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Blogging, Busyness, and Life: Part 1

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“The successful woman has a secret. She’s learned that she owes it to herself, her children, and the world to make the contribution she was born to make. She’s learned to ask for advice and help, to insist on getting paid what she’s worth, and to set boundaries at work and at home so that her needs get met, not trampled. She puts her dreams at the top of her priorities list, not at the bottom. She feels great about being recognized for her accomplishments, and she’s totally OK with the fact that not everyone is going to like her when she stands up to those who would discount her or put her down.” –DEBRA CONDREN, Good Housekeeping, Aug. 2010

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Swoon! I’m in love with my late October roses. They are the most beautiful things ever and I DO, in fact, stop to smell them. Daily, as a matter of fact!

As the season shifts, I’ve recognized a familiar feeling. Oh yeah, this, I’ve had to say…again, it is my annual fall sense of needing something to change, of feeling overextended, overcommitted, and like other people are attempting to use me up or somehow consume me for their own purposes. I start to want to STOP. To take a break from it all. To retreat. I first consciously remember this feeling from November of 2009, the month that my third baby died unexpectedly during my pregnancy. Right before this, I’d been struggling with the feeling of being sped up and overcommitted and like I needed to pull back, but didn’t know how. Then, I experienced the birth-miscarriage of this baby and I did stop for a while. It was a crucible moment, a hinge upon which my life pivoted and changed directions. Though, the direction of the change is actually still in progress, still being birthed, even at this moment, four years later. Interestingly, when late fall rolls around each year, I experience the exact same thing.

When I first noticed the pattern, I wondered if it was an unconscious body memory of this miscarriage legacy, but I’ve come to think it is simply the season, and this is when I start to pay attention and make changes. I also know that this sensation of being “too busy” did not contribute to my miscarriage, as someone did actually once suggest to me, but is simply a regular feature of my Sept-Oct-Nov-Dec life. As I was working on this post, my mom came over to bring the kids back to me and she was also “sped up,” talking about her theater ushering commitments and her Halloween party and people coming over to learn how to make pottery (or another cool thing. My mom is the ultimate master of creative pursuits). And, I said to her as she was talking, “ah ha! I have a noble legacy of doing a lot.” I also remembered one of my realizations following my grandmother’s death earlier this year: one of the things I valued most about her was all the interesting things she did. She was vibrant and active and busy. She was always doing stuff. And, it was cool stuff and she was a cool person and I loved her and learned from her precisely because she was so busy and interesting all the dang time. I come from a long line of busy women with lots of interests…and abilities. Maybe that is just fine. When I attended the GGG this year, one of the realizations I came home with is that sometimes I feel like people are trying to get me to be less (more about this some other time). And, I remembered a session I had with a healer who did a somatic repatterning process with me—one of the beliefs she tested on me was, “I am not enough.” It got a marginal response, but then she tested, “I am TOO MUCH.” And, THAT is the one that tested as true. I wonder how much about myself that I try to change or that I struggle with actually comes from the fear of being, too much. Too intense. Too active. Too talkative. Too much thinking, too much writing, too many ideas, too many projects, too much waving of my hands and pacing when I talk. Too, too, too, too much.

So, I returned to this beautiful quote from Jen Louden in The Life Organizer:

“Would a weight lift off my shoulders if I realized that it’s normal to feel pulled between choices, that it’s normal to want to do more than I have time or energy for, and that it’s normal to have to choose between two equally wonderful things, that it’s actually a sign I’m a fascinating, amazing person?

via The Ongoing Crisis of Abundance | Talk Birth.

And, it said, oh yeah, this. I re-visited some of my past ah-ha moments and past November calls for change:

It is only when we silence the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of the truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts.

~ K.T. Jong (via Kingfish Komment)

Some time around November each year for the last three years, I’ve had a feeling of being “sped up” in my life and a desperate craving of stillness and rest. I begin to feel like pulling inward, “calling my spirit back” and re-integrating fragmented parts. Aside from my family members, I stop feeling like being “of service” to others and their interruptions of my space or requests for my time or attention begin to feel like impositions. I begin to hear the distant call to “retreat.” I crave stillness, rest, and being alone. I fantasize about broad expanses of silent time in which to think and plan and ponder. It then takes me until February to actually act on this urge.

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One of my grandma’s sweet, beautiful antique Shirley Temple dolls–one of her many passions in life.

via Time for a retreat! | Talk Birth.

And, the sense of needing to take a break and or FINALLY figure out how to write short, snappy posts:

I don’t want to totally put my blog on hold, but I do want to, finally, figure out how to write SHORTER posts for the time being and save the involved, insightful posts that I put a lot of thought into for my winter break. I also just really need to give myself permission to be “off” here and direct my attention towards other roles.

via Blog Break Festival! | Talk Birth.

I also found a most excellent reminder about over-blogging perhaps diminishing my “radiance”:

So, once again I’ve found myself staring at The Mountain of Too Much and a familiar a crisis of abundance. This happens routinely. I should be used to it by now! But, I feel this creeping sense of overwhelm and dismay as I look at my calendar, my commitments, and my neverending to-do list. And, as I continue to try to be more and do better and yet always feel as if I’m not enough. I feel myself getting ragged and I don’t like it. I also have a feeling that I’m forgetting the self-care mantra, “the things that matter most should never be at the mercy of the things that matter least.” I keep getting distracted by little bits and bites and losing sight of what I most value. I’m also not taking care of myself—not eating enough, running out of time to exercise, being preoccupied rather than present, always doing the “should dos” instead of the “want tos.” I crave rest. I fantasize about just being able to rest. But, then I discover I’m not sure I know how.

So, I very much appreciated this extremely thought-provoking audio-blog Women in Cyberspace ~ Our Blind Spots – IndigoBacal.com. She makes a lot of important observations about how women use social media, including blogging, and she shared: “What I discovered was that sharing as much of myself as possible, as much of my inspiration as possible [online] was actually diminishing my radiance…”

via Blog Break Festival

And, the sensation of being splintered and pulled:

Sometimes I think I just like and care about TOO MANY things. All of these things splinter my attention in a million ways however, and also leave me with a persistent sensation of, “well, I didn’t get everything done today.” I continue to try to make sure to unsubscribe from email lists and blog subscriptions to cut down on this immediacy sensation that a constant influx of new information and ideas promotes. As I told my husband, “if I

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One of my new projects! Too much?! I think not!

didn’t get that newsletter, or click on that article, or open that email, I would never have known about all those things I could have gotten done today.” Plus, there is always a new batch tomorrow! And, then I get a little depressed thinking why the rush to get things done and to finish? So I can die with a clear to-do list?! Come on!

via The Ongoing Crisis of Abundance | Talk Birth.

