At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want. -- Lao Tzu

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Musings on Gay Marriage

Not that this blog is being widely read or anything but I have a need to express myself on this issue of gay marriage. And it's really less about gay marriage than it is a diatribe about the incestuous relationship politics has with religious extremism in the country.
Since when did the Religious Right come to speak for everyone in the country? This country, where Boomers have divorced and remarried more than any generation. This country where Boomers indulged in drugs, sex, and rock and roll in their youth...where they now, because they are getting closer to death, have decided that they "need to get right with G-d" and know what is best for the rest of us. Boomers who want to protect trees and water. Boomers who think it's OK to kill babies for any reason, after all it's the woman's "CHOICE" and she alone should decide. Boomers who are sucking the public coffers dry with their COPD, cirrhosis, and other "diseases of vice"...are the same people who voted overwhelmingly against Prop 8. And I DO NOT GET IT.
What is the big deal with gay marriage? It doesn't take anything away from anyone. That two men can have right of survivorship does not diminish my marriage in the least. In fact, what diminishes my marriage is the disgusting rate of divorce in this country. Heterosexual marriage isn't stable folks. Not on the whole. My marriage, and the cohabitation period that preceded it, brings our relationship up to 18 yrs and going strong still. That makes us an aberration among our parents, where there have been 13 divorces and 12 remarriages! That's just our parents. Among our close friends and siblings, we have already seen four marriages dissolve. Where is the strength of marriage? I don't see very many people who ACTUALLY mean the vows they take. In fact it seems more like there is an unspoken last sentence in the vows, "Until I get bored or something better comes along."
Keith Olberman's commentary on this issue has been widely spread on-line (google it) but here's an excerpt:

This is about the… human heart, and if that sounds corny, so be it.

If you voted for this Proposition or support those who did or the sentiment they expressed, I have some questions, because, truly, I do not… understand. Why does this matter to you? What is it to you? In a time of impermanence and fly-by-night relationships, these people over here want the same chance at permanence and happiness that is your option. They don’t want to deny you yours. They don’t want to take anything away from you. They want what you want — a chance to be a little less alone in the world.

Only now you are saying to them — no. You can’t have it on these terms. Maybe something similar. If they behave. If they don’t cause too much trouble. You’ll even give them all the same legal rights — even as you’re taking away the legal right, which they already had. A world around them, still anchored in love and marriage, and you are saying, no, you can’t marry. What if somebody passed a law that said you couldn't marry?

I keep hearing this term “re-defining” marriage.

If this country hadn’t re-defined marriage, black people still couldn’t marry white people. Sixteen states had laws on the books which made that illegal… in 1967. 1967.

The parents of the President-Elect of the United States couldn’t have married in nearly one third of the states of the country their son grew up to lead. But it’s worse than that. If this country had not “re-defined” marriage, some black people still couldn’t marry…black people. It is one of the most overlooked and cruelest parts of our sad story of slavery. Marriages were not legally recognized, if the people were slaves. Since slaves were property, they could not legally be husband and wife, or mother and child. Their marriage vows were different: not “Until Death, Do You Part,” but “Until Death or Distance, Do You Part.” Marriages among slaves were not legally recognized.

You know, just like marriages today in California are not legally recognized, if the people are… gay.

And uncountable in our history are the number of men and women, forced by society into marrying the opposite sex, in sham marriages, or marriages of convenience, or just marriages of not knowing — centuries of men and women who have lived their lives in shame and unhappiness, and who have, through a lie to themselves or others, broken countless other lives, of spouses and children… All because we said a man couldn’t marry another man, or a woman couldn’t marry another woman. The sanctity of marriage. How many marriages like that have there been and how on earth do they increase the “sanctity” of marriage rather than render the term, meaningless?

What is this, to you? Nobody is asking you to embrace their expression of love. But don’t you, as human beings, have to embrace… that love? The world is barren enough.

It is stacked against love, and against hope, and against those very few and precious emotions that enable us to go forward. Your marriage only stands a 50-50 chance of lasting, no matter how much you feel and how hard you work.

And here are people overjoyed at the prospect of just that chance, and that work, just for the hope of having that feeling. With so much hate in the world, with so much meaningless division, and people pitted against people for no good reason, this is what your religion tells you to do? With your experience of life and this world and all its sadnesses, this is what your conscience tells you to do?

With your knowledge that life, with endless vigor, seems to tilt the playing field on which we all live, in favor of unhappiness and hate… this is what your heart tells you to do? You want to sanctify marriage? You want to honor your God and the universal love you believe he represents? Then Spread happiness — this tiny, symbolic, semantical grain of happiness — share it with all those who seek it. Quote me anything from your religious leader or book of choice telling you to stand against this. And then tell me how you can believe both that statement and another statement, another one which reads only “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Now, maybe the best answer to this problem, is to divorce our politics from religion. Get marriage OUT of the hands of the government and make it the sole possession of the various churches. Have us ALL have to get civil unions if we want right of surviorship, tax benefits, etc...and the religious ceremony we all recognize will become just a personal expression of faith and belief and totally optional.
I'm for getting rid of all religion from all of the public arena. I'm tired of hearing hate wrapped in religious fervor. I'm tired of being exposed to the Bible thumpers as they dare to tell me what G-d wants for the rest of us. NEWSFLASH: G-d doesn't love anyone more than anyone else. G-d is a human construct to try to impose order and it's time as a rule book has come and gone. It can be a deeply meaningful PERSONAL expression of faith and a way to live life, but it's PERSONAL. You don't get to impose your way of living on another person.
The Religious Right in this country is little better than the Taliban. Small minded, weak followers, giving in to the mob mentality and given to acts of great hate and anger. A far cry from what they SAY they are all about. And I'm tired of that too.
Don't like gay marriage...DON'T HAVE ONE. Just as you don't want their lifestyle forced on you, I am tired of seeing you force your lifestyle, the asceticism of Christianity especially, forced on the rest of the country. Further, the Mormons spending $20million dollars to influence voting in another state should kick off a full scale investigation and TAX the Mormons retroactively as a private institution without the protection afforded religions. And if any religious group should be wary of people poking their noses into marriage it should be the Mormons. Nothing more than a cult founded on a crazy man's word, with a very public history, and continuing practice of polygamy and pedophilia (many of the "brides" are married off to men in their 40's when they are 12 or 13.) The whole thing makes me sick.
Religion ruins everything it touches when it's applied to the world at large. And it's time we shove it back into the homes and private places it belongs.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

More from today

So...after I made that blog post, I got off my ass and went for my walk. 2 miles...not much but I did it. Each step jarring my joints and pain spiking through my body. My husband at my side (where he always is!)
We talked about last night and how I was feeling and we thought maybe it's not the true pain...maybe I'm still in withdrawal from the Ultram. So I'm going to hang in a while longer. Dig deep and find the strength to do what I need to do each day. If after a while it does not abate, then perhaps I'll go back on the Ultram.
We came back home, I had a protein lunch and a nap. I felt a lot better afterwards. Now, as it's closing in on dinner time, my head is swimming...I crawled to the kitchen to keep from falling. And I will not be cooking or driving like this. Thank goodness my saint of a husband is here. We will have pizza and I'll make sure not to fall asleep again so I have the best chance of sleeping tonight. And hope for a better night than last night.
With this damn fibro I never know if I'm not sleeping because of the pain or if I have pain because I'm not sleeping. I do have Ambien I can take if I need I may do that tonight although I hate the way it makes me feel in the morning.
Anyway, this is just to update from the whining I did this morning. That pit of despair is a terrible place. Can't visit there too often.

Listen to me whine...

I added acai berry and flax seed to my diet some time ago, and the results were amazing. I began sleeping through the night, had no pain and no swelling. Because I'm not happy with the pharmacy's worth of drugs I have to swallow to keep me comfortable each day, I decided to get off my drugs. One at a time. The first one to go was my Ultram ER. Now, I knew I couldn't just stop it...but I didn't know why. I found out why. It's extremely addictive or should I say causes dependence? Addiction has such a negative connotation and really I wasn't ever looking to up my dose or anything but it's clear that my body needed the nightly addition of this chemical to be comfortable. So I asked my Dr about getting off and he gave me a short acting form of the same drug to use to get off. I spent several very uncomfortable days coming off the Ultram and last night went to bed without it or the step down drug in my system. It was horrid. I don't know if I slept even 20 minutes straight last night.

This morning, I'm inflamed and aware of each and ever joint space in my body, including those in the end of my spine. Everything hurts. More than the physical discomfort and the crushing fatigue I'm feeling, I feel like a failure. I don't want to be on these drugs. I don't want to live on a pharmaceutical umbilicus. I feel weak and sick. I am disappointed in myself. Like if I were tougher I could do this. I'm also descending into the "Pit of Despair"...where the "poor me" and "no one has it as bad as I do" live.

I was talking to a friend who has just started down this path of autoimmune disorders and I see in her all the fear I used to live with. I'm closing in on a decade of living this way and I was feeling so "OK" with it. (I did admit that I do have poor me days.) And I've now been knocked down a peg or two. I was thinking I was handling my body and I was in control and it just showed me that it calls the shots. I am not in control. I am not strong. I am still at the mercy of my own immune system...and my body won't ever let me forget it.

So I guess tonight I'll take the Ultram ER...deliberately swallow a drug that is as addictive as heroin and perhaps I'll sleep soundly. Likely it will take days to get the inflammation beaten back. But that's what I guess what I get. Huberis will always cause a fall.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Liam's Birthday

Pictures from Liam's birthday.  Can you believe he's 10 already?!!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

On My Daughter's 4th Birthday

My daughter turned 4 yesterday. It was the first birthday we spent with her. Her last birthdays were spent in the orphanage where she had lived her life since 4 weeks of age. Her birthday passed without her acknowledgement of the event. How can you explain something like that to a child who has never seen it or has any idea that it's a milestone we measure? And in fact we celebrated her birthday last Friday and taught her how to tear open gifts and she ate cake! But yesterday as now, my thoughts are less about her and more about her mother. I'm not naive enough to think that all children abandoned in China are loved, cherished and wanted. Parents there are just as likely to be bad parents as they are here. But our daughter was left in a public place, with a note and I believe her parents did what they had to do and that it was heart wrenching for them.
So on her birthday, I wonder about her mother. Does she mark this day and wonder where her daughter is and how she's doing? Does she look at every little 4 yr old girl she passes and wonder if that's her child? Does she wonder if her daughter died? She certainly knows about international adoption. Does she wonder if her daughter is living abroad? I wonder about how I'd feel and I think the not knowing would tear me up inside. Maybe I'd try not to think about it at all.
I wish I could tell her about her child. I wish I could send her pictures and updates. But I can't. So I've written her this letter and posting it here is akin to tying it to a balloon and setting it free (which BTW is ecologically irresponsible) so here it is.
Dear Unknown Mother,
On the day of your daughter's 4th birthday I want to tell you that she is OK. She's been with us for 7 months and she's thriving. She's a very good girl and very smart. She's a strong person and that strength will serve her well in her life. She's resilient and meets life with openness and excitement.
I fought hard for her. She was supposed to be adopted by a different family, and they backed out, leaving her to an uncertain fate. But I knew then that I wanted this child as my own. It took about two years but we got her home. It was against all odds that we were able to get her home. But she had a lot of people working to get her out of the SWI and into a home. And I'm so glad it was mine!
She had a heart surgery but the doctors in China did well with the repair. She is going to the Dr here in a couple of weeks. Just for a check up. She's gained a pound a month and easily grown 3 inches. She's very strong physically. She runs and plays well. She doesn't talk much, but we'll get there. We communicate well and her needs are met. I am confident that one day she will begin talking and not stop!
She has two brothers who adore her and a father who is wrapped around her little finger! She has cousins, an aunt and uncles that love her too. She's a treasured member of our family. She will have every advantage we can give her. I want you to know that she is OK and you don't have to worry about her. I know you will never stop missing her but you don't need to worry that she's unwell or unloved.
I wish I could know you. I wish I could let you know her. I wish so much that you could be a part of her life. And I am painfully aware that my joy came at a huge cost to you. You will always be here with us. As she grows and questions -- you will be here. I will do my best to answer her questions about you and the "whys" of her early life. I want you to know that we will always make room for you in our family. And for you, I bid you peace. I hope you can find comfort in what you did and why you did it. And I hope you will some day know that she's an amazing person who we are lucky to love. And it's all because of your painful and selfless act four years ago.
Forever grateful,

The Kind of Person I Want to Be

The following are some exercises to help with mindful parenting, but really this can be applied when dealing with anyone in any situation. It's a constant struggle to overcome the old parenting paradigm I've used and was raised with...of course each generation should try to do better by their kids than the last. If only I could do this with no mistakes.

12 Exercises for Mindful Parenting by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn
See Myla’s and Jon’s web site at

With these meditative techniques, raising children can be a spiritual practice. Try to imagine the world from your child’s point of view, purposefully letting go of your own. Do this every day for at least a few moments to remind you of who this child is and what he or she faces in the world.

Imagine how you appear and sound from your child’s point of view, i.e., having you as a parent today, in this moment. How might this modify how you carry yourself in your body and in space, how you speak, and what you say? How do you want to relate to your child in this moment?

