Seriously, How Do They Do It

Let me just tell you right now, folks. You families who work, have your kids in activities, volunteer, go to church, stay fit and healthy and keep up with your friends and families, I have no idea how you do it. Really. Do you have a personal assistant? Do you have bologna sandwiches for dinner every night? Secret robot clones?

If I were to map out how well I feel like I fill each of those roles, it would look like this (percentages reflect how well I'm doing compared to how well I wish I was doing):

Work: 73% (writing isn't getting the attention I wish it was; I'm having issues with procrastination, like right now)
Kids activities: 90% (they do plenty, but I feel like I'm a little low on the playdate scale)
Volunteer: 50% (I'm pretty active at the school, but I wish I was more active in my neighborhood and with at-risk youth)
Go to church: 5% (I'm eyeing the Unitarian church but haven't gone yet; I still get 5% for teaching the kids meditation and prayer and having conversations about God)
Stay fit: 10% (I still eat pretty healthy, but I'm not excercising at all right now except for the playing with the kids and Sunday family hike with the dog)
Keep up with friends: 20% (I don't even have time to keep up on FB; I'm not sure why I've given myself even 20% here)

When I pick up the kids at school I see other parents who have kids as young as mine, maybe one or two more than I have, and I know their kids are great and happy, I've seen them doing the heavy-lifting sort of volunteering around the school, I know they go to church, have careers, and active social lives to boot.

My hat's off to you if you're one of these people. You are a force of nature.


Drawing the Line

Tonight I was trying to get the kids to bed a little early because the boy child had us up at 5:30 this morning with an upset stomach and ended up staying home from school. He threw up once around noon, then felt much better. But still, a little extra rest seemed a good idea. So I got baths done fast, he was helpful as far as getting himself dried off, changed into pajamas, and teeth brushed. He's 6.5, he's coming along with the self-care. Yay, boy child! I read them The Velvetten Rabbit, then told him to be in his bed with his head on his pillow by the time I was done tucking in his little sister. This is our routine. He knows he has about a minute.

I got to his room and he was out of bed nuzzling the dog instead. Okay, I said, get into bed. But I want a hug and a kiss, he said. You weren't in bed like you were supposed to be, said I.

After which followed the most god-awful fit he's thrown in a long, long time. He screamed that it wasn't fair, yelled at me trying to negotiate, that it was just this one time. He even offered to pay me to give him his hug and kiss goodnight. That really floored me. I told him it wasn't fair for him to expect to get what he wants when he doesn't do his part and do what he's supposed to. I told him that I loved him very much, and because I loved him I wanted him to learn that his choices had consequences (something we're working on). I walked away to do the dishes while the crying and arguing continued. After ten minutes of loud carrying on I yelled from the kitchen that was ENOUGH. He had really worked himself up into a lather. At one point I was concerned he was going to throw up again and had to take him to the toilet in case. I had to tell him to breathe, to settle himself down. It was awful.

Part of me is observing, saying "Egads, woman, are you really taking a stand over this?" And then the other part of me is saying, he chose to do something other than what he was supposed to do, and there's a consequence. And better he learn that now, over the relatively small matter of getting his hug and kiss at bedtime, than later over the larger matter of, say, getting into the car of a friend who's been drinking.

But CHEESE AND SPRINKLES what a FIT! He hasn't had one of those in a very, very long time. It's been a couple of hours now, and I've mostly recovered, but it was bad. When he was finally calm and settled, I did walk in and asked him what he learned tonight, and he gave all the right answers, including about how wrong throwing that kind of a fit was (the epic fit lost him a favorite video game for a week). Then I gave him a brief hug and kiss and told him to go to bed. I hope that wasn't wrong. It felt like it would be okay then. I just couldn't do it while the fit was raging and inadvertently reward his out of control reaction.

I don't know if I'm drawing the line in the right place at the right time for the right "size" infraction. I picture the boy child twenty years from now in a support group for survivors of childhood trauma saying, my mom didn't give me a hug and a kiss at night if I wasn't in bed with my head on the pillow. Then I think, if that's the worst he could come up with at a meeting like that, then we're doing okay.

Deep breath. This pareting thing is so hard. It kicks my ass every day and then serves it back to me with a sassy gleam in its eye, reminding me how little I know, how inadequate I am for this job, that I volunteered for this, that I will keep showing up every moment no matter what because I love those kids more than heaven, more than my body can contain, more than I can hold without cracking sometimes. And because I never understood how my parents loved me until I became a parent, I also know that they won't understand how much they are loved either, until they step onto this path themselves one day.