And, about maybe needing to quit blogging:

During this time, I abruptly decided this was IT, I HAVE TO STOP BLOGGING. I cried and cried. I don’t want to quit, but, if I can’t do homeschooling properly I certainly don’t deserve to be a blogger. And, then I remembered these quotes about stories and I especially remembered this one:

“As long as women are isolated one from the other, not allowed to offer other women the most personal accounts of their lives, they will not be part of any narratives of their own…women will be staving off destiny and not inviting or inventing or controlling it.” –Carolyn Heilbrun quoted in Sacred Circles

And, also this one:

Telling our stories is one way we become more aware of just what ‘the river’ of our lives is. Listening to ourselves speak, without interruption, correction, or even flattering comments, we may truly hear, perhaps for the first time, some new meaning in a once painful, confusing situation. We may, quite suddenly, see how this even or relationship we are in relates to many others in our past. We may receive a flash of insight, a lesson long unlearned, a glimpse of understanding. And, as the quiet, focused compassion for us pervades the room, perhaps our own hearts open, even slightly, towards ourselves.

–Robin Deen Carnes & Sally Craig in Sacred Circles

via I am a Story Woman | Talk Birth.

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Their season is passing and the cold is having an impact, but they’re still amazing.

However, I also don’t think it is my imagination that the pace of life and the requests/demands for time and attention have increased exponentially in the last couple of years. I don’t know if it is just my own stage of life, or actually the whole of modern society. I feel like it is society (or Facebook?!)—there is a LOT to DO all the time and prioritizing and choosing between those things can actually be a painful process, sometimes resulting in dropped balls, misunderstandings, and the sensation of apathy amongst people, that I don’t think is really true–I think it is more-to-do-keep-track-of-than-is-literally-feasible. I have reach a point in which the time in my life for several of my birth-related committed has passed and probably did so a couple of years ago, but I have continued out of loyalty, friendship, responsibility, obligation, and the fact that I DO still care a LOT, just not as much as I used to. I read an article some time ago (that I cannot manage to relocate) that continuing with work that you really feel finished with is the same as “sleeping with your ex.” Though I’ve never had an actual ex to sleep with, I can appreciate the metaphor and I feel like I DO need to acknowledge the areas in my own work/volunteer life in which I’m “sleeping with my ex,” rather than heading in the directions I feel called to pursue. Birthwork as a whole, with the exception of birth writing and birth art, has become that sleeping-with-my-ex territory for me, but it is SO HARD to let go, especially because the work is connected to important friendships and past experiences and, and, and.

In the last year, I’ve taken on regular (unpaid) blog contributor commitments with multiple other blogs. I’m recognizing that some of these experiences feel rewarding and enriching and some feel more like I’m being “used” to contribute to the project of another person without a lot of gain for myself. I’ve spent a lot of time in the past couple of weeks both pondering how to be less hard on myself as well as about the role of blogging in my life…where does it fit? Is it inhibiting other work I could be doing or contributing to it? How do I make the transition between focuses, or, is it possible to maintain multiple focuses and multiple blog commitments…? This reminded me of an article I read about healthy boundaries, which are really important for those of us who like to be of service to others…

Boundary setting is hands-down the most important lesson we women need to learn: “Healthy boundaries are like having a front door with a lock on it. You have the right to keep out unpleasant visitors.”

Boundary setting was certainly my most important lesson to learn in order to become empowered, because without healthy boundaries I created unhealthy, dysfunctional relationships . . . and I didn’t even realize I was doing it!

As someone who has tended to over-give, over-do, over-protect, even over-try, I have to remind myself when I begin taking on more than I feel comfortable with — whether it be helping a friend, counseling a family member through a rough time, or offering to “pick up the slack” for someone who has “bitten off more than they can chew” – to back up, slow down, and really ask myself:

“Do I want to be doing this?”

“Is this improving my life or exhausting me?”

“Has this started to become a co-dependent relationship with me as the ‘mother / caretaker’ and them as my ‘child / responsibility’?”

By being aware of how I feel (i.e. drained, frustrated, even resentful), I’ve learned how to catch myself from stepping into chaos, drama, and dysfunction much sooner than I used to.

~ Crystal Andrus

Read more: http://www.crystalandrus.com/healthy-boundaries-create-healthy-relationships/

I have some more thoughts and some quotes from blogs to share and I don’t yet feel actually finished with this post, but that’s okay and I will go ahead and continue with Part 2, tomorrow, even though part of me is saying, “no one is even interested in your lengthy mental machinations, why are you going on and on and on in your too muchly manner?!”

And, I’ll leave you with this cool video from an online event I’m attending tonight:

Vacation, Final Phase: Pismo Beach

The last phase of our epic California trip was to relax and enjoy our favorite beach on the Central Coast: Pismo Beach. This is the final post (thank goodness!) in my vacation recap series. The others are as follows:

Vacation, Phase 1: Disneyland and California Adventure

Vacation, Phase 2: Himalaya Tourmaline Mine

Vacation, Phase 3: Legoland

Vacation Phase 4: Mamoorials

Vacation, Phase 5: Moonstone Beach

Vacation, Phase 6: Montana De Oro side trip

 

Pismo is such a familiar setting to us, that I don’t have a lot of narrative to introduce the pictures.

Pismo picture gallery: if a closer view is needed, just click one and then follow through them in slideshow format.

