Seattle Musings and A List

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We returned on Sunday from a glorious Thanksgiving holiday in Seattle, Washington. There we were hosted by Mike and Kimmie and got to spend some comfy, quality time with them and other friends we rarely see. This was Asher’s first trip to Seattle, and he fell for it hard, not least because he loves blustery, rainy days and it Seattle obliged us with rain.

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Our journey up, by plane, was kind of hellish, as fog had socked in SeaTac and the pilot flew us round and round above Portland for a while. Then he landed us in Portland, which was good because we were able to buy sandwiches, but then we were out of queue and didn’t actually make it to land in Seattle until 4 p.m. Originally we were supposed to arrive at 8 in the morning. Long long very boring day with not enough food for my hungry boys. The worst part is that it robbed us of a precious day in Seattle.

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HOWEVER, once we were there, our vacation was on! We saw Tony on Tuesday night. And on Wednesday we got to explore Pike Place Market with Kimmie, visiting food stalls for Thanksgiving supplies and kitschy gift shops and comics stores for fun. I ate a duck burrito for the first time.

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Thanksgiving Day was lovely. We cooked and hung out. We made multiple grocery store trips–so much that Mike called it Five Store Turkey. All the side dishes were vegan, and Kimmie made a stuffed seitan dish and a glorious mushroom gravy. Ian roasted root vegetables. Trevor and Sara and their son S came for dinner and Trevor made several delicious desserts. I burned my brussels sprouts because I was so busy relaxing and visiting. My cranberry sauce turned out well, however. A few other friends dropped by near the end of the day.

The kids loved getting to play Mario Kart and we watched Ant Man and Wasp. S took to Asher immediately. It was fun seeing Asher interacting with him and being the bigger kid.

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On Friday, we met up with Trevor, Sara, and S again and made a walking tour of University of Washington. Trevor attended grad school  and also taught there. So he shared some of his experiences and showed us around the campus. Unfortunately, the library and all the buildings were closed for the holiday.

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We also got to go to the MoPop and enjoyed the Marvel exhibit. Asher loved the fantasy collection (Gimli’s axe! Saruman’s staff!) and the horror collection. What is it with the fascination with horror films even though he’s never seen one. (Or has he?)

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Because airfare during Thanksgiving weekend is atrocious, we elected to drive home. Even with car rental, gas, and one night in a hotel, we probably saved $1,000. And after our flight up, the kids weren’t too keen on getting on an airplane again. They weren’t especially keen on driving 13 or so hours home, either, but it is what it is. Honestly, traveling with these guys is really easy now. They were wonderful, even under the worst of circumstances, and I can’t wait to take them back to Seattle.

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We stopped briefly in Portland and visited Brianna and Jasper. Haven’t seen her since summer of 2015.

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I’m so grateful for this trip, for the opportunity to do extraordinary things with my family. Ordinary time is sacred too, of course, but exploring the world together is a privilege.

* I love my friends. They are brilliant, generous, compassionate, kind, forgiving, talented, hard-working, committed, and wise.
* You might not guess it from its name but Monster Manor is the most hospitable and comfortable place in the U.S.
* Seattle has charmed the socks off both my boys. (I couldn’t be happier about this.)
* Lucas really liked U of W!!!! I don’t blame him one bit!
* 5- and 6-year-old boys are TONS of work. I have had no less than three ample opportunities to rediscover this fact. My kids are so EASY now, comparatively.
* Sometimes you can befriend a 16-year-old girl and then see her periodically and again when she’s 36 (approximately) and be wowed all over again, for a thousand more reasons.
* Pike Place Market is the bomb. I wanted lots of stuff for myself; I bought two refrigerator magnets.
* It’s pretty rad to book and pay for a hotel while traveling down the road. And it gives you a good goal.
* Washington and Oregon have WAY more water than we do. California has WAY more people.
* With climate change, I think I should buy a few thousand acres up north–get a jump on future agribusiness.
* We returned to Sacramento at that vivid autumnal peak, when the trees are practically vibrating with their most intense colors, and you wonder if your eyes are seeing some infrared wavelengths you can’t see at any other time of the year. It’s magic. Don’t blink.
* Alice Hoffman is still my fav author. Here on Earth was deliciously dark. I love an unhappy ending.
* I had a tightly, tidily scheduled workweek planned; then today it unraveled, opening ugly unbillable gaps. I always want to ask PMs, “When exactly did you realize your document would be late? And why did you not inform me then?”
* I can hustle like a badass with 13 years of self-employment under her belt: I now have plenty of replacement work.
* Phone, “unbillable” is a word. I want “unkillable” work even less than I want unbillable work.
* Asher believes that Avatar the Last Airbender should be a Thanksgiving tradition the world over. He is probably not wrong.
* It appears that my father will take us to, or pick us up from, the airport at any time: even 3:45 a.m., which is a bloody ungodly hour. Good to know!
* Alaska gave us each a $75 discount on our next flights because of our colossally bad 10-hour day flying to Seattle. Where should we go?
* Kimberly’s mushroom gravy and Mike’s turkey and vegan stuffing are divine.
* It’s possible that my burned Brussels sprouts were partially redeemed by my warmly spiced cranberry sauce. It’s great on bagels, too.
* Ian may be allergic to cats.
* Lucas has been to Seattle twice and has yet to see Mt. Rainier. It was hiding both trips.
* Our dogs are tiny fluffy stupid misbehaving dummies who are naughty and that bodes ill for future trips. I missed them.
* My uncle is making (slow) progress after his third (“The Works”) cardiac surgery. I am thrilled.
* I estimate that Asher and I are on page 4,490 of Percy Jackson Takes Over My Life With Ten Books.

Halloween Time

I’m working up a post about our wonderful family vacation to San Diego, but it’s taking a fair amount of time and there’s just not that much free time these days. Some procedural things I used to do when writing a blog post have changed, and it seems like the new way takes longer. I don’t know.

Let’s see, it’s Saturday before Halloween, which is one of the best days of the year. Tonight we’ll be attending the 10th annual Shannon McCabe’s Vampire Ball, which somehow we’ve managed to miss until now. A Death in Bloom is playing two sets of music tonight, and Ian’s thrilled to be performing with them. He’s debuting a Cure cover, which he’s never done before. He’s all aflutter. I’m so fucking proud of him. He’s pursuing his music with dedication and determination, and it’s paying off!

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So, soon I’ll put on my vampire clothes and get dolled up. It will be a fun night I’m sure.

Lucas, my lovely young man, went to a Halloween dance last night, dressed very smartly. “I don’t like costumes as much as you guys do,” he said, when I asked him if he needed a costume. (I remember when he did love costumes and cosplay as much as I do. We have to give him room to change.) Tonight he’s with friends, attending a haunted house and staying over.

My little guy got to attend a Halloween party last night. “Mom, I don’t want to wear the whole werewolf costume, just the mask.” He, too, used to be all about dressing up, and I have the evidence here and here and here.

That’s OK, though. They get to go through this phase, just like all the others. Asher’s a sixth grader now, and that self-consciousness is taking hold. It’s right on time, really.

I hope everyone has some deliciously spooky fun tonight or next week for Halloween. It’s one of my fav holidays.

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Halloween, 2016

Michaelmas 2018: Embody the Dragon

This year, my younger son’s sixth-grade class got to build and embody the dragon at our school’s Michaelmas festival, which was held on September 28. This is a huge project and several very talented parents in our class took on this work. I’m so very grateful for their time and talents in this endeavor. Huge thank yous to Criss, Nar, David, Mike, and Brian, who sculpted the head; David, who fashioned the wings; to Sandra, who sewed the tail; to Sandra, Tamu, and others who helped the kids glitter the dragon skin; to Melissa and Brian, who helped the children make the hats/dragon spines; I know Neva was there throughout and I’m sure that I’m forgetting to credit others who helped.

This year, the class decided that their dragon would be white. No one could remember a time when the dragon was white. They wanted it to be sparkly and shimmering, so we spent a day painting with with spray glitter and gold and silver paints.

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I think they said we used 40 yards of silk.

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At our school, the traditional Michaelmas festival involves the fearsome dragon interrupting the peaceful village, while the villagers are dancing and singing. With a great booming of drums, the dragon enters the village and the villagers go running.

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These lovely sixth graders are in the belly of the beast, so to speak, dealing with all the social and emotional and intellectual challenges that come with the age. Friendships change, they adapt to more difficult schoolwork, and the difficulties of individuation and finding themselves, and figuring out what matters to them—what side they stand on in all manner of issues great and small.

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A brave knight, George (played by a high school senior), with the help of the Archangel Michael, faces the dragon. Michael imbues George with goodness and strength to tame the dragon.

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Second graders and twelfth graders surround the dragon. With their will and their love, they subdue its threat and make it tame.

When I conquer within me fear and wrath,

Michael in heaven casts the dragon forth.

 

Firmly on the Earth I stand.

Michael’s sword within my hand.

When I conquer fear, the dragon’s chains I tightly bind.

Michael’s light is in my mind.

When I thrust against the monster’s might

Michael is at my side.

 

Harken all, the time has come!

When all the world at last the truth shall hear,

Then the lion shall lie down with the lamb.

Our lances shall be turned to reaping hooks,

Swords and guns be cast as plowshares.

Nations shall live in lasting peace.

All men unite as brothers.

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My dear Asher is always so funny. He is a beacon of light in my life.

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Second graders pose with the dragon that they helped to subdue. (They are studying the saints this year.)

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On the one hand, it’s just a school festival—a bunch of kids, organized by grades, dressed in costume and performing in a pageant. On the other hand, it’s a massive effort full of heart, an event that affirms and builds community, pulling in people whose children have long-ago outgrown the school. It’s a place where innocence and courage are embodied, where we can urge and model stepping out to boldly stand up for our values and confront the things that threaten to make us weaker, fearful, and divided. There is no lack of dragons like that to confront in our world today.

Matthew Barton, writing in the introduction to a reader of Steiner writings and talks touching on Michaelmas, says this moment in which we live is awakening us “to the consequences of our own actions in many different spheres, asking us to exercise moral judgement and take responsibility for ourselves and the planet. To reconnect consciously. And increasingly it is becoming clear, in a way similar to the wider vistas that open up as leaves fall, that a battle is raging between these developing forces of sensitivity, awareness and responsibility and those—really there is not other word—demonic self-interest, social divisiveness and materialism, often, let’s not deceive ourselves, combined within each one of us. So the battle is with and within ourselves.”

I’m very fond of this festival. Here is where I wrote about Lucas’s sixth-grade Michaelmas dragon.

Michaelmas: New Dragons

Yosemite Trip

My little love is off with his class to Yosemite for three days. It the first sixth-grade trip and we’ve been on the edge of our seats as to whether he would go. He’s had a cold for the last five days, and didn’t feel up to going to school. Plus, he suffers from a lot of anxiety about being away from home, without his parents, brother, and fluffy dogs—a lot of anxiety.

Last night though, he was feeling a bit better and started to rally. With gentle, steady pressure we suggested that he go on the trip, that it would be great fun and he would learn a lot. The program the class will participate in is a really cool real-world environmental sciences curriculum. They’ve been studying geology in Main Lesson, and this is a hell of a capstone experience!

We carefully packed his belongings, finding nearly everything on the list. Then I made an after-dinner grocery store run for some special lunch/snack items, a new water bottle, lip balm—anything that would excite him about the trip.

This morning he bravely got ready, made an enormous lunch for himself, and marched out the door. I know he is scared. I know he’s worried about the “anxiety train,” which races away with our thoughts and feelings in a whole string of frightening what-ifs. I know that one of the things he worries about it getting sad, lonely, and anxious, and then feeling embarrassed on top of it all. I have so much compassion for him. I was the same kind of kid myself: sensitive, worried, anxious.

Parenting him through this is always tough, but I think we’re getting better at it. The whole time we told him going on the trip was his decision
(given his cold). Honestly, I really wanted him to go on the trip, though, and I’m very happy he decided to.

He was tense and stiff at school, gave me a shy hug and joined his classmates. I’ve briefed the teacher and chaperones, and I know they all have his back. They’ll take care of him and give him extra support if he needs it. It’s wonderful to have a community of people with him who have known him since he was 5. Two mom friends/chaperones sent me photos, and so I’m placing them here, without context.

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I love my boy and his brilliant, sensitive, beautiful soul.

Asher, I hope Yosemite is amazing for you. I hope you can relax and enjoy this glorious place on earth, with these great people. I love you and I believe in you. Way to face your dragons, my love. Blessed be.

Musings

It’s Friday morning and time to go to work. I have a sick boy at home today. And I’m pretty tired from my workweek plus two school meetings (it should have been three but I could not rally for the middle school sports meeting). I want to go back to bed.

There’s a crispness in the air, and my dogs are going berserk whenever they see or hear the squirrels, of which there are many. It’s peaceful for a moment and then they bark a ruckus, to which crows screech a reply.

I am grateful that I can work at home today. My mind drifts to the weekend; plans are hazy. I long to spend a whole day reading for pleasure. I have iris rhizomes to plant.

I am struggling to stay positive given the daily news. Our government has 12,000 migrant children in detention centers and camps. It used to be that unaccompanied minors coming to the U.S. would be released into the custody of family members living here. Now immigrants are afraid to come forward to claim the children for fear of deportation. The problem is so much bigger than I thought. It’s not just the 416 kids who remain separated from their families, which is the story of the summer that rattles around in my mind and heart every day. I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but I’m incensed by this cruelty.

I sent some money to women democrats running for the House and Senate, and one running for governor of Georgia. This makes me feel a little better.

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Starting Sixth Grade

A new school year started last week, the day after Labor Day. This was the first day of sixth grade. My little love finds transitions very hard. He has been dreading this day, and we’re all trying to support him through it.

Asher is clever, kind, smart, empathetic, sensitive, loving, funny, and brave. He may not seem brave when you see his sad face, but this is evidence of his courage: He suits up and faces his fear and deep discomfort. I have tremendous faith in him and his abilities. I am so very proud of this boy. I love him. I grok him.

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The first day went OK, in part because it was a half-day. Over the next three school days he gradually got used to it again. His nervousness manifested in early rising and he was getting ready  and making his lunch long before it was time to go to school. He is cautiously optimistic about his new class teacher, and sad to see his movement teacher go.

I told him that there would be a few days of discomfort, and those feelings are big and real and valid. But that after a few days, that uncomfortable feeling would lessen and soon he would be all right again.

 

Junior

Yesterday was the start of Lucas’s junior year of high school. I am so proud of him. He is a thoughtful, considerate, polite, intelligent, creative, ambitious young man. He is finding his way and moving forward with strength, authenticity, courage, and big dreams. We love him so much.

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He’s been really happy at George Washington School of Arts and Sciences these last two years. He is learning so many important skills there, and while it’s not always easy, I see him stepping up to challenges with courage and an admirable steadfastness.

This year Lucas is thrilled to be taking AP Art with one of his favorite teachers. It will not be an easy class; he knows it will take tons of time to develop his portfolio. He also has US History, American Literature, Physics, Integrated Math 3, and a 3D Art elective. He’s hoping for a study hall instead of that extra art class, but we’ll see. It’s a significant load of work this year, I think. He’s stepping boldly into these classes.

Over the summer, he took Spanish 2 online. I’m so very proud that he used some of his free time to get high school credit, and get that course out of the way. (I wouldn’t say it like that if he really enjoyed learning Spanish, but since he did not … ) I think having Spanish this year in addition to those other courses would have been too much. He took it on and did it all in a matter of weeks, saving himself something close to 250 hours during the school year.

Anyway, I just want to say that my young man delights me and fills me with pride. And he wouldn’t want me saying any of this.

Take Back the Night

I just finished a 2.75-mile walk tonight in the dark. I have been going out to walk at night several times a week for the last 6 weeks or so. I have to admit, every time it’s a bit of a head trip and I spend some time during every nighttime walk wondering if I am being refreshingly brave or really stupid. I take a light and often take a dog, but he hides every time he hears another dog bark and is a black-as-night beta, so he’s not exactly protection. Some neighbors blast their property with blinding bright floodlights, and other neighbors’ homes are completely black. Certain streets are almost totally unlit. Sometimes I feel safer in the dark.

I love the night smells: wet grass, sweet dry oats, ripe figs, oak trees, wildfire smoke. And I like walking my with my light off; it’s a kind of faith. After 19 years, I know these neghborhood streets. But there’s one pothole I trip over every time, even though I know I am right on top of it.

The odds are in my favor; I will probably enjoy many more peaceful nighttime walks, either alone or with my silly little dog. I live in a safe place. Surely there are precautions I can take. But that’s not what I am interested in.

I’m interested in the dialogue that’s happening in my head around the idea of safety, where I’m safe and when, and under what conditions. I find myself feeling safer walking in the dark in places where I’m unlikely to encounter anyone else. Other nights the opposite is true, and I gravitate toward the streets with streetlights. And I wonder why that is, and if I’m safer or wiser now that I am older, or if I’ve just got less time/energy for fear now.

At a college campus famous for partying, I marched in Take Back the Night events in the early ’90s, with hundreds of women at my side. Now it’s just me out there, and I feel up to actually doing it. The night is mine.

It’s ALIVE

The blog is finally finally finally alive again. I’m delighted to have it functional again and weirdly freaked out and ashamed that I let it languish for so long. A migration error, or some such, at my hosting service broke my blog last year, and for months I thought I’d get around to fixing it. Then I tried but couldn’t fix it, and didn’t have the money to pay to have it fixed. Today I finally called the host again and asked them to help me. I was ready to pay. But this time, the customer service guy just fixed it and told me to have a good day. It is a very good day now.

I have a lot of regret over not capturing all those gorgeous moments over the last year. Some of them are on Facebook. Many many more are not. There’s no real way of recreating that time here. For now, I’m just going to try to remember how to use this thing.

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November 29 Walk

I’m past caring about work, and I’m sitting in the dark, drinking a glass of cheap white wine and staring at Facebook. Ian walks through the room and I realize I look a sight.
I put on a coat and hat, kiss my family and walk out into the dusk. I’ve been on the computer since early morning, except for a surprise lunch out with friends, and I know it’ll do me some good to get moving. I usually turn left on Eagle Road, but this time I turn right and walk toward the school playfield because the sunset pulls me on. I always want to fall into the colors. The school is empty, quiet. On the blacktop I see the only other pair of souls enjoying this space away from cars and lights: a man and what appears to be a small German shepherd. I have a choice—speak and be friendly or conspicuously ignore them. As I think it’s safer to engage with people, even in the dark and when alone, I called out.
“Hello! Your dog is very handsome. Is he or she quite young?”
“She is almost 3, actually.”
“She’s petite then. Very pretty. Have a nice evening.”
I walk on through the upper field, and stop to take some pictures of the sky. It’s mostly clear, except for some obliging wispy clouds on the western horizon, which provide some drama as the colors deepen and twilight falls.
Emerging onto the street where Ian lived as a boy, I take in my surroundings. Giddy birds chirp from within palms and hedges. Some homes are dark; some have cheerful porch lights shining, or Christmas lights running along the eaves. Lawns are blanketed with fresh gold and wilting brown leaves, a thick carpet, especially those yards with a mulberry tree in their center. Other yards are fastidious; someone has been along with a blower. The orangey-pink light reflects off cars parked along the road.
It’s chilly. I’m glad I have my hat, and my phone in my hand reminds me that I’m not really alone. The sky is darkening above me, the horizon now approaching claret. I wish I could find a vantage to take a sunset shot without cars in view, but this is the suburbs.
It feels good to stretch my legs, but I kind of wish I had my sneakers on instead of my street shoes. No matter. I know that if I had taken the time to change them, I might have lost my momentum and not walked out the door.
I reflect that I am never buying any of the inflatable Christmas characters that stand guard in front of some homes in my neighborhood. Then I reflect that I’m a snob. Suddenly the neighborhood smells overpoweringly of someone’s laundry detergent.
It’s dark now, and I’m heading homeward along a black street without sidewalks. Cardinal is a street that goes through, and people often speed here on their way through the usually sleepy neighborhood streets. Each time the occasional cars and trucks approach me from behind, I hop across the gutter into peoples’ yards. I’m invisible in my jeans, black coat, and a black hat.
I think about Dedra, my friend I used to walk with regularly. It’s been over a year since I saw her, and we haven’t walked in forever. I miss her, so I send her a text. I figure the light of my phone makes me more visible.
When I arrive home, my cheeks are cold and Ian’s got dinner on the table.

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  • About Sara

    Thanks for visiting! I’m Sara, editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.

    Our children attend Waldorf school and we are enriching our home and family life with plenty of Waldorf-inspired festivals, crafts, and stories.

    © 2003–2018 Please do not use my photographs or text without my permission.

    “Love doesn’t just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.” —Ursula K. LeGuinn

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