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Caveat: I wrote this over a year ago, specifics and rhythms have changed as my children have grown and matured and our lives change. Perhaps I will do an update….A Working Life:

On my bookshelf, a row of familiar books show their broken spines and disintegrating covers. They reveal their frequent use, probably the most read books in my collection. My guess is that it is the most-read collection of books in many homes, homeschooling or not. Laura Ingalls Wilder gave us the most wonderful gift in her writing: a picture of a family life lived in real, palpable and functional work. I am talking about the kind of work that was central and integral to daily survival. This work was not an afterthought to the day, it wasn’t relegated to “chore time”. Nor was its components listed on a chart, complete with rewards and consequences given based on its accomplishment.

This work WAS their life, not a component of it. Woven into daily work was family relationship, community identity, spirituality, sense of “self”, communion with environment and nature, and “education”. In this modern age, these components of self are rudely ripped from each other into separate compartments, leaving us constantly seeking “wholeness” and peace. I could not imagine a childhood classic written today from the perspective of modern mainstream life (or even a Waldorf homeschooling life) that could convey such nourishing and holistic concepts. Can you imagine it?! Perhaps titles like:
“BY THE SLIDING GLASS DOORS OF TRADER JOE’S”
“AT THE PORTAL OF THE YAHOO HOMESCHOOLING GROUP”
“LITTLE SCHOOL IN A 500 DOLLAR CURRICULUM”
“THESE HAPPY GOLDEN MOM’S NIGHTS OUT”
“HIDING IN THE CORNER FROM PLASTIC TOYS AND VIDEO GAMES AT THE COUSINS’ HOUSE”
Maybe some chapters:
“MAMA HUNG THE CHORE CHART”
“FINGERKNITTING WITH SCRATCHY WOOL YARN”
“WHAT DVD’S I CHOSE FOR MY ALOTTED SECRET SCREEN TIME”
“A PLAYDATE AT THE PARK”
“GAMES I PLAYED IN THE CAR”
“NEW HANNA ANDERSSON LEGGINGS AND PLAYDRESS”
“WOOLIES FROM NORWAY FOR CHRISTMAS”

Perhaps I am just cynical, and I certainly often feel that perhaps I was born in the wrong era. However, I think that this longing for real work, and a return to a life lived wholly, not in parts, is universal….especially to us homeschooling mamas. The problem that we face, as children of the 70’s and 80’s now raising children of our own, is that most of us were never taught to work in this way. In fact, our particular definitions of “work”, “education”, “pleasure vs. leisure” and “survival” are so far removed from how these concepts were defined in Laura Ingalls’ time that we don’t even know how to approach life in this way, especially with our children.
When I was growing up, my most important “work” was my “education”. I put these words in quotes because going to school was not “work” that lent itself towards survival and unity of the family and community…and “education” was about a mental and intellectual gathering of facts and skills, not the development of my whole being (body, mind and soul). I was rarely required to do physical or domestic work, as my time was mostly devoted to school and extra-curricular activities. Yes, sometimes I had to sweep a kitchen floor. I was in charge of my own laundry by the time I was 12. However, I had no picture of how an entire household was run and organized. My parents did this work all the while encouraging me “to focus on your education so you can be something more than a housewife or maid”. The daily mundane work required of a family home was considered to be the work of the grown-ups, and relegated to a part of the day allotted to “unfortunately necessary work”. It was seen as a side-effect to life, not life itself. Domestic and physical work was something we had to get through to get to the “real stuff” of life. We were raised to believe that the MORE we focused on our intellectual acuity or “education”, the less of this nasty daily mundane work we would have to worry about when we grew up. A sign of being totally successful was one where we could have others do this gritty day to day household stuff so we could focus on our careers and our passions.
Flash forward to when we all started getting married and having babies. We held our children in our arms, looked into their eyes, and decided that we didn’t want to send them off to school. We all chose something different, we knew (and we still know) that we wanted our children to have an experience of their own lives that is deeper, more home centered and less compartmentalized than what we experienced. Many of us brought our childhood fantasies of a Little House on the Prairie life to our young families. However, because of our lack of “training”, and our culturally skewed views on “work” and “education”, we find ourselves fatigued in our daily life and at constant odds between our ideals and our realities.

I make no pretense here. I do not want to put forward an image that I have it all figured out; and anyone who knows me in real life can attest to the fact that my house is often out of control and messy. I often allow the necessary tasks in front of me pile up while I spend precious hours on a blog or nose deep in a novel. However, through grappling with this subject, I have been able to redefine life and work in a functional way. My children work very hard compared to their contemporaries, and I recently calculated that they spend more literal hours a day engaged in domestic and physical work than in any other single activity.
On so many parenting and homeschooling sites, we see questions like “how do I GET my children to do chores”? Often there are many answers that involve the typical manipulations we perform with children, “getting” them to eat vegetables, clean their rooms and “share” their things. We have tried every chart and reward and punishment system. I have even seen parents make complete clowns of themselves creating elaborate “fun” stories and scenarios that make the chore or undesired request “enjoyable”. So many parents think that if a child expresses displeasure in a task that there is somehow something “wrong”. A child that refuses to work, share or eat vegetables is called “strong-willed”. A child that wilts with a broom in his hand makes us feel as though we have not properly filled him up with the right nourishing stories or foods. Before we try and manipulate our children’s behavior with the application of our own will…let us realize that children wilting at work is the sign of a WEAK will.
Children often do not know how to say “no” to themselves and their own whim of emotion (sound familiar?….I experience this myself faced with a laundry pile that is taller than my 6 year old). Sometimes washing dishes does not feel good, it is not fun. We know this as grown-ups, and perhaps our generation of homemakers feels this more than our forebears for whom work was an assumption of life. So we look in the eyes of little Johnny or Joan, wet with tears over an intense desire to not put the blocks back in the basket, and think “I need to figure out another WAY to GET them to WANT to do their chores”. Hence the cycle of manipulations and struggles and bad feelings and throwing up our hands and just doing it ourselves to get to the other side of chores to the important real stuff of grimm’s fairy tales, pentatonic flute lessons, beeswax modeling and circle songs.

We need to step back from our preconceived notions of work and priorities of family life, and instead of asking “how do I get them to do their chores”, we should ask “how can I re-center my priorities around daily work and elevate these tasks so that they become the most important cornerstone of all facets of our life”? That is what the first part of this essay has been about. Once we redefine, re-center and reevaluate our assumptions, we can get to the how-to. If we don’t first do the philosophical readjustments, anything we try or do will be another materialistic scaffold that will eventually make us feel imprisoned. I offer now a picture of what I have done in my own home that seems to be working, at least for now….not as a “method” but an example of one family’s WAY and CULTURE of home life. I also freely admit that this is a picture of us on our very BEST days…and that many days are nothing close to this ideal. You will certainly create your own ways and means through your own journey in redefining your relationship with work.

