New Rhythms

2016-07-19 18.56.52

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

Lime Kiln as 7th-Grade Chemistry

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.

Lime Cycle diagram by Peter Bell

Lime Cycle diagram by Peter Bell

“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.

 

Here

My view for the last several days

It is nearing the end of winter vacation. I am grateful for the good weather. The boys are playing outside. Asher is “painting” the window with a paintbrush and what I hope is water. Lucas is bouncing on a pogo stick. It’s a ka-chuncka-sqeak sound, over and over. Neighbor kids are in the play house.

Later I peek out and see Lucas cracking ice in the birdbath. A wave of noise floods the backyard when they tumble through the gate, then trickles out again as they move to the street in front of the house.

Some construction or demolition is happening nearby. I can hear the drone of heavy machinery doing work. The soundtrack in the house is the drone of the dryer, which I believe is trying to die.

Now I hear the boys playing stick wars outside, dueling it out with found tree branches, with smaller sticks-as-daggers stabbed through belt loops. They can never have too many stick weapons. I worry about their constant war games. But I have long since learned that I can sooner stop the moon from fattening than I can stop their games. To me they are frighteningly fierce. The boys ignore my pleas to play nicely. I am frequently told to chill out. At the present moment, I am grateful that their bickering and battling is taking place outside our home and not in it. There have been far too many arguments these last few days. Alas, it’s almost dark now and they will come galumphing in the front door soon.

I have all manner of things I want to be doing. My mind is full of chattering thoughts. I sit here, trying to refocus on what I have to do, telling myself to just be. I cannot to all. The. Things. I can only do one thing at a time (plus keep the clothes washer and dryer going).

Back to the editing. I tell myself that I can have a reward when I reach the end of this chapter. I can check Facebook, or write a few words here. I have already rewarded myself several times today with breakfast (after some work), with a shower (after some work). That’s how I roll, how I work alone year after year and stay motivated. Some days—especially dull days—I even break out teeth brushing as a separate reward for slogging through. “Want oral hygiene? Finish this chapter!” Hear the whip crack?

So, in the back of my mind, while I edit fantasy wars for couch-ridden adventurers with thumbs, I am kinda planning out some goals for myself, for this blog, for my work. I had a little time today to lift my head and look up, while the boys were away with grandma. I put a few events on the calendar. It seems that on 1/3 I am able to finally begin my new year.

Well, that’s where I am. Here.

 

 

Lately

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I’m not going to get anything done today until I write a bit. I am all pent up and my feelings on all subjects are all over the place. They’re mixed up because I haven’t been writing, which is my process for sorting things out, for determining what matters, what to hang on to and work on, and what to let go of. I’ll try not to make this too complainy because there’s really tons of good stuff.

Lately:

I am very busy with work; I have three projects going full speed ahead. Well, the truth is two of the three projects are taking up so much time that the third is languishing and I hope to get back to it ASAP. I don’t know when that will happen and it’s worrying me. I hope it goes without saying that I’m very glad to have the work. I am. Really.

Pretty computer. So new, there is no dust!

My computer died last Wednesday. My main, desktop, do-everything-on-it computer. I will spare you the emotional trauma of this and just say that I have a new one now. It’s a great new machine and my old data is fine. “Hard drive is robust like ox,” said my tech support queen. This is a VERY HAPPY thing. I am still tweaking and finding workarounds to this happy thing, however, as the happy thing is far from optimized at this moment and I don’t have time to optimize it … yet. Nevertheless, all of this will be better soon. In the meantime, I’ve struggled to keep those three projects moving forward.

I just fell in love all over again. #violin #waldorf #home #son

The boys are doing great. Lucas is adapting gradually to the greater expectations of fifth grade. (I have a whole post on this topic brewing in my head.) Lucas is really enjoying both soccer skills practice and his twice weekly karate class. Asher is zany and clownish and enjoying the hell out of life, it seems. Both boys are healthy and happy. Managing them is like herding cats, or monkeys, um—good-natured, sometimes-disdainful-or-obstinate, constantly forgetful catmonkeys who are generally too busy singing or shouting or bickering or spilling or bouncing through the house to listen to you. Or me.

