You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Purpose’ category.

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!!

Some sort of weight has lifted from me this past week.  A dark cloud no longer looming, or insert some other metaphor here to imagine the rolling away of darkness and the lightness of something new.  Fresh air, I can finally breathe properly, I am not thinking about all those THINGS I was always THINKING.  Well, maybe thinking is wrong…more like chewing, ruminating, and rolling in.  With the FB gone, and now the constant email checking…I am seeing things differently, more clearly.  Time seems to move more organically, not dictated by the machinations of some device.

I’ve been reading two books that are extremely inspirational to me in this move towards simplicity and authentic living.  First, “The Last American Man” by Elizabeth Gilbert.  http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/thelastamericanman.htm  Granted, Eustace Conway lives in a teepee, and eats roadkill…I don’t know if I would want to go that far, but his way of life, and his passion for getting people reconnected with nature is awe inspiring.

Also, I finally bought a copy of “In Celebration of Simplicity” by Penelope Wilcock.   http://www.amazon.com/Celebration-Simplicity-Penelope-Wilcock/dp/1854249126

I have been obsessing over her blog ( http://kindredofthequietway.blogspot.com/) for a few years now, and now was able to read this lovely little book of hers.  Really, I would have to reprint her book here to share all the amazing quotes…and that’s certainly not kosher.  But I have gleaned so much wisdom from this little book.  One of the quotes she puts on the side was so affirming of what I have been thinking and moving into:

“Everyone who winds life round a core of machinery – physical machinery or social machinery, lie schools and institutions and global corporations – is affected profoundly, and comes inexorably, I believe, to be a servomechanism of the machinery he or she excessively associates with.”  -John Taylor Gatto

I don’t think I realized how much being tied to my computer and iPhone was creating irritation in me.  I was irritated with my children, I was consistently making them wait while I “just finished” this email…it’s IMPORTANT!!!…I’m getting you kids some sheep, I have to look up how to take care of the goats, paying a bill, making arrangements for YOU to have some friends over, blah, blah….  This multi-tasking with a machine at my side turned me into a bit of a Borg.  Armed with a “Smart Phone”in my pocket, I morphed into a part human, part machine; not realizing how much of my attention and communication was being compartmentalized into that little device.  When someone (read, one of my children) would come and demand that I short circuit my connection with it, you better believe I had to fight the rising irritation.  I was already so overstimulated by that fast mode of communication, my brain racing alongside, that the simple act of my child needing me to turn to them became the burden.  I had to try and fit them into the sticky web of my over-cluttered etheric life.  Well, as you can imagine, this didn’t work.  My children and I have been a bit at odds with each other.  I am imagining that this is often when people send their children to school and myriad activities, because “I need my time”.  I don’t buy that.  I want “my time” to be “our time”, a shared life lived alongside one another.  Sure, it’s nice to have the glass of wine with a girlfriend without children around, and I don’t plan to stop doing that any time soon.  However, those are treats.  I don’t need their constant companionship with me siphoned through devices and screens while I am actually living the REAL stuff of life.

So, this week, the sheep and the chickens arrived.  So many well-meaning people have said to me “wow, slow down, you don’t need the whole farm at once!!”, but I am finding that having these animals creates a natural rhythm to our days that without them is hard to muster.  We HAVE to get up and feed/water them all in the morning.  After dinner, we all go as a family, and reverse order the process.  Early morning, and then early evening, are such peaceful times to be outside, especially in such a beautiful and quiet place as this.  It’s hard to want to go and check out on the computer after using your body to take care of your animals, your children and husband by your side.  Sleeping is easier, eating feels better.  Wow, environment really does make a difference.  Living in the suburbs of our CT ranch house, it was hard to make such a natural rhythm occur.  It was easier to avoid it if needed.  I could stay in pajamas until 10am.  Here, I would embarassed to be seen in a tshirt and underwear walking out to the barns, so I get dressed.  Coffee comes after movement and work now, and it tastes better.  I don’t need 2-3 cups throughout the morning.  Children are a joy outside helping with chores first thing in the morning, whereas an early morning with paper and coffee sitting in a comfy chair turns them into Great Interruptors.  Once we;ve spent the morning in communal work, they actually want nothing to do with me while I have a short morning to myself.  We are all fed first thing by this common life.  The animals, the barns, the pasture have given that to us.  Giving up the email and facebook have begun the clearing process so we can actually walk in it.

