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

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.

2017—A Summary

2017—What can I say? In a lot of ways 2017 kicked my ass. I’ve despaired more times than I can count. I’ve also rolled up my sleeves and done more political activism than ever before. I’ve challenged myself in innumerable ways, through work, personal relationships, and parenting. I’ve also thrown up my hands lots of times, had too much booze, gained weight, watched a ton of TV, curled up and licked my wounds. Staying informed and engaged this year has been a matter of taking a daily barrage of gut-punches.

I am frequently exhausted by the mental and physical requirements of my job; it leaves me feeling depleted and out of gas at the end of many days. Nevertheless, and despite the fact that I edit for a living, I embarked on a fun personal challenge to read broader and more challenging categories/genres of books for pleasure. Filling up my mind is always one of my highest priorities, and I’ve stretched into reading fiction and nonfiction about contemporary issues and people who are living lives that are a vastly different from my own. Rock!

I’ve also allowed myself a lot of time to change slowly. I see this as a kind of self-care in a year that by any measure surely required it. Win some, lose some. I barely painted at all, and I miss it every day. I still dream about painting at night. I struggle with finding the perfect cocktail of opportunity, free time, emotional wherewithal to face the complex feelings of ambition/desire/failure/striving/laziness/etc that well up when I approach a canvas. I barely exercise. I barely blog. These are things that have always given me joy or emotional and health benefits, and they have fallen by the wayside. Because I can only exist in this moment, not in all moments at once.

I’ve parented through a few doozies, and advocated for my boys a number of times in assorted settings such as school and health care. I’ve watched my children both maturing beautifully and in sometimes shocking and sudden spurts throughout the year. Learning to let go is a daily lesson, and I believe a quintessential quality of being a parent. As much as I want out of life for myself—and believe me that’s a long and glorious list—I want even more and better for them. But I am not them and they are not me, and ultimately we all walk our own paths. Nevertheless, I often feel like I am not one but three people, because there’s nary a moment when their needs are not at the top of my mind and factored into just about every decision I make. I’ve had to pull back from school activities and volunteering. I have feelings about this, but I’m learning to say no. Saying no can save you. And letting go, in measured increments, with love is the name of this parenting game, from that first Beltane dawn in 2002.

I am blessed to have found meaningful employment in a place I can grow and develop my career. I already said it’s taxing. It’s also truly wonderful to have friends and colleagues again—talented people with passion for what they do and amazingly clever minds solving enormous problems and working from value positions I can respect. My company has a slogan: We make big things possible—in areas that matter for humans and our environment. That I have a part to play, a contribution to make, in projects that will affect our state for the next 50-100 years is somewhat staggering and a source of considerable pride. What’s more, I learn about a dozen new things every day in subjects that were largely previously unknown to me: hydrology, cultural anthropology, historical architecture, air quality, noise and vibration, native California species I’ve never seen before, environmental justice, hazardous materials … the list goes on and on and on. What’s more, I can tell you with great confidence: big infrastructure projects and development are not done cavalierly in California! We live in the best state.

I maintained my freelance business this year, too, working joyfully with Sacramento Magazine monthly and taking on special freelance projects for fun. There’s one project that came to me this year that is very close to my heart because I get to work with two brilliant friends. I’m honored and delighted by this.

This year I’ve proven to myself that I can handle more than I thought. I’ve done a gazillion new things, sometimes clumsily, sometimes with grace. I’m on a board of directors. I’ve worked hard to maintain all my relationships. I try to make contact with three or four people every day. That’s called kin-keeping and I’m a badass at it. My friendships nourish me and fulfill me and I know it’s goofy when I say it on Facebook but I truly love you. I witness your heartaches, your striving. I sit with you when you’re depressed, and I celebrate your accomplishments every day. I am here for you. It’s who I am. Thank you for being in my life. Thank you for loving.

My love, Ian, is my rock and my best friend. We are sometimes gasping for air in the grind of all this work-family stuff, but we’re connected and in it together. He’s my heartbeat, my song. In 2017, we’ve managed to put a new roof on our home and fix it up really nice. It’s water-tight, just right, and the place I love best of all. In. The. Whole. World. And 2018 is going to be grand in a whole bunch of important ways.

My family is good. My parents are well. My brother is doing great. My uncle survived not one but two open heart surgeries in 2017. One cousin had a beautiful baby girl. Another cousin got married to a wonderful woman. My aunt and uncle returned to Sacramento after five years in Geneva. My folks are in my life almost daily, and I feel their love and support as a constant, no matter what.

My Asher is sick. My Lucas has two good friends over tonight, for NYE (ethernet!) gaming. And though Ian and I had the opportunity to spend tonight with shiny friends and loves, cooler (sicker) heads prevailed.

In just about 36 hours we’ll be on a plane all together—Mom, Dad, Jonathan, Ian, the boys and me—heading for Maui where we will celebrate the new year and soak up some rays! Hello, 2018!

Probably all of this should be on my blog instead of here. But it’s down again for an unknown reason. I’ll deal with that later. One thing at a time.

Anyway, I love you. May this coming year be gentler, more peaceful and just, and more connected. May we find our courage and stand together. May we hold close our values and loved ones, extend a hand to a stranger, shine out our brilliance, and let our resilience be our strength. Happy New Year!

Start of the 2017 School Year

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Our dear Lucas started tenth grade this year, in the last couple of days of August. He’s taking Spanish 1, Math 2, Chemistry, World History, English (focusing on literature), and PE. I’m thrilled with the literature curriculum: The Odyssey, Of Mice and Men, The Tragedy of Macbeth, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, A Raisin in the Sun, Lord of the Flies, and Fahrenheit 51. How fun is that!?

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Lucas really seems to like high school, though he hasn’t always loved all of his classes and teachers. He’s strong, confidant, and has many friends. He’s committed to his schoolwork, and we’re trying to find the right balance between giving him his independence and supporting his efforts. (Parenting in a nutshell.) He is really enjoying riding his bike home from school some days, which is a 10-mile ride that takes an hour. Lucas is a wonderful guy and I’m super proud of him.

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Our sweet Asher has started fifth grade. This year is quite different in that he has a new class teacher for the first time in four years. His beloved former teacher got the opportunity to take a class at the Waldorf school in her city, after four solid years of commuting an hour each way to work at Sacramento Waldorf School. We were sorry to see her go. Asher and she had a good bond. We wish her luck with her new class!

The new class teacher has a lot of energy and an upbeat personality. We don’t know her very well yet, but we’re hoping for a good year. Except in the weeks leading up to the start of school, Asher was feeling very nervous and sad that he can’t just stay home all the time, with all of his family and his fluffy dogs. Instead of feeling excited for new opportunities, he feels anxiety and dread. On the last day of summer break, he was beside himself with nervousness and sadness, so our strategy for the last few days before school started was to provide distractions galore.

If there’s a softer, more loving school for him anywhere, I don’t know where it could be.

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On the first day, all of his buddies looked happier than he did.

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Fortunately, we have a lot of friends there who love him very much. Neva always props him up and takes good care of him. I’m forever grateful.
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We have a handful of new students in grade five, and they have a few new teachers (math, strings class) to get used to. These kids are a lively bunch!

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That first morning handshake. Hello, Ms. Thorman!

In the almost two weeks since this first day, we have seen Asher relax a bit. He’s getting used to the new routine; knowing the rhythm, knowing what’s going to happen in a day makes all the difference. Asher still isn’t exactly comfortable yet, but I’m hoping this will come with time. He’s such a lovely, sensitive person, and I hope we can find a way to support him through this stuff.

Asher has decided to switch from strings class, where he was playing viola, to winds class. He has taken up the flute. This move was largely influenced by the fact that a number of his good friends switched instruments and classes this year. Although I really hoped he would stay with viola (because this is one of very few schools in California that teach strings and have orchestra), he’s pretty sure about his decision. (I think he would like to play the “jazz machine,” which is what he calls the saxophone. We have my old flute for now, though.) I think it helped him to have a choice in some part of his school day. So be it.

And there we are. Getting up earlier has been a bit tough. Both Lucas and I are not morning people. But we’re muddling through, feeling a bit tired from all the adjustments, and I think we’re all looking forward to the weekend!

Here’s to a great year! Blessed be!

Love Is …

Love is …

  • Friends who host a teen traveling solo for the first time and show him around one of the greatest cities in the world
  • Going to the funeral of my dad’s best friend, even though I never met the man, to support my dad
  • Parents who gamely resume and add to their volunteer kid taxiing to and from school
  • Friends who admit they are struggling and ask for assistance; if we don’t know, we can’t help
  • Boundary setting that comes from experience and maturity; “no I do not want to work over the weekend”
  • Long snuggles spent comforting a distraught little boy who is trying to work through a lot of big feelings
  • Ending a year-long commitment that is no longer right for our family; saying no (or no, thank you) is sometimes the most right thing
  • Speaking out for justice on behalf of others more vulnerable than yourself
  • Getting involved in politics, even when it’s well out of your comfort zone to do so
  • Reading a novel aloud to my son, who was a reluctant listener at first but then turned into a please-just-a-few-more-pages listener by the end of the book
  • Beautiful, delicious meals prepared nightly by my dedicated husband, who works all day and then cooks for us
  • Rededication to schoolwork and routine, and facing into new challenges
  • Company matching for employee disaster relief donations (Harvey, in this case)
  • Buying tickets to Hawaii for a family vacation in January, and grandparents who help fund it
  • Sheltering in place at home, cool and comfortable, while California roasts
  • Fluffy dogs who love and worship you no matter how many mistakes you made today
  • Working with dedication and through exhaustion for months and month because that’s what’s required for your clients, your partners, and your family (I love you, Ian)
  • Our magnificent Village that offers to help in some way nearly every day
  • Going through beloved belongings and realizing it’s time to let some go so that other children can play with them
  • Exploring Old Sacramento with our boys during Gold Rush Days, which was surprisingly charming because cars were banished from the old timey streets
  • Delicious end-of-summer lounging by the pool

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Asher’s 10!

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Well. This post is almost six months late. In late January, my baby son turned 10! We had a lovely celebration at home and then we took some of his best buddies to the movies. He chose to see Moana.

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After the movie we went to Leatherby’s for food and ice cream. It was a lively meal. Some of these guys have known each other since preschool.

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In January, we started Asher with viola lessons with Ms. S. She is such a wonderful music teacher. In just a couple of weeks she turned Asher’s experience of viola around from tears of frustration and embarrassment to accomplished playing. He stopped asking if he could stay home from school on orchestra days.

There are only a hundred million things I should have been writing about these last few months. I can only say that I guess I didn’t have it in me. Life is full and joyful and sometimes hard. This little boy is a delight almost every moment. Ten has been pretty great so far!

Confronting Language and Swears

Tonight we had a really good dinnertime conversation about language, swears, and insults. We discussed class, race, intimacy, and the concepts of manhood and what kinds of things are sometimes said to unman someone, degrade him, and make him feel less than. We talked about how sometimes we can say things in jest with close friends that are clearly not acceptable to say to a stranger, because personal history matters, what you’ve been through together matters: “We have heard the chimes at midnight, Master Shallow” (Henry IV, Part 2, Act 3, Scene 2). We talked about words that are said in multiracial high schools by teens who are finding their way to friendships despite differences in background, skills, socioeconomic status, race, and gender, and then we contrasted that with what can and cannot be said in a private elementary school that is far less diverse, because context matters. My 10-year-old surprised me by busting out “fucktard” as a funny insult. Our teen insisted, “Just say the word,” and I totally agree. If you’re having a conversation about language you have to use it. We talked about how “fag” is used much less now (compared to when I was younger) than “cuck” (these days) to insult a man. And about what it feels like to hear these words of denigration. We talked about how “bitch” compares men to women unfavorably, as though the worse thing a man can be is like a woman, and how that might make women feel to know that’s what is meant.

And in case you think such talk is inappropriate for the dinner table, or for a family whose youngest member is 10, I would have to disagree. For how much time do we have to cover these important issues? For how many years are children receptive to their parents’ opinions on these topics? Less time that you might think! And we do far more good by confronting difficult topics with our kids, expressing our thoughts and feelings about them–even our fear and uncertaintly–than by pretending that the world isn’t sometimes cruel, or pretending that our beloved children will never be faced with a choice to use cruel words, or pretending they will never hear these words levied at themselves. Language isn’t the problem, but problems can be confronted by and improved by an examination of language.

Feminism Is A Social Justice Movement

New Rhythms

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Dear Friends,

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.

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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 …
Sara

change

Love Is …

Fragments of my heart

Love is …
• A friend who hauls your Country Mouse ass downtown and back every day with a smile and unflappable traffic savvy.
• A takeout sushi dinner to celebrate ch-ch-cha-cha-changes on the evening of the first day of a new job.
• Clever people who correct broken AC units (both at work and at home) and stop the sweltering; thanks for taking care of that, Ian.
• A teen who willingly goes on evening walks with his mama: “We can catch Pokémon, Mom!”
• BBQ at Papa and Grandma’s house, with swimming and all the foods.
• Chicago Fire Pizza.
• Getting to be a tourist in your home town.
• Lunchtime exercise walking at the Capitol, along with all the state workers, lawyers, and tourists.
• Hoping my feet don’t smell after my lunchtime walks.
• Finishing the third Pippi Longstocking book with Asher, who is sad there aren’t more Pippi books to enjoy.
• Discovering a neat little gizmo from the library called a Playaway, a single-audio-book device on a lanyard that runs on a AAA battery—perfect for little people who don’t have iPods or tablets to carry around everywhere.
• Getting a text that says, “When will you be home; I’ll have dinner ready.”
• My Village of helpers—Angels!—who cheerfully cart my boys hither and thither and care for them after their daily activities or even when no camp activity is available; they are amazing and wonderful.

California Capitol. Half mast. #summer #nicefrance  #thoughtsandprayersarentenough #loveinthesuburbs #lovewins #enoughisenough #wearenotafraid

Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building,  1928

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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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