So in my family - well, in my one family - if you were sitting still, you were being irresponsible somehow. Or at least that's how we've all internalized it. My mother is incredible. She's gotten older now and she's less crazy, but now she's stuck working all the effing time because, well, because she's an effing midwife and they pay her a lot of money so that she works five million hours. In fact, god, if I look at myself versus my mother when she was my age, well gee, I think I'm doing pretty good since I'm a stay at home mom and we try to live like we're on vacation more. I'm all about efficiency so there's time to party. We are so privileged to be able to fit in all the stuff my parents used to have to squeeze in on weekends and summer holidays or whathaveyou into the regular week with time leftover to veg out.

But then there's this part of me, I suppose, that is always guilty feeling about that veg out time because, you know, then the kids are playing video games or not getting some enrichment that I forgot to do earlier because we were running errands or I had City Fresh or we were out of town or what the hell ever we were doing instead. And then I'm tired and I'm thinking, "holy fuck Jon! why can't YOU take them on a hike and engage them for once?!" And that's where the marriage part comes in.

Because like it or not, there's going to be this division of labor discussion/argument. It's just going to happen. There is more than there is possible to do and at some point every so often, you do nothing in order to do nothing because you've been so busy doing and doing and doing and then when you wake up from doing nothing, there's even MORE shit to do because you took that time off! And yeah, we do things differently and we do different things and I personally have this crazy urge to evaluate it because sometimes I find myself folding laundry while he's busy playing stupid Left for Dead and I'm thinking of the other ten things I needed to accomplish and think maybe he could brush the kids teeth instead of sitting there and then he does it if I ask, but then he doesn't do it right and really we're supposed to be all particular about Aleks' teeth now that he has braces and he needs help being talked into it and I can do that and be gentle, but still insist whereas Jon will just fold and think that whatever is good enough, when maybe it isn't, really. And I'm left to be the bad guy and the one insisting on these requirements.

So it's like this: yes, I have a lot of shoulds, and I'm responsible for many people and I don't want to resent not having the help to create the life we all enjoy, even though I'm not the only one enjoying it, but sometimes I do and sometimes I'm informed that I'm shoulding all over everyone else when I thought I was just doing what they all actually needed to have a rich, full, well-balanced life. I can't figure out everyone's needs and desires plus my own. And there's always always too much to do so that all my time gets portioned out in this fucked up juggling way where there's always a ball in the air and I trade out which one it is at the moment because something's always gonna not be able to be attended to, and even things that shouldn't be there are there, where taking care of oneself or hanging out with friends or reading a book or doing nothing becomes an obligation or a priority to be checklisted. And then I sound crazy! And I realize every woman I know who has children is doing this. Especially with older children. When they're little - if you're a SAHM at least, I don't know about working moms - the speed of life is slower and what the kids require is different and more immediate to their staying alive. When they're older, it's all like everything you do or say is going to absolutely affect who they are as adults and whether or not they read or write or go to summer camp or do enough of any or all of those things is now happening and is no longer a theory of how you're going to parent, but actually what you have to do and they're living it and remembering it NOW. And if you read the internet at all ever, you're wrong about it. In fact, you're pretty much just wrong about what you think because there are lots of people offering their opinions about it all the time and even the things you thought you thought become wrong and you're doing even what you're good at (or thought you were) wrong too.

The best part is the solutions for the freakout that ensues: medication, exercise, meditation. Mind, body, soul. Whether it's giving up gluten, doing a yoga intensive, seeing a therapist, getting on anti-depressants, drinking wine once a week (or nightly) with friends, joining a gym, or getting outside - whatever the recommendation is, it's all MORE STUFF TO DO. Sanity becomes part of the checklist. It's completely insane. We are all just sitting around encouraging one another to be able to stay on the wheel. I don't think there's really some other option though. It's just what it is. Still. It's crazy.

I think we're all in this boat. I don't think I'm unique or alone at all. I don't think there's a way to change it. In fact, these days, I don't even feel crazy overwhelmed by anything more than all the opinions I'm finding that I'm doing it wrong. The whole medical nonsense for my son that is always ongoing is of course frustrating, but if I bitch about that it's just to say it out loud, to process, to vent. It's not to look for a change or to drop something else. There's nothing to drop or worth dropping. Shift, maybe, sometimes, but nothing to give up completely and shifting happens in a constant manner.