On my cousin’s 21st birthday we went to a steakhouse sort of place called McClintock’s that no one in the group was particularly familiar with. After sitting down, we were horrified to see the cheapest hamburger was $27. And, this was a “family style” dining sort of place, so we ended up spending $50 (for just our own family!) to grab a few greasy onion rings out of other people’s fingers, basically, and for Mark and I to split a mediocre hamburger. Not. Impressed. Luckily, dinner came with dessert—a measly scoop of ice cream or a “dessert liqueur.” Yes, please. I quaffed that Kahlua. The “atmosphere” did not match the prices. If it had been a normally priced hamburger place, perhaps it would have been normal to see cougar paws on the wall and polaroid pictures of various guests, and a gigantic stuffed bison, and waiters pouring water into glasses held on top of people’s heads, but for $27 hamburgers, I would have expected something a little classier (and tastier)! Maybe it was a feature of where I come from? I’m having an epiphany as I type—to ME, from good old mid-America, stuffed bison and greasy onion rings are normal and should be cheap, to coastal dwellers perhaps they are a wild novelty worthy of upscale prices?!?! I remember once being disappointed to go to a Pismo restaurant proudly featuring none other than, “real Kansas City style barbeque!” What the heck? I want clam chowder!

Anyway, I also composed this delightful beach poem:

McClintock’s
House of onion rings
And diarrhea

The next morning my sister-in-law said they had hoped to sneak out before anyone else and scrawl McClintock’s! in huge letters on the sand to greet us on our beach stroll. They didn’t manage to do it, but imagining it was funny enough on its own!

While at Pismo, we also got semi-obsessed with taking silhouette pictures. Some my uncle took with his camera and his more practiced eye. The others we took after he went home and they didn’t turn out quite a clear.

This was quite a trip and a family adventure. It took a lot of stressful planning to pull it off and it also took a lot to keep us going through each phase, but we did it!

We flew out of the small San Luis Obispo airport at 6:00 in the morning. We were right on track getting to our layover in Phoenix and then…after over an hour in the air on the way to St. Louis, the plane began to experience difficulties that made the pilot concerned it was not safe to fly, so we turned around and went back to Phoenix. We could hardly believe it! After we landed, we began to feel lucky, because I overheard some of the flight attendants talking and I think the problems may have been more serious than they’d been letting on. We each got a free lunch voucher and enjoyed a panini and after only a little waiting we got on a new plane and headed to St. Louis, again. We didn’t end up getting home until about 9:00, when we’d expected to be home by 3:00, but we were safe and sound and home. 

It wasn’t until the next morning that we discovered that somewhere between our two trips to Phoenix, the boys had left behind their iPod, the android tablet, and all of our cell phone chargers, headphones, etc. We made a lot of calls and were resigned to being out of luck, when the next afternoon I got a call from Angie, a U. S. Airways baggage department worker in Kansas City who saw my number come up when I Facetime called the ipod trying to locate it. The bag of electronics had been back to Phoenix and then back to St. Louis and then on to Kansas City without the bag being picked up by anyone. So lucky! She FedExed it back to us and the boys had their equipment back in their hands without every fully realizing how lucky they were!

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Vacation, Phase 5: Moonstone Beach

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With my brother and sister midday through our Moonstone Beach adventure

After my grandma’s Mamoorial services, we hit the road in her car heading for the beach. When she was planning the details for her own Celebration of Life luncheon, she had also requested that her three kids and their families meet the beach afterward and spend several days there together having fun. For a while, it looked like the beach part of the request wasn’t going to work out due to scheduling conflicts, but then it did and I’m really grateful, because it is what she asked for. And, we love the beach! I have two natural places on the planet in which I feel most comfortable, at home, and happy with the environment. One is my own woods at my own home—I think that the Missouri Ozarks with its rocks and hills and trees, trees, trees, and incredible, rich biodiversity is truly one of the most beautiful places in the world. I love it. I love living where I live (even though there are lots of bugs and the summers are horrendously humid). The second place is Pismo Beach, CA. Pismo is on California’s Central Coast, so it is pretty cold and not like the beaches you see on TV. There are no people roller blading by wearing bikinis (usually). It is a beach upon which to take foggy early morning walks and to surf wearing wetsuits, not a beach on which to sunbathe or swim. Quite a few years ago, my uncle bought a condo at Pismo that he rents out throughout the year. He was nice enough to reserve it for our families following the Mamoorials. My aunt rented a condo right below it for her family and my mom rented the one next door and stayed there with my sister, my brother, and my sister-in-law. My mom and my aunt stayed behind in Fresno for an extra day after the Mamoorials to take care of some more details at my grandma’s house and so our first day at Pismo was just my own little family, my sister, my brother and his wife, and my uncle and his daughter and son. So, we decided it was the perfect day to take a little detour to Moonstone Beach, another Central Coast beach about one hour away from Pismo. Thankfully, my uncle and cousins volunteered to take care of Lann and Zander, and so the rest of us were able to cram into my grandma’s car and take our side trip.

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There was some wild terrain at this beach! I like this pic my sister-in-law took because it looks like we’re really hiking around (I guess we are!)

This little trip to Moonstone Beach remains one of my high points from our trip. Like our unexpected laidback good fun at Legoland, I learned from this trip that the best experiences often arise from surprises or the unexpected, rather than that which is carefully planned. All we knew about Moonstone Beach was what little I had read online and reports were extremely varied. I read that it was the most beautiful beach in all the world with sunsets to rival Hawaii’s. I read that it was the stinkiest beach in all the world and that you had to flee gagging because it smelled like dumped out portapotties. I read that you could find hundreds of moonstones. I read that you could find no moonstones. I read there was a delightful boardwalk. I read that it was dirty and there was no where to walk. I read that, “it is nice except for all the tar that oozes up everywhere and gets all over.” (??!! My uncle then reported that the word Pismo actually means “tar”!! 😉 ) Interestingly, we discovered this was all true, except we didn’t stay long enough for a sunset. Moonstone Beach stretched for quite a way along the coast and depending on where you stopped, you had different experiences. We saw the tarry areas, we saw the beautiful areas, we saw the boardwalk, we saw the mounds of horridly stinky, putrid seaweed. We saw sections where copious stones sparkled in the sun and sections where there was not a single stone. Apparently other random internet reviewers didn’t bother driving any further than where they first stopped and made their pronouncement!

