On Saturday, January 21, I attended the Women’s March in Oakland, California. It was an amazing day, and so inspiring to see so many women, men, and children out walking the streets together in solidarity with women marching all around the world. It was lovely to hear the chanting and singing, to read the clever and funny and poignant signs.
I saw a notification on Facebook that Senator Dianne Feinstein was asking for comments from people explaining why they marched. I sent my comments in, possibly too late to be useful for her, but nevertheless, it felt good to articulate what all this means to me. Here it is, with a little elaboration:
It may be too late for this to be useful, but here is why I marched in the Women’s March in Oakland with a friend and my husband, while friends all over the nation marched in other cities:
Because I want women to be appreciated and paid equally for the tremendous work they do in every industry.
Because I want women who are doing the honorable and essential work raising children not to be systematically and financially penalized for doing so.
Because I want women, men, and children of all ethnicities, creeds, sexualities, gender identities, economic backgrounds, and disability and immigration status to have a fair chance at success, and furthermore I want all those who have challenges to receive assistance to live their lives to their full potential. This is what government is for.
Because I want all of us to vote, not just those who feel their side will win, and I want voting protections for all Americans.
Because I want our government to be accountable to the people, and not to have leaders who take every advantage to get richer themselves or stay in power at the expense of the rest of us.
Because Black Lives Matter, and this institutionalized racism must stop. There are no acceptable excuses.
Because I want our environment and national parks and natural resources to be rigorously protected for all Americans. I want America to value and support science and scientists, for they are pushing our society forward.
Because I want us as a nation to address climate change with enthusiasm and gusto—because our lives and the lives of future generations depend on it. I want America to cooperate with scientists and innovators and reformers all over the world to tackle this global problem.
Because I want women and girls everywhere to have equal rights, access to health care, education, opportunity, and reproductive freedom. I want women to be able to move through their lives in safety and without fear of suffering discrimination, injustice, rape, or any other personal or systematic violence.
Because I want to address our national problems of health care access, education gaps, income inequality, racism, sexism, Islamophobia, lack of clean air/water/food, so we glorious humans can get on with the better work of creating art and expanding opportunity, bettering society, and making contributions to science, knowledge, medicine, culture.
Because my sisters and I are dying of a thousand cuts.
I marched because I’m raising two feminist sons, and I want them to see the world for what it is, and to imagine how much better it will be when we all have equality.
And if you’ve been here before and are now thinking this is not my typical post. Well, I gotta say. It’s going to be more typical in the future. I am absolutely infuriated at our new president and everything he represents. He and his cronies are the antithesis of my core values. I will not be silent. I will put my money to work for my ideals as best I can. I will march and march and march. And I will vote.
#womensrightsarehumanrights, #thankyouhillary, #pussypower, #nastywoman, #feminism, #resist
I have some news. I’ve told all my peeps in real life, and its a huge deal for me, so I guess I should mention it here.
After 13 years of self-employment, I have accepted a position as a Lead Editor for an international consulting firm in their environmental and planning group. The majority of my work will involve California high-speed rail. I’ll be working in downtown Sacramento. It’s a great opportunity to learn lots of new things and get into a stable industry. And high-speed rail is an amazing, important project that will have huge, lasting benefits for our state and our environment in our fight against climate change.
There have been many stellar moments during the last 13 years of self-employment—moments of achievement and pride, moments of deep struggle and learning, and countless beautiful family moments that I’ve been available for thanks to working from home, and therefore able to write about here at Love in the Suburbs. I’m proud of what I did professionally: I started a business and made money on my own out of the power of my brain, my skills, and my charisma.
I’m also proud of the parenting I’ve been able to do thanks to working from home: the presence, the connections, the trust, the rhythms. I’ve learned so much by being here, day in and day out, for all the glory-filled firsts and everyday sniffles, the pretty and the mundane. I have contributed meaningfully to the growth and development of these two not-so-small-anymore beings, and to our family home. We have built something beautiful here.
This would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of my dear husband, Ian, who has been steady and gracious in the face of freelancing ups and downs, and a faithful provider throughout this time. He was the one who said in 2003, when I wanted to leave my job, “Go ahead. We’ll work it out.” I’m so grateful for his faith in me and my abilities, for his patience with my unpredictable work-whenever-there’s-work schedule, for his support and encouragement all these years. I love you, Ian.
I admit to having some mixed feelings about this change. I’ve been my own boss for a long time. I will continue to freelance as I can, and will be keeping several key clients. Change is often painful, and this is pretty much a 180 from my former rhythm. I’m giving myself permission to take it slow, adjust at my own pace, feel all the feelings—even the ones that are selfish or seemingly counterproductive, and put one foot in front of the other. I’m wading into new territory, off-map and befuddled at times. I’m taking my joys where I can, including playing tourist in my own city.
For all of you who have hired me, cheered me on, listened to me, advised me, encouraged me, pretended to be collections agents, referred clients to me, helped me network, and given me innumerable other kinds of assistance, thank you.
A special thank you to Dakini, who put me in touch with players at my new firm. I love you, girlfriend! And she’s the one who hauls my Country Mouse ass to and from work, making this transition as easy for me as possible. And many thanks to all the people who have stepped up to care for my kids as we establish these new rhythms.
Love and bright blessings, while I turn and face the strange …
My little son left this morning for his first overnight class trip! They’ll be camping at Full Belly Farm, and doing farming-type stuff, including packing up CSA boxes. Asher has a little nervous and very excited, and I know it’s going to be a wonderful trip. This weekend Ian got Asher a few items he needed, like a new water bottle. I finger-knitted a lanyard for his mini flashlight so he could hang it around his neck. He’s got warm clothes, layers, our ancient snow lion sleeping bag, and he’s packed up in Ian’s Europe backpack from 1993.
Lucas did this trip in third grade too. Somehow, it helps little brothers to know big brothers have done the same things before them, and they had fun and everything turned out all right. Today in the car as we were driving to school, Lucas kindly said things like “Don’t worry. It’s gonna be great. You’ll be fine and you’ll have fun.” It seemed to help Asher relax a little. I can say all the same things, but somehow, it’s better coming from a big brother.
Last night, Asher reminded me that Cindy was going to be there, and that I could call her if I wanted to talk with him. I think that was code for “I might need to talk with you, Mom.” I doubt he really will though. I mentioned this to Cindy, and I know I’ll get a text later on.
He’ll be in Farmer Steve’s group, and teachers know all about his asthma medicine (something we never had to do with Lucas), so it’s all good. Asher has plenty of camping experience under his belt.
I wrote this years ago about Lucas’s first overnight trip. All of this is still so completely true, and I wish Asher the best possible time!
“I love this Waldorf curriculum. I love that my son gets to spend a day and a night on a working farm that is using sustainable practices and raising sheep for wool. I love that he knows where his food comes from. I love that part of school for him is fresh air and sunshine, digging in the mud and planting seeds, and swimming in a pond. I love that his physical and spiritual development are carefully considered in addition to his academic aptitude and achievement; that the health and unity of the class as a whole is considered. I love that he is challenged with tasks that are a trifle scary and difficult, and supported while he faces his fears and overcomes obstacles. I feel he is being nourished every day by these qualities and so many more that I can’t even put into words.
“I’m just so full of gratitude, and hoping he has a wonderful time.”
Speaking of Lucas, big things are coming up for him, too! In two weeks he and his classmates will dance the maypole, and in May he’ll go on his eighth-grade trip for a week!
There are all kinds of letting-go opportunities around here. XO
This is my beamish boy. He turned 8 at the end of January. In the past I’ve tried to write letters to my children on their birthdays, but this year I’m struggling to keep up with all of my responsibilities. So, I’m just getting to this now.
This is my Asher. My sunbeam. My giggle. My fresh breeze.
Asher is all I could ever want in a son. (And I can absolutely say that about both of my sons.) Asher is brave and honest, mischievous and fun-loving. He is kind and giving, and willing to pitch in. He’s a fierce warrior for justice. He is strong and righteous, but also sensitive and easily embarrassed. He is well-loved by everyone he meets. He is precious beyond all things.
Lately Asher has had a series of brief illnesses. Several colds and a stomach bug. Nothing serious. His asthma is being well maintained, so that’s a relief. But he’s had illness after illness and it’s resulted in quite a bit of time at home with me. And while I hate when my child is sick, I do kind of love those quiet moment of cuddling and reading, working on my laptop beside him while he rests on the couch. I guess he really likes that kind of at-home time, too, because he’s been having a hard time coping on the days he’s been well enough to be at school. We seem to keep starting over. Just when he kind of gets his feet under him again and starts feeling comfortable with the school rhythm, he comes down with something new. Then he must reintegrate again. This means tears, feeling sad and lonely at school, missing mommy. He’s being supported by teachers and staff, and I couldn’t hope for a more loving environment for him. Little by little we’re bolstering him, helping him through his anxiety.
He was in a pretty good place recently—just in time for a two week spring vacation. He was delighted to have his free time at home, with his favorite playmate Lucas and the neighborhood boys to knock around with during vacation. He likes his days easy, and prefers not to be told what to do with his time. (I can relate.)
Anyway, I’m jumping back to January now: Asher’s 8th birthday was wonderful, full of friends and family and a visiting Bacon dog. We had his party at the indoor swimming pool like last year. Swimming in a heated pool at the end of January is a treat!
My friend Criss helped me fulfill Asher’s birthday wish: He wanted a cake depicting the Hungarian Horntail and the arena from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. No small order there! But Criss is a baking genius, and when I told her his wish she amazed me by saying, “Sure. We can do that.”
And we did.
And he loved it. He even ate a bit of the gum paste dragon later on.
I think the party was a big success. And I think this boy is the bees knees.
He teaches me something new every day. This week, since spring break ended and he went back to school, has gone better than I expected. Monday was a bit rough, but he seems to be more quickly getting back into the school rhythms. There’s nothing in the world like a happy Asher.
I love him so!
We said goodbye to Lucas this morning. He went off to school and won’t return from there until Wednesday evening. His class is in the middle of a chemistry block, and they are staying overnight on the farm to build and mind a lime kiln.
Yes, we totally had to look up “lime kiln.” Thank you, Wikipedia:
“A lime kiln is used to produce quicklime through the calcination of limestone (calcium carbonate). The chemical equation for this reaction is
CaCO3 + heat → CaO + CO2”
The experience is a recreation of lime plaster, as produced through a series of chemical transformations, known today as the lime cycle. Lime plaster has been used by humans a building material since 5000 BCE.
“Calcium oxide (CaO), commonly known as quicklime or burnt lime, is a widely used chemical compount. It is a white, caustic, alkaline, crystalline solid at room temperature. The broadly used term “lime” connotes calcium-containing inorganic materials, in which carbonates, oxides and hydroxides of calcium, silicon, magnesium, aluminium, and iron predominate. By contrast, “quicklime” specifically applies to the single chemical compound calcium oxide. Calcium oxide which survives processing without reacting in building products such as cement is called free lime.
Quicklime is relatively inexpensive. Both it and a chemical derivative (calcium hydroxide, of which quicklime is the base anhydride) are important commodity chemicals.”
The teacher informed us, “Today’s children have little opportunity to observe actual industrial processes. Almost everything comes magically ready-made and packaged. Nevertheless, the lime cycle studied in 7th Grade chemistry offers an opportunity for the students not only to observe an important industrial process, but to build and fire a kiln used in the process.”
So. SCIENCE! Chemistry. Construction. Fire. Campout at school. Social Arts. Collaboration. 28 seventh graders and three teachers tending a fire through the night in November. Plus a large support staff of parents. I am still amazed at the lengths to which these people will go to give our children a hands-on learning experience.
Now, Lucas is unenthusiastic about this experience. (The current phase of seventh grade seems to involve a lot less enthusiasm for everything. And lots of sighing and rolling of eyes.) He knows it will be cold and hard. He knows he will finish school on Wednesday and have to go straight into the first basketball practice of the season. He knows he will be tired. He won’t be home until dinnertime.
I know he’ll never forget it.
Happy Michaelmas! This was Asher’s first year to experience our school’s amazing Michaelmas festival, which took place last Friday. It’s an enormous pageant, with second through twelfth grades participating. We were lucky this year because it was a beautiful, cool day instead of a scorcher.
The seventh graders did their part by reciting a portion of the verse. But they weren’t center-stage, and frankly, that suited my son Lucas just fine. 😉
Asher’s second-grade class dressed in St. George tunics and carried their wooden swords, which they have spent the last several weeks sanding and polishing. All this time, they’ve been learning their part in this festival, and also learning a long and wondrous Michaelmas play too, which was preformed on Friday evening for parents and grandparents.
As I have said before, these sweet children are breathtakingly lovely to me. I take lots of photos in the hopes of sharing them with other parents who didn’t bring their cameras.
The dragon was MIGHTY and FEARSOME and WONDERFUL! It was full of sixth graders, who created it along with their intrepid parents.
The senior class and the second graders joined their indubitable, indefatigable prowess together to defeat the foe.
Inspired by Archangel Michael, innocence, courage, justice, and wisdom prevailed, making a shining example for all the assembled students, teachers, parents, grandparents, and community.
(I use this terrific photo with my friend Melissa’s permission. I’m so glad she caught them all together like this!)
Later that same night—as if the morning festival weren’t precious enough—we were treated to an intimate second-grade play, the story of George and the Dragon. The children memorized many, many verses to recite and several songs. Asher was thrilled to be a knight who attempted to rid the land of the dragon but failed. He loved it because he got to actually wave his sword around. George came along afterward and succeeded against the (so-adorable) manxome beast (of whom I never got a good photo, darn it).
We don’t know this class or their parents as well as our older son’s class, but jeepers they are cute!
The boys were especially happy after the performance because they got to run (WILDLY) and then take their swords home.
So, a lovely community Michaelmas festival was had by all, I believe.
I am deeply grateful that we get to experience these festivals as a part of this Sacramento Waldorf School community. That they are similar year to year makes them comforting. That they are ever new because of new families, new children, and new art makes them an opportunity for renewal, for buckling on our metaphorical swords and remembering that there are dragons to slay, and so much worthwhile, honorable work on this beautiful earth that needs doing.
Asher has been having a fair (or unfair) number of nightmares lately. I feel for the kid, honestly. I still remember the vivid, horrifying nightmares of my own childhood. These bad dreams are freaky and they result in sweats and many tears. And, of course, they result in requests to sleep with us, or requests for one of us to sleep with him.
Tonight my little love is having a hard time going to sleep. It could be the temperature warming. It could be that he’s overtired—the boy runs solidly without rest from morning to night. It could be that Daddy’s not yet home. I suppose he could also be getting sick.
Whatever it is, I’ve put him to bed now four times.
As I was lying there with him in his bed, wishing that he would sleep, he sobbed: “Mama, I’m sooo tired! And I’m sooo sorry I keep making you come back and forth! I just don’t want to be without you.”
There’s nothing quite like when my child in need notices I am short on patience to make me feel chagrined. I took a deep breath and settled into my role.
“I am always here for you, my love. You are safe and I am here.”
He whimpered a while longer. I held him close and he wrapped my arms even tighter around himself. Gradually his breathing slowed. I shifted and then he said, “Mama, it’s just like always when you are underwater and …”
… and he finally slept. For now. And I’m free to read my book or get ready for bed. But what I said before is true: I am always here for him. He is safe and I am here.
I’ll probably get around to writing a little about our Christmas holiday soon, but for now I want to talk about reassuring little ones when fears surface.
My little almost-7-year-old son asked me last night, as we were cuddling at bedtime, “Mama, put your arms around me. I like it. It makes me feel safe.” Then he paused and said, “How do you keep me safe?”
Such a big question at the end of a full and happy day, from a brave boy who spent his time battling orcs in the woods. Such an important moment for me as a mother. How do I say the right thing—just enough and not too much, before he drops off to sleep? Accounting for context, age, and timing is so important in parenting. My sweet boy was about to slip into dreamland. I knew what he needed to hear.
I waited a beat. And then launched into my quiet answer.
“There are many things and people in your life who are working to keep you safe, sweetheart. Some things we cannot see. Our society has laws that keep our air and water safe to breathe and drink. We have safe foods to eat. We have people who keep our country safe. We have bike helmets, seat belts in the car, and speed limits on the roads.
“Our police and firefighters keep us safe from harm and crime and emergencies. We live in a safe neighborhood. There are good people all around us.
“Mama and Daddy are here to keep you safe. We made this warm, solid home for you to live in. We stay with you and make sure you’re not alone. We lock our doors at night so we are safe while we sleep. We have safety rules. Your brother looks out for you. And you have adults all around you who protect you.
“Our love and care for one another keeps us safe. We are safe together.”
He listened. He sighed. “That’s good, Mama.” And then he fell asleep.
Well, I really don’t like to go this long between posts. All I can say is that our lives have been remarkably full of all kinds of wonderful and challenging pursuits, including lots of work and play. While I enjoy writing here and really need to write here, sometimes I’m just too worn out.
I will catch up a bit by saying that our Michaelmas festival at our Waldorf school was amazing. This year our son’s sixth-grade class created and manned the dragon—and what a dragon it was! Our new class teacher brought with her a host of new ideas about the Michaelmas dragon, its form, its symbolism, and how we might create it, interact with it, subdue it. I’ve been attending Michaelmas festivals for eight or so years and I’ve never seen a dragon like this one. Our students, teacher, and a team of clever parents engineered it.
For one thing, the dragon didn’t come lumbering onto the field at the appointed time. It spontaneously reared up out of the body of our community, out of ourselves.
Maybe I can show you …
Each sixth grader carried a large Roman-style shield, silver gray on one side, gold on the other. They arrayed themselves around the circle, standing quietly among the other grades and spectators.
The festival carried on as usual, with the twelfth grade performing a play for the people of the land: this time the Arthur sword-in-the-stone legend. The young villagers danced. When the alarm sounded, the valiant fourth graders offered the villagers protection with their newly made shields. The drum boomed. This is normally when a fearsome beast would approach the field.
Instead, our sixth graders, dressed as Michaelic soldiers, began to march and form up into ranks. The terrifying drum continued to beat, but no one knew what to expect—no manxome foe was apparent. Saint George searched and searched the field of battle for his opponent. Where was the threat?
And then a remarkable thing happened. The sixth grade moved again in response to loudly barked commands. They formed up into a Roman battle formation called the testudo, or tortoise formation. The shields covered their bodies, hiding them behind a great silver wall.
From its hiding place, the dragon’s head emerged and the body joined up to menace George. A technology dragon was formed of chips and wire and lights, all silver and gleaming, and spitting smoke and ferocious noises!
The dragon’s tail was wireframe with tech parts all over it.
It was a dragon representing a threat of our modern day, as we are frequently consumed by and controlled by our own technology. We are fighting, some of us, to maintain our humanity in the face of this changing world. Some are fearful of technology, some embrace it. It is both the miracle of today and a thorny problem. The important thing is to recognize it—how it is changing our communities, our families, ourselves—and confront it, and make sure that it is working for us, and not the other way around. This is how I see it, anyway.
Furthermore, I think it’s fascinating and timely. These sixth-grade children are on the brink of becoming (probably heavy) technology users. Perhaps some already are. Our son has dabbled in a very circumscribed way. As they mature, they will learn to use the Internet for research and for fun, join social networking sites, encountering friends and strangers online. They will enjoy video games and smartphones and YouTube and Skype—all of which are fun and exciting ways to connect in a global community. Navigating this will be new and strange and wonderful for all of us. And we must face it with courage and compassion.
As usual, our strong, noble seniors surrounded the beast, and together with the sweet, hopeful spirits of our second graders, brought this dragon to its knees.
What doesn’t show in my photographs is that our community was suffering mightily on this day, especially this senior class, for we very recently lost a student to suicide. It is a tragedy that none of them will forget, and this circle of brave young men and women was one shining soul short. I think no one ever anticipated that suicide and loss, and tremendous grief, would be a dragon to face on this beautiful day.
(Thank you, Hinmans, for the terrific video!)
Afterward, the sixth grade class enjoyed the praise and congratulations of many. Some said it was the most interesting dragon they had seen. Many adults found it to be wonderful and thought-provoking. Our kids were somewhat unsure of this innovative design. Lucas even despaired that it was too weird, and wouldn’t it be better to have a normal dragon?
Here they are, all tuckered out after the hot performance. I really love these kids. And we are all so very proud of them. Many thanks to our class teacher for encouraging all of us to embrace innovation and change. I think she is brilliant for getting this strong-willed class to march to her drum within days of her joining our class.
Here are the morning verse and afternoon verses by Rudolf Steiner that the sixth grade had been saying in preparation for Michaelmas. I especially love the second one:
I entrust myself to your protection
I write myself with your guidance
With all my heart’s strength
That this day may be come the
Your destiny-ordering will.
I bear my worry into the setting sun:
Lay all my cares into its shining lap.
Purified in Light
Transformed in Love—
They return as helping thoughts,
as forces rejoicing in deeds of
So, what do you think? Pretty different, eh? Leave me a comment and let me know.
Also, you can read about our past Michaelmas festivals here: