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
Over Thanksgiving vacation, we escaped town for a little family vacation in Guerneville, CA. Ian found us a cute little flat via Airbnb that was just big enough for the four of us and our two little dogs.
The weather was rainy and we all caught a cold, so our adventuring was circumscribed. Nevertheless, we had a lovely, low-key time. We read, played board games, and watched movies, while we sniffled and coughed and sneezed together. I know it’s kinda weird to be grateful for some slow, easy sick time, but it was nice not to have to worry about missing school or work, and just allowing ourselves time to rest and recouperate.
I’m not a huge fan of board games, but we played Pandemic for the first time and I really liked it. It’s a cooperative game in which all players must work together to save the world from diseases.
We took a few walks around the neighborhood, visited the local roadhouse on Thanksgiving Day and had a lovely nontraditional meal. Asher picked fried chicken and waffles, which I think he’s never ordered before. I had a nice butternut squash pizza. The beer and cider were delish and it meant that we didn’t have to stress about trying to cook a “proper” holiday meal in a foreign kitchen.
Here’s the Thanksgiving mandala I made by gathering items from the ground and the verge in the redwood neighborhood of our little flat. This is mandala number 84.
We packed ourselves, our dogs, and several boxes of tissues in the car and drove out to the beach at Jenner on Friday. We didn’t stay long; nobody was feeling great. But this walk on the beach was soothing and fun. Even though most of our vacation was cuddly, cozy time, this excursion was a highlight.
Such a pretty beach! I wish I could visit the ocean every month.
This one guy I know doesn’t much care to be photographed these days.
This guy acts surprises and delighted every time he’s included on an adventure.
On our final day off, after checking out of our flat, the rain let up and the sun came out. We stopped at Armstrong Woods for a little walk before driving home. Asher is very fond of forests, you see.
So it wasn’t exactly the vacation we had envisioned, but it was lovely nonetheless. And now it’s a whole month later. They boys are dragging through the last couple of days of school before Winter Break. We’ll make it. And come Boxing Day, all will be cuddly cozy again.
My boys put out their shoes last night in the hopes that St. Nicholas would visit on his feast day of December 6. In the morning we woke to this: shoes full of simple treasures. They each received a small pot of honey, rock candy lollies in Christmas colors, a chocolate in the shape of a Swiss army knife, and a small, bejeweled magnifying glass.
I admit it’s a challenge to continue to put in the effort involved in celebrating festivals at home. Life just seems to get busier and busier, and we’re always adapting. I find it’s also difficult to keep the festivals alive for younger children when their older siblings age out of them. However, Lucas obligingly threw his Converse sneakers down by the door at 10 p.m. last night, after some prodding on my part. Asher was all in at the first mention of St. Nicholas visiting.
How do you jolly your olders along to keep the magic alive for your youngers? I’d love to hear ideas! I’m grateful that my older son is still a pretty good sport, most of the time.
Discovering goodies at 0-dark-thirty is always a thrill, is it not?
The good saint visited the Waldorf school today, too, with his helper Rupert. Here is a photo of him in the Kindergarten (Thank you, Michelle!). Our kids are so blessed. Our beautiful school happily receives St. Nicholas and Rupert every year. They bring small treats to all the students in every grade in the school. Asher reports that he brought an orange and tiny chocolates to everyone in fourth grade. Nicholas prepares the way for the Sun child, who’s coming soon in the deepest part of winter.
Kind old man Saint Nicholas, dear,
Come into our house this year.
Here’s some straw and here’s some hay
For your little donkey gray.
Pray put something into my shoe;
I’ve been good the whole year through.
Kind old man Saint Nicholas dear,
Come into our house this year.
I’ve written about this simple festival for many years now. Feel free to search in the Archives window at the right for “Nicholas” and you’ll find the posts. Moreover, the St. Nicholas Center online has a gazillion pages of stories and info about this interesting patron saint of children, sailors, scholars, orphans, paupers, marriageable maidens, students, and victims of judicial mistakes. He’s a busy guy.
The Advent and Saint Nicholas Festival E-Book that I wrote with my dear Eileen is available here, at Little Acorn Learning. It contains loads of fun ideas.
I left for work today at 7:30. It’s been a long, tiring day of editing a high-speed train document, commuting, helping Asher with homework, managing a difficult but productive viola practice session, searching for a missing spelling list, asthma testing and meds, stories, emails, and now this little missive. I feel often like I’ve got so many juggling balls in the air right now, and keep adding more. But with each new one another ball drops. I’ve realized I need to refocus a bit more on providing supports for Asher. Although he’s quite good at doing a lot of stuff on his own, he needs more practice with spelling words and math, more practice with viola (he feeling really lost and left behind in strings class), and more assistance making sure his homework gets done. I’ve put reminders in my phone to help me help him. And no matter how tired I am in the evening, we need to attend to these things to establish a good rhythm. And all of this is part of a bigger effort to deal with Asher’s anxiety. The more prepared he is, the less he’ll feel anxious—I hope.
Motherhood. It ain’t for the faint of heart.
What can I say? We LOVE Halloween! And I know we’ve just had Thanksgiving and I am behind as usual, but these pics are just too cute not to post. In a moment of last minute inspiration, Ian and I decided to dress as Gomez and Morticia Addams.
Morticia: When we first met years ago, it was an evening much like this. Magic in the air. A boy.
Gomez: A girl.
Morticia: An open grave. It was my first funeral.
Gomez: You were so beautiful. Pale and mysterious. No one even looked at the corpse.
We went to a party hosted by the family of one of Asher’s best friends. There was ghoulish fun for the kids, including an impromptu toilet paper fight (after the mummy making, of course), and good wine and conversation for the grown-ups.
Gomez: Cara mia.
Morticia: Mon sauvage.
Asher went as a king in shining armor. We bought a costume modeled on a character from a video game that none of us knew anything about. For him, it was all about the boss costume. We shopped for it online because time was short, and Asher said, “Mom, are you sure you want to spend that much money on me?” Oh, yes, my little Love. Yes, I do.
The sword with the lion head on it sealed the deal. And of course, he needed a bloody wound. This so perfectly shows how he’s in-between: kind of a big kid, kind of not.
Lucas wasn’t feeling especially inspired this year as he has been many years in the past. However, he pulled out a creepy zombie getup with ease.
Asher got to play with some of his buddies from school at the party. (Thanks to Melissa for the photo!)
Halloween itself was on a rainy Monday evening, and we happily joined friends for a bit of trick-or-treating in East Sacramento. This year, the Halloween Fairy was not invoked, nor did she trade gifts for our boys’ candy (for her wee sugar babies to eat). The kids ate some, and the rest, well … it disappears relatively quickly.
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 …
The summer solstice has come, and with it a beautiful full moon, a rare conjunction that saw me gathering with my women for an evening of fire magic and ritual. It’s always nourishing to make time for that, and I love those friends completely. I made this garden mandala (No. 67) on the solstice as a sun prayer, a little altar in honor of the season.
These last few months have been a whirlwind of special events, birthdays, school plays, trips, parties, graduation, and plenty of work projects. I’m not sure when or if I’ll ever catch my breath from all that enough to write about any of it. It seems time is speeding up in a way. But it’s summer now. And that means breathing out, right?
Happy Summertime, my friends! May your beverages be icy and your sunscreen effective, may you find a way to slow down a bit and plunge into your version of rest and relaxation, may you breath out and enjoy these joyful, verdant days.
I also did laundry, dishes, cleaned sink and toilet, and changed my bed — because life is both work and play, rest and striving. I played with my dogs. And I finished my beautiful day by reading Pippi Longstocking to my little Asher. I feel wonderful, appreciated, and happy.
Happy Mother’s Day (a day late)
* to all the beautiful mamas who show up and do their daily, loving work
* to those mamas who don’t get to mother for one reason or other, and
* to all people (any gender) who do mama-type work for others—the often-unsung work of feeding, holding, helping, inspiring, and keeping healthy, learning, and growing.
Happy Earth Day! It’s raining! This is simply the most perfect blessing for California, and I’m so delighted. My heart is high and full of love and compassion, soaring and aching in turns along with loved ones’ hearts, and grateful to have so much abundant beauty and bounteous love and friendship in my life.
I am the beauty of the green earth
And the white moon among the stars
And the mystery of the waters
And the desire of human hearts.
Call unto your soul: Arise and come unto me
For I am the soul of nature who gives
Life to the universe.
From me all things proceed
And unto me all things must return.
This is the spirit of Earth Day for me: wonder and celebration, joy and protection, and profound gratitude.
This grand show is eternal.
It is always sunrise somewhere:
the dew is never all dried at once:
a shower is forever falling, vapor is ever rising.
Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming,
on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn,
as the round earth rolls.
I do not have to go
To Sacred Places
In far-off lands.
The ground I stand on
Here, in this little garden
My pilgrimage ends.
The wild honeybees
The hummingbird moths
The flickering fireflies at dusk
Are a microcosm
Of the Universe.
Each seed that grows
Each spade of soil
Is full of miracles.
And I toil and sweat
And watch and wonder
And am full of love.
Living in place
In this place.
For truth and beauty
—Mary de La Valette
I just couldn’t hold it in. My love and gratitude flies out to all beings—may all of us be blessed with a perfect moment of appreciation for this precious little marble floating in space, where we live, toil and sweat, and care for each other.
P.S. I’m going out now to poke little seeds into soil.
I’ve been making mandalas from flowers and leaves since February 23. It has become my meditation, my art project. It’s how I’m dealing with stress and anxiety. I am a huge fan of land art, ephemeral artworks made of natural, found materials and installed in natural spaces. This is my own little contribution to the art form. I love flowers and used to be a florist, so it seems to fit.
I am using primarily materials from my own garden and yard. Occasionally, when in a wild place or undeveloped lot, I will pick some wildflowers to use, but only if they are totally plentiful. I’ve made mandalas in my parents’ yard and in my in-laws’ yard, using their plants and flowers. I’m not buying cut flowers for this project, it’s just what I can glean.
It seems that every few days a new plant is blooming, making its flowers or pretty leaves available to my art. I don’t want to denude anything, of course—I grow my garden so that it’s beautiful and pleasant to be in—so I only take bits that are abundant. I carefully consider whether I can spare the flowers.
There’s a kind of sacred geometry to these, I think, as is so with all mandalas. I enjoy playing with forms. Each mandala has something wrong with it, a kind of wabi-sabi element. Somehow, this delights me. Even though I really do try to make them symmetrical and geometrical and “right.” Tiny pieces sometimes move out of place. Usually I don’t see their flaws until after I’ve taken the photo and walked away, or the wind has moved all the bits around and destroyed the pattern. Then I take a deep breath and decide to love the mandala anyway.
Some mandalas are simple and some are complicated. I’m enjoying exploring shapes and textures, as well as colors and all their myriad combinations. Sometimes I use bare ground or my lawn as the background. Other times I’ll find a place under a tree where there’s bark or needles. I think the background contributes to the overall feeling of each mandala. So far, every one of them is unique in many ways.
The wind is my enemy when designing a piece. Various sun versus shadow conditions can also be tricky, I’ve learned. Time of day matters, too. If it’s too late in the evening, I find my photo isn’t as nice because of low light. If the day has bright, bright sun, I often can’t tell by looking at my viewfinder if my photo has captured it properly. After taking shots, I play with the brightness, saturation, shadows, and other elements of the photo to try to pull out the best qualities of each mandala. I’m no whiz at postproduction, but I get in there and mess about anyway.
Even if I’m using many flowers of the same type, or many leaves from the same tree or bush, each one is different. I like that these same-element groups don’t always behave the same, or look quite the same, or have the same size, color, or texture, but when viewed as a whole, sort of cooperate and can be taken together.
I think most of all, what I like about making these is that they make me happy. They’re little earthy prayers of my own making, arising from my wild mind and creative soul though the work of my hands, arranging materials that delight me. They are quieting, when my mind is racing. My mandalas give me a moment to stop everything, take a few moments outside, and make something beautiful, even if it lasts only a little while.
I also love that they make other people happy. So, dear friends, thank you for the encouragement and kind words. I think I’ll keep making my garden mandalas for a while longer.