We followed an intuitive hunch and did not stop at the first turn off that actually said Moonstone Beach, but proceeded further down the highway until we saw an unmarked parking area. And, oh my, it was beautiful. Stones sparkled on the beach like we were at a jewelry store. In addition to moonstone, the Central Coast is also home to California Jade, agate, serpentine, and some other semiprecious stones. We immediately found large hunks of jade and then started to find moonstones. We spent ages sitting/lying on the rocky beach sorting through stones and finding treasures and it was so much fun! The thrill of discovery was huge and we felt like we’d really figured out something special 🙂

Later, at Pismo Beach, we found a small section of beach with some really lovely agates, and I already collected a bunch of plain beach stones in Carlsbad. So, we had to sort through a lot of rocks when it was time to go home—it is so wise to travel 2000 miles from home and bring back a bunch of…rocks. We ended up Priority mailing two boxes of rocks home to ourselves, actually. As we sorted through them the day before leaving, I composed some joke beach poetry:

Time to sort rocks
Cast off the non-shiny
Previously gathered
In a fit of mistaken beauty…

Picture gallery! If you wish to see bigger versions, just click one and then proceed through the rest as a slide show.

Vacation Phase 4: Mamoorials

Today is my grandma’s birthday and so it seems fitting that I’ve coincidentally reached the point in my vacation recap of writing about her memorial services. We called my grandma Mamoo and so I refer to her committal and Celebration of Life events as her Mamoorials and these were the real reason we went to California in the first place. When I tell people that my grandma died, I’ve noticed two common responses: “How old was she?” and “Were you close?” It is as if people are evaluating how “sorry” to be or much condolences to offer, with the older the person, the more appropriate the loss, or something like that. Anyway, she would have been 84 today. She has a beautifully long and vibrant life that was full of activity and experiences right up until the end. However, I had great-grandmas of my own until my late teen years and I fully and completely expected my kids to have the same experience. I heard from my mom that my grandma’s life insurance company still had her life expectancy at 15 more years, so forget the “how old” question and believe me when I say that her death came as an unexpected shock, even if it was in the “right” generational order and even though she was “old enough” that it doesn’t count as tragic. Since we always lived far away from each other and thus often went six months without seeing her, it is easy to forget that she’s gone and not at her home in California volunteering at the zoo and working in her sewing room. There is a definite sense of her life being “cut short,” regardless of her actual age. When we were at the beach following her Mamoorials, Zander found a whole tiny crab. He saved it and took it back to the condo saying as we walked, “I’m saving this for Mamoo! She’s going to love it!” (She did the children’s program at the zoo and she often carted strange artifacts of the natural world back to California from her visits to Missouri, including a whole donkey skull, but also things like a turtle shell and a hummingbird’s nest, and a whole well-preserved stag beetle. My dad often saved weird, dead things for her and she was always happy to receive them and add to the zoo’s demo collection.)

When I left off my vacation recapping last we had finished a fab stint at Legoland and were still in Carlsbad, California, which is about a six hour drive from Fresno, where my grandma lived. We opted, perhaps bizarrely perhaps geniusly, to fly to Fresno from San Diego, rather than making a long car trip. Tickets were only $60 each between the two and it seemed worth it to us. However, in my frenzy before leaving, I neglected to notice the difference between AM and PM on the tickets and accidentally booked a 10:00 PM flight to Fresno. After some intense lamenting that actually involved flinging myself on the bed and sobbing hysterically and then yelling about my own stupidity and what kind of IDIOT does that?!?! Someone who is too busy and MUST QUIT EVERYTHING AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, I decided to then, again perhaps bizarrely and perhaps geniusly, to buy new plane tickets for the correct AM flight, thus completely wasting $300, but restoring the “rightful” order of my plans. I tried to never think about it again, though as we enjoyed pizza with our extended family that evening in Fresno and rehearsed for the Mamoorial, I wondered if they were paging us for our PM flight back in San Diego…(why not switch tickets you ask, because there was a $200 penalty per ticket for doing so? I may not be a genius, but I can do enough math to realize that paying $200 to change a $60 ticket is not a realistic option).

The San Diego flight was awesome and easy and we got to Fresno right at 11:00 (a.m. 😉 ) and my dad picked us up at the airport in my grandma’s car. I knew as we started to descend into the Fresno airport and saw those so familiar flat, flat, flat squares of irrigated desert farmland, but without my grandma waiting there to meet us for the first time in my entire life, that I had significantly underestimated how difficult this was going to be. Getting into her familiar boat of a car that smelled like her and that had her sunglasses under the seat and her water bottle in the console with her name tidily written on it with Sharpie was hideous. Pulling into her little condo was even worse, but going inside was the worsest. My aunt and mom and sister were already there and had been there since the night before and they had a sort of rhythm and plan going on with sorting through my grandma’s things. The “bandaid had already been ripped off” in their case, as my aunt put it. I, however, was a complete mess. I could NOT believe how awful it was to be there and see her home without her in it. Again, there was that sense of her life cut short—her mousepad by the computer, her zoo jacket hanging on the door, her calendar on the wall with her writing on it, her exercise video in the VCR. So familiar and so over. I cried and cried and felt sort of stupid and also “drama queenish,” because everyone else was so busy and methodical and I felt like I was all like, “but look at me, I’m totally sad!” My aunt sat with me and then suggested I go ahead and keep ripping the bandaid by advance-watching the memorial slideshow for the Celebration of Life luncheon the next day. This was a spectacularly good idea and really helped. Her house was so full of things familiar to me from my childhood and it was also remarkably and beautifully full of us, pictures of my kids all over, things I made for her on walls and shelves. It was a mirror experience of what I already observed at my own home on the day that she died:

…it is amazing to think about all the ways her presence is woven through my days even though she lives 2000 miles away–the sweater I put on every morning is one she knit for me, her quilts are on my kids’ bedroom walls and on all our beds, magazine subscriptions she gifts us with are in the car and bathroom…we’re connected in many ways and I don’t know what life will look like without her in it.

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Dinner with cousins/siblings.

via Goodbye | Talk Birth.