Oh! Getting back to the overall summary, right. I went on a big tangent...
1) I am busy.
2) My husband is busy.
3) He gets annoyed with my busy and I with his and both of us, at times, with our own.
4) He tells me mean things like, "you're uptight," because he is annoyed with my busy.
5) I internalize this after months of feeling confused because everywhere I look I see, "you're doing it wrong! You should be (check all that apply): serene/patient/gentle/more fit/less tired/prettier/wealthier/craftier/less crazy/better at gardening(cooking, baking, writing, reading, working, talking, friending, managing, arting, gifting, cleaning, concising, projecting, not projecting, spending your time, handling your emotions, raising your children, not raising your voice, um, et cetera), and et cetera et cetera et cetera..."
6) This internalization leads to a large conversation born of self-hate/doubt:
    a) if I accept that I am uptight it is because
    b) I am busy/stressed/overwhelmed because, well, I just am, this is a condition of being in your 30s with children and
    c) the husband is not alleviating this because
    d) he is busy/stressed/overwhelmed and upset that I am busy/stressed/overwhelmed so to alleviate this I must
    e) be less busy/stressed/overwhelmed in consideration of his feelings because
    f) I can only control myself. Except
    g) why am I then the one doing all the controlling of oneself? Why am I the problem-solver? Isn't that just
    h) more to do, leading to more busy/stress/overwhelm? So...
    i) if I accept that controlling oneself is simply more busy/stress/overwhelm,
    j) is there an alternative where there just IS, where one can just be? Perhaps
    k) nothing is good or bad, everything just is.
    l) if I accept that everything just is, it follows that judgment about judging (and many other things) is largely unnecessary and that
    m) I can just let go and be what I am and do what I need to do and just not judge it. Does that mean
    n) that not judging/letting go looks basically the same as where we were to begin with? Which just makes me think
    o) "It's all just a random lottery of meaningless tragedy and a series of near escapes." Great.
    p) Cruelty, manipulation, meaninglessness.

Glad I solved that existential dilemma.

So I ask, is it possible, and more importantly, should it be the goal? "It" meaning just being. Nothing is meaningful or important, or everything is but not as important as I make it out to be. And doesn't it remain true that we still need to talk and think about all this anyway in order to constantly understand that all is well and nothing is fucked, dude?


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I made something approximating a quilt. It took me 8 years.

I originally began it on a whim when I was pregnant with Aleks. I was all, "I'm going to make my baby a quilt!" I decided it was to be a crazy quilt. I can't even sew in a straight line, nor do I have the patience to. I underestimated what a crazy quilt requires. I got an area of about 35 by 33 inches and gave up. Couldn't figure out what to do with it. Added a border very poorly. That may have been a year later.

Several years after that, I got the idea to start adding on, to make it bigger. Thought I'd give it to my grandmother who was in a nursing home after a car accident. Didn't happen. Added squares, didn't know what to do with the crappy border. Gave up some more. It sat around. My grandmother died.

Then I pulled it out again, thought I'd make it for a Christmas present for my mom and step dad. Still didn't know what to do about that non-flat border thing. Added more squares. Got tired. Quit. This happened several years in a row around Christmas. I bought batting and flannel for the backing. Added squares. Got tired. Put it away again.

It was supposed to be king-sized by then. King-sized is really, really big. Then my mother switched around her beds and now she sleeps in a full again. So I figured I could stop where I was and add the backing and batting and quilt it and be done. Well, that's actually a lot of work. It's been on my to-do list for a few years now. Well, like 6, but off and on for different reasons, clearly. So, maybe 1 or 2 as a finish-as-the-size-it-is project.

What spawned me to actually pull it out and try it this time? I needed more family cloth wipes. I had these towels that were falling apart and wanted to add flannel to one side. I didn't want to buy flannel and haven't made it to the thrift store to pick up old flannel pjs, but I knew there was a whole lotta flannel taking up space in my closet. I figured finishing the quilt would give me enough leftover to make toilet paper. For real.

So I finished the quilt in time for the occasion of my mother's 55th birthday yesterday. I pulled it out on Sunday and got the backing all added and everything sewn up. Then finished going back and forth over all the uneven border bits with the machine on Monday. Added leaves to make it look like a vine, or in some way at all intentional. It worked. Then Monday night, I sewed up some more toilet cloths, then finished knitting a baby hat. Then started on another baby hat yesterday after presenting my mother with her quilt. She liked it a lot. It really does sort of look like a quilt too. Even if it is all uneven and weird. I figure it's good enough. I've seen those Gee's Bend quilts and this is no worse than some of them (though certainly no better than many), if not as awesome and folksy.