Practice seeing your children as perfect just the way they are. See if you can stay mindful of their sovereignty from moment to moment, and work at accepting them as they are when it is hardest for you to do so. Be mindful of your expectations of your children and consider whether they are truly in your child’s best interest. Also, be aware of how you communicate those expectations and how they affect your children.

Practice altruism, putting the needs of your children above your own whenever possible. Then see if there isn’t some common ground, where your true needs can also be met. You may be surprised at how much overlap is possible, especially if you are patient and strive for balance. When you feel lost, or at a loss, remember to stand still and meditate on the whole by bringing your full attention to the situation, to your child, to yourself, to the family. In doing so, you may go beyond thinking, even good thinking, and perceive intuitively, with the whole of your being, what needs to be done. If that is not clear in any moment, maybe the best thing is to not do anything until it becomes clearer. Sometimes it is good to remain silent.

Try embodying silent presence. This will grow out of both formal and informal mindfulness practice over time if you attend to how you carry yourself and what you project in body, mind, and speech. Listen carefully. Learn to live with tension without losing your own balance. In Zen and the Art of Archery, Herrigel describes how he was taught to stand at the point of highest tension effortlessly without shooting the arrow. At the right moment, the arrow mysteriously shoots itself. Practice moving into any moment, however difficult, without trying to change anything and without having to have a particular outcome occur. Simply bring your full awareness and presence to this moment. Practice seeing that whatever comes up is “workable” if you are willing to trust your intuition. Your child needs you to be a center of balance and trustworthiness, a reliable landmark by which he or she can take a bearing within his or her own landscape. Arrow and target need each other. They will find each other best through wise attention and patience.

Apologize to your child when you have betrayed a trust in even a little way. Apologies are healing. An apology demonstrates that you have thought about a situation and have come to see it more clearly, or perhaps more from your child’s point of view. But be mindful of being “sorry” too often. It loses its meaning if you are always saying it, making regret into a habit. Then it can become a way not to take responsibility for your actions. Cooking in remorse on occasion is a good meditation. Don’t shut off the stove until the meal is ready.

Every child is special, and every child has special needs. Each sees in an entirely unique way.Hold an image of each child in your heart. Drink in their being, wishing them well. There are important times when we need to be clear and strong and unequivocal with children. Let this come as much as possible out of awareness, generosity, and discernment, rather than out of fear, self-righteousness, or the desire to control. Mindful parenting does not mean being overindulgent, neglectful, or weak; nor does it mean being rigid, domineering, and controlling.

The greatest gift you can give your child is your self. This means that part of your work as a parent is to keep growing in self-knowledge and awareness. This ongoing work can be furthered by making a time for quiet contemplation in whatever ways feel comfortable to us. We only have right now. Let us use it to its best advantage, for our children’s sake, and for our own.

Mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn is the author of Wherever You Go, There You Are. Myla Kabat-Zinn has worked as a childbirth educator, birthing assistant, and environmental activist. Excerpted from Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting. Copyright 1997 by Myla Kabat-Zinn and Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pool Party!!

Morgan gets her first time in the pool. She loved it. She had a really good time. All the kids did. They really want us to get a house with an in-ground pool. We are off to Orlando to spend the week with my brother and his family. There is a pool at the house we are renting so I expect to spend a lot of time in it with her.
I'm excited for more of my family to meet Morgan. She's a great kid who is a lot of fun. I hope she enjoys meeting her cousins. Her cousin Tyler is just 6 weeks younger than she is so we'll have two 3 yr olds in the house at the same time!
Stay tuned for more pictures from Orlando.

