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!

2017 Read Harder Challenge Results

My 2017 Read Harder Challenge Results: 20/24

1. Read a book about sports. 0
2. Read a debut novel. “The Strangler Vine” by M.J. Carter
3. Read a book about books. “The Bookseller (first Hugo Marston Novel)” by Mark Pryor 
4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author. 0
5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative. (1) “Unaccustomed Earth” by Jhumpa Lahiri; (2) “The Sun is Also a Star” by Nicola Yoon
6. Read an all-ages comic. “Cleopatra in Space #3: Secret of the Time Tablets”
7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950. (1) “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley; (2) “The Great Gatsby” F. Scott Fitzgerald
8. Read a travel memoir. “The Olive Grove” by Katherine Kizilos
9. Read a book you’ve read before. (1) “The Name of This Book Is Secret” by Pseudonymous Bosch; (2) “The Great Gatsby” F. Scott Fitzgerald
10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location. “Walking After Midnight” by Kate Abbott
11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location. “The Strangler Vine” by M.J. Carter
12. Read a fantasy novel. (1) “Kindred” by Octavia E. Butler; (2) “The Magicians” by Lev; (3) Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark Is Rising #1) by Susan Cooper
13. Read a nonfiction book about technology. “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” by Neil DeGrass Tyson
14. Read a book about war. “City of Theives” by David Benioff
15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+. 0
16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country. “Native Son” by Richard Wright
17. Read a classic by an author of color. “Native Son” by Richard Wright
18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead. (1) “Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 (Wires and Nerves, #1)” by Marissa Meyer; (2) “Cleopatra in Space #3: Secret of the Time Tablets”
19. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey. “By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept” Paolo Coelho
20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel. “What’s in a Name” by Pat Henshaw
21. Read a book published by a micropress. 0
22. Read a collection of stories by a woman. “Unaccustomed Earth” by Jhumpa Lahiri
23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love. “Rose” by Li-Young Lee
24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. “Kindred” by Octavia E. Butler

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.

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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August Days

The month of August seemed like a million, billion years long. It’s been the hottest summer I can remember. I read that while we in Sacramento don’t have the hottest summers in the U.S., we may have the sunniest summers. Which means no relief. Whatever. We’ve been sweltering for weeks, and frankly we’re all tired of it.

We got to go to a great punk show: Dropkick Murphys and Rancid. It was my first show at the Memorial Auditorium in Sacramento, which was built in 1926. Beautiful venue and a beautiful crowd. I may have been the only person there without any tattoos. We saw friends there, too!

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On my mama’s birthday, August 21, we were gifted with a super-rare astronomical phenomenon: a solar eclipse. Although we don’t live in the path of the totality, we still got a very cool experience. Ian made a camera obscura so we could safely view the partial eclipse.

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And we were surprised to have our friend Gary visit us and share his eclipse glasses with us! Not only was it lovely to see Gary, but his generosity enhanced the eclipse a lot.

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No cool pics of the sun. I don’t have the equipment. We kind of hoped our dogs would act weird in some way, but no, they were entirely chill.

Later that day, Asher got to go to the movies with my mama, and then we cooked dinner for her and my dad.

Daddy Flew!

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For Father’s Day this year I was flippin’ brilliant! The boys and I bought Ian an iFly experience at the indoor skydiving place in Roseville.

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We kept it a secret and on Father’s Day took Ian out to a lovely Indian buffet. Then we headed to iFly. There was a pretty long wait time, despite our appointment, but it didn’t matter because we were all pretty excited for him. And we got to see lots of other people try it.

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Best helmet!

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Like I said, I was feeling pretty damn smug about this gift!

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Ian got two 4-minute flights in the air chamber. That sounds very short, but it seems to be quite a workout.

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I think it was a big success!

And after all that, we visited my daddy, whom I love with all my heart.

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Springtime Whirlwind

Spring came and went quickly this year. I wish I had done a better job of capturing all the moments of joy and learning here. I can’t beat myself up about not blogging, though. That’s not really healthy. I’ve continued to take tons of photos. Sometimes I find myself at a loss for words, or maybe energy for words. The photos I take are sustaining to me. I so enjoy having them.

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In February something fairly significant happened. Our 60-foot deodora cedar tree from our side yard fell over in a big, long rainstorm (not quite a whirlwind, but close). It landed on the front corner of our home. Since then, we’ve had to learn a lot about homeowners insurance claims, hiring contractors, etc.

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I’m really missing this tree, but it has opened some doors for us. I’m grateful to this tree; even in its demise it helped us out.

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I’d love to say that the damage was repaired rapidly, but it’s been slow. In the intervening months since the tree fell, we have paid to have the tree removed, hired a public adjuster, put plastic up on our roof to keep the weather out of our home, signed contracts, looked at roofing, chosen new masonry for the front of our house and chimney (the impact of the tree on the house caused the masonry to peel away from the building). The damage could have been much worse and far more inconvenient. We’re just taking things one step at a time and being patient as best we can.

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This is Nick. He removed the much-despised lava rock from my house. I have wanted someone like Nick to do this for 18 years. Thanks, Nick!

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Terrible old roof had to come down. Carpentry repairs and new masonry had to go up, one stone at a time.

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We’ve made significant progress, especially since the beginning of July. It’s been very noisy at home lately, with carpenters, roofers, masons, etc., working as early as 6:30 a.m. (The July heat has been truly unkind, with many days up to 105-110 degrees!) Theoretically, the roofers were finishing up today, which means when I get home from work there will be a NEW ROOF! Probably. The stonemasons finished on Sunday and the place has a whole new look, with beautiful Red Rock ledge stone.

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Bit by bit, the work is being done. We’re hoping to put in more insulation in our attic, and maybe have the ductwork under the house inspected and fixed. We’re planning to paint the whole place. The list is a mile long. We won’t get to do everything, but it’s going to be sound and safe again soon. It is home.

Gonna Try to Post More

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It’s not like nothing is happening. Life is busy, rich, full of intense logistical and emotional challenges—lots of striving and attempts at recovery before more striving begins. It seems like with all that’s going on, it’s hard to find the moments and energy to write.

I’d like to change that, because I have a sense that time is slipping away. I have guilt that I’m somehow shortchanging us all by not chronicling our days here in this virtual space.

I’ve also found that when my life is challenging or I have thoughts and feelings that are, say, less than charitable, I clam up. Who wants to air their dirty laundry on the Internet? Not me. Now that sounds really dramatic, and like I have a huge beef with someone. I don’t. I just don’t always know how or whether to acknowledge the uncomfortable stuff. In a way, the culture of “positive thinking,” or whatever bullshit they’re calling it these days, has poisoned us, making us unable to tell our truths for fear of appearing a failure. I mean, if you’re blessed (by God), you’re successful—if you’re unsuccessful in any way, you must therefore not be blessed. See the problem? I don’t believe that; I think it’s totally toxic.

So, a tiny picture of what’s going on now:

We’ve just shipped Lucas off to Camp Winthers for his second week of work as a counselor in training (CIT). He worked the week of July 3, too, and unfortunately had a really tough time because of one extremely ill-behaved camper. From what Lucas described, this boy was recalcitrant, obstinate, and rude. He whined, threw rocks, ran away, and generally was as disruptive and uncooperative as he could be the entire time. Counselors and program managers talked to this kid, but they stopped short of booting him home, which is what I think they should have done. Unfortunately, Lucas was charged with dealing with this monster while the other counselors and instructors led the rest of the group and carried on with the art summer camp adgenda. Lucas is a great guy, and he did his very best, but it was extremely frustrating and stressful and more than he was trained to handle. He came home on 7/7 wiped out and angry.

In the intervening ten days, he has been home recovering, and taking a great week-long course in forensics at CSU Sacramento. He seems to have enjoyed it and learned a lot. The class got to analyze a crime scene, isolate DNA, do paternity tests—cool stuff like that. I think it was worthwhile and worth the cost. The program is Summer Academies and it’s just for high school kids.

I’m hoping that this week is wonderful and easier and that he comes home tired but happy and relieved.

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Asher is doing his second week at Effie Yeaw Nature Center this week. The camp is wonderful, but as he has done the same program the last two summers, he’s feeling kind of bored. This is especially so because he doesn’t have his posse with him. (I swear, I tried!) Fortunately for him, camp is only in the mornings. Tomorrow is the big, exciting day of rafting on the American River. (That’s really why we signed him up!)

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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!

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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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