Here is “Ferdinand’s Chick”…he loves it because it has a tuft of hair on its head.  He laughs everytime he sees it.  I told him to hope it’s not a rooster, because if it is…it will likely end up on our table…

Here is Sweet William, a mini Nubian whether.  He stops when anyone comes near because he loves to be hugged.  Really.

These are the Nigerian Dwarf kids, Hitty and Little Lucien.  We’ve been feeding them a lot by hand, so they are getting more and more used to us.

Ah, the sheep.  Having only been a theoretical farmer until now, I had always thought the sheep would be more gentle.  I had visions of them sitting in my lap, coming to petted, etc…but these 4 sheep aren’t having any of it.  Only one will cautiously eat from my hand.  When we got them, The Tall Man didn’t back the van into the gates of the barn like the former owners told us to do.  He thought he was a sheep whisperer, and they would just follow him.  Well…they ran a quarter mile down the road, and we had to literally lasso them and wrangle them back to the barn.  That was also the last time I dealt with animals in flip flops.  Really bad footwear choice.  Now, I prefer the goats…..but the sheep will be great for their fiber, and their grass eating/manure making skills.

We got 14 three week old chicks, boys and girls…one of them is obviously a bantam hen, it is teeny tiny compared to all the others.  Already we have named it Columbine, and that little chicken better be a girl, because it’s the only one right now not in danger of being the food eventually…

Ferdinand took my iPhone one morning when I was looking, and took some pictures.  I am surprised at what he captured and how.  Maybe he has some aptitude…Here are his best shots, which I am calling Wall Street Journal and Antique Children’s Shoes on Floor:

OOO…I just noticed on this larger screen, that Ferdinand’s little feet are in the shadows, mirroring the shoes.  I need to find a photo contest for him!

One night last week, The Tall Man came home wanting to try the authentic Fish and Chips Shop in Bennington.  So, we went, and thoroughly enjoyed our meal and time together.  In the corner of the restaurant in an old English phone booth.  The iconic red kind.  No longer a phone inside, I actually had this conversation with my children. “What is that big box?”  “Well, when Momma was little, people only had phones in their homes, we didn’t have the kind that come with us wherever we go, so if you were out and needed to call someone, you would use the phone in one of these boxes…”  My children are really VERY sheltered, I don’t think they know that video games exist, they don’t know commercials, etc…but man, do they know cell phones.  Also at this restaurant, they had a few shelves of Australian/English treats that we can’t find here.  I left happy with a jar of vegemite, oh, soooooo happy.

We had a surprise outing this week.  We had to drive something over to our landlord’s house in Arlington, and we ended up taking a stop at the Lincoln House and Hildene Farms.  I am going to be spending a lot of time there so I can study their cutting garden.  The back yard of the mansion is a small hedge-lined cutting garden.  I would love to do something similar next year, and then sell the flowers at Market.  However, my aesthetic would be a little less “formed”…

Lastly, The Tall Man and I have for the first time in a long time (ever, maybe?) been talking together excitedly about our new life, all the things we want to do, and our plans for our future.  He’s always gone along with my crazy schemes, eating my bread made from freshly ground flour, proudly announing we are homeschoolers…  But, he still had a few reservations, “I just want them to be a part of team sports” or “as long as they go to college”.  This would require a much longer post, for another time maybe, but I am not wishing either team sports or college on my children.  Call me crazy, but it’s true.  I say all the time, I would rather “graduate” an 18 year old from my homeschool with only 6th grade math, but an unquenchable love of learning, an understanding of how to make their own food, and to be good, honest people who love G-d and don’t get wrapped up into the trappings of this consumerist and materialistic world.  Now, the chances of my kids having only 6th grade math are slim with with their engineer father, but you get the point.  All of a sudden, my husband has his eyes open, we have finally come too a place of complete agreement, and a shared vision for how we want to raise our children, and what kind of grown-ups we want them to be. 