I no longer consider myself as completely responsible for the home and housework. I may be the shift manager, or lead homemaker, but all of us in the family are responsible for the running of the home. My daughter, now actively in that 9 year change, craves responsibility. She is responsible for breakfast, and makes toast, oatmeal or pancakes every morning without my supervision. I have even trained her to make coffee in the press and bring me a cup in bed. Yes, I am admitting this to you! (you might vacillate between horror and jealousy on this point) She is such an early riser, and quite frankly, I need an extra hour most mornings….so this works for us. We have a notebook where she writes a letter to me every night, talking about things she is thinking about, and asking about the next day. She leaves it next to the bathtub for me. When I am filling my nightly bath, I write back to her. I write to her loving thoughts, and also give her responsibilities for the next day that she needs to attend to. I give her ownership over that first hour of the morning, and often by the time I have risen for the day, she has already accomplished much household work. This simple early morning breakfast is not eaten until everyone is dressed and beds made. I am not afraid of them starving because they don’t want to make a bed. And they won’t die from eating cold oatmeal through tear stained eyes after finally relenting to making their bed.

After this first part of the morning, we head up to the barns to do the barn chores. Sometimes I send the kids up on their own to do them while I prepare for the homeschooling or other portion of the day. My husband and I have spent many hours teaching the children how to do these chores, by working alongside with them, then eventually giving them the GREAT PRIVILEGE of doing these tasks all by themselves. We often spend hours up in the barns. Besides the watering, feeding and mucking that needs to be done, we spend time hugging the goats. We pet the horses and take them on walks around the paddock and pastures. The kids will get lost in a puddle, using gravel and sand to build a tributary where they float a bark and leaf boat. We strike a balance between the necessary work and the freedom of experiencing our environment. I make sure that most of our commitments are home-based, not outside of the home, so that we don’t have to quickly push through our chores to get to our co-op, playdate or class. Chores and deep unstructured time in play become one in a way that is impossible in an overly structured and scheduled life. I remember in the Little House books, Laura and Mary would play alongside the work being done, seamlessly moving in and out…the work and the play were ONE. This is just “what we are doing”….not “something we have to do”.

If the barn chores take 30 minutes or 3 hours, we then move on to the “BIG BREAKFAST”. This is a hearty meal, and a grounding time before we move on to studies/homeschool. We all stand together in front of our icon corner (we are Russian Orthodox) and say our morning prayers. We sit on the living room floor, and the children color and draw, or do handwork as I read to them from the Prologue, the lives of the Saints, and stories about whatever feast day is upcoming on our religious calendar. I send Bella, our 9 year daughter, off to play with Meir (just turned 6) outside or elsewhere so I can have a solid 30-45 minutes to read Jude (7) his Grimm’s fairy tales and work on his main lesson book). At this point, Bella and Meir have had enough of each other, and I send the boys off to the pond to look for frogs, or to do some activity in another room. I set Bella up with what I need her reading that day, work on a celtic knot, have her retell me a story from the previous day, work on our times tables. She has become much more independent in the past year with her schoolwork….and I have let go some of my fantasies of my children being able to have a “waldorf classroom” experience here at home. She basically does everything herself, and my role is less of a teacher and more of a guide and mentor.

Meir helps me make lunch while the older two work on whatever they are working on. He loves to cook, and while we are doing that, we will often sing, tell stories, have a chat. When we are done eating, the children clean their spots. Meir wipes the table, Jude moves the chairs and sweeps under the table, Bella does the dishes. If the kitchen is still dirty from the morning, we wipe the counters and clean the floors. Nothing else happens until all of this is done.

The children go to a quiet time, everyone alone in their own space. We are not allowed to interrupt each other, and if they come down to ask “when is it over” or because they can’t wait to talk to me about something, I send them back and add on another 5 minutes to the quiet time, no exceptions. It is rarely perfect, but after years of doing it this way, they can all reasonably be alone without need of outside stimulation…and I get a good hour of decompression.

As soon as quiet time is over, they have to “clean up their quiets”…..so if they took out toys, cut up paper, made a mess of any kind, they can’t come out of quiet until their space is clean and set back to “zero”. At this point, I usually ask them to do some housework, depending on the day and need. If there is a snack, there will be NO SNACK until this work is done. Sometimes we are taking clothing off a line, putting clothes away, weeding in the garden, reorganizing the book or school shelves, or perhaps finally putting away all the random stuff on the “messy counter”. Snack is served, and the afternoon is then spent in freedom. I usually have something that I am working on, depending on the season and need. I could be working on dinner, sewing, canning food, working in the garden, reading a book, sitting and being lazy, etc….and they will come in and out of my world and theirs.

Before dinner, everyone is required to go to “their rooms” and make sure everything is as it should be. Every child has two rooms of the house (not their bedrooms) that they are completely responsible for. I have taken the time to show them where everything goes, how to clean it top to bottom, and what it should look like when everything is in order. Some days all their room needs is a quick straighten. Other days it requires dusting, sweeping, mopping and even washing the woodwork. Many times one of the children will come out of their appointed room crying, “but I didn’t make that mess in there!!!”. It doesn’t matter. They are responsible for that room, and part of that responsibility is going to be cleaning up messes they didn’t make. We are a family, and we take care of and serve each other. We are not just a bunch of individuals thrown together by genetics and a shared last name……only responsible for our own singular welfare.

There have been times when a child has sat sulking in their room refusing to clean up someone else’s mess, but the next thing (dinner in most cases) will NOT happen until this is done. I assure you no one has starved in my home, and after doing it this way for long enough, I rarely if ever meet resistance. On the contrary, my children meet most work with joy and gladness. Bella sings constantly while working, and the boys often create imaginary scenes for themselves that incorporate their tasks. I didn’t accomplish this by convincing them, manipulating them, bribing them, punishing them, or trying to make “everything fun” for them. I just made it a reality. Work is a reality that moves our day from one thing to the next, and the day doesn’t move unless it is done.

On top of this “reality”, I have also given my children the responsibility and privilege of being able to take full ownership over their appointed rooms. They are allowed to decorate it, and request moving furniture arrangements if possible and reasonable. I will often find an arrangement of pebbles, feathers and silks on a windowsill, or a mason jar filled with flowering weeds on a shelf. The children take pride in their spaces. It is not just their “chore” that they have to “do”. They are integral and important homemakers. I need them, and what they do is necessary to the unity and survival of our family. Not only do they help clean, they help create the environment and beautify our home.