It's actually on a king-sized bed here, but just goes to the edge, so on a full/queen, will be perfect and larger than store-bought quilts.
Off-center stitching.

Little leaf.

Lots of the fabrics came from things taking up space around my mother's house for the past several decades.

This is my favorite fabric in the bunch - some random scrap my mom had that was busy doing nothing in a box somewhere.
This pretty flannel backing now matches my toilet paper.


The only kind of mom who is recognized as valuable as "just" a mom in our society is one with a book deal.


Crunchy Mama Bragging Rights OR Doing the Green Things I Gotta Do

There is so much talk all over the web, especially on these homeschooling mama blogs that I frequent, about going green this and going green that and trying to be more conscious and more present and whatever else it is. I take an anarchistic approach to all this, with a little stylisitic anarchism thrown in because I'm not entirely into knitting and baking as the root of defining my soul (though I do knit and I do bake).

Well, I've been doing this shit for years. Part of that is that I was born into a family full of lefties who joined that back-to-earth movement (sort of) back in the 70s, so there was plenty of DIY motivation about in childhood. Later on, I became conscious, as my mother did, of more bits here and there of what to do to not destroy the planet, at least by minute little segments. So for more than a decade I've been carrying cloth grocery bags and using rags and cloth napkins and the like. Additionally, we
  • make most of our own cleaning products, purchasing only detergents and soaps and oils
  • grow gardens
  • compost
  • recycle
  • hardly ever flush the toilet
  • try not to randomly set things on fire
  • maintain only one car
  • walk
  • buy local and organic
  • eat vegetables
  • volunteer with a Community Supported Agriculture Group
  • buy used
  • reuse glass and plastic
  • convert old items to new ones
  • use cloth toilet paper
  • cloth diaper (when we diapered)
  • breastfeed (when we breastfed)
  • rely heavily on the library
  • do not ever buy bottled water - we used to use SIGG bottles, but turns out they suck too (and that buying something we don't need to stop doing something we don't need to do doesn't make sense), so now we reuse glass jars
  • make things from scratch
  • develop plans for our organic unicorn farm where we will live happily ever after in a carbon-footprintless environ, free from the worries of modern life. For reals.
My life is perfect. What, yours isn't? And that's all stuff that we do that "saves" the environment. That doesn't even get into the details about how gloriously perfectly crunchy we are. My kids ran around in hand-dyed cloth diapers covered over with hand-knit organic wool longies eating veggies from our garden and drinking kale smoothies. I mean, clearly I win, right?

Not only that, but we do ridiculously crunchy things like homebirth and unschool. We go on hikes in the woods and volunteer together as a family. Lordy, if I were a better blogger, I could win crunchydom real easy. Especially if I had a DSLR, because then I could showcase our wood floors and nature trays and the crafting we do and crap and it would look so beautiful and perfect, which my life is, of course (that whole complaint list notwithstanding). Then all the moms in their houses could ooh and ahh at what an excellent mother I am whilst trying to keep a damper on the creeping feeling that maybe they're not quite as good as me.

Yes, that must be it. I might as well already live on that organic unicorn farm.


To counter all that complaining for no good reason, really - or one really good reason - here is the note I wrote to my husband for Valentine's Day.

I want to summarize the past twelve Valentine's Days or somehow distill a meaning from all those years together, but to arrive at conclusions seems impossible and somewhat naive. There are no possible ways to adjust or exact some grand narrative that would not always inevitably conclude with words that are faulty and imprecise. There are too many paths and processes to parse together, too much tragedy, hope, despair, triumph, and the stoic and altogether mundane soldiering on which occurred and occurs every day in this life together. There are too many words for all of it to grant it adequate meaning. It would be simply too much babbling on. And yet, I suppose, there is something simple and exact enough to suffice: I love you. Always have.


I'm currently reading Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich. Like all books that speak to things I already feel, this book is infiltrating my thoughts. Despite my past dabbling in Treasure Mapping, I really have always hated the idea of the secret laws of attraction, and Bright-Sided is the perfect antidote to that. It is appropriate, then, for it to worm its way inside my head and to encourage hearty "hell yeahs!" and occasional sharing of choice quotations with others. I think too, it may be appropriate to counter a world chock full of the encouragement of faulty thinking with a list of complaints. Thus...

  • I may very soon lose my health insurance and so will my husband. He is making more money this semester and we will no longer qualify for Medicaid.
  • We qualify for Medicaid because he has been in graduate school the last 7-1/2 years, which is incidentally how long our son has been alive, who is incidentally also a reason for which we qualify.
  • My husband's 7-1/2 years in grad school have resulted in something to the tune of $140,000 in debt. I think. That's a guesstimate.
  • He doesn't have a job yet.
  • I spent the months between May 2009 and February 2010 trying to get my son an appointment to get a palatal expander so that he can wear it for 6 months to a year before having it replaced with bone from his hip sewn into the roof of his mouth. He still doesn't have the expander, but has at least had the molds to make it done. Any day now...
  • I think I have a sinus infection.
  • It's hard for me to complain sincerely when I understand my immense privilege in this world.
  • No war is a good war. I can hardly imagine an instance where any war is a just war.
  • The inefficacy of our government is tiresome.
  • I hate cooking. Eating is something that carries great ambivalence for me. I love food. I hate preparing it and am extraordinarily picky, oddly. I cannot bear flavors that are too strong. No stinky cheese, no stinky beers, nothing too spicy. I like salt, sugar, carbs, and kale. I do not gain weight, or rather, mass.
  • It might be obnoxious to give each complaint so much context. They hardly read like complaints.
  • I fully believe that capitalism is derived of patriarchy and that both cause most of the problems in the world. It is unfortunate to recognize this and yet have it be the water I swim in.
  • My children are driving me insane lately. Nearly to violence. I have strong beliefs about kindness and community and collectivity and all things gentle and honoring of both the individual and the group, but lately I want to tear them limb from limb and throw them about. I'm certain this is the fault of February.
  • I loathe February. It is the longest month of the year, even though it isn't. It is agony to be in February, stuck, cold, sick, hating life, hating each other, hating everything, in the darkness, in the gloom, the gray glow of sunlight bouncing off the snow doing nothing for anyone, feeling, inevitably, ill at ease, itchy, aching for a better, brighter, more well-rounded and fantastic life.
  • Somehow, I've been feeling not at all accomplished, not good enough, glaringly imperfect of late.
  • Part of this glaring imperfection is the wanting to tear children limb-from-limb: it causes me great concern, makes me wonder if I am the only one not enjoying this parenting thing enough and if there is something not entirely wrong with me because though I am an unschooler, I seem to be doing very poor with the unschooling, or the exploring of the world, rather. Perhaps this is February and illness and crushing debt and joblessness and the immense privilege of sitting on high examining the problems of the world (and personal life) with a fine toothed intellectual comb, or perhaps I'm just a very bad pessimist and poor facilitator of life.
  • Self-doubt is particularly agonizing in the gray gloom.
  • My right hand, still mostly numb from having severed my median nerve three years ago, feels like a cold dead weight and makes it difficult to type (particularly the "m" key), pick up small objects, not burn myself, and impossible (I believe) to put a clothespin back together once it has come apart.
  • Sebastian is still not pronouncing all sounds correctly and it's making me worried that waiting him out is a stupid approach.
  • Aleks wants more interaction with other children. Sometimes specific children. If this is not fulfilled, it is my fault.
  • I am the only person doing much cleaning in our house these days. I am also the only person that takes the children anywhere ever. I also pay the bills, do the taxes, run all the errands, do most of the cooking, and stock everything we need. I also do the "homeschooling" and am heavily involved/buried in a volunteer gig outside of the home. This is highly irritating, but the only solution given certain circumstances.
  • I feel emotionally exhausted.

  • Thinking positive will do nothing to remedy any of that, except, perhaps, the self-doubt. Any foray into positive thinking to soothe said self-doubt may simply result in deluding or failing to motivate myself. That does not sound like a desirable outcome for my skeptic self.

    There also seems to be an over-riding theme of general ambivalence. There are rationalizations galore available for all of the personal issues (though none at all for the global ones), but it seems impossible to pinpoint actual causes or to project results from a course of action.

    I should also note that despite all the personal complaints, our life is genuinely excellent and complaining in the context of being a white-identified American is without a doubt, whiny and obnoxious. It is also, fortunately or unfortunately, the truth.


    The Art 365 thing ended up being impossible due to scheduling difficulties. Or, rather, photographing the evidence and displaying it is an unwieldy task for me these days. Maybe one day.


    That's me in the middle in black, rehearsing for a stage play for the first time in more than a decade.