One of the things we were remarking on just last night was that we feel this is the first time in our 13 years of marriage that we have actually had REAL community.  All within a week, we had myriad neighbours come to help us, and offer help.   The farmer from Mighty Food Farm ( http://mightyfoodfarm.com/ ), on the same property as us, loaned us a chicken coop to use until we could build our own, so we could have laying hens.  She also basically GAVE us 14 chicks, and will help us learn to slaughter some when the time comes.  The local handyman, a 32 year old Western MA boy (my favourite kind of boy, which is why I married one…) who lives off the grid down the road loaned us his brooding box for the chicks.  We met a wonderful family, who own Longview Lambs ( http://www.longviewlambs.com/ ), just down the road.  Although the husband is an ER physician by trade, they raise lamb for meat, and have a meat CSA.  The husband came to help us with our sheep fencing, and brought a roll of his own fence to set up for us, until we could get our own.  While he was helping set it up, the wife called me and invited us to dinner.  We went, and met their two children, and they made for us a feast of leg of lamb “from the last of last year’s lambs”.  We drank wine, had a wonderful time of touring their pastures.  Lots of talk of doing a homeschool-y waldorf-y circle type thing in the fall.  Talks of sharing a pig to raise and ultimately put in the freezer.  Already friends, it’s amazing.  We are invited to a party at the house next door the Saturday, the one where we’ve been invited to swim whenever we want.  We will never starve, never be without help, and it seems we will have real relationships, all of us tied in directly to this community, none of us commuters. 

Lastly, for my un-Plain and un-simple side of me…I finally went and dyed the gray hair I was growing out “just to see”.  I’ve never made it past chin length with the gray before freaking out…didn’t make it there this time.  Hair is still long, so the long gray roots were making me feel old, drab…a terrible vain thing I hold onto.  But, I needed some light coloured hair to go with my farmer tan!

I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I let into my life that doesn’t serve it…or that I can’t use to serve others/G-d/my family, etc…  For me, the most clutter comes in electronically.  Even the daily, no hourly, pull to check my email is very strong.  When my husband is at home, and I have access to his laptop, I often have it set up in the kitchen, or wherever I am working.  I am constantly listening for the beep that lets me know a new Facebook IM has arrived, I look for new mail on my email account, I have podcasts blasting; taking my mind away from what is in front of me.  I’ve mentioned this before, but I do acknowledge there is some use and benefit in all of these modes of communication.  However, I struggle with its use, and wonder what life would be like without these constant pings, beeps and electronically delivered information and communication.  I am an information junkie. I can never read enough, listen to enough, discover enough new thoughts, or bits of information.

So, a few days ago I dropped my facebook, today I dropped email.  I put all of my yahoo homeschool groups on “web only”, and wrote the following “out of office” automatic reply:

This is an automated response….
I am taking an electronic communication sabbatical!  If you would like
to reach me, please call my cell: xxx-xxx-xxxx, or Matthew’s cell:
xxx-xxx-xxxx.  Or, please send us a snail mail, my children will write
back to you, I promise!
The Dragon Family at Quarry Hill Farm
320 Quarry Hill Rd.
Pownal, VT 05261

