six to twelve months. While I look forward to the day our country embraces the World Health Organization’s recommendation of a minimum of twenty four months of breastfeeding, I give them credit for putting “twelve months” out there. Many pro-breastfeeding efforts fall short of even that mark.

Turns out this ad campaign and the website promoted at the end of the spot is from the Texas Department of State Health Services. You can visit their beautiful website at Breastmilk Counts. So thank you Texas, for getting this one right.

Blog Slacking

Guilty as charged.

I haven’t been feeling bloggy in months. But little stirrings are beginning and the desire is returning. Thing is- I’ve been undergoing a great deal of internal growth over the past few months, so I don’t know what blogging in the Muddlehood is going to look like quite yet. Be patient with me as I find my way with words again.

They’re beginning to flow again.

Imagine That

It seems like a large number of negative news stories attempting to link all sorts of atrocious behavior with homeschooling have popped up lately. Add to that the series of stories about public schools going all Big Brother or just plain psycho on their students and I’ve begun to cringe anytime a link to an education related story shows up through whatever avenue. It is hard enough convincing people that the wacko homeschoolers are the exception, not the rule without these guys helping out the opposition.

Religious zealots following a fundamentalist Christian child training “expert” beat their kid to death and it is, of course, because they were homeschoolers. It couldn’t possibly be because they were insane with zealotry. Never mind that this happened in a state where homeschoolers are already required to register with the government, it’s still evidence that we’re all crazy and should be stalked by local authorities at all times, don’t you know.

The number of Muslim homeschoolers is apparently on the rise according to one major national newspaper. So is the hateful rhetoric against and willful ignorance about American homeschooling apparently (not to mention Muslims, which is just tragic.) At least according to the comments section of the electronic version of this article, there are few things more despicable than a homeschooling family, much less a Muslim one. Never mind that homeschooling is increasing across all demographics in this country and that Muslim homeschoolers aren’t automatically nutty just because they happen to be Muslim.

Meanwhile, there’s an unfortunate violation of civil liberties and a huge sticky wicket in Pennsylvania involving a teacher, a child and a school issued laptop with webcam. In New York a girl is arrested and taken away in handcuffs for doodling on her desk. (I can only hope the statue of limitations has run out on that offense and that all physical evidence has long since been removed by janitorial staff at my old high school.) Apparently in New York, the gun trade has shrunk. Literally. Because a two inch toy gun now warrants consideration of suspension for nine year olds.

So after sifting through all of that garbage about how horrible homeschoolers are for society and that we should be forced to put our children into government schools, but oh-by-the-way, government schools have lost their ever loving minds and children are suffering all sorts of abuses there on a daily basis, it was an absolute salve to the eyes to stumble across this article about a normal homeschooled kid accomplishing good things. In the interview, the soon-to-be homeschool graduate and National Merit Finalist speaks of validation. Validation that he is doing as well as others his age. As well as? He’s doing wonderfully!

The validation he represents, however, reaches beyond what he could possibly fathom for me right now. How could he know what a reaffirming thing it is for me to open and read an article about a successful homeschooler who is attending a public university next year, wasn’t abused, can assemble an articulate sentence and doesn’t mention God in the whole article. I have to say I’m not surprised this has yet to go high profile. There’s no politically useful or scandalous story here. Just a normal kid studying hard with the support of his parents and achieving good things. Imagine that. They do exist.

Wonder where I’ve heard that before.

A Thought Provoking Link

I’ve put Kelly Green and Gold on my Google Reader at this point because she’s an excellent source for staying up on the Badman Review situation playing out in the UK and an inspirational international advocate for home education freedoms worldwide. She had a very reflective post this week that has me thinking deep, like she did, about my own experiences in high school and college and my own observations of our local home educating community. I felt like it was well worth sharing.