After losing it with all the pictures and memories, I then sort of helped my mom, sister, aunt, and sister-in-law go through my grandma’s things. Later we checked into our hotel and Mark took the kids down to the pool while I rehearsed for my Mamoorial speeches/service. I cried and cried as I practiced my speech until my eyes were horribly puffy and I looked awful. “At least I’m getting this out before tomorrow!” I thought optimistically. I texted my mom that my plan for the next day was “teary-eyed and with a tasteful catch in my voice” rather than the wreck I was today. We had a family dinner that night at a cousin’s house and while there, I enlisted my cousins in a plan for a grandchild responsive reading of a version of “Song of the Open Road” at the first Mamoorial. We actually had a really fun time laughing and rehearsing our poem.

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At least the kids hitched a ride on a luggage cart.

We stayed a horrible hotel with the worst breakfast in the history of hotel breakfasts. We so missed our beloved Drury Inns on this trip!

We headed over to the Chapel of the Light where Mamoo’s ashes were to be placed in the above-ground chamber in which my grandpa is interred. I was asked to officiate at a brief committal service before we placed the ashes and this ceremony was attended by only close relatives. After my grandpa died in 1989, my grandma remarried so my step-grandfather and most of his children and their children were there. Mamoo always kept our families kind of separate, even though she was married for more than 20 years to this “new” husband. It was easy for me to forget that she had another life with a whole set of other local grandchildren that I didn’t have a lot of contact with, but for whom she was the only grandmother, the only Mamoo, they’d ever known too. I quickly enlisted the aid of these grandchildren as well for my Song of the Open Road plan. The service I planned went well, but the grandchildren piece was the highlight, in my opinion. I’m not sure if other people specifically liked it, but it was so important to me that each grandchild’s voice be represented during the ceremony. While I don’t know that she liked Walt Whitman at all, my grandma was a traveler and so this poem felt absolutely perfect to me. My grandpa loved his boat and they used to go on boat trips together as well and so the section about taking to the seas, to me, felt like this perfect tie-in to our return of the remains of her body to his:

Song of the Open Road (responsive)

(modified from Walt Whitman)

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Riding an elephant in Africa

Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road
Healthy, free, the world before me.

Henceforth, I ask not good fortune—
I myself am good-forturne
Strong and content
I travel the open road.

I inhale great draughts of space;
the east and the west are mine,
and the north and the south are mine.

All seems beautiful to me;
I can repeat over to men and women,
You have done such good to me,
I would do the same to you.

Lyla

Ready to hit the road!

Whoever you are, come travel with me!
However sweet these laid-up stores—
however convenient this dwelling,
we cannot remain here;

However sheltered this port,
And however calm these waters,
We must not anchor here;

Together! The inducements shall be greater;
We will sail pathless and wild seas;

We will go where winds blow,
Waves dash, and the Yankee clipper
Speeds by under full sail.

Forward! After the great companions!
And to belong to them!
They too are on the road!

Onward! To that which is endless,
As it was beginningless,
To undergo much, journeys of days,
Rests of nights,

To look up or down no road

As I made Mamoo's name, I thought about how I hadn't had any "signs" from her. Then, in the middle of that thought, I looked down and right by the "M" in her name was this rock. I held it all through the memorial service I did at the internment of her ashes and all through my speech at her Celebration of Life luncheon.

I held this stone all through the memorial service I did at the internment of her ashes and all through my speech at her Celebration of Life luncheon.

But it stretches and waits for you—

To know the universe itself as a road—
As many roads—
As roads for traveling souls…

It was a lot of pressure to be responsible for this ceremony. I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted it to be what she deserved. I wanted it to “speak” to every person there. I wanted it to be worthy of her. I hope it was enough.

Before she died, Mamoo got some details l all planned out with my aunt. She wanted a specific banquet center for a celebration of life lunch with chicken salad, no traditional funeral. She wanted the theme music from Out of Africa played and she wanted chocolate chip ice cream bon bons (which was the only thing that couldn’t be worked out–we had chocolate chip cookies instead and the rest was just like she asked for). After the committal service, we went to Tornino’s banquet center for the Celebration of Life. People came and came and came. We exceeded the capacity of the banquet room and emergency additional food had to be prepared. She didn’t want a “funeral service” type of feeling and it wasn’t. The slideshow played, the theme music from Out of Africa played, we ate chicken salad and visited with distant relatives and friends. My aunt spoke briefly and explained the planning of the event. She did a beautiful job honoring my grandma’s wishes and planning an special, lovely lunch in her honor. My grandma’s stepson read a poem written by my step-grandpa about “My Lyla, My Lyla.” It was heart-rending and I suddenly realized I might have made a huge mistake in saying I’d be the last speaker. My grandma’s stepdaughter spoke. My uncle spoke. And, then it was my turn. I was speaking on behalf of all the grandkids, each had sent me a favorite Mamoo memory to share. Remember my plan for the tasteful, teary-eyes? Yeah, that. Instead, I failed to even see the handy Kleenex on the podium and instead wiped my nose with my hand while I was talking. There were 260 people there, which is a much larger group than I’ve spoken before in the past. I didn’t feel nervous really, but I did feel sad and I cried much more than I’d wanted to or expected to. People afterward told me they’d never experienced anything like what I’d said at a memorial before and they hoped someone would do the same for them someday. I apparently talked really fast, but that is not a big surprise. It was hard, but I did it.

For the story from my boys for the speech, they had this to say: Mamoo was really epic.

And, she was.

For my own memory contribution I shared that I picture her in a little jacket and jaunty scarf and zoo necklace and her ball ring, with slightly bent knees and open arms ready for a hug of greeting and she’d smile in that welcoming way. We got too big to be greeted in that way, but I saw her do it again with my own kids. And, I shared what I wrote in my last card to her:

I’ve always been proud of you—your smart, creative, adeventuresome self. Best. Grandma. Ever. You’ve been a beautiful example to us of how to live, both in the practical sense in terms of being frugal and in the more esoteric sense of how to be of service to the community, to take risks, to be productive, and to age gracefully and with a neverending zest for new experiences. We’re grateful to you also for her generosity over the years, particularly for the gift of my college education and the debt-free legacy that left for us and our children. I don’t know that I can ever explain in full what a potent gift that was—one that lasts our lifetime.


I closed with a slightly edited version of a poem I originally shared here:

Last Words

We learned from you
we loved with you
we heard you
we saw you
we hugged you
and held you
we mourned with you July 2013 035
we mourned for you
we have been dazzled by your radiance
inspired by your adventures
and touched by your generosity.

Three generations of people
sat in your lap as children
were covered by your quilts
and zipped into your sweaters
you carried each of us on your hip
and held us each in your heart

We respect you
we cherish you
we appreciate you
we’ve learned so much from you
we’ve laughed with you
and lived with you
and traveled with you

and now
we open up our hands
we open up our hearts July 2013 036
and we let you go.
Be free.
Continue your travels
on the currents of time and space…

Go in peace
go in love
and go knowing that you have left behind
something beautiful
something marvelous
something that matters
The fabric of a life well-lived
the hearth of a family well-tended
the heart of a community strengthened
and a never-ending chain of generations
unbroken.

You’re our Mamoo

June 3, 1979

You’re our grandmother
and we say goodbye
and thank you.

Sink deeply
and gently
into the arms and lap
of time
the great mother of us all

She holds you now.
We let go

Then, we left the Mamoorial and headed out for the beach, a little over three-hour drive. We drove her car…

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When we got home from California, the Mamoorial blue hydrangea we’d planted was blooming beautifully!

One of my earliest memories of Mamoo is of sitting on her lap and playing with a gold ball ring on her finger. I don’t know the story behind that ring, I feel as if I should, but from the time I was a tiny girl she always wore it when she visited her grandchildren and we all liked to play with it. I imagine it was a coincidence that she wore it around a grandchild in the first place, but then it became a thing that she did and that all of us associated with her. When my aunt and mom were going through her jewelry they asked if there was something I wanted and I asked for the ring. Later, my two sisters both mentioned it as well and I feel guilty or selfish for being the one to get it. At this point, I can’t wear it. It makes me feel awful to see it on my own hand. Its hers. It belongs on her hand. The whole reason I wanted it was because it was something that reminds me very concretely of her, but that is the exact same reason that I can’t wear it right now. I hope my own grandchildren will play with it though when I wear it to meet them. It fits on the same finger on my hand that it fit on hers.

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They also gave me her Hitty doll. Hitty: Her First Hundred Years is a classic children’s novel by Rachel Field. It was published in 1929 and wasJune 2013 005 one of my grandma’s favorite books. Hitty is a small ashwood doll who travels the world. In 1997, my grandma bought her own Hitty replica and did, in fact, take Hitty with her on some travels as her travel doll. My dad made replicas of Hitty’s key furniture pieces for my grandma and they were all set up as a display in her house, along with a tiny wooden peg person Hitty I’d made for my grandma, but completely forgotten about. I sat the ball ring on a Hitty’s lap for a while and then ended up putting it into a little shadow box with her on the replica of Hitty’s bench that my dad made for my grandma and a set of my grandma’s Dionne Quintuplet dolls. Those who know me in real life may puzzle somewhat over my extensive and non-frugal American Girl doll collection, but I come by this doll thing genetically, I swear. It is in my blood! I remember the Dionne Quintuplet dolls from when I was a little girl. They were my grandma’s when she was a girl herself and she was fascinated by the story of the Quints.

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Last month, I took the ring to the woods and wrote a sort of “poem” about it, excerpted below. After doing so, I became obsessed with finding a picture of her wearing the ring, because suddenly I worried that I’d imagined or exaggerated that she always wore it to see us. Indeed, I don’t know if she ever wore at other times, but around the grandchildren, it was a fixture. And, I did readily locate pictures from her eightieth birthday party in which you can see the ring on her hand where it belongs and pictures from when I was younger and pictures from when she came to meet Alaina.

…Ball ring
has been a lot of places
told a lot of stories
seen a lot of things
and it is still here
a reminder
of what has gone before.

Thank you.

(6/6/13)

Bill's Beach Pix 03620130715-140057.jpgSANYO DIGITAL CAMERAI had to include this picture even though I, personally, look like a mutant, because Mamoo is so cute in it!

0070She passed along her smile to my whole family! 🙂

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Baby

This is the kind of picture that really twists my heart, because she looks like Alaina in it and the world spins so fast…

Happy birthday, Mamoo! My mom sent me a text to tell me that your birthday club friends went out to lunch for your birthday. They’ve been going out to lunch on birthdays for 50 years.

And, today the investment statements came from the college funds you set up for my kids. Thank you.

Vacation, Phase 3: Legoland

I apologize to any new followers who are wondering where the birth stuff is on this birth blog anyway! I’m on a roll with my vacation recap posts, so bear with me as I finish my series, then I’ll get back to business 🙂

After the tourmaline mine, we checked into our new hotel, The Carlsbad by the Sea Resort, and left behind our beloved Ramada Carlsbad (lamented over for every day we spent in a hotel after that!). We went to the beach and out to dinner with Mark’s best childhood friend and his wife who coincidentally now live not that far away from where we were in CA. The next morning, we hopped up for phase three of our journey, two days at Legoland. We started out the day feeling like we’d made a pretty grievous error in thinking it was remotely sensible to go to two different theme parks back-to-back (three if you count California Adventure as separate from Disneyland–you do have to pay more for it and go through a totally separate gate to get in, have your ticket scanned again, etc.), with only a single day’s break doing hard manual labor digging through rocks in the hot sun in between the big park adventures. We were all super tired, the kids said they would rather just go to the beach, and it was Memorial Day. Actual bleeping Memorial Day and there we were headed off to join the masses of other yahoos getting spun around in the sun. I was also worried that Legoland’s rides/atmosphere would not measure up to Disney’s and with only a day’s separation, the contrast would be just too clear. We ended up leaving the hotel a little later than I wanted and got to the park only fifteen minutes early. I fretted all the way over about the “crowds” and we cooked up a plan to leave and go to the attached SeaLife Aquarium as soon as it got too crowded at Legoland, then return to do the rest of the park the following day when we anticipated it would be less crowded. We decided to pay to park there, so that we could go back to our car to feast upon peanut butter sandwiches rather than expensive park food. Imagine our surprise to pull into a nearly empty parking lot…then walk right through the entrance gate and straight up to stand right by the rope closing off the attractions until the opening moment. Turns out that Memorial Day at Legoland was the best. It was practically empty all day and was basically perfect.