Goodbye, Garden

We are experiencing the worst drought in recorded history. It's official.

I've stopped watering anything except for the small flat of strawberries, which gets one gallon each day. The tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, okra, cantaloupe, beans, leeks, peppers - they were just hanging on in the heat, working too hard to stay alive to produce any fruit. Even the soaker hose did nothing for them. I let them go.

It's strange that our fallow season is the summer, when other places on our side of the equator are busy with full harvests, canning and freezing in full swing. In august I'll start the seeds for the fall garden, then set them out in mid-september and pray the young plants hold on through the remaining heat until the first cool relief arrives near the end of the month.

I've only been gardening for a few years. I'm a newbie. I know so little, and the Austin climate is unpredictable and frequently harsh. One memorable garden was innundated in June with too much rain and never recovered. I have fantasies of someday raising chickens and goats, and hunting for deer. I miss living off the land, even though I never have. It feels like coming home to get back into relationship with the earth and the animals I share it with.

I'm fortunate to have a few mature pecan trees on my land, and my neighbor has a couple of fig trees that, in less drought-stricken times, kindly drop a bounty of fruit on my side of the fence. Is it possible to be a homesteader in modern times? Can I learn to knit without gaping holes and get used to the crispy feel of laundry hand-washed and dried on the line? And how can I rationalize the time taken to live simply when I have a hard-won legal career that now pays a handsome hourly rate? It's difficult and sometimes just funny, walking between both worlds simultaneously, and they both provide needed and important sustenance.

I was reading a friend's blog describing her family's ongoing adventures in learning the difference between "want" and "need". They have taken the journey to heart, giving away their belongings and setting out on the open road, currently farming and homesteading in Kit Carson National Forest in New Mexico. Part of me feels like I have to make a radical change like that to be able to live my values. Then part of me says that wherever I go, I take me with me, and I might as well learn to live my values where I am.

Drought does this, leads one to ponder what's important as everything around you turns brown, struggles, succumbs. It is a time to go without. A time to remember to be grateful for what we have. A time to surrender.


My Dinner With Buddha

Tonight at dinner the cub told me, "You're amazing, mommy, just the way you are." Took my breath away, humbled me and amazed me. I told him thank you. A few minutes later he said, "You'll be amazing forever, mommy. Even when you're angry."

That one went straight to my heart. These were powerful words, coming from my son, with whom I'd been short and impatient that morning due to a terrible lack of sleep and feeling overwhelmed by my too successful too fast law practice. In a moment I saw myself with forgiveness, as a human, flawed, imperfect, and yet not a bad person.

I told him that was a very compassionate thing to say. He asked me what "compassionate" meant, and I told him it meant full of loving and kindness. He grinned and shrugged his shoulders.

I had been feeling low for being quick to anger this morning, and my kid just reminded me of all the things that I tell them - it's okay to be angry, everyone gets mad, getting mad doesn't make you a bad person - it's how you behave when you're mad that matters. It's important to feel all your feelings, even the difficult ones.

I thanked him again and told him I'd been feeling pretty bad for how I'd been angry that morning, and for reminding me that everyone gets angry and getting angry is okay. And I told him that when I became angry, it was my problem, not his. He always likes that part.

No one deserves love like this. But we get it anyway. For me, that's the miracle of life in a nutshell. We didn't earn the right to breathe, to enjoy the pleasure of a thinking and reasoning mind, to see colors, to hear music, to feel a bracing cold breeze, to feel tree bark under our fingertips, to hear our kids tell us they love us. But we may get these things anyway.

Sunday I was inspired by an interview with Krishna Das to have a conversation with Griffin about God dwelling within him as him, and within everyone as that person.

I don't know where this kid is headed, but I'm so blessed to get to be beside him for some of it.


Happy Mother's Day from the Texas Lege

Who represents poor women in Texas? Not the Texas Lege. Perhaps the most poignant quote comes from Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston: "Poor women should not be a political football when it comes to their healthcare. But this is where a majority does rule. And I believe that it's more important to have the program than not."

In a nutshell, the Medicaid program through which 120,000 Texas women receive critical cancer and disease screening (pap smears for cervical cancer, for example) and contraceptive care (to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place) will be scrapped unless the bill to renew the program includes a ban on participation in the funds by Planned Parenthood. Problem is, Planned Parenthood is the single largest provider of services under the program, providing screening and contraception to 40,000 responsible, low-income women across the State.

Forget that Planned Parenthood is prohibited from using the funds to provide (totally legal) abortion services. Forget that Planned Parenthood has multiple urban and rural locations that provide a full range of preventative healthcare for women that is women-run and operated. Forget that the vast majority of women who have benefited from the services of Planned Parenthood (including yours truly) benefited from services ranging from diagnosis and treatment of yeast infections to annual exams to prescription for contraceptive medications (and many thanks to my health insurance for not covering that cost).

Women's healthcare is screwed. Truly. And it keeps getting further screwed by the nutjobs who will threaten to take down broad programs of preventative care (including preventing unwanted pregnancies! Are we not on the same side on that issue? REALLY?) just to spite Planned Parenthood, for having the temerity to continue to also offer abortions - with other funds, and among a SLEW of other critical health services.

You know, my family had this assumption, when I was pregnant with my kids late in life, that if a serious chromosomal issue arose, I would have considered the option to terminate the pregnancy. We all prayed that I would not be faced with such a difficult decision, and I kept them informed of test and screening appointments and called them as soon as the results were received, explaining what they meant, what the tests measured, what they were looking for. My parents are actively pro-life. But they don't connect the dots. They don't appreciate that this very personal decision that I might have been faced with for myself and my family would have been moot.

Calling abortion opponents "pro-life" is a misnomer. I have to agree with the criticism that they are really pro-birth. If the pro-life organizations put as much into parenting classes, job training, paid parental leave, publicly supported and safe 24-hr childcare, abuse and domestic violence prevention, foster programs, and all of women's healthcare - rather than being a sole force to make abortion as difficult, humiliating, expensive and dangerous as possible at the cost of critical healthcare for women - they might get my attention.

I wonder how many of them have actually walked into a Planned Parenthood clinic, just to see all of the health information available, hear how the women who go there are treated with dignity and respect, to see the faces of their sisters and mothers and daughters who are so fortunate to have a medical resource available dedicated especially to their health.

But I look at what they are trying to do my state, and to my sisters struggling to take care of themselves, and it all just seems like misogyny. They just can't stop punishing Eve for offering Adam the apple.


Tonight's Prayer

Whatever or whoever higher power has been getting me though all this, thank you. Because I have no fucking idea what I'm doing, but somehow, everyone seems to be doing okay. So thank you.

Kale and Quinoa with Almond Sauce and Preserved Lemons

Another departure from the heavier topics of this blog to one of my favorite topics - food.

We have joined a CSA operated on a historic farm near our home. Every Saturday morning the kids and I drive over to pick up our food - our share of veggies, plus some eggs, plus some local dairy provided by another farm nearby. There still seems to be plenty that I buy at the grocery store (bulk items, canned beans, household products, cereal, jam, ketchup, etc.), but it feels so good (and so good for us and the planet) to be able to buy my veggies and other things locally.

This week's share had kale and other greens, which I love. I couldn't wait to get home for lunch to cook up this recipe that had materialized in my brain. I'm eating it now, and it is as divine as I had hoped. And easy - especially since I skipped some of the more onerous preparation steps!

Almond Sauce:

3 tbs almond butter
3 tbs tahini
raw garlic to taste (peeled and trimmed only - let the processor do the chopping)
1 cup water, divided

1 bunch kale (I had some sort of Russian variety; dinosaur kale would work well)
1 cup quinoa
water to cook quinoa (about 3 cups)
4 wedges preserved lemons, diced thin (you can substitute 1 tsp fresh lemon zest)

Lightly salt the quinoa water and bring to a boil. Theoretically you're supposed to soak quinoa before cooking it to remove a rumored bitter flavor from the grain, but this is one of those steps I regular skip. Who has the time? And I have yet to detect said bitterness. Add the quinoa, cover and reduce heat to low-med. Allow to simmer while you prep the rest of the food.

Add the almond butter, tahini, garlic, and 1/2 cup water to your food processor and turn it on. Through the pour opening in the processor lid, slowly add more water until it develops the consistency of ranch dressing. Transfer to a small bowl for pouring and set aside. The raw garlic will have a bite, but it will mellow after you add the hot quinoa.

Rinse and chop the kale, removing the thicker stems that would just be awkward to eat in this sort of salad. Place in a large non-reactive bowl and pour a generous amount of the almond sauce on top. Top with the lemon, and when the quinoa is ready, pour it hot over the rest of the ingredients and fold together. The hot quinoa brings all the flavors together and lightly cooks the kale to perfect-tender. Yummy. If you don't have lemons on hand, this would probably be good with raisins, too, to bring out the sweetness in the almond sauce.