Another question that is often asked on parenting groups is “what chores are appropriate for my – year old?” We will see a suggestion of a good list: “my two year old can put silverware away, help make their bed, put their clothes on a hook, etc…” “my 10 year old can do his laundry, clean the bathroom, and clean his room.” These suggestions are good, but I think that we often greatly underestimate what our children are capable of. Would you be shocked to know that I taught my daughter to make coffee at age three and also let her use a sharp knife? Now at 9, she drives a small tractor to mow the lawn, and can cook an entire elaborate meal. My 7 year old can lead a horse to pasture and wrangle a sheep. Both of the boys have been splitting firewood with real hatchets for two years. They are able to do these things because they are always beside my husband and I as we work. Since work is not relegated to the least important part of the day, their experience of these tasks become the most important part of each day. In Farmer Boy, Almanzo rose in pride when he was given two small calves and yoke for his birthday. When work is elevated to such a central part of life, children crave it as most other children crave the latest toy or video game. When my husband bought my five year old his first hatchet, he was overjoyed….not because it was “fun” but because now he could “help chop firewood”. He knows himself to be important to the functioning of our home.

We need to be careful of chore LISTS, as if we can just check things off and know that we are done. The list creates a “work as separate” attitude as opposed to just being part of our existence. I do not need a list “breathe, drink water, eat” to check off every day. My body tells me I need these things, and I respond accordingly. When we redefine work in this new (yet old) way, it becomes as necessary and natural as these other bodily functions, yet it touches more than our bodies. It strengthens our wills, elevates our souls and refreshes our spirits. It is in this creation of a culture of work that we find our Way. Once we have done this, we no longer need to ask “how do I get my kids to do their chores” or “what chores should I expect of my children”. And you know what? Your house might actually be a little cleaner and more organized too, leaving you with more room to finally take that pottery class, or have your mom’s night out. And your children will be well-equipped to deeply apply themselves to whatever comes their way in life, no matter how difficult or “unpleasant” it may feel. Let’s not let our fixation on natural toys, main lesson books, and particular pedagogies get in the way of this most simple and nourishing of all aspects of life. You don’t need to order it from Germany, it doesn’t cost hundreds of dollars, and it can be done right now…..not after you have mastered anthroposophical child development theory or the telling of a story without actually reading it from a book. I dare even suggest that if you get this part of life in order, there will be much more room for these wonderful Waldorf “things” and activities. Blessings on your homemaking!!

PS: Please remind me of all of this when you hear me complain about housework and overwhelm!!

So….here is a follow-up I wrote, which I will share here….remember, this is a post from a yahoo group so those are the “questions” I am referring to…..

I want to apologize in advance that I am not the best on yahoo groups with
checking in and giving quick answers/having a conversation. I tend to wait
until something I am really passionate about, then write an essay. I am
really more of a “hey, here’s my phone number…want to chat over a glass
of wine (tea for some others) after the kids are in bed?!”
Seriously….that is how I started to talking to (name here) lol. And
unfortunately, I am not on facebook….after being on it for quite a while,
I realized it was one of those things that kind of sucked my time and
attention and didn’t enhance my homelife, or my good feelings about
others…..;-) I attempt here in one place to answer all the different
questions that came up in response to my Oak Meadow post, and a couple of
other posts.

Last night, Carrie http://www.theparentingpassageway.com reminded me in an email that this “Waldorf Way” and
developing it in the home, etc….is a slow process. Often the deeper I
get into it, the more I realize I DON’T know. That’s why I won’t even
pretend to put myself off as any kind of expert on Anthroposphy. I would,
however, suggest getting the blue and pink Kindergarten books. You can get
them at Bob and Nancy’s.
http://www.waldorfbooks.com/teaching-resources/kindergarten-nursury/early-childh
ood-resources/inspiring-ideas
scroll down on this page, one is blue, one is pink lol. They are
collections of AWSNA articles that go much deeper into the Kindergarten and
its anthroposophical underpinnings (or it is written from that
perspective).That is a very good START. I also know that there are places
where you can listen to Steiner’s books and lectures read aloud in English
if you don’t have much time to read actual things on paper. It would be
near impossible to have a quick workshop on it. However, there are some
basic things to understand like the threefold nature of man, etc…so you
can understand more of the why’s and wherefores of his child development
theory. (actually human development theory….those 7 year cycles of
development continue on…and it would behoove you to know which one you
are in!!….I am in the “Sun” years.) Sometimes in Waldorf circles, you
will hear things like “he is still in the ether”, or “too fast to
incarnate”….and you need to understand what they mean by this, and what
it means for what is important for each child. I mean, why wouldn’t we
want our child to incarnate quickly…..our culture says quicker is better!

As far as “what to do”, I would suggest starting with what you already
have. I too have a kindergartener with two in the grades. I am not always
going to be able to prevent my youngest from loftier
concepts/words/activities than what he is “ready” for. We have cousins, we
have guests with older children come to our house….we have friends that
don’t have a single wooden toy in their house. Add on top of this, I am a
very choleric individual who has a super loud voice, a penchant for
sticking her foot in her mouth, acting like a stand-up comedian all the
time and an addiction to intellectual stimulation. I was a theater major in
college, and a singer….a powerful belter to be exact. When I would go
to a parent child class, and hear the sweet singong voice of the
teacher…”CHILLLLLLLL-dren!!!! WHOO-hoooooooo! All little birdies come
back to nest!”….I immediately felt that without having my vocal chords
removed, I would be unable to provide for my children that particular
Waldorf environment….that just by nature I would be incapable. Could my
children go into cryo-freeze until they were in middle school, where I felt
my particular “gifts” could be more useful and less “harmful”?

I made an amazing friend, whose daughter had been in a Waldorf nursery with
mine, and we both pulled them to homeschool. We started meeting once a
week, and I was amazed that there could be someone louder and
more FILL-UP-THE-ROOM than I. Seriously, she made me feel like a quiet
dormouse….and her demeanor with her children was often sarcastic and
quick, and her gestures over the top. She explained to me it was being a
“Russian Jew, child of immigrants”…..perhaps that might have some
cultural truth to it, but I knew better, it was just her temperament! Her
children weren’t fading under her great presence, they were bright eyed,
grounded and capable of deep deep uninterrupted play…….that sign we are
all looking for (in answer to “what to observe”?) to know that our children
are “doing well”. She threw a birthday party for her daughter, and read a
birthday story while her daughter sat in a throne with a crown on….read
it off of paper, with a huge dramatic flourish…completely unlike the
angelic slightly monotone voice of the practiced Waldorf story teller. It
didn’t matter….her daughter and all the rest sat in rapt attention…and
my children from that time on begged me to tell their stories (I thought I
had before…but they remembered this one!). SHe just approached these
activities without hesitation, without shame, without trying to put on a
“waldorf” façade, imitating what she saw in a classroom. She was fully
present, and dove straight into the moment she was in.

Thank God for this friend! She gave me permission to realize that “quiet”
in my home (and certainly hers) would have a different decibel level that
others. When I have had other children here for co-op, many of them who
come from naturally quiet mothers, have physically shirked from me the
first few times I spoke to them with such authority and vigor. I look at
them and have to remember, “oh right, quiet is actually really quiet in
other peoples homes and I am probably freaking this poor kid out”.

In a waldorf kindergarten, the teacher is meant to be an archetype of
“Mother” (that is one reason why even male K teacher wear an apron). Now,
as homeschoolers, we are ACTUALLY mother, and can never fully embody the
archetype because we have full relationships with our children, that
include our human temperments etc…. We are like
frontiersmen/women…..what does “waldorf” or anthroposophical theory
actually LOOK like growing from the soil of my own individual home and
family? We have the great privilege of creating and discovering this
together! The moment we by rote apply a material system of waldorf on
ourselves, we will never make it to the Promised Land!

So, I say all this in response to….”I have older children, public school
children, etc….how do I still preserve my child’s innocence and keep them
out of intellectual activity”? You can’t entirely. But you can be sure
that when you are there with your kindy child….that you are fully present,
that you carve out some relatively quiet time for him every day where you
leave him alone. Or you let him follow you in your tasks with a song on
your lips and very little verbal direction. And if a little one “wants” to
read and learn letters…let them, but if they come to you asking for you
to “teach them to read” tell them firmly and lovingly, “no, now is not your
time…..you will begin that after you have had seven springs!!!!” Your
child does not know what they are asking for. We don’t want to serve the
devil “want” in our children, assuming that just because they want
something or are interested in it it is somehow the best thing for them. A
lot of children, without guidance and through imitation and play, will
indeed teach themselves to read before the first grade. But if they do
this entirely on their own, that is one thing….if we as parents take
their playful imitation of reading and writing as a need to “start them
learning to read because they want to”….we begin to awaken their
intellects in a way that we don’t want to. My 9 year old didn’t read until
she was 8 and a few months. She jumped from sound recognition to reading
chapter books in the period of a few weeks. Many of her homeschooling
peers, who have been doing “reading” work since a very young age because
“they wanted to” are already burnt out, and equate all things reading and
writing for school as “work” and a task they just have to push through to
get to the more fun stuff.

So……I think that the following questions might help you make a clear
idea of a day for you in your own home:
-What tasks do I need to do every day? (make bed, brush hair, cook, laundry)
-what moments to have throughout the day/week/month to be able to quiet
down and carve out a non-intellectual sanctuary for my K child? (hint,
those moments might be found in the above tasks)
-how can I begin taking the “things” I have learned from waldorf into these
moments that already exist….(ie, a washing the laundry song? singing
folk songs while walking around the block? Giving my child a knife and
having them cut the zucchini?)
-which moments are the MOST troublesome to me regarding what my child is
exposed to? How can I try to dial it down just one notch for them in those
moments? (ie, teenager can only watch tv/play video games in his room or
in family room with door shut….hence the joke of the “tv in the closet”
at waldorf schools….making sure that the kids spend at least one hour
outside when you visit the cousins, etc….)
-put on an apron when you are working in the home! And research “why
waldorf teachers wear aprons”

Once you start trying to enrich what you have, instead of scrapping
everything that makes your family and home your family and home, and
replacing it with a “beautiful waldorf curriculum” you will start to see
fruit….ENRICH what is already there! You could really take the MOST
mundane day at home and turn it into a magical journey for your child with
a little enrichment It is this approach, and only this approach, that
brings peace to the whole family, and doesn’t colour your waldorf path with
frustration, bad feelings and even possible divisions between your family
and others (like the in-laws). I promise…..the more you live this life,
as the children get older, the in-laws and friends start to see that
something is “different” and won’t be so critical of your strange ways.

Anyway, there is my big huge ramble of a bunch of thoughts…..I really
want to write a blog post called “Leave Your Children Alone”, as I think
sometimes this is the key to a lot of our questions….perhaps after the
kids are in bed lol. Right now, I am completely ignoring them! Time to go
make sure the kids did the barn chores!!

WOW! I guess I am resurrecting ye old blog! On a yahoo group (editing to say that Carrie of Parenting Passageway asked me…her well-known and expansive blog is here: http://www.theparentingpassageway.com), I was asked to repost something I wrote there….about Waldorf homeschool curriculums and “what to do” every day with little kids. So…I post it here, perhaps this blog is taking a more homeschooling route instead of my inner spiritual ramblings…so here it is:

I wanted to first chime in on Oak Meadow…it is definitely not Waldorf, although slightly influenced by it. I too suggest it to non-waldorf-y homeschoolers that are looking for a more hands-on (less workbook, less school at home) style curriculum.

ANother major difference besides the early introduction to intellectual activity…is that they don’t do unit studies/blocks in the way that waldorf does. All subjects are done all the time, like in a mainstream school. Oak Meadow was in part (I believe) designed to take waldorf “style” (materialistically) and structure it in a way that followed a mainstream school’s academic schedule.

There are two words that we confuse a lot I think…or interchange when we shouldn’t….Waldorf and Anthroposophical. The Waldorf schools were created based on Steiner’s teaching of anthroposophy and childhood development. They were also created to meet the need of urban children whose parents were working in a factory. Here we are decades later, and we have waldorf schools, which also meet the particular needs of their communities. They are filled with classrooms that have multiple same-aged children, and are also lead by teachers who generally consider themselves to be anthroposophical in philosophy (which at the center puts the teacher’s own inner work at the front of the line). In a Waldorf Kindergarten, there is usually a lead teacher that holds the room energetically, leads the circle, etc…and a teacher’s assistant who often attends to the “chores” of the room, setting up the bread dough, cleaning making sure the soup is ready, etc… and they are all managing a group of 12-20 kindy aged children who are generally in similar stages of development, interest/way of play, etc…

We CANNOT emulate a Waldorf school classroom in our home, in no way, shape or form…..except in materialistic way (ie, having the right toys, singing the right songs, even lazuring our walls in a pretty peach colour). When we get focused heavily on this outward and materialistic part of “waldorf”, we are throwing out the “anthroposophy”, and making ourselves generally miserable. It is from here we end up with the frustrations and questions like “but my child doesn’t like to fingerknit….how will I ever get him to do handwork?!” or “My five year old hides under the table during circle and refuses to sing in front of others!” (that’s one that I wrote).

Back to Oak Meadow…I would venture to say that even the more “authentic” curriculums (ie, Christopherus and Live Ed) can be “not Waldorf” when approached in a materialistic way. When we take a step back and look to Steiner’s teachings and the underlying philosophy to “why” fairy tales, circle songs, etc… we begin to be able to dig deep into the culture of our home, and our individual souls….and create an authentic holistic approach to “education”, “home” and our day to day lives.

I realize this sounds all very nebulous…and the question still exists….”but what do I DO every day?” It is exactly that question that led me to have Oak Meadow K when I had a four year old, 2 year old and barely one year old. I quickly realized it wasn’t for us, then switched to Live Ed (and shamelessly I will tell you I have tried MANY other curriculums as well)….but anytime I approached the curriculum as a curriculum, as opposed to a guide….I made myself completely nuts, and lived in constant frustration that I wasn;t able to do it all.

We CAN’T do it all…..and stay away from any “system” that tells you that you can if you just “a, b, c or d”….and then sells you a way to do it!!!! That is why I love and support what Lisa is doing here (www.thewonderofchildhood.com)….she is giving all the great resources and basic scaffolding to enrich your life, NOT mold it.

Your home is already a “waldorf kindergarten” the moment you put your personal inner work at the forefront, deeply observe your children, make a quiet life and do everything you can to preserve their innocence…and not awaken their intellects too early. It isn’t the toys, the curriculum, the finger plays, etc….those are just wonderful things that ENRICH a Waldorf home, not make it. It is a philopophy and a Path, not a THING. Your personal home and culture should be the soil in which your “kindergarten” is planted.

I wish that I had relaxed more when all I had was littles….and not worried so much about how to fill my days and structure them in the most perfect way….to be sure that my children hear all the right stories, did all the right handwork, etc… My 9 year old just read “Little Women” and “Anne of Green Gables”, and she obsessively writes poems about fairies and nature…..and I can’t ever remember actually teaching her to read lol….AND I was never ever perfect in following a curriculum. The kids get there on their own, and sometimes when we think we need more, that is actually a sign that what we really need is LESS….to slow down and see what wonderful moments we can make out of the most mundane.

Back to Albany airport….but Papa was held up in two different airports, so we had first half of the day to tool around the house.  Went to our pick up at the CSA.  This has by far been my best CSA experience to date…instead of a box already made for you, you get to chose 15 “items”…selected from large amount of picked that day produce, and some of it, like herbs and peas, pick your own.  Ventured to Church on Sunday…the closest liturgy to us, at New Skete in Cambridge, NY.  It’s a monestary/nunnery that was formerly Byzantine Catholic, then they converted to Orthodoxy.  It’s a different experience from the Russian Church, but the environment is absolutely stunning, enough to inspire spiritual openness and calm into the hardest of hearts.  I have to admit, I am VERY affected by aesthetics and environment.  I was never the kind of girl that loved going to church in a store front or steel building with flourescents….

BEAUTY:  Since moving here, I have gone to our CSA pick up anxious to get our vegetables, then scoot home to “unpack”.  This Saturday, I took the time to take the children up to the fields and pick some parsley, basil and peas. 

Simplicity: 

Space:  Cleaned the car.  This may seem like no big deal, but we are talking about the past month moving back and forth between CT and VT.  Lots of eating in the car, lots of little pieces of garbage, Ferdinand’s missing shoe finally found….

Going Towards Instead of Away:  Again, fighting impulse to leave CSA because of all the “stuff I have to do”, we stay and spend time with new chicks.  The children and I got very excited about getting our chickens!  Finally we live in a place where we can have a rooster, and we have real coops in real barns….so hopefully they won’t be destroyed by some predator like they were in CT.

Pushing Through Something I Didn’t Want to Do:  The gardens have been neglected here for two years, and to be honest, I don’t know what is a weed and what isn’t….but I weeded the flower beds of things I KNEW to be weeds…the nettles.  Will definitely be making nettle tea.

Spiritual Connection:  Went to New Skete for liturgy.  Rogues of the Orthodox world, they actually incorporate Silent Worship into their liturgy.  It’s beautiful, in an awe inspiring place.  They even start their Matins outside, and everyone makes a procession into the Church together, instead of the priest doing it alone.  One of the Brothers came and took Janka Fairy and Ferdinand to be part of the Great Entry Procession, where the priest brings the Elements through the people.  The children love to visit the Koi Ponds there. 

Health and Well Being:  I can’t seem to separate this category from food….made a beef stew in the oven.   Put beets on the top, and fresh parsley, and yogurt.  Must be my Eastern European background, but I can’t eat enough beef with beets and some sort of fermented dairy product….

Meaning:  Family walk to the corn field.  Put the goats back into their barn, and staked some tomato plants.  Ran into huge angry snapping turtle.

Today, with Papa out of town, we spent the day leisurely going from one activity to another.  We spent time with the goats, watered our parched tomato plants, and went down our road to our swimming hole.  Many moments today of remembering why we moved here, and how it is the fruition of years of dreaming and envisioning what we wanted our lives to be.  Here’s the list….

Something of Beauty:  Spent most of the day side, taking the time to look, again and again, with what surrounds me.  The hills and pastures in the distance, the cool blue green water of the swimming hole, and the gardens.  Accompanied by good friend Joachim.

Something of Meaning:  Sat with Janka Fairy when she came to me, serious and straight, to announce that she understands now that it’s not St. Nicholas who puts the presents in the stockings…but that St. Nicholas is nevertheless real, and we can ask him to pray for us.  A strange summer epiphany.  Perfect timing to start her saints block in the fall.

Something I had to push through:  WEEDING!  We weeded the veggie bed, even though I think we came her too late in the season to really get much from it.  I had the kids beside me for the work.  They ended up playing with water in flower pots.  Pushing through, it ended up being a sweet time together. 

Something Simple:  Dinner tonight….one layer sauteed onions and garlic, one layer thinly sliced potatoes, one layer zucchini, one layer sauteed greens…the whole thing seasoned with sea salt, and drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice.  Some water for steaming.  Bake 375 covered for about an hour.  Eat with plain yogurt.  Tons of leftovers for tomorrow.

Something creative and new:  The children built airplanes today.  Again, not something I did myself, but I fought my impulse to tell them to leave the chairs turned upright and to get out of the box of curtains…

Something of Space:  Because I allowed them all this free reign in the main room of our house, I was able to sit and read quietly for a little while.  The planes turned into puppet show scenery, and the children put on several shows for me.

Something of Spiritual Connection:  Swimming at the swimming hole…watching the children try to catch minnows.  THESE are the moments of life!!

Going Towards Instead of Away:  The shows went on for quite some time…and my temptation was to tell them, “okay, last song, let’s wrap this up”…but if I had, I wouldn’t have seen the story of the Angry King (Janka Fairy was VERY upset…he was supposed to SERIOUS, not angry)

I think I am going to change the subheading on my blog title, “Cultivating a Beautiful Life”.  I’ve been feeling my cyclical malaise with all things domestic and responsible.  I’ve been allowing the dissatisfaction of my children cause me to shut down and just basically want them to scram, ie “go play outside” syndrome…thereby filling them with more neediness and dissatisfaction.  The desire to escape has been much greater than the desire to jump in.

We just spent the last month moving to our dream house in Vermont.  We did the moves ourselves with minimal help, dragging the children back and forth the three hour ride, packing our own things into a series of rented box trucks.  We finally brought the last load here last weekend.  I’ve managed to put a lot away…but the garage is filled with boxes and bags.  The first few days we were here, and the internet wasn’t set up, and only one truck had brought its load here, I was feeling so positive.  The landscape of this place is remarkable…set on 350 acres of farmland (most of it leased to proper farmers), it’s a 1734 farmhouse with its original barn and corn crib.  We’re set on a dirt road, off of a dirt road.  Organic CSA on one side, raw milk dairy and creamery on the other.  There’s nowhere you can look and not see beauty.

Then, the moving continued, the boxes accumulated, our bodies tired (my 38 year arms can’t lift and move the way I used to in college…or maybe just that we have more, and three kids in the midst don’t make it easy).  I’ve already lost some of that amazement that I originally had at being able to live in such a place as this. 

I thought that we lived rather simply, that we didn’t have too much stuff, but as the things started coming in, intruding on this idyllic old house, it began to feel heavy and weighted.  I started to get that old familiar feeling of just wanting to watch TV on Hulu, or surf the internet, instead of unpacking.  I have been wanting to get the kids “out of my hair” instead of sharing this new beautiful place with them, actually enjoying them and our new surroundings.

We got our goats two days ago…some sheep to arrive in the next month or so, and the chickens.  Ducks for our upper and lower ponds.  We are thinking of maybe having a small cut flower farm next summer, as well as medicinal herbs.  Never before have I been so close to being able to live out my fantasies of a WHOLE life, one lived on our own land, making our own food, having our own cottage industries, in a place of beauty and serenity.  And yet, I am irritated and cranky.  Already letting the house get messy instead of picking up.  Already sending the kids away more than is necessary or even nice.  I’ve been in front of this computer nearly since I got up this morning.

I guess maybe some of this computer time has helped in some way.  I was able to connect with Lisa of The Wonder of Childhood Magazine, www.thewonderofchildhood.com,  and have a very long conversation with her on the phone about Waldorf in VT, and homeschooling, etc…and life in general.  She then turned me onto While Tangerine Dreams…a blog of great inspiration and creativity that I spent all of last night with.  http://whiletangerinedreams.typepad.com/while-tangerine-dreams/2011/02/start-dreaming.html

I am inspired, now that I am on a farm (the oldest working farm in VT, by the way!) that “cultivation” should be my new impulse and action.  I need to cultivate these dreams, these visions I have, instead of being cranky that they don’t exist in perfection already.  I am going to create a 30 day adventure for myself, where everday I have to cultivate various things in my life.  Here is what I am thinking of so far:

-something of beauty

-something that requires me to push through doing something even when I “don’t want to”

-something of loving connection with my children and husband

-something of meaning

-something of simplicity

-something that creates space, either physically or etherically

-a time of silence

-a time of frenzied and/or passionate creativity

-something that lends towards health/well-being

-something of spiritual connection

I’m thinking these things sound like a lot, but their requirements need to be little, and met through what is normally my daily life anyway.  So…my thing of beauty needs to come from what I am already naturally able to do, in this environment with my family.  It can be as simple as setting a special table for dinner.  The thing of space could be waking up 15 minutes before my children.  Something of creativity could be a craft with the children, or rearranging the nature table.  You get my drift.

How many times have I felt like this, and decided some “new plan” or WAY would fix it for me?  Too many to count.  I’ve been gluten free, dairy free, yoga practicing, journaling, waking up early, only reading spiritual books, only reading novels, no tv, all tv, no facebook, facebook all day, sewing, knitting, studying herbs, whatever it was in whatever combination, in an attempt to reorganize and pull myself up by my bootstraps for years.  All of these endeavors have been well meaning and well intended, but all involved some sort of regimen; a denial of one thing, or having to adopt yet another thing on top of the rest of my life.  Then, when boredom or realization of imperfection sets in, I quit, fall into discouragement until the next PLAN.

So yes, maybe this “30 Day Plan” I am self-implemeting sounds a bit like a PLAN, but really I mean it more as a minimum time commitment to start looking for and cultivating qualities that I want to reflect, instead of taking the overly driven attack of materialistically changing things for radical change.  Let’s hope so.  I also plan that during this time, I only get on this machine in the morning before kids or after they are in bed.  I will try and chronicle what I do.

So if any of my regular 5 reader actually read this…do you have any suggestions for other qualities to cultivate?  Anyone want to do it with me?  I’m starting tomorrow!!

I recently ran into 2 Quaker Friends at Atkins Farm in Hadley, MA.  Peter and Annie Blood are the founders of Quaker Song:

www.quakersong.org

Annie and Peter are two of the very few Conservative Friends I have met in New England, and my husband and I also attended a mini one day conference at Woolman Hill for Christ centered Worship, of which they were a part.  Anyway, long story short:  Peter has been teaching a class on Early Friends on First Day, and invited us to come and visit for the class.

We took the hour and a half trip to Mt. Toby Meeting, a beautiful little white building set on a few flat acres.  A small hill in the background, freshly painted climbing structures for the children…near all the things we love dearly in Western MA.  It’s not hard to strongarm us up for a visit to that area.  I sat in Meeting with dreams of burritos from Veracruzana and Chai Lattes from Essalon.

The children had not been to a Quaker Meeting in over a year, having been immersed in Orthodoxy.  However, we do live a very “Quakerly” life at home, and we still talk about Quakerism and its principles.  They know who George Fox is, Janka Fairy has her “Quaker Bonnet”, we read “Benjamin the Meetinghouse Mouse” in the Meetinghouse at Sturbridge Village.  They were VERY excited to be going, and could barely contain themselves the last 15 minutes of the ride.

We arrived just in time to sing two hymns with the pre-Meeting hymn sing.  About 15 people sat in a circle, and immediately made room for us in the ring.  The children were shy, but settled by the community singing.  The power of many voices is an amazing thing to behold, and the effect on children was mesmerizing.  We sing in a small circle every day as part of homeschool, but four of us can hardly hold a candle to the movement of 15-20 voices being raised at once.

Then, off to “intergenerational class”, the class Peter was teaching on Early Friends.  He was speaking on the differences between the various streams of Christianity at the time.  For instance, for the Catholic and Anglicans, CHURCH was the center of Worship.  For the Protestant, the SERMON was the center of Worship.  For the Quaker, the SPIRIT was the center of Worship.  Likewise, High Church made the Sacraments (Eucharist in particular) the main event of the gathering of the faithful.  Bread and Wine are literal Body and Blood (I had to calm my Orthodox Heart when I heard the giggled scoff, “Ritualized Cannabilism!” from someone sitting behind me….BREATHE…..)  In Protestantism, the main event was the teaching, which was done by select people to convey intellectual understandings of G-d to the faithful masses.  Early Quakerism, when looked at from our modern day perspective, can easily look like an “OTHER”…an alternative to what was already there, but something massively different.

I would argue that Quakerism, both in its early forms and its present day Conservative forms are not so much an “Other”, but rather a spiritualization of all these seeming disparate parts of a whole.  Quakerism is not defined by being “not Church” or “not sacramental”.  Nor can it be defined by being “not centered on the Sermon, or intellectual understanding of certain truths”.  Quakerism came along and spiritualized all these parts, bringing them into a WHOLE. 

Sacramentalism wasn’t thrown out the window.  Silence became the place where communion was experienced.  Daily lives stripped of their excesses under the Quaker Banner “simplicity” became the place where the Voice of G-d could be heard, where teaching and subsequent understanding could be acheived.  The Body and Blood of Christ found and still finds its substance in the innate power of turning our gaze towards the Inner Christ.  TRUE transubstantiation: this thing we do in our bodies elevates us to H-m, and transcends all material things, bringing us to spiritual communion.  It’s not cannibalism, it’s transformation.  I take on a picture of the Perfection I see inside, and my Flesh becomes H-s, my Blood becomes H-s.  It’s the beautiful picture of incarnation, how we can have both Divine and Human natures, that in the act of communion are not at war with one another, but are a seamless whole.  Unity/Oneness, whether found in the mystery of silence, or in the mystery of Eucharist stem from the same Seed, the same Source.

After discussing these ideas, we shared what we personally felt worship was.   My idea was that it was a place where we go, that often is a laboratory for things in our life, and we have the opportunity to bring them to the Light, to learn to sit in silence with these things…then hopefully bring that peace back into our daily lives.  Another man described a meditative state that transcends the things of daily life, and allows us to put them aside. 

Then, a young girl, could not have been older than 12-13, spoke up, “I think of worship like being with a Family.  We are all together, doing the same thing, but also doing our own things in a way.  We are doing our own things alongside each other.”  Oh, my mother’s heart lept and I nearly shed tears at how sweet and pure this young girl was.  I wanted to run and find her mother and beg her to tell me, “HOW DID YOU ACHEIVE THAT?!?!  TELL ME YOUR SECRETS!!!”. 

This little girl spoke the biggest piece of wisdom during this class…spoke the Truth that simply states what I was writing above: that Worship is like a family, all doing our own things alongside each other, and yet also doing the “Same Thing”.  It doesn’t matter that the woman behind me struggles with and laughs at the idea of literal Eucharist, it doesn’t matter that one person thinks that Worship is meditation, and another finds it in struggle.  We are family, because we all have the Seed of Christ inside of us.  We can all sit together and hold each other in compassion and love, instead of holding up lines of division to keep each other apart.  Instead, we can see these lines of division as points of individuality, the varying colour of rays that shine from a central Source. 

Most of my life’s spiritual journey has been trying to find the “right” coloured Ray to be, instead of focusing on Source.  I have allowed fear of my children not being “connected to G-d” to take over to such a degree that I have always felt more drawn to tangible expressions of Worship; more specific ways of following H-m.  Another young girl, blonde; all knees and elbows at that transitional time between being a woman and being a child, expressed her ability to “get back to Center” while sitting in a tree.  If she is angry, she goes to the barn to be with the animals, who don’t judge her for being angry, and she can return to Center that way as well.  Despite the burdens and emotional upheavals of adolesence, she has learned how to “return to Center”.  Do you understand what a miracle this is?!  That means this young teenage girl can identify, crave and recreate Center (peace, balance, wholeness, unity….)!  This is my greatest hope for my children, what I want for them more than any riches or successes.

Did these girls learn this sitting alongside others, learning how to be still and quiet no matter what was going on in their minds, their bodies, their environments?  I have so many questions for their parents, for them!  I have been so afraid that by not giving my children a singular and particular form of religion that I would destine them to apathy and rebellion.  I was afraid that without the rules and boundaries they wouldn’t grow straight…like stakes for a tomato plant.  But when I see these girls at Meeting (and a Liberal Meeting nonetheless….with even LESS particularity about “what it is” 😉  ), having such a strong sense of authenticity and meaning in life….I am forced to reevaluate my conceptions.

I don’t have answers, just lots of questions for myself right now, brought on by my time at Mt. Toby Meeting:

-Do I really believe that G-d H-mself can speak to and guide my children?

-Am I constantly expecting G-d to give me solid and intellectual understandings of H-m, instead of experiences of H-m that transcend the intellect?

-Am I allowing G-d to reveal H-s will to me, always looking and listening?  Or am I trying to march at the front of the line, controlling where it all goes?

-Do I tend towards control over love?

-Do I give my children enough depth and breadth to allow them to find their own Centers, or do I clutter them with form and expectation?  Likewise, do I give myself this depth and breadth, or do I panic when the form and boundaries seem unclear?

Next week, Mt. Toby Meeting is starting an “Obadiah” class.  My children LOVE Obadiah, so of course I am tempted to bring them.  Maybe I can find some way to do our own Obadiah class, mixed with Holy Week, finding the virtues in Obadiah that coincide with Annunciation, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Pascha…  If I can muster something together, I will post here.  If I can answer any of the questions I pose myself here, I will also post.  But for the rest of the day….I will try to return to my Center…heck, I will try and identify it!

I have been very inspired lately by a woman named Lynn Jericho, who has a blog (among other things) called The Inner Year.

http://theinneryear.blogspot.com/

She takes the Christian Feast Days, and really helps you focus on the Inner Meanings of them.  Here is what she writes of Inner Annunciation:

“Archangels appear when a divine impulse will change the future of human existence or human consciousness. They announce, make whole, enlighten and protect the impulses living in our souls.  The impulse they attend to can be subtle and delicate or grand and powerful but the impulse is not personal and will impact more than an individual and more than the moment.

A virgin is pure, innocent and has yet to receive.  In each of us, in our consciousness, at any moment there is a place of virginity.  This is the place where we receive Imaginations, Inspirations and Intuitions. When we become aware of these divine impulses we often feel surprised and unworthy and wonder how this could be.

Immersed in the materialism of our modern times, it is difficult to realize in our humility that we are blessed and full of grace in these moments.

In your inner experience of the Annunciation, feel your way into an intimate connection to this festival.  Take a spring walk and quietly bend to your innocence.  Think back on your inner annunciations.  Consider how you let the divinely conceived grow in your inner womb until it is time to birth.”

After a really miserable winter, after a really devestating miscarriage, after spending months parenting by rote, not by love…I have recently felt the growing presence a new Seed.  In perfect timing with the Annunciation, my Inner Self sits in the presence of the divine, hearing the message, “It’s time to reawaken to your True Life, to your children, to your True Self…WAKE UP!  You are missing out on what is Real and Pure for that which distracts and robs!”

Thinking of things in the Threefold Way…body, soul, spirit….I want to grow organically and authentically as a Whole Being, not just compartmentalizing one bit of myself or another.  It’s time for me to return to noticing, listening, and simply BEING.  I want to finally rise above the paradox of all at one time being DEPERATE to hear the Inner Christ, and yet doing everything in my power to avoid being present enough to hear.  At night, after the children are asleep, it’s easy to idealize my interactions with them, but in the dirty face of it, easy to high tail it and run the other way.

So, my personal Annunciation message has been that I have conceived the Seed, now I need to let it grow.  It’s time to water it with silence, presence, and most of all love.

And thanks to Lynn Jericho, whose work has helped to open this awareness in me!!

My good friend Julie had a Blessing Way last night in anticipation of the birth of her fourth child.  A Blessing Way is a new-fangled Baby Shower…sometimes filled with sentimentality and symbolism.  Think painting Henna, aromatherapy, foot rubs….  There is usually a circle, where all the participants impart a “Blessing” to the honoree.  This could be in the form of a letter, poetry…anything personal.  Julie and I have laughed about the idea of having one of these thrown in our honour.  We are both of the same mind in this:  sentimental inside of ourselves, but bristling at the idea of a whole night of sentimentality aimed at us.  So, when asked for a submission to be read to Julie (for those of us that live too far to attend), I jumped at the chance to make sure she got a good laugh, but still in the spirit of a Blessing Way.  So…here is my composition for her.  I had some fun with a rhyming dictionary.

WARNING….it is not overly innocent or clean.  This is a poem best understood by those who have given birth…or been there for the birth of their child.  If you haven’t yet had children, it may swear you off the process and make you consider adoption….;)  I do not intend it to be offensive to anyone…so if you are easily offended, please do not read!

Ode to Julie’s Vagina

(from the only friend who could write such a thing….)

To be read in a dramatic and commanding fashion, with large flourishes and gesturing…perhaps with a lute or harpsichord accompaniment.

The world within a world far south from Julie’s head

Lies a secret garden, played with much in bed.

Oh Vagina, Tube of Greatness,

How I laud your covert ways,

Of producing bouts of pleasure

and sometimes sullen days.

I wonder if you’ve lost

the nubile structure of your youth,

If you flop and fly much like old lips

Loose from loss of tooth.

The passage of three children,

And G-d help us now one more;

May cause you to compare yourself

To a revolving door.

The hairs upon your head,

Have they fallen silver grey?

Do all your parts meet their intent,

All working still, I pray?

I ask you bless this meeting,

But not with noxious fumes;

Bless us please with your beauty fair,

Like a flower in its bloom.

Upon the fiery crowning

Of the baby’s head so round,

May you open wide enough

To release that precious mound.

And when she falls upon Julie’s breast,

Do not think I’ve forgot;

That the most important job was done by you

In a supported squat.

Upon coughing, laughing or sneezing,

When you leak uncontrollably;

May Julie always think of you, and NOT deplorably.

Oh Vagina how I love you,

And if rugs I loved to munch;

Yours would be the first I’d taste,

The first I’d take to lunch.

Oh Vagina, do your duty,

As you march on the front line;

When you return in glory,

I’ll build for you a shrine.

I’ll dress you up in ribbons,

I’ll tie you up in bows.

Forever memorialized in verse

And the greatest works of prose.

And when your fortress walls are felled,

And darkness close at hand;

Your pale of youth will shimmer on

In my thoughts of you so grand.

I was encouraged to publish this….I guess there is a need for Vagina poetry out there?  So, I am publishing it here.  If you know someone who would get a kick out of this poem read to them at a Blessing Way or Baby Shower, feel free to use it…just give me credit for it (Reba Dragon)!  Maybe I will be able to make a name for myself in the new frontier of absurd Baby Shower literature or something.  Just remember to change Julie’s name!

PS:  for some reason, wordpress won’t allow me to put spaces in between stanzas.  It has a nicer form with the breaks…..

Just when I was ready to throw in the towel, just when I was going to give away all my worldly goods and join the Bruderhof, just when I was considering giving my children to gypsies to raise so I could get away from it all……

Friend Raye comes to the rescue!  After reading my very depressing blog post, all striving and longing…she offered to come and visit and minister to me.  Oh, how I needed minstering to!  She emailed me asking if there was any way that she could help me.  Here is the list I gave her of my needs:

I would love for you to come and visit. I need some silent worship.  I need someone to do a craft with my kids.  I need space to fold some laundry.  I need someone to talk to me about love and G-d.  I need to eat some food that I didn’t actually have to labour over.  I need to do a Bible Study.  I need to get put back on my path with G-d (teshuvah, repentance).  I need a quiet walk in a beautiful place.  I need someone to be kind to my children and interested in what they have to say……
Take your pick!  If you can help with any of those, I would be grateful!”

Well, armed with a pot of turkey/tuber (my children ate Jerusalem Artichokes!!) soup and gluten free cornbread, Raye arrived with her bag of tricks.  After a nice lunch, she sat down with my two older children, and showed them how to spin wool with a drop spindle.  This was a perfect thing to do, as my children have been washing and carding wool since before they could walk, but mommy could never motivate to learn to spin.  Janka Fairy even wore her “Quaker Bonnet” (which is really a stiff Mennonite bonnet), because she was so excited that a Friend was coming to visit.

After looking at my empty space, where I hope vegetables will grow next year…I put my children in their rooms for quiet time, and in between ten minute intervals of putting them back in their rooms, Raye and I were able to talk.  I was able to unload some of my troubles, and in Quaker-ly style, Raye just listened and did not judge or jump to tell me what I should “do next”.  We joked about how the conservative Quaker community in Connecticut has grown 100 percent since I moved here a few years ago…now that there is two of us….and what AMAZING growth stats those are!
How simple a visit is.  I have often brought a meal over to someone, along with my polite (or sometimes funny and crass) conversation…but I never realized how wonderful something so simple is in the midst of troubling times.  It recharged me enough to turn back towards the WAY I am meant to walk, instead of becoming dejected and shut down, or frantically looking for something else, something better.

So….Raye!  Thanks for you, and blessings on your house!

I will always remember how helpful such a simple thing was to me….and I hope to increase my visits to others.  Even though we are all so far apart from one another, we can still come to each other’s sides.  It was just enough to keep me from giving up, and I hope to do the same for someone else one day.

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