I’ve gone over to my sister-in-law Kellie’s house a couple of times to help out a little with baby Jack, her newborn son. He is beautiful in every way—utterly perfect—and is finally seeming to get a handle on this breastfeeding thing. Some babies are stubborn like that. Holding a teeny baby has got to be one of the best joys of life. I only have to hold him a moment before he has cast a dreamy spell on me and I find that everything else fades away. Still, I did that so-familiar thing of holding baby and editing one-handed. It brought back so many memories and feelings from when my babies were small. Anita Martin, the charming and talented photographer who took Matt and Kellie’s wedding photos has taken some gorgeous shots of them with new baby Jack. They are truly spectacular. Our love goes out to Matt, Kellie, and Jack during this difficult and wonderful newborn time.

Harvest Faire  and the Walk Now for Autism Speaks events both happened last weekend. (I’m planning to write more about this.) It was community service weekend, to be sure. Consequently, it felt rather like no weekend at all. Today, Friday of the following week, I am running on fumes. (Return to the first paragraph under “Lately.”)

I’m also supposed to be writing a book. I hope to get back to that ASAP before my coauthor disowns me.

I love the fall. Can’t wait to hit the pumpkin patch and start work on those Halloween costumes.

I miss painting sooooo bad. It’s been too long and I now feel fear when I think about picking up a brush. Isn’t that the way of it? I’ve lost my momentum and with it some confidence. It’s a thing I have to correct at the soonest possibly opportunity. Must buy that fancy light so I can paint in my house at night. Must get back to class. Mustn’t forget what I’ve learned so far.

 

 

 

Painting: My Copper Kettle Studies

Copper Kettle Study 1: Payne's Gray and White Only

In mid-November I went back to my painting class after a two month hiatus. I had to earn some dough before I could return to class. In the time that I was away from it, my stress levels soared, I got depressed, and things looked bleak. I’m not saying all of this was related to not painting—there was plenty of other stuff going on. But I remember thinking during all of that, I just want to paint. I yearned for it. I decided for the sake of my mental health that continuing my classes was good for me.

And it is. I’m now three more classes in and I’m still loving it. This is a series of three paintings of a copper kettle. The first was the black and white one above. We were instructed to use only Payne’s gray and white. The point of the study was to focus only on value and not on color. I have a lot to learn about this, but value is the relationship of dark and light. With the two paint colors I mixed a middle gray, then a light gray and a dark gray.

Color Wheel

Modern Color Wheel from My Class

Goethe’s Color Wheel (for Fun and Because It’s Pretty)

After Thanksgiving we were given a new exercise: Paint the same subject in basically the same position on the same background using complementary colors, which are opposite on the color wheel. When mixed in equal proportions, they should create a neutral gray. I’ve learned that in painting “gray” is not so specific a shade as it is in my mind. There are lots of grays and, well, isn’t that wonderful?

Copper Kettle Study 2: Viridian and Red Orange Only

This second study above was painted with a blue-green and a red-orange. All the colors you see were mixed from those two and then tinted with white to ultimately fill my palette with 15 different colors. My kettle wasn’t in the exact same position as in the first study, but the effect is the same. (I just noticed there is a diagonal shadow in the bottom right corner of these photos. That’s not in the painting; it’s in my window and the photographs.)

Copper Kettle Study 3: Triad of Orange, Sap Green, and Violet

This one is last night’s study: same kettle, different exercise. The point of this study was to use three colors from the color wheel, a triad. (A color scheme in which three colors of equidistant distribution on the color wheel are used, e.g., red, blue, and yellow.) We could pick any three, so long as they had the right relationship to each other. I chose green, orange, and violet. I mixed and mixed these three colors and then tinted with white to get roughly 17 colors on my palette. Just doing this was awesome. I also had three goals in mind when I was painting this third kettle study: 1) paint a little faster, 2) paint thicker (use more paint), and 3) take more risks.

Now, this copper kettle isn’t exactly the thing I want to have a painting of in my home, much less three paintings. But this was a fascinating exercise and I’m so glad I did this. I have a much greater appreciation for color and mixing than ever before. Also, I no longer feel that every painting has to prove anything. The doing of it was the thing.

 

Blue Sunday

Thank goodness today has been Sunday. We’re tired from staying up too late last night. We’re feeling a bit drained from all the … well, small challenges that we’re presently facing: expensive car repairs, viruses, rush projects. Even Ian is working this weekend, which isn’t something he has to do too often.

It’s fine. Everything will be all right.

Housework. Sick boys. Freelance work. These are the things that have occupied our time this weekend instead of what we had planned: our annual trip to Mimi’s cabin in Strawberry in the Tahoe forest, to visit her and grandpa. Feverish children changed our plans.

We’re in a bit of a slump, you might say.

However, there were several sweet highlights. Like unexpected visits from friends, who fill up my heart with love and see deep inside me.

Arranging

Low-key, take-it-easy play and movies to ease the disappointment, sickness, and crabbies. I think Lucas is well enough to return to school tomorrow, which is great because he’s feeling pretty blue and misses his friends.

Ian's Gorgeous Mushroom, Onion, Spinache Omelette

The delicious mushroom, spinach, onion omelette Ian made me for breakfast.

Climbing

A few feverish smiles and the wonderful opportunity to climb on Dad.

Asher's New Mama-made Dolly

Some sewing for mama. I got to complete a small knot doll I started a month or more ago. She’s for Asher and I sewed all her clothing, hat, and hair today, using just leftover bits and bobs.

Asher's New Mama-made Dolly Back

Ian said she looks a bit like a preschool teacher, and Asher immediately named her after his own teacher. So sweet.

I’m trying my hand at a new bread-making method. We’ll see how that turns out…. I also managed to finish a work project today, so that feels good, too.

And as for the rest of today, I’m thinking of snuggles and food and an early bedtime for all.

Seven Years Self-Employed

I’m so busy with work I almost didn’t notice, but sometime this week (August 22nd? 23rd?) marks the seventh anniversary (7th!) of my self-employment.

In August 2003, I left the best job I’ve ever had to stay home with my 1-year-old son, Lucas, because frankly I couldn’t hack leaving him with a nanny every day.

I think I made it all the way to the end of that generous, third “reintegration” month, working three days a week at the office and two days at home. That’s when I realized it’s not normal to cry every day you go to work. (During my morning commute, at my desk, in the bathroom, at lunch, on the way home.) Maybe a little at first—but after three months, it was starting to look less like a “difficult transition” and more like depression.

After a lot of soul searching and a hasty look at my bank account, I threw caution to the wind and quit that great job. It was the right decision for me and my son. It was the right decision for my mental health.

I left to go freelance with no freelance experience. No savings. No contacts. No babysitting. Not one tiny clue how to run a business. And it was seven years ago! Did I mention that part already?

I’ve had some really hard years. I’ve had a few spectacular years. I’ve had many, many late nights working and I’ve lost many weekends to my projects. I’ve had seasonal work with ultra-busy months and dreadfully slow months. I’ve had hundreds of days with my kids that I would not otherwise have had. I say yes to stinky projects sometimes. I am occasionally so busy I have to say no to gems.

I’m the boss. My own boss.

And while I may have a tendency to be nostalgic about those old office days, with old office friends and everything else that went with office life, I’m not sorry.

Because, when you factor in all the various pros and cons, tally all the tick marks, and weight it all up, I now have the best job I’ve ever had.

One Summer’s Day

Lucas off to camp, Daddy off to work. Me and Asher with all kinds of time for …

Asher Loves the Chalk

chalk drawings on the patio,

African Daisies

inspection of garden flowers,

Cana Leaves and Shadows

and the study of sun and shadow, curves and lines and points …

Avalanche

for free-ranging hens, like Avalanche here,

Pumpkin

and for growing pumpkins, green and ghostly white,

Purple Morning Glories

for purple morning glories, cana seed pods,

Corn in Morning Sun

and corn in the morning light. How do we know when it’s ripe?

Red Crepe Myrtle

It’s August, so the crepe myrtles are blooming, bursting!

We’re busy, so the playroom needs sweeping. A million precious things scattered a million different places.

And then the blocks simply must come out to play,

and Mommy simply MUST work a tad.

“Bob the Builder” is fun for Asher. Chapter 8 is not so fun for Mommy.

The leftover Ciro’s pizza simply MUST be Lunch.

“I will take my nap on the couch. For ONE minute. And then you wake me up and say, ‘Asher, it’s time to wake up to play!'”

Mia’s Apple Tree

Cameleon Was A Spy

I’ll be damned! He is asleep on the couch, just like he promised.

More of Chapter 8 in the hush of the sleeping preschooler, who,

miracle of miracles!

awakes with a smile and gentle

pat, pat, pat footfalls,

bear in hand.

We fetch Lucas from summer camp, where he wove a tiny rug.

“When can I go to big-boy summer camp?” Asher asks. Again.

“Buckle up, boys. We’re going to the library,”

Charmichael Library

where they cannot see the books for the computer that has kid games and a candy-colored keyboard.

Charmichael Library Rotunda

But the Carmichael Library is newly remodeled and lovely, as is evident in the rotunda. Mommy wants to take more pictures, but then feels too much like a weirdo.

There’s also too much bickering between Asher and Lucas over the computer, so Mommy decides to check out.

Three books for boys, three books for Daddy.

We visit Great-Grandma and Great-Aunt, who are fine and old and loving and mysterious and bored until we arrive.

They don’t believe we have chickens.

Green, White, and Brown

Home again, we collect the day’s eggs. The green ones are lucky, don’t ya know.

They Called It "Toy City"

And “Toy City” grows and grows some more.

For dinner, tasty snapper, spinach, snap peas, garden tomatoes, à la Daddy.

Sundown.

There’s still time for chicken ranging, feeding, and holding,

for watering the garden,

for watering the boys, giddy and nekkid, screeching and laughing.

“MY FOOT! I stepped in chicken poop!”

Shivering.

Shower. Teeth. Jammies. Stories. Lotion for eczema. Songs. Cuddles.

“You check on us?”

“Oh yes.”

Family Days

So, Friday again. There’s always such gorgeous POTENTIAL in Fridays, such HOPE, so many dreams and plans. How will we fill our weekend? What weekend joys will fill and fulfill us over the next few days? Around here, we call weekends “Family Days.” I know we have family days every day, for we are never really far from one another. But “Family Days” is the name that means something to my children, and it helps us grown-ups remember that these two days are important, no matter what we end up doing (even if it’s just chores and hanging out). Family Days are special. Daddy is home with us all day. There’s less routine (like little boys waking up even earlier than usual out of excitement) and more resting. A bit more reading. More breathing out.

It’s funny, the expectations I carry. I want my Family Days to be idyllic and restful, peaceful and restorative after a hard/busy week of bouncing to and fro between kid activities and work. I also want Family Days to be packed with exciting projects and fun, tons of friends and laughter, special foods and adventures away from home—all to fill up our hearts, minds, and eyes.

Oh Friday, where will you take us?

Lots of weekends look a lot like work days for me. Today I’m imagining that apart from all that dreamy fun, adventure, social time, and rest we’ll have this weekend, I’ll also get gobs and gobs of freelance work done. Yes, this is where that time machine comes in. I’m awaiting its delivery. Should be any day now. I have my receipt around here somewhere …

On deck for this weekend:
• Getting our hens!
• Finishing coop/chicken run chores (yikes!)
• Getting some straw and feed and chicken sundries
• Tons of editing work for me
• Dinner with friends
• Some swimming, hopefully—it’s damn hot
• Grocery shopping
• Making snacks and popsicles

This morning, my kiddos were READY for Family Days. Asher whined, “It’s NOT a school day. It’s a Family Day! We play together today.” I know how he feels. Although he rallied and adjusted his attitude to going to preschool, he gave me a set of assignments for today: “Spray your plants. Work on your computer. Build with blocks on our zoo. Then when I come home, I’ll say ‘Good job, Mom! You did good work today!’”

Attitude Adjustment

It’s weird how one can feel opposite feelings about the same thing. For example, I felt both

grateful

and disappointed

about doing this today, on Memorial Day:

Working on Memorial Day

So, to care for and console myself, I took a ten-minute break outside in my garden to look at these:

Green and Purple Buds
Green and purple hydrangea buds

Squirrel in Pecan Tree
Squirrel in my pecan tree

Nasturtiums from Seed
Nasturtiums grown from seed

Dusty Miller About to Pop
Dusty miller buds about to pop

Pansies
Pansies

Mexican Primrose and African Daisy
Mexican primrose and African daisies

Nasturtiums from Seed
More nasturtiums grown from seed

Day Lily
Day lily

And now I feel

reenergized

amazed

galvanized

and happy.

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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.

    © 2003–2017 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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