Losing Marbles Left & Right

There’s this saying I totally love about political parties. “I wasn’t born Democrat, Republican or yesterday.” Ain’t that the truth! The Left and the Right are just getting increasingly absurd with every turn and I don’t foresee myself ever signing on to a political party in particular. They are all nuts.

For your daily dose of leftist insanity, check out PETA’s new beef– Punxsutawney Phil. The idea of a robotic groundhog made me snort my tea this morning. Of course, that was after I’d spewed a previous sip all over my pajamas just a few minutes earlier reading about the important far Right victory that has led to the banning of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? from Texas classrooms. Oh. Wait. Not the right Bill Martin? Ooops. Our bad. We haven’t really read either one, so we don’t actually KNOW WHAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT!!!! Not like the State Board of Education should be, oh, I don’t know…… EDUCATED OR ANYTHING!!!!! Ridiculous notion.

To the shock and consternation of several friends and relatives, I’m actually thinking of voting in the Republican primary before the General Election around here. “Have you lost your marbles?” a few friends asked. Nope. Two crucial races for Governor and for my district’s State Board of Education seat have solid Democratic candidates already. I’d like to hedge my bets and vote for the least crazy Republicans in the primary so that if the red state does what red states do, I’ve said my piece about advancing the cause of sanity and rationality in Texas public office.

If you are in District 10 for the Texas State Board of Education seat that is being thankfully vacated by that bastion of insanity, Cynthia Dunbar, please check out the nonpartisan website set up by Education First to get a look at the candidates. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, there are actual intelligent citizens with good intentions towards Texas schools, teachers and children who are attempting to change the way the SBOE does business. If you’re not in District 10, please, please, please (yes, I’m begging here) double check in advance of the election to see if your District’s seat is up for grabs. Check all the candidates out, weed out the crackpots with clear political agendas to push into our public schools (I’ll give you a hint- In District 10, one of them is endorsed by the exiting Dunbar) and make an informed decision this year. For the sake of all our kids, left, right and in between.

A Testament to Their Faith

One particular image stuck with me after watching the national news this evening.  Illuminated only by the light of the news camera filming them, Haitian Christians filled the Port-Au-Prince night air with haunting hymns of praise.  Eyes closed, faces upturned and arms raised, they sang and swayed as their faith filled them with strength during a time in their lives more trying than anything most of the rest of the world will ever struggle with.

And then there are the conservative American talking heads.

What I cannot understand is the fact that American Christians continue to allow these idiots to do a bang up job of completely misrepresenting their faith.  Now I’m not naive enough to think that no one out there buys into their garbage.  Plenty of folks who claim to be Christians believe every word that’s ever come out of Pat Robertson’s two sided mouth.  But I also have faith that there is a large body of Christians out there who are just as disgusted by his outrageous trash as I am and are just as much of a testament to their faith as the Haitians pouring out their souls in midnight song.  I know this to be true because I’m friends with a few of them.  I’m grateful for their presence in my life or I might completely lose faith in the potential for good in Christianity all together.

May we all, of any or no spiritual tradition, focus on that which is good and precious in each other.  May we all learn to sing in the darkness to fill each other up.  May we all become, in our own way, testaments to our faith in humanity itself.

It may be awfully cliched, but this peculiar window that opens between the crescendo of the Yuletide holidays and the boisterous finale of New Year’s Eve, always triggers a period of deep reflection, introspection and all sorts of other -ection in me.  I find that in this space in between I am able to stand still for a moment and just breathe.  As I breathe, I’m gifted with a temporary clarity that often escapes me during the rest of the year.  I can look over the year about to pass and into the year about to begin.  I can see all the gifts this year brought that would never fit into a stocking or under a tree.  And I can see the seeds of growing gifts to come.  It triggers an absolute laundry list of emotions; hope, wistfulness, joy, frustration, amusement, determination, pride, motivation, restlessness, mourning, optimism, rejuvenation and on and on.

I wrote a freakin’ novel this year.  A novel.  Insane.  I’m now deep into the editing process and enjoying the ruthless nature of my Inner Editor.  She’s terribly different than the Reckless Writer I was spending every waking hour with  just five to eight weeks ago.  But I have to confess that I adore them both in drastically different ways.  I’m also working on fulfilling an accepted magazine query now that is challenging me in a fantastically personal way and polishing the kerfuffle between yours truly and the legally blonde professor for submission a few choice places.  Between the Reckless Writer and the Inner Editor, I’m getting down to business this year.  If you want to track my journey as a writer, I’ve got a new spot to keep all those fun adventures at The Year of the Writer  I’m working up my official 2010 writing goals this week and will post them there on New Year’s Day.

Today, the first of what I am sure will be many, seed catalogs showed up in the mailbox.  It completely mystifies Patris Maximus how I can take a seed catalog and spend a good three hours flipping and sighing my way through it.  The last year I had an honest to goodness garden was the summer before Athena turned two.  I have sweet, fresh, glorious memories of that garden.  Athena eating sugar snap peas straight off the vine and startling a tiny bunny with her own rabid appetite.  Poking fingers around the tops of carrots and radishes, before deciding it was time to give them a yank.  Fresh, sun-warmed tomatoes and basil, purple green beans that turned green when you steamed them, the Aztec spinach plant that got totally out of control, the pickle and lemon cucumbers that cross pollinated and made lemon pickles, our wacky neighbor’s melon plant that stretched all the way across the backyard, fruited and then mysteriously disappeared in the dead of night.  And countless other simple, vivid memories that to this day have the power to make me smile.  The next growing season, all my cultivating efforts were internal and at just past the peak of the Summer Solstice I gave birth to my fiery, feisty twins.  Needless to say, I did not get back to the garden.  After that, we took a leap of faith and left the DC Metro area.  A listed house in a faltering real estate market meant the total destruction of the remains of my once fertile garden.  Our first year in Houston, we were apartment dwellers and last year we decided to forgo the garden for budgetary reasons.  But I had begun to plan for our Houston garden at any rate, with visions of the outrageously long growing season dancing in my head. 

Alas, my lush dreams of a semi-tropical gardening bonanza are once again, most likely being deferred.  With each day that passes, it is looking more and more like Patris Maximus will be working out of state very soon.  This is good and bad.  Good for us financially.  Good for Patris Maximus career-wise.  Bad for the pesky not-living-under-the-same-roof-all-together thing.  But we’re resourceful types and we’re working out details a bit more every day.  One of those details involves the potential for a considerable amount of travel for Crunchy Mama and the Triad of Chaos.  These would be the kind of travel plans that really preclude the establishment and maintenance in the type of garden I’m longing for. 

This travel thing could be interesting though and in the last day or so, I’m allowing the window of possibility to swing open just a bit wider on this idea.  It would mean a pretty severe reduction of our locally based extracurricular activities, for one thing.  We would basically cut down to our one weekly co-op and our Girl Scout troop.  Even with those, we’re likely to miss chunks of fun here and there.  It is possible that we will be splitting our time between Houston and travel.  At first, my gut reaction to this idea was actually not very attractive.  But the more I reflect on it, the more I can see a landscape frock with possibility.  There are plenty of long distance friends we could work visiting with into various itineraries.  Also, as we continue with our four year romp through world history, the discovery, founding and development of the United States will crest our historical horizon sooner rather than later.  And what better way to learn about it than to see it for yourself?  It is as if we will be building in ready-made adventures that have the potential to bring all sorts of new experiences into our lives and that is something to embrace.  Not to mention, it is something that would be literally impossible to embrace if we were tied to an institutional school schedule, so it’s also yet another opportunity to express gratitude for our homeschooling lifestyle. 

So what awaits the Maximus family in 2010?  Adventure, exploration, learning, growing and all sorts of other wacky hijinx, I have no doubt.  Wanna read about it?  Well, stick around and I’ll see what I can do.

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