Fighting Dragons

It's 3:30am...I'm up because Morgan fell out of her bed and then fellout of her state of equilibrium. This time was better than the last. Letting me hold her while she gave voice to some early loss, but I could not assuage. It took me a while to realize her immediate loss. Her anchor of the week...a small card with a picture of a car on it, folded in half...had slipped out of her hand and behind her bed. When it became clear she wasn't going to be able to settle down, I brought her to the living room and flipped on Baby First TV for her but she would have none of it. Still fighting against what she had lost...she combed the floor for the missing card among the set of the others.The not-quite-good-enoughs. And I realized what she was looking for! Slipping into my room, my husband sleeping soundly thanks to his"father" status, I turned on the bathroom light and found the missing treasure. I left him as I found him, sleeping soundly. I returned to the living room to find my daughter crawling about on her belly in the other cards moaning with a grief that comes from a dark place I've read about but never visited. But I had the card!
"Monkey, I have your card."
She stopped searching the floor and looked at the folded cardboard inmy hand, her body shuddering. She snatched the card away and climbed into the recliner, stowing the card under her pajama top.
And there she sits, rocking, watching the images on the screen, tongue stuck partially out in fatigue. A smile sweeps across her face as she presses her belly and feels the card underneath. She has a full sippee of soy milk which she did not drink but wanted to have. Her face is tired, from lack of sleep and battling the dragons in her head. But for now, the few familiar things she has spread around her have chased them back to their hiding spots. Her eyes mere slits as she fights sleep. I do not blame her.
I sit here on the other side of the room. She does not want me for comfort. But I hope she knows at least on some level that I care about her and what is important to her. I can brandish the sword and wear the armor, but I can not fight her dragons. I can only tend her wounds when she does.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Home at last! This has been a wild and unpredictable ride at times but it's over. We are Jewish. Well, the kids and I are. John chose not to convert at this time. Whether or not he does is a matter for him to decide but he supports us and that's all that matters. My conversion was Saturday night (just 4 days after surgery) and the kids were named on Sunday. Mom came to visit and be a part of our joy which was important to us. Being a military family means we are always away from family and it's nice to have someone from the family make the effort to come for something that is important to us. (Of course we recognize that is not always possible.) Anyway, we are Jewish now, we all have Jewish names and we maintain a Jewish home. I couldn't be any happier with our decision. We will move to Montgomery Al soon but I will stay connected to this Temple here by being the newsletter editor for them which is nice. If I will miss anything about this area, this temple and its members are it.

On another note, I've been mulling over the current state of our country and what's amiss...and it's less a Democrat/Republican issue....and not a Liberal/Conservative one either. It's Capitalism run amok that is causing trouble. I see no way for this to change unless we have a Revolution so it's time to make plans to live in a world where prices rise unchecked all the while the Democrats are trying to heap on more income taxes and the Republicans are giving huge tax breaks to the ultra-rich. So it's time for all able bodied people to get their rear ends in gear and do something.

The something I think needs to be done is a reorganization of our society to a move back to a pseudo-tribal one. We have 6 years until retirement from the USAF and after that we have to make a decision about where to go and what to do. My dream is to create a co-housing/compound living property with like-minded people where a portion of the land is devoted to growing food. Vegetables and fruits...nuts and seeds. Animals grown for meat in the most compassionate and comfortable way possible. This will be a place where we will function as a society within the larger society. Pitching in and helping each other with child care, farming, chores etc...the way life used to be minus the cholera and the religious extremism.

I believe this is the way our socitey must go to save itself and I'm devoting this next 6 yrs to making sure this can happen. So much must be decided, so much money much to do but having a plan makes it all the more doable. Why do this with other people? Because I've longed for connection for the last 14 yrs and I want that when we stop moving around for the USAF. I want the kids to grow up with a giant extended family, socialize with kids who have families that look like ours, to know what life can be like when people live in peace and with understanding. Pipe dream? Perhaps. But it's one worth nuturing.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

How some decisions change your life in unexpected ways

We all know that certain decisions will change your life. Steal something, get caught, go to jail. That's not a mystery. Get pregnant and have a baby and your life will change...also not a mystery. But other changes can catch you unaware.

Recently I've made two changes to my life. I've converted to Judaism and I've adopted a brown child. Her racial identity isn't important because that's not what caused the change. The change came because she's brown. People look at us now. Sometimes I can tell people are just curious. Other times we get glares or people avoiding us. For the most part people have been good about the adoption but even parts of the family have been less than enthusiastic about this addition. Is it because she's brown? Doesn't share our DNA? Or are they just not interested because they simply don't care? Because we adopted I now see all interactions or lack of interactions this way. That has changed.

I've been called a "Jew Bitch" in traffic and spit at by a Muslim tech at a Dr's office. Obviously anti-semitism is alive and well in our world. I was not particularly upset by either incident because the people who did those things are from groups that I expect to be hostile towards Jews. But that I was anticipating these things means that my life has changed.

What this all means really is that we have given up portions of our White privilege...something most white people don't even realize they have. Our brown daughter as gained some white privilege by virtue of being adopted into a white family but not enough to get her treated as an equal by white people. It's an odd feeling being thrust into this new position on the social scale.

I'm not sure what this means long term and how it will change our lives but for better or worse, we have cast our lot with the Jewish people and our daughter can not change the color of her skin. The world will have to accept us as we are, our family will have to accept us as we are, or even more changes will have to be made. How can we change the world? Well just noticing what we had before, because it's gone now has made me aware of what is still very wrong with the world. Is there something I can do to change it? I don't know. But it's something I'm looking into. Things have to change if we want peace in this country. And I think the change begins with families like mine.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Testimony to the Human Spirit

Tonight I sat in my bed and watched my daughter, with us only 3 months, play in her bed quietly, winding down for sleep. This is our nightly routine. I gave her the picture I saw of her at 15 months old, the one that fueled the fire to find this child a home. She played with it for a long time. I don't know if she knows it's her or not. It's hard to say what is going on in her head.

I think about the joy with which she meets the day. Every morning when she wakes, she chirps "Hi!" and is ready to go. Our mornings are quiet. She sits next to me on the couch with a bowl of dry cereal and a sippee of soy milk. I drink my coffee and check my e-mail and she watches Baby First TV. We are quiet together but we are together. My daughter and I.

It's no small thing that she is here with me. I marvel at it often. That it happened is enough to give me back the faith I thought was gone. And she amazes me. Not only by what she does but the spirit with which she does it. How can a person be stripped of her dignity, her birthright, and all but her most basic needs and still survive? Not only survive but thrive? My daughter is an amazing person and has an inner strength and spirit I am in awe of. I am lucky to be witness to her life unfolding and as she learns new things I am seeing life in new ways too.

My daughter is beautiful and smart and is perfect just as she is. I love her smile and her goofiness. I love the odd things she does and the way that is just IS. And yet, behind the smiles and the laughter is the haunting image of a couple who will never know her and never know what became of her. I can never forget that my happiness has come at an incredible price to other human beings. And I can never forget that deep inside my daughter's soul is a grief so profound, so primal, that it will shape her life and the life of her children as well.

All is good here, our little family is doing well and I'm eager for you all to get to know her as we do. People have told me that she is a lucky girl because we adopted her. I say we are lucky because she has brought so much to our lives that was missing before. But for me, on a personal level, having her here is a daily reminder that life is special and each day is a gift.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Living Life Simply

Not homeschooling but unschooling. That's what this is. It's about letting learning happen naturally as it did before the boys turned six. It's about turning off the pressures of our post-industrialized nation and doing what is right for our kids. I certainly didn't have kids to turn them over to the public school system so they can be miserable every day for the next seven and nine years.

My life in school was so terrible that I still carry the scars. Neither of my parents know how bad it really was for me. How close I came to a permanent and irrevocable solution to my on going problems in school. How what looked like obstinacy and laziness was actually crushing depression under the weight of a culture of brutality that never, ever let up. In the time the boys were in school I spent more of my time intervening with bullying kids and teachers than anything else. And enough is enough. The cycle of hating learning, the poor self-esteem, the threats and fighting ends here. There isn't any reason in this world that the kids should have to be forced into the mental mosh pit. It is my job as their parent to make sure this doesn't happen.

And it's more than school, it's casting off the idea that because our children are smaller physically and we control the resources, we get to force them to do what we want. Does this mean they will be out of control and wild? Could be. But there are kids that are "traditionally parented" that are out of control and wild. In general kids that are unschooled are very responsible and kind. They have been managing their lives since they became verbal and they do a very good job. They were good boys before they became school age and they are good boys now. I see no reason that won't continue. Jane Nelson has this question about traditional parenting: "Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, first we have to make them feel worse? Think of the last time you felt humiliated or treated unfairly. Did you feel like cooperating or doing better?"

So what does this mean? What will it look like? Well, I hope we can get to a point where everyone in the house feels safe and happy. The Golden Rule being the guiding principle for our family. It's a long up hill climb. For John and I to cast off the chaos of our childhoods and learn to treat the boys the way we want to be treated and not to apply pressure to force them to change so they do what we want. Right now this is very difficult. It's one moment at a time not even one day at a time. The boys fight and yell at each other and I'm trying to figure out how to get that to stop without using punishers or yelling. I have to resist the urge to yell and say no all the time. Cookies for breakfast? Sure why not? What makes a cookie more nutritionally valid at 3 pm than it would be at 9 am anyway?

We've struggled with all the "They shoulds" you have in your head too. We still are wrestling with them. But in fact there are very few "have tos" in life for adults and mountains of them for kids. The biggest one I've run up against in defending this idea is the "Life is hard and there are lots of things adults do they don't want to do. Kids have to learn that." Really? Even if it's true, and in fact I challenge that assertion, how early should kids learn that? And how painful should it be? Take it out a step. One of the things that is hard for some adults is they are victims of sexual assault. So should we arrange for our daughters to be raped so they can be prepared for it later? Sounds ridiculous I know but that's really what we are saying here. "Bad things may happen so let's prepare them."

Being prepared for bad things, being hyper-aware of bad things makes a child grow up into an anxious and panic-stricken adult. Surely no one wants that for the kids. Kids raised with an awareness of life, through the patient and gentle guidance and help of their parents are well aware of what life can be. They also know what life *should* be. And it's that should that prompts unschooled kids to become socially responsible adults. Instead of being raised in the dog-eat-dog world of competition and comparison where every action is critiqued and measured, they just grow. It's just the way the world should be.

Gandhi said "Be the change you wish to see in the world." And that's what is happening here. The boys will be better for their experiences with life as gentle and beautiful. They will be better for not being chewed up in the "Lord of the Flies" environment of institutional schooling. Judaism teaches us not to look for Heavenly reward, but to see that this Earth is what G-d made for us, Heaven is here. Enjoy this life. Life is to be savored not endured. And our kids will enjoy their lives. They will enjoy today because no one of us has a guarantee of a tomorrow. If one of the boys got seriously ill and G-d forbid passed away, I'd want to look back on their lives and know they ate what they wanted, slept when they wanted, enjoyed their days, as limited as they were. If I looked back and saw that what *I* did caused them pain that would be a grief from which I could never recover.

So no more forcing them out the door. No more force. No more pressure. No more humiliation. No more punishments. They are human beings and they are worthy of all the respect I believe I am owed. I close with two quotes...Eda LeShan:

"Becoming responsible adults is no longer a matter of whether children hang up their pajamas or put dirty towels in the hamper, but whether they care about themselves and others -- and whether they see everyday chores as related to how we treat this planet."


"Education is in danger of becoming a religion based on fear; its doctrine is to compete. [O]ur children are being led to believe that they are doomed to failure in a world which has room only for those at the top."

Not for our children. Not anymore. It stops here.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Ides of March

So today is the Ides of March...a day that portends impending doom. But for me, a confirmed pessimist I'm feeling pretty optimistic. I'm actually trying on optimism for a while...but it does feel like an itchy wool sweater.

I haven't been to my Hebrew class in oh three weeks because I've been crippled by sinus and fibro headaches. I'm going today but to be honest I'd rather be sleeping. Not that I could actually sleep anyway. I also need a haircut, I need to get some stuff for the birds and some tweezers. I'm contemplating getting my eyebrows waxed but you know it's always tough to trust someone else to do that. The last time I let someone else do it they removed too much in the middle and it made me look older.

Morgan is doing well, picking up more language along the way. She mimics all kinds of stuff. Eventually it will all come together for her and I think she'll just start talking one day. Amazing what someone paying attention to a child can do for her. And her austism? I don't think she's on the spectrum at all given what I've seen from her. She's not rigid, she doesn't show an inability to deal with changes past what I would say is normal for a three year old. It would surprise me if she was on the spectrum at all.

The boys are doing well too. Out of school again and happier for it. We are working as a family towards a more gentle life for us all. Trying to undo much of our history and replace the parenting tools John and I have for ones that are more respectful of our children. It's not easy to change your whole mindset and patterns of behavior. The boys really want a microscope and a set of premade slides. We need to get that for them. I remember how facinated I was by microbiology. I also want to get them some agar plates, and wet and dry prep slides. Maybe even some Gram stains. There is so much we can do with a good microscope!

I think it's time we get a digital camcorder. We have too much we are missing with the kids that would be nice to catch. Unfortunately, I know nothing about them. Maybe I can set John to researching it.

Well that's all the news worth reporting for now.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I need to choose my Hebrew name.

My conversion is clicking along. I've contacted the base through the Chaplain's office to get permission to do my mikvah on the beach. I haven't heard back from them yet though so I guess I have to get on them to make sure I get an answer. I hope to have my conversion finished in April.

I still have to choose my Hebrew name. I think I'll create a poll and put it on here to see what everyone thinks. My Hebrew name will be used for official ceremonies and honors. Additionally, when the boys have their official things like their Bar Mitzvah ceremony, and their ketuba (marriage contract) my name in those things will be given as my Hebrew name. So it's an important choice. One which is vexing me because I so want to do this right...after all how often does a person get to pick their own name?

Morgan's Hebrew name is Rivka which means "captivating" and anyone who knows her story knows I was captivated by her from the moment I saw her picture which was 2 years ago!

Liam is a Hebrew name which means "My people, My nation" but he doesn't know if he's going to use Liam as his Hebrew name or not.

John is the English of Yochanan which means "G-d is gracious" and for the moment he's OK with using that. He may change his mind.

OK, so that's that. I've been uploading to Youtube you can see my videos here...

I'll be adding more soon. If when you read this the poll is up, please vote, not on the sound of the name but by the meaning. Does it make you think of me? Is it something that you think works for me? For example, the name Sarah means "gentle" and that is SO not me. OK, also, if you come here to read, you can leave would be nice to know someone is reading my blog. =)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Letter to my body


I have been so hard on you over the years...I scarcely know what to say. How do I begin to apologize for all the abuse I've heaped on you for decades? I don't even remember a time when I didn't loathe you. Why did I loathe you? Because you weren't perfect. You were lumpy, and white, and flabby. There were times I couldn't look at you and didn't for YEARS. I ignored you, pretended you weren't there for YEARS, all the while cursing you for having to ignore you.

You know I don't hate you as much these days but you and I are still not friends. I never miss an opportunity to sling an arrow at you even though I have less to complain about nowadays. But I need to stop this. It's hurting me and I have a daughter now. She is going to be watching me, and taking her clues from me about how to treat her body. I wouldn't want her to hurt herself as I have hurt you.

I don't know how to just love you. I don't know how not to see the imperfections...I can't seem to get rid of the idea that "if I just...THEN I can be happy". We both know this is not true. I need to stop the campaign of brutality against you because it is mean and it is my secret shame. I think of myself as a good person but a good person wouldn't say the things I do to you. I would certainly wouldn't say these things to friends...even friends who are much larger than I am now. I look at my friends and see their beauty, but I look at you and I'm horrified.

I want to be comfortable naked, I want to love you, I want to use you in every way I know how. To not be afraid of you, or what people think of you. You are the greatest instrument I'll ever own and time is short. I want to dance...but until I can stop hating you, I can't do that. Poor Body, because of my issues, I continue to abuse you. I am like a battering spouse, only I won't tell you I'll never do it again because I know that's not true. I'll control myself for a while until I begin to feel stressed or angry and then I'll take it out on you.

I need to change me to be kinder to you and that needs to be a priority. I promise you now, that I will make the effort daily to see you as the most wonderful gift I have. It is you that lets me lift and hold my children. It is you that lets me comfort my pets. It is you that lets me express my love for my husband. Despite all I've said to you, you've been there for me and just toughed it out. I need to be as resiliant as you are. I need to begin today.


With Choices, come change

We have our daughter home with us now, she's been ours for two months but it doesn't seem possible that she hasn't always been here. It's not all daisies and candy, but she's a good girl and doing well.

During our wait for her, I made the decision to go through with converting to Judaism. It's something I've wanted since I was young and I realized that all my floundering around "playing" at religion was in fact meandering down the path to where I should have been all along. Were it not for this Christian dominated culture I may well have come to the decision sooner. It is not that I am worried about not being mainstream or anti-semitism, but that Christianity just dominates every facet of our culture that it pushes aside other choices and made me feel like it was Christianity or nothing. And since I can not abide the message of Christianity and a vast number of "representatives" of Christ I chose Nothing. But now I am where I feel as though I belong. It is a real sense of coming home. Anyway, I should have my conversion ceremony by May and then the kids will have theirs. I'm not sure what John will do or not do. He takes a long time to decide things.

This brings me to a kind of sad thing, through adopting a brown child and becoming Jewish, some of our family and friends have decided that they can no longer be involved with us. It's sad to know that people are so small. I am sorry that the decisions I've made for my life has caused me to lose people I cared for, but that's their decision and they are certainly welcome to their beliefs. It does disturb me to find this ugliness in the ranks of those whom I loved but it's better to know now than not know they are there.

The one discussion I haven't had with the boys is telling them that they have lost some of their white privilege. How do you tell kids that by choosing to be Jewish, some things will no longer be available to them? That by virtue of the Star of David around their necks some people will wish them dead? Certainly, this is not the West Bank and I'm not trying to say that it's that level of danger, but to assume that there are not people walking the streets here that think those things is folly. I have already been called a "Jew Bitch" a Baptist. It is all very difficult to process.

I was confronted by an old man in the commissary over bringing a Chinese person into the US. Luckily Morgan doesn't understand much English so she wasn't hurt by it. But I was unprepared for this encounter. Prejudice is everywhere and it is offered up by more than just the people you expect to see it from. And now my family is no longer insulated completely from it. It's at once a troubling experience, and a gift because certainly we will now feel more compassion than we did before for those who can not hide from it.