Blessings!
Rebecca

I went to visit my very dear friend yesterday, who is a member of the 12 Tribes.  The 12 Tribes are a group of Messianic-style Believers, who live in community (http://www.twelvetribes.com/).  The work and live together in a variety of different industries such as delis, print shops, shoe stores, natural soap makers, teas and farms.  Their culture and way of life is vibrant, beautiful, and imbued with meaning.  They really get a huge bad rap for being a “cult”, but I don’t put much stock into these labels.  I myself have been accused of being “unstable” or “brainwashed” because I chose to live outside of the “norm”, so I know that the accusations and insults hurled at them must be much worse.  It takes courage, fortitude and a free-thinking mind to cast your lot into a new way of life, a whole community, to the abandonment of everything you once knew.  I have a lot of admiration for these people, as I do for my friends in the Bruderhof, my other favourite modern day spiritual community.  I don’t understand why people are so bristled when others chose to live a different kind of life.  Someone needs to be the person that can cast his lot in with others, to have no posessions unto himself, to put others above his own comfort and well-being.  Thank G-d for these people.  I wish I were so brave and willing to let go of the things that still keep me in my own world, on the throne of my own castle.

I crave and look forward to my time with my friends in these communities.  There is a refreshing of spirit that occurs when I am there, a repurposing of my life.  When I am there, I don’t miss my computer, or the sound of a vibrating cell phone.  I don’t miss the podcasts in the background of everything.  When I am there, I am content to hear the voices of others, the clanking of pots in the kitchen, the children laughing and running, the vibration of my own thoughts, now much slowed down to the quieter life around me.  Instead of a day of responding to emails, texts and IM’s, a day of staring at and interacting with screens and focusing the ear on sounds coming from machines, their days are filled only with the sounds of each other and their shared life.  Their music is created together, they need each other to sing and dance in unison.  The smells and sounds coming from the kitchen are in tandem with the sound of a sewing machine.  The voices of children mingle with men laughing and poking fun at one another.  When they hear each others voices, they turn, and look into each others’ eyes, at each other’s  faces.  All of their interactions are whole, not “delivered via device” piece by piece.

In dropping facebook, and now dropping email (well, as much as I can…I still need a valid email account to buy and sell nowadays, it seems….isn’t that a bit frightening), I can hear the well-meaning objections.  “But you NEED email nowadays, that’s how everyone stays in touch/passes on information, etc…”  “Facebook can really suck your time, but it’s how my family and friends get to see pictures of my kids”.  Yes, these are all “good” and valid reasons.  There are a lot of things we CAN do on facebook and a computer that you would not be able to do otherwise (this blog for starters), but that doesn’t mean that we SHOULD be doing them.  There is so much STUFF, so much information, so much stimulation and input from all sides in our generation.  It would be impossible to stay on top of all of it, to let it all in without serious soul damage.  When I visit my friends who live a TRUE simple life, it makes me wonder how much I just accept into my life because it’s part of the spirit of this age.  I have been asking myself questions like,

-If I could never get online again to order from Amazon, or to read articles about any particular subject, would the books I already have, and what I could get from the library be enough?

-If I never saw another fabulous etsy item that I want to try and duplicate, never saw another craft blog, would what is already in my mind, and my own creativity be enough to keep making new things?  Likewise, if I never saw another TV show on my computer, would my “fashion sense” remain the same, or would I still be the same old me 20 years from now?

-If I shut down email, and require that people call me or write me a letter if they want to speak with me, would I lose contact with a large percentage of my friends and family?  Would I still get the invites to homeschool gatherings, parties, etc….?

-What would happen to my relationships with my children, with my husband, if I lived a non-electronic communication life?  Would we connect in deeper ways?  Would have more satisfaction with my daily life?

-What would happen to my ability to hear “that of G-d” or the small quiet voice if I spent my time in whole tangible things that relate to the life in front of me, lived in “community” with those around me (namely, my husband and children)?

So, I am going to try it, a baby step towards potentially shutting all of it off at some point.  Today was my first day without looking at email, and I actually was able to make some bloomers for the kids.  A long overdue project, that really only took about 30 minutes.  I made bloomers from tshirt sleeves:

For now…I am keeping the blog.  I only have one or two real life friends who even know that it exists, and my plan is to use it as a journal/keepsake by printing it out occasionally.  Another downside of our modern age…I don’t think I own even a handful of printed photos of my children, they are all electronic files floating out there in the ether.  This gives me a medium to “scrapbook” without having to sit down with shapey hole punches and stickers…but I remain open to considering a time without computer at all, at least for a while.

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.

Idyllic VT landscape forgone for most of the day today in lieu of several hours in the car taking Papa to the airport.  Since we were already in the car, we ran errands.  I was in desperate need of popcorn (my favourite snack…covered in cumin, black salt and lemon juice), and after three different stores finally found the non-microwavable kind.

Something of Beauty:  Spent time admiring the Hollyhocks and other flowers (I don’t know their names…)around our house.

Something I pushed through even though I didn’t want to do it:  This whole day has been an example of this…driving with three children that just need to be running free outside takes a huge amount of “push through”.

-Something of Meaning: Talked to my cousin on the phone, about dealing with difficult parents, mental illness, etc….helped each other by showing some mutual support and listening.

-Simplicity:  Embarassed to say, but took my kids to restaurant in a box so I wouldn’t have to make any food, or complicate the day with trying to find something “appropriate”.  Perhaps this action negates anything I did towards health/well-being….?

-Space: Insisted Janka Fairy braid her own hair today.  After years of being screamed and yelled at every morning during the painful ritual of brushing and braiding corkscrew curly hair, I finally gave the reigns of Bella’s hair over to her.  Some days I will still do it, when I am in the mood to see everything perfectly pinned up like a German girl from the 1800’s…but letting this go has improved the start to our day.  I don’t start my day anymore with frayed nerves from all the crying and screaming that I am torturing my child.

Creativity/Something new:  Came home late, needed to make a quick dinner…took the leftover braised red caggabe with green apples (braised in a little vinegar and honey), and leftover whole wheat angel hair pasta.  Made a peanut butter and sesame sauce (also lemon juice, a little honey), and made what turned out to be the most delicious peanut noodles we have had in a while.  Didn’t take a picture, because quite frankly, it looked strange.

-Silence (but not retreat):  (I am adding to this also spiritual connection)  After children went to bed, I sat outside on my patio, and watching the Full Moon rise up from Cedar Hill, in the distance.  Picture is blurry, but this is all iPhone can do in a pinch at dusk.  I need to start carrying around the nice camera, I think!

-Health and Well-Being:  I don’t know…does drinking a ton of Riesling while talking to a girlfriend on the phone count?!  It felt good last night…..

-Going Towards Instead of Turning Away:  Janka Fairy wanted to accompany me while I put the boys to bed.  She is such a mother hen, and honestly at the end of a long day, I often react to her motherly fussy ministrations as a nuisance (the boys don’t always appreciate it)…so I have her look at books while I get the boys all settled before I come and spend some one on one time with her.  After a day in the car with silly-wild galore, you better believe I didn’t want to deal with much.  But, I let her come, and she was really quite sweet, and a good “side buddy companion” (what we call the child that needs to be by mommy’s side within arms reach…a child becomes one usually by doing something unsafe/unkind, therefore needing more direct supervision and closeness).

Well, I at least surveyed my land today, if not actually starting to till ground.  Here’s my list for today:

Something of Beauty:  Started looking at Tasha Tudor’s Garden (again), and started thinking about what we will do to our gardens here…and envisioned myself in beautiful Victorian Dress and cap…

Something I pushed through even though I didn’t want to do it:  Washed all 5, yes count em, 5 bathrooms.  Coming from a 1 bath house, this is a very large adjustment….

-Something of Meaning….well, I have to just do some mental backtracking here, because I didn’t do anything consciously, thinking, “this is meaningful”….but I guess trying to chronicle positives in my life instead of keeping a catalogue of the woes falls fairly into that category.

-Simplicity:  I turned off the laptop today.  Now, to be honest, I kept the desktop on, and I visited it…a few times….we’ll try to go all day tomorrow.  Also, I changed out the “fake old” frilly curtains in Janka Fairy’s bedroom for some simple canvas ones.  I think I could also add this act to beauty and space.  I have a very hard time when surrounded with things I find unappealing aesthetically, and then feel mentally cluttered.

-Space:  I stood and looked at my lower pasture today…which is all open space, and starting a conversation with a woman who is giving us 4 sheep.  The children and I will be able to herd them down there into that big open space!  I am thinking of nice, quiet walks down there, with nothing in the way, nothing to distract from just being together.

Creativity/Something new:  The kids built a goat “playground”, with an old kids table and some cast aside stable doors.  I didn’t create the new thing, but I will take credit for it as I am the one who told them to get out of the house and play with the goats for a while.  I also fully enjoyed watching them jump on and off this contraption, and the children’s delight that the goats were using what they had built.

-Silence (but not retreat):  Actually folded and put away laundry without listening to podcasts.  I always feel as if the only way I can get through my work is if I am being mentally stimulated.  I worked in silence today, with only my own thoughts as my company.

-Health and Well-Being:  Ate homemade lentil soup with collard greens for lunch.  I love this lentil soup with corn chips and cheese in it…but today I had it with a splash of  vinegar, olive oil and black salt.  It reminded me of a Greek Restaurant I worked in when I was in college.  The owner would make the employees meals that did not exist on the menu.  One thing I loved was a simple red lentil soup, garnished with a vinaigrette.  Greens from the CSA that we share a property with.

-Spiritual Connection:  Responded to and reconnected with an old acquaintance who gets right to the heart of the matter.  Reread and chewed on her words to me, grateful that some people and connections will never be lost to you!

-Going Towards Instead of Turning Away:  I decided to add this to my list of cultivation, as it is one of my biggest struggles.  Today, during quiet time, when I usually sit from my perch and corrall children back to their rooms with “later”, I went and looked at a village Little Matas has built out of blocks.  He was so proud of what he created, and if I had just told him to go back to it, and “show me after your quiet time is up”, I might have missed the moment.

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!!

I have been gone awhile.  I have had not an ounce of energy for blogging.  All of my resources, my thoughts, my time have been completely immersed in my latest “esoteric crisis”.  I really think that I am broken in the Love Department.

Maybe everyone is broken in this place?  Is this the human condition?  Is this really the “hole in my heart” that only “Christ can fill”, as I used to so simply believe?

Because of very stressful family circumstances as of late, I have found myself depleted, and just surviving each day.  I cannot sit in silence, because when I am not filling myself up with distractions, and have to face what is inside, I become immediately uncomfortable.  The sounds of my children, which should produce in me feelings of gratitude and joy, have become nails on a blackboard.  The dishes in the sink, the huge hairballs, some combination of dust, lint and dog hair in every corner, and the endless piles of molding laundry weigh on me like boulders.  I find myself always looking to my next break, the next opportunity to sit and check out on the computer or with a book.  When my children approach me for anything, physical needs or emotional…I find myself thinking, “WHAT do you want from me, don’t you know I don’t have anything for you?!”  (please don’t read this wrong…my children ARE being fed and hugged….I am talking about my inner attitude and heart here)

These past two months I have been faced with some of the worst parts of myself.  I have really seen a clear picture of how, apart from G-d, I am completely incapable of love and sacrifice.  Part of my spiritual failings in the past have been that I am chronically self-sufficient.  I always see my opinions and my WAY as right.  Trouble is, that WAY is always changing, because no matter which WAY I go, it’s still ME with all of my struggles and failings.  The moment I face discomfort, I seek to soothe it by finding what is “right”, and what is “true”.  Hence, my inability to commit to a spiritual path or practice.  I plug in my ipod earphones to “make it” through the day…fueling my time and my mind with political and religious talk.  I am addicted to thinking, to looking for more, for something else.  Where others might turn to alcohol or drugs, I turn to overthinking and analyzing.

With all of these mental gymnastics, I have made very little internal space for the things that would produce the Fruits of the Spirit.  Patience?  Forget it.  I want to feel better NOW.  Long suffering?  Yeah right….see “patience”.   Joy?  Doubt it…I would actually have to live in what I am doing to experience it.  Kindness?  Well, I don’t have patience, and I don’t want to feel discomfort, or to feel the present moment….so when someone needs something from me I don’t have a lot of kindness.  Faithfulness?  I give up on G-d every time I turn to my own ways and thinking.  Gentleness?  I am a bull in a china shop.  I am not gentle, least of all to myself.  Self-control?  If I had some, I wouldn’t be writing this.  Then the crowning piece….LOVE.  The all-elusive LOVE.

I realize that LOVE is not a feeling, although it produces feelings.  I know that LOVE needs to show in actions, and in sacrifice.  Maybe I have it, and I am just not plugged into it.  Do I have some sort of soulish extension chord that I should be able to just plug into the Great Outlet of Love? Have I blown a fuse?

I don’t want to leave a legacy of life evasion to my children.  The legacy that was left to me.  I want to teach them to love life, to embrace it, and to look to G-d, no matter the circumstances.  I realize that my chances of teaching that to them, when I do not do it myself, are slim indeed.  I remember a childhood of being disciplined or silenced for expressing a negative emotion.  I remember thinking that my negative  feelings were the cause of my mother’s stony silences, of my father’s anxieties.  I remember wondering how it was that I came to be the Great Destroyer of Happiness, how I destroyed my family with my SELF.  Oh, how I don’t want my children to feel that!

This human condition is messy at best, devestating at its worst.  I don’t want to wake up one day, with my kids grown and wrinkles on my face, and realize that I wasted so many days just trying to get to the next day.  I want to learn to embrace what is NOW, and to open myself up to seeing the beauty that G-d has placed in it.  Now, just to get out of this trap of a head.  I want nothing more than to pull down these lofty and theological ideals that I hold into the mess of my daily life.

I have been reading “The Way”, by St. Josemaria Escriva (the founder of Opus Dei).  His words have been speaking so deeply to my condition, that I do see a glimmer of sweetness inside.  Here are some of his quotes:

“‘Tomorrow!’ Sometimes it is prudence, sometimes it is the adverb of the defeated.”

“You’re afraid of becoming distant and cold with everyone – you want so much to be detached!  Get rid of that fear.  If you belong to Christ – completely to Christ – he will give you light, fire and warmth for all men.”

“‘If your right eye scandalizes you, pluck it out and cast it from you!’  Poor heart…that’s what scandalizes you.  Grasp it, hold it tight in your hands – and don’t give it any consolation.  And, when it asks for consolation, full of noble compassion say to it slowly, as if confiding, ‘My heart…heart on the cross, heart on the cross!”

“Many who would let themselves be nailed to a cross before the astonished gaze of thousands of spectators won’t bear the pinpricks of each day with a Christian spirit!  But think, which is the more heroic?”

“Your worst enemy is yourself”

“Sadness, depression.  I’m not surprised: it’s the cloud of dust raised by your fall.  But….enough of it!  Can’t you see that the cloud has been borne far away by the breath of grace?  Moreover, your sadness – if you don’t reject it – could very well be the cloak of your pride.  Did you really think yourself so perfect and sinless?”

I hate to end this entry on a negative, self-deprecating note.  I want to end it like a psalm…all misery and longing until the “BUT YOU L-RD…..”.  But I am no psalmist, and my resources are tapped.  Instead I will cling to someone else’s words, I will borrow someone else’s strength and clarity,

“Consider what is most beautiful and most noble on earth, what pleases the mind and the other faculties, and what delights the flesh and the senses.  Consider the world, and the other worlds that shine in the night – the whole universe.  And this, along with all the satisfied follies of the heart, is worth nothing, IS nothing and less than nothing, compared with this G-d of mine! -of yours! – Infinite treasure, most beautiful pearl…humbled, become a slave, reduced to nothingness in the form of a servant in the stable where he willed to be born…in Joseph’s workshop, in his Passion and in ignominious death, and in the frenzy of Love – the blessed Eucharist”.  (emphasis mine)

My Favourite Subjects

Archives

Top Clicks

  • None