Since I didn’t have a lot of foreknowledge or expectation of what the park would be like, I just enjoyed it a lot. Very Zen of me, but this loosening of any attachment to outcome or experience, really freed us up to just enjoy what is. Legoland was one of the highlights of our whole trip for me because we actually felt laid back and relaxed there and it was so unexpected. Alaina was big enough to go on just about every ride and we were flexible about stopping to play on “little” stuff we would have breezed right by at Disneyland. I’d read a tip online not to go to Legoland for the rides, but to go for the experience. The post I read said that if you went for the rides you’d be disappointed, but if you went to watch your kids have a good time and to enjoy the full experience of just being at Legoland, you’d have a blast and we did. We sat in the Duplo Village and let the kids build with huge Legos and climb into big Duplo playhouses, we actually went to The Big Store and to the Minifigure Market and let them buy (surprisingly affordable) souvenirs. We never shopped at all at Disneyland, too much GO! Keep MOVING! Oh, and remember my “get your money’s worth” obsession? Legoland is practically free compared to Disneyland too. And, we actually found on clearance cool stuff at one of the shops that we bought for people for Christmas—cheap, significantly discounted, things that people will actually want (can’t say what in case they read my post!). When I think about Disneyland, I remember how hard we pushed and how we “triumphed” and enjoyed pretty spectacular highlights like working the single-rider line at Radiator Springs Racers. I felt really successful about getting the max we could out of Disneyland for our dollars spent. And, almost all of the rides there truly amazing events and not mere “rides.”

When I think about Leogland, I remember things like watching the kids play in the water park area and pushing Alaina on the swing and watching her “drive” the blue Lego car she was obsessed with and of all of us sliding down the big slides of Dune Raiders in sacks as a family and riding up to the top of the Beetle Bounce all together and feeling our stomachs wooosh as we rode back down, of sharing tasty Granny Apple Fries without feeling like we were “missing” something or “wasting time,” of my boys’ faces as they ran through the Aquarium exclaiming in amazement at everything they saw as well as their sheer delight at touching real sea cucumbers and sea stars. I remember Alaina lifting her arms above her head and screaming as we zoomed around the Coastersaurus together and of Mark shoving another mom and kid’s little Lego boat around as we crept around the little Lego boat school riverway at a total snail’s pace, but with our kids really driving their own Lego boats. We did almost nothing at Disneyland that involved all of being able to go together as a family, since we had to keep switching off with one adult going on the little rides with Alaina and one boy, while the other maximized the efficiency of going on a big ride with the other boy. Legoland is built for kids in the 3-12 range, basically. It was all families with kids at about those ages—we saw no teenagers in the whole place, it was like an entire demographic was missing. Lann, at almost ten, was almost “too old” for a lot of it (but he wasn’t and he never said anything like that). Alaina, at two, was “just right” for almost everything and probably had the most fun of us all. My expectations of Legoland were lower, but the experience was actually richer in many ways. I loved it! Of course, I loved Disney too and it was a trip to remember, but there is something to be said for just having fun with your family. Duh.

As far as the rides, think kind of like basic carnival type stuff, no show-stoppers or big thrills. The very “biggest” rides at Legoland are about as good as the rides at Disneyland like Gadget’s Go Coaster and Goofy’s Sky School and most of them were much tamer and not as good as things like Alice and Little Mermaid. And, they’ve got no clue how to do ambiance like Disney does. It is really a park for pretty young people, which is fine, because that’s what we’ve got! Many of the rides were very sloooooow paced, but having the whole family be able to ride them together was pretty priceless. And, my boys never complained about anything being too slow. I will always remember the thrill of shared discovery of going together to somewhere that none of us had ever been and didn’t know what to expect and of the sense of the “bonus” surprise of having a practically empty park to ourselves to enjoy. It put us on the same playing field in a sense, in which we could all discover and experience things together for the first time, rather than having the parents already know everything about Disneyland.

Oh, they had big signs all over about NO OUTSIDE FOOD OR WATER, so we dutifully left ours in the car and went back out at lunchtime (which was a genius plan, btw), but everyone and their brother brought water in…we saw them…and no one ever said anything to stop them.

The second day was surprisingly much more crowded than actual Memorial Day—there were lots of school buses there for end-of-the-year trips. So, after enjoying some of the things we missed the day before, we headed to the Sealife Aquarium, which was another unexpected sleeper hit. It is structured oddly in that they only let you in as a group and you have to wait for group to go in with. And, once inside, you process sequentially through without any real opportunity for backtracking to see anything you’d like to see again. It had a very one-way-street feel and you just kept going until you came out at the food court at the end. Alaina desperately wanted to go back to see tiny turtles, but there was no real way to do that without being re-admitted. Anyway, at the Aquarium is where we finally saw the looks of joy and delight and excitement on Lann and Zander’s faces that we’d expected to see at Disneyland. They had so much fun and acted like it was the greatest place they’d ever been.

Interestingly, I note that I have way more pictures of our Legoland expedition as well, because I actually was moving slowly enough to pay attention and enjoy what was around me! As always, click on any picture to enlarge and then scroll through slide-show style to see bigger images and captions.

Legoland closed at around 5:00, so we actually had plenty of time to go back to enjoy the beach!

Tuesday Tidbits: Vacation!

When this post publishes, we’ll be in an airplane on our way home from our vacation to California. Our first purpose in going was for my grandma’s memorial services, but we decided to make a full-scale trip out of it. We went to Disneyland, to Legoland, and to go tourmaline mining. We went to Fresno for my grandma’s committal, which I planned and facilitated, and for her Celebration of Life luncheon, which was beautifully planned by my aunt and had an excellent and touching turn out (260 people when we only planned for 200). Then, we ended with four days at Pismo Beach where my uncle has a condo. Everything went well overall and I will post some trip picture albums soon. For my Tuesday Tidbits this week though, I’m just offering a couple quick shots:

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Lann ended up going on Space Mountain three times! I like this picture because the strangers behind us look so casual and like they should be on an ad for Disneyland.

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Playing at the beach in Carlsbad.

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Waiting for the gate to open at Legoland! We went on Memorial Day, which I was dreading, and it was shockingly deserted!

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Couldn’t resist a pic with Lego Indy because he’s holding a birth goddess! The classic golden “idol” from Raiders is really an Aztec birth goddess figure—for some reason in the big Lego version, there is no baby emerging though. 😦

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Alaina loved the “tea party ride.”

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Had to have one of these iconic pix, taken by friendly passerby!

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Lego Darth Vader!

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We were dragging by the time we got to Miniland and to Star Wars land, but these guys were so cool!

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 The crew getting ready to catch some waves. My brother and sister-in-law, plus my uncle and cousins and Mark. (I love Zander in this picture!)
 

My uncle showed us how to take silhouette pictures at sunset at Pismo and I love how they turned out. 972019_10151924432264256_2006971388_n 931168_10151924432394256_435101882_n

Okay, so that was more pictures than I originally thought!

I’ve heard my grandma’s blue hydrangea is blooming at home and I miss my woods and my own house! Homeward bound…

Birthdays! (and lots of other stuff)

My birthday was at the beginning of this month. I uploaded some pictures and was going to just post a quick post, but then some days passed and then some more days. I added some more pictures and thought of more things to write and it has just been languishing in my drafts folder. Things keep happening and so I think I’ll add a couple more pictures before I post, blah, blah, blah. I almost deleted the whole thing since now May is practically over and my bday was weeks ago, but since I bothering uploading the pix, I’m just going to post it!

May is a busy month for us. It is my birthday and then Mother’s Day and then my mom’s birthday and my dad’s birthday and Zander’s birthday. We also have a whole group of our work party friends who have May birthdays (and playgroup friends too!). May 12th was the 18th anniversary of my first date with my husband. May 16th was the fifteenth anniversary of my college graduation. I feel like I’m getting old! And, it is weird to think about how close that college student girl feels and also how very far away she feels. My parents both turned 60—I had a surprise party/healing ritual for my mom as part of our spring women’s retreat as well as a ceremony for our 12-year-old work party friend whose birthday was the same day. On Mother’s Day, we had a family memorial ceremony for my grandma. In the middle of all these celebrations, I’ve been wrapping up the school session (including grading almost 100 papers…split up in two batches of almost 50), preparing for the summer school session, plotting with Mark about him quitting his job, trying to help motherbabies breastfeed happily, trying to stick with some kind of homeschool “schedule” for my kids (using the term extremely loosely). Oh yeah, and my tiny little sweet daughter also had major dental work under general anesthesia last Tuesday. One of my Facebook friends pointed out that no wonder I’ve been feeling taxed. Yeah, duh. I don’t know why I can’t extend myself that grace. Instead, I’ve been berating myself at various intervals about my “inability” to handle it all. I’ve also been planning our big trip to California. $2300 later and WAY too many hours thinking, checking, and strategizing, I ended up with five plane tickets and we’re going. We decided to to go ahead and make a full vacation out of it—Disneyland, tourmaline mining, Legoland, and Pismo Beach! My grandma’s committal service (which I am planning and facilitating) and her celebration of life luncheon is in Fresno in the middle of our trip.

This week as I tried to finish those last bleeping papers, I found out that I’d made a mistake with our plane tickets—having a p.m. flight from San Diego to Fresno rather than the a.m. flight I thought we had. I almost lost it. Flipped out. I’m serious. I felt like I had officially exceeded my actual ability to cope and that I may possibly break down in some way. More. Than. Humanly. Possible. To. Handle. As it was, we made the semi-bizarre choice to just buy some new tickets that restored the “rightful” a.m. flight schedule. These middle-of-the-journey tickets were only $68 each and we decided it was really a fairly trivial amount and we should just do it. We’re taking our family of five to CA with carry-on luggage only and we’re packing like a boss! Seriously, we’re rocking this thing.

Oh, and just this afternoon I also finished my twelfth class for my D.Min degree. I’ve got about 14 left, plus my dissertation. I have three in progress and signed up for two more to start during the summer session. How do I do it?!?!? Heck if I know. 😉 Maybe it is time to feel impressed at my own capacities again rather than mad at myself for not getting more done, for being “behind,” for staying up too late, for taking too long to return phone calls, for leaving some emails unanswered and books unreviewed, for being sometimes short-tempered, for screwing up a.m. and p.m., for not getting around to the blog posts I’d hoped to write, for not keeping up with requests for new sculptures, for not having a birthday surprise of some kind for my dad too, and for never feeling “finished” enough to rest.

Here is what I originally swiped from my Facebook to share about my birthday:

Uh oh. I spent the first 8 minutes of my 35th year still working on these dang bibliographies. This has been my worst/least productive grading stint yet (the CA trip planning/purchasing ate up my usual “free” day). I’m determined to have a FREE day tomorrow (okay, technically, today, but it doesn’t count until I go to bed!)–I’m going to wallow around in books and listen to guided meditations (you know, with the three kids climbing on me!) and plan rituals and celebrations and not do anything I don’t feel like doing 🙂

It is SO flipping hard to focus on grading these bibliographies when my brain is turning over Disneyland plans, hotel reservations, car rental, and also finding just the *right* stuff for my grandma’s memorial service. The good news is that I have some really rocking students this session and they make some of the grading easy!

Later update:

Thirty-four years ago I was born! As my birthday present to myself, I DID manage to finish grading the last bibliographies and I’m taking the day off to hang around and wallow in books. I think I might do a tech-off day (or, at least, a class-off day!) Oh, and I bought two tiny little Japanese dolls for myself at Goodwill too. I do birthdays right!

When I wake up and hear rainfall on my birthday I always feel like the planet is wishing me a happy birthday too (there was a heavy rainstorm the day I was born). Alaina told me I should have a cake with “nonnie babies” on it. On my actual birthday, my mom took me to a tea room in a neighboring town for a birthday lunch and then I came home with three kinds of tea and the kids and I had a tea party! (in many ways an excuse to eat sugar cubes and this involves sort of obsessive negotiation over them rather than just enjoying ourselves!) I asked the boys if they would play with Alaina so I could have an easier time getting ready to go. After about ten minutes, Lann said, “whew, she’s pretty much like an energy tick.” I rolled! I love having a nine-year-old and a toddler. So much different and easier than having a toddler and a preschooler was.

Okay, so here is a gallery of the pictures I meant to post on several occasions, plus some more I just added in today: