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Vignette 14/52 Origami Panties.

“People cannot change their habits without first changing their way of thinking.”
― Marie Kondō, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

It was 6:30am and I was sitting at my in-laws kitchen table about to enjoy my first cup of coffee and write my morning pages. Joey sauntered in and put her me her underwear in front of me.

“Mom, can you figure out how to fold these so they stay folded, you know, like how Cindy does it?”

The children greet me with a question every morning: What are we doing today? Have you seen my 4B pencil? Do we have cake flour? How do I do a rib stitch again? What happens when we die? Do we have any forest green embroidery thread? Where’s the Stoic book?

I thought I had been asked every possible question by five children over two decades. But this was a first.

She knew she caught me off guard so she shared more info and slowed her speech.

“I’m packing now. I want my underwear to stay folded. When Cindy folds our laundry, she does this cool thing with the underwear and makes it like a dumpling. Do you remember how she does it?”

In Costa Rica, we don’t have a washer and dryer yet so we take our laundry to a service and her name is Cindy. There is an unexplainable joy that I feel with my washed laundry already folded.

“I am not sure. Let me try.”

We cleared a space on the table to lay the underwear and we took turns folding. I even tried to turn it into an airplane. I thought about waking Q – our origami guru. A few years ago, Q had this obsession with origami. He can still make a paper crane, a ninja star, and small gift box on demand.

After a few minutes of crumpled panties, I decided to bite the bullet and google. I am always scared to use the wrong set of words in the search bar that could yield things I can’t unsee. I tried “how to fold underwear.” I braced myself for what could come up but it was only a slew of OCD blogs from people that spent their lives trying to share their passion of organization, changing one closet at a time. After multiple Marie Kondo references, we finally found a Wikihow step-by-step process.

She tried to follow the photos but it fell a part. I made sure the folds were crisp. At this point, I had flashbacks of sonobe balls and tears (my own) because my folds weren’t crisp enough and both the origami geometry and the child in front of me were about to fall apart. This same child in front of me that looks in awe about my seriousness of folding her underwear is not falling apart but simply curious.

She has changed. I have watched her grow and learn to let go of right angles and crisp folds. That day she examined the fold with interest instead of desperation.

It worked! It looked like a little egg roll, cute and compact. There was no way it would unfold.

I held it up to her and she said with glee and supreme satisfaction, “Thanks Mama!”

Before she took it, I unfolded it all.

She looked at me confused. I tossed her the underwear and said,
“Now figure it out.”

She grabbed her underwear, rolled her eyes, gave me the tiniest of grateful smiles, and headed to her room to pack.

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Vignette 13/52. Old Men and My “Why.”

“Regardless of WHAT we do in our lives, our WHY—our driving purpose, cause or belief—never changes.”
― Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

“I think of old white men sitting around in togas.”

“Yes me too!”

“It’s all too complicated and I can’t understand it.”

“And old white men sitting around in university talking about deep things.”

This is what my students shouted out when I asked them what came to my mind when I said the word, “Philosophy.”

First, the old white men thing. Ugh. That’s a post for another day.

Second, how did philosophy become so inaccessible and a subject for an elite group?

For almost a year we have been using my Daily Stoic to copy down quotes and talk about the themes. It comes as a shock to them that this is true philosophy. They also didn’t realize our study on Montaigne’s essays and “How to Live” during our virtual learning time was also philosophy.

I asked them to go home that night and think of all the questions about life that they had. Here are some of them:

Does sorrow and joy come from the same place?
What is consciousness?
What happens after we die?
What is love?
What makes us happy? How do we achieve happiness?
When there are things in life that are hard, how do you overcome challenges?
How do we know what is the right choice?

I told them that I couldn’t answer these questions and maybe none of us will ever find the answers, but asking them was an important first step.

And for that last question? I did have an answer for that one. Start with your WHY. Behind every choice is your WHY whether you are conscious of it or not.

In May, I sat in front of my screen and wanted to give up. There was a deadline for my 10000 word chapter for a book on home education. The first draft of the chapter was 3/4 complete and a mess. Do I finish or quit? I felt I was a little too far along to quit but also not so far that I could feel relaxed. I still had to edit and cite.

I almost didn’t submit the 1000 word proposal back in February. I procrastinated for a month. There are so many things about my homeschooling experience I wanted to share and do further research on. I started to write everything. They overlapped multiple themes and I couldn’t synthesize the message.

I found myself on the Pacific side, about to go to Envision Festival for the first time, with new and old friends the DAY BEFORE THE DEADLINE. I spontaneously told them and they gave me space and more importantly, the permission, to finish. I submitted the proposal with relief. It probably wasn’t going to be accepted but at least I finished.

But they did accept it and in May, 7588 words later, I wanted to quit. I told myself no one would really know about it and people would understand. I was a very busy lady.

But I remembered that my students and my kids knew. Our philosophy talks had included how to overcome obstacles, what true perseverance means, and the value of hard work.

I was screwed. I had to finish.

I finally remembered to focus on my why and not the how.

Why finish? Why write this chapter? Why use my voice? Why show up for this work? Why try to change an education system? Why not do the bare minimum and accept fate? Why risk failure?

I step away from the screen and go paint with my kids. I talk about my challenge with the chapter. They tell me that I need to do it. They tell me they are proud of me. They ask what they can do to help.

As I look at these five faces, these faces that have trusted me and my grand experiments, I see the care and the kindness. I see the slow immersion in the process of painting itself. I see their instinctive need to be of service to someone they love.

I know why I have to do this – I have to share all of this. This different way of being and learning together.

And who am I waiting for? Another old white guy?

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Vignette 12/52. Street Cred.

claim (v.)
c. 1300, “to call, call out; to ask or demand by virtue of right or authority,” from accented stem of Old French clamer “to call, name, describe; claim; complain; declare,” from Latin clamare “to cry out, shout, proclaim,” from PIE root *kele- (2) “to shout.”
Meaning *

claim (n.) a statement that something is true or is a fact, although other people might not believe it:

I am so uncomfortable with claiming when it comes to myself. Claiming in the sense of declaring, calling out, and asking or demanding “by virtue of right or authority” is easy when it’s about someone else.

But making a claim about myself is so nerve-wracking because it’s seems so definitive. What if what I believe to be true is actually false?

For verification, I turn to my circle of safety.
Am I really this? Do I have right to call myself this and see myself as this?

I have a friend in my circle named Minkie English. Minkie is an intelligent, direct, honest, and powerful woman whom I met in Colombia during a women’s gathering. We instantly clicked and kept in touch. She is in New York and I am in Costa Rica. One day I slowly shared my project and my vision. We spoke for hours about what I was doing, what I loved, and what I believed about education.

Although she was 3000km away, mas o menos, I could feel her excitement and her trademark, “Girrrrl!” I was and still am so reserved about it all because it’s all so new, terrifying, nauseating, and incredible. What arrived in my inbox shortly after our conversation set us both on a path that we have been walking together this past year.

She started to send me academic chapter proposal requests.

I was confused. I promptly looked over my shoulder and asked, “Wait. Me?” And the ugly word, like that zit that never heals because you can’t stop picking it, reared its ugly pus-infested head. You are just a mom who homeschooled.

And then that next question that I have gotten asked since we began our homeschool journey, a question that I never really pay attention to, until now, surfaced:

Are you even qualified?

Because of Minkie and her vote of confidence, I decided to take a page from my own playbook as a parent. Being at home with your kids all day, every day for over a decade, you learn that you HAVE to practice what you preach otherwise don’t bother saying it. I had to reinvent my story including my view of the word “just.”

Just do it.

(Those three words are pretty catchy.)

I had at least seven people in my life that wouldn’t care if I failed. Minkie, Chris, and my five kids would hold a very special accountability container for me this year as I navigated this new world. It’s been a vulnerable time for me putting myself out there in my writing and in my project.

I am particularly grateful for my dear friend and collaborator, Minkie, who believes in my vision and helped me clarify it along the way using her experience, her insight and asking me tough questions.

Fast forward one year of data analysis and collection, anecdotal observations, research, and lots of writing and coffee. My chapter (Chapter 4: Slow Education – A Homeschooler’s Perspective) in Global Perspectives on Home Education in the 21st Century, an edited collection of pieces, has just been published. Another chapter, one that Minkie and I co-wrote together, is about to be published. A paper we also developed together was selected for the American Educational Research Association’s (AERA) Annual Conference in 2021 at which we will be presenting.

In one year, I became an education researcher, a published writer, a director of a learning center, and a full-time guide to twenty teenagers.

Am I qualified?

I am ready to make the claim: YES I AM.

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“What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.”
― Abraham Maslow

**

Yesterday I talked a little bit about the new learning space. I need to take a step back and talk about how I got there because it will explain a lot about where I am today.

Two years ago, I used an ugly word a lot. I used it about myself. I used it whenever I was insecure. I used it because I was afraid.

Just.

I am just a stay-at-home mom. I just write and draw a bit. Oh we just homeschool (notice how I would use the “we” and I have to give credit to my husband who would interrupt and say “it’s all her”).

I was missing something.

I was missing my safety shorts. The safety shorts in this case had nothing to do with spandex. I was missing my Circle of Safety, or my Sacred Circle as Julia Cameron from the The Artist Way writes about here:

Success occurs in clusters. Drawing a Sacred Circle creates a sphere of safety and a center of attraction for our good. By filling this form faithfully, we draw to us the best. We draw the people we need. We attract the gifts we could best employ.

These people are those who see me more than just (fill in the blank). They see me as a creative artist: the writer, the educator, the visionary, and more.

My husband of course is part of that 1 inch x 1 inch square list of people I can feel safe with and who sees me more than the “justs” but it was not until I met a circle of women from all over the world that I finally stopped to hear what my heart was whispering.

It was so faint that it was easy to ignore. It was easy to say that other ugly word: later.

Then slowly I started to share my visions of something different, a new model for learning adapting it to the community and the place. I shared it in a whisper to a few women who would listen without judgment but with curiosity.

Slowly we started collaborating on the project. Slowly I shared what I envisioned and what I have experienced homeschooling. I found myself excited and wanting to work with these wonderfully gifted women. And then there was this moment of decision. Did I really want this? Did I want to lead?

Short answer was no.

No f&%$#ing way.

I was perfectly fine tutoring my small group of teens and my own kids at home. I wasn’t getting paid. I loved it and would research all night the teens’ questions and find the most creative and spacious way to guide them to the answers. Why should I complicate my life with money and more responsibility?

But then my friends needed a long-term and stable alternative for their kids. They trusted me. I started to have more visions and my stomach turned. I wanted to throw up thinking about it. I knew this feeling. This is the ‘dark night of the soul’ feeling that I would get right before saying yes and leaping into the dark, risking it all. I felt this giving birth to AJ. I felt this before we decided to homeschool. I felt this before Chris decided to start an online business. I felt this before we moved to Costa Rica.

This is the moment when I confuse personal safety with taking the easy road. This is a false sense of safety. You may think you are safer but you don’t grow. Any type of change, good or bad, is threatening because you aren’t resilient and you live in a perpetual state of unease.

Taking risks can feel safe with a safety circle. The peeps that say yes you can, yes you should, yes I will be there for you to keep you in check and to cheer you on. And then when you take the leap, they are there to leap with you, fly with you, be the stars to guide you in that dark night, or at worst, ease the fall and at least have a drink with you to ease the pain.

In a year where we have been told to distance and isolate, I have done the opposite. What I have learned this year is how to ask for help, how to say I am sorry in an even deeper and vulnerable way because this journey into the unknown involves A LOT of mistakes, and how to lean into community.

I am deeply grateful for all of you who have been my little patch of spandex allowing me to climb the tallest of trees in the shortest of skirts.

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Vignette 10/52. Safety shorts and un-pyramiding.

“Life is an ongoing process of choosing between safety (out of fear and need for defense) and risk (for the sake of progress and growth). Make the growth choice a dozen times a day.” – Abraham Maslow

***

I went to a Catholic high school and wore a kilt. Underneath the kilt, I wore a pair of cycling shorts. My friend Lara introduced me to the exact name of these types of shorts when I was an adult – safety shorts.

Safety shorts gave me the freedom to move without fear of accidentally flashing an unsuspecting passerby at the bus stop, a teacher, or hormonal adolescent boys. I could skip steps up the crowded stairwell or jump over puddles with abandon.

A simple piece of clothing filled my need to feel free in my movements, ultimately giving me a sense of safety as an awkward adolescent girl. I was able to focus on other things like learning and building relationships.

Little did I know that this was a great example of Maslow’s theory of a hierarchy of needs which I eventually encountered in my organizational behaviour class in university. It has guided me in how I homeschool, how I parent, how I navigate marriage, how I take care of myself, and now, how I develop a program at a learning center.

I recently read Scott Barry Kaufman’s illuminating blog post on Maslow’s Pyramid:

Abraham Maslow’s iconic pyramid of needs is one of the most famous images in the history of management studies. At the base of the pyramid are physiological needs, and at the top is self-actualization, the full realization of one’s unique potential. Along the way are the needs for safety, belonging, love, and esteem.

But Kaufman goes on to write:

However, many people may not realize that during the last few years of his life Maslow believed self-transcendence, not self-actualization, was the pinnacle of human needs. What’s more, it’s difficult to find any evidence that he ever actually represented his theory as a pyramid. On the contrary, it’s clear from his writings that he did not view his hierarchy of needs like a video game– as though you reach one level and then unlock the next level, never again returning to the “lower” levels. He made it quite clear that we are always going back and forth in the hierarchy, and we can target multiple needs at the same time.

According to Kaufman, a ladder is a more appropriate visual representation because a person can be affected by multiple types of needs at once. The need for safety and belonging can exist simultaneously.

Children have had their lives disrupted, watched their parents worry, watched their whole world become uncertain, continue to try to navigate the world with masks while still learning to read facial expressions, and are expected to adapt to virtual learning immediately before they get “too far behind.”

This is like 14 year old me wearing a kilt without safety shorts on the first day of a high school that has over 3000 students.

In March, our learning space went online too.

But instead of trying to do “school,” we told stories, played games, and danced with the little ones. We had deep conversations and asked big questions with the bigger ones.

We changed the way we connected to the kids.

Turn videos on and say good morning and goodbye. Make eye contact. Tell me what you are grateful for. When was the last time you laughed? Let’s take five minutes and journal together. How are you feeling? Let’s draw together on the zoom white board. Let’s do an art exercise together. Let’s do show and tell. Let’s “visit” the other class and surprise them. Let’s take a tour of a virtual museum together and tell me what you think. No, you don’t have to write an essay. Please just show up and talk.

It will all be ok because we have each other.

Do you see the moon? That’s the same moon we all see even the moon that your grandparents on the other side of the world see.

This is my grander vision of safety shorts and an attempt at incorporating Maslow’s ladder into how we teach and learn with others in community. This is Casa Morpho. This is mostly where I have been.

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Vignette 9/52. The fake and the real.

To design a desk which may cost $1,000 is easy for a furniture designer, but to design a functional and good desk which shall cost $50 can only be done by the very best.”

  • from Ikea Founder Ingvar Kamprad

Me: “Listen, we just have to pick up pillows and some towels. Let’s go directly to that area and get the f%$& out of here.”

Joey: “But mom, we HAVE to see the showrooms.”

She had a point. We probably visit Ikea once every year, maybe even less frequently. Chris had firm boundaries on this visit though: no vases and definitely no candles. (Twenty-six years with me and he knows my weaknesses. I am sure he would have added ‘no shelves where assembly would risk divorce’ but there is no room in the luggage AND we have learned that lesson the hard way.)

I noticed that everyone had a spring in their step as we approached the entrance.

Why does Ikea bring us joy?

We celebrated AJ’s 2nd and her 20th birthdays at Ikea. At the time of her second birthday, we were broke. The food was cheap and she saw the toy area as a magical place and stuffies were $1.50. For her twentieth birthday, we went for nostalgic reasons (and she was moving into her first home and towels were $1.50).

Is it the cutely-designed showrooms? We sit marvel how ridiculously organized the rooms are, the furniture placement and choice, and the small space efficiency.

I even nursed one of the kids in a rocking chair and fell asleep because the room felt so cozy except for the strangers passing by that I hardly noticed because I was so sleep-deprived.

These are all make-believe spaces without the realness of life. We sit around the pretend kitchen island and imagine cooking together without the sibling arguments over how to cut a tomato properly. We try the beds feeling the comfort of the mattress without turning over and giving our partner the cold shoulder treatment. We sit in the living rooms without ever having a difficult conversation. No doors are slammed. No crying over split milk.

I remember setting up an “Ikea” family room in our old house. We had the sofa, vases and candles of course, and as a couple, we had just recovered from assembling the shelf together. The kids all cuddled on the sofa and it felt like the showroom for maybe three minutes. Then there was the fighting over who sits next to me, the mess of toys on the floor, and of course, the spilt milk and all the crying.

Today our jungle home is miles away from those clean and pristine Ikea showrooms. After six weeks away, we were happy that we came back while there was still an hour of daylight to scrub the the lizard shit, cat hair, parts of dead things, and cobwebs in the rooms.

I see the looks on the kids’ faces. I see their longing for the artificial showrooms as they sweep and wipe. I see their faces of disgust and despair as they complain about the smell of mold and animal in their rooms.

This is not an Ikea moment. Or is it?

I race downstairs and tear through our dozen duffel bags of presents, supplies, and flip flops we have brought back. I find the duffel bag and yell to the crew, “I found the Ikea vanilla-scented tea lights!”

Chris gives me a look that says “I thought I said no candles?” which softens quickly as he sees the kids race downstairs to grab all things Ikea – the candles, the new sheets, the new pillows, the new bedroom lights. They set up a corner in their room with the new lights and the candles as the sun starts to go down and they scrub with new gusto and determination.

Sometimes it’s ok to fake it until you make it.

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Vignette 8/52. Macarons and Failure.

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Airman’s Odyssey

She paced back and forth in the kitchen. Then she would sit in a chair and put her face in her hands, grumble something under her breath, and get up and pace again with eyebrows furrowed and lips pursed.

The family knows that the best course of action would be to leave her alone.

For those that are close to me, it is easy to assume that I am talking in the third person. If you really know my family, you know that I could also be talking about my daughter who has inherited my perfectionist tendencies.

In this case, it is the latter.

Mikey has been trying tirelessly to make the perfect batch of macarons for the past six weeks. She has been waiting for the trip to Toronto to bake them without the complication of jungle humidity.

For Chris and I, it has been an expensive investment in the lesson of patience, failure and imperfection. And I am not just talking about Mikey. It was a fascinating process for all of us to observe.

Do you know how much almond flour costs? Do you know how many times I watched her in a fit of rage dump a tray full of imperfect macarons in the garbage? I had a brief irrational instinct to lecture her on starving kids in Africa but instead, thanks to a lifetime of personal experience of perfectionist behaviour, I helped clean up the mess.

After she cooled down, we would talk about the particular failure:

Overcooked and dry.

Wet and sticky on the bottom.

Cracked.

No feet.

Hollow.

I didn’t know there were so many ways to fail at macarons. She would go back and watch videos and tutorials for hours, even days, on step-by-step procedures and troubleshooting. She would read every blog post on this French delectable. Then she would make her adjustments: oven temperature, time, ingredients, technique. I think she even added praying a “Hail Mary” as it went into the oven.

There wasn’t a perfect batch in the six weeks.

But there was this one batch.

In this one batch, half were perfect and the other half came out a little lopsided but still tasted great. She was so excited. She made the buttercream filling and made the delicate “sandwiches” out of the perfect half of the batch and gave them out to her family and all her grandparents only eating one for herself as a tester.

People wanted more. There were still those lopsided ones in the tray but she wouldn’t serve them. I knew why. They weren’t perfect. Just like the ones that had no foot and were a little dry but turned into a yummy cookie. Just like the ones that were a little too soft and sticky but tasted like meringues.

I made myself one of those lopsided sandwiches and ate it, focusing on the flavour which was perfect. Risking an eye roll from her, another inheritance from me, I told her that sometimes it’s ok to fail and focus on what turned out great like the flavour or the texture or a new creation that happened accidentally. That’s what happened with a lot of scientific discoveries like X-rays, penicillin, and velcro.

I reminded her of all her bread-making and dessert attempts and the feeling she got when there was an unexpected outcome that turned the dessert or bread even better like her sun bread-cinnamon roll mash-up she decided to create. It was a hit. It was so popular that she refuses to make it for us anymore.

She knows this all but she can’t help but want it to be perfect. I tell her that I will always be proud that she tried and was willing to get up again and risk another failure in the pursuit.

Cue the eye roll.

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Vignette 7/52. No pictures please.

“And what is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversation?”

― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

I am visual. I enjoy books with illustrations. I used to love instagram before it got all algorithm-y and creepy. I especially love blogs with pictures.

I have learned that uploading pictures in a place where internet is slow and inconsistent is cause for me to quit posting anything at all. I also have children that love posing for pictures and ones that hide and absolutely forbid me from posting photos of them. I had to make a choice. Do I stop blogging because pictures take too damn long to upload and format and because some of my kids don’t want their pics posted? Or do I give up the addition of photos to posts and just write?

I was reading Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. There are no pictures but the descriptions take me to the place immediately. Her description of the details are so vivid and familiar like this paragraph at the beginning of the book:

I used to have a cat, an old fighting tom, who would jump through the open window by my bed in the middle of the night and land on my chest. I’d half-awaken. He’d stick his skull under my nose and purr, stinking of urine and blood. Some nights he kneaded my bare chest with his front paws, powerfully, arching his back, as if sharpening his claws, or pummelling a mother for milk. And some mornings I’d wake in daylight to find my body covered with paw prints in blood; I looked as though I’d been painted with roses.

We have three cats. I can totally smell the urine and the blood.

My photos from our jungle contain dozens of shades of green. I have trouble describing the density, the closeness of the trees. The lack of depth perception at times because of the dozens of layers that bleed into one flattened vista. The feeling of a sauna out in the open. There is no door to open to let in the cool air.

There is the photo of the kids walking down the jungle road with the sun setting and we feel like we are at the edge of civilization – alone but together.

So many photos on my phone in 2020: Photos of our new and old learning center; photos of all of Mikey’s baking experiments; photos of all the kids’ birthdays with everyone together for each one for the first time in four years; photos of AJ’s sewing creations; photos of Q’s and Joey’s art and makings; photos of books everywhere; and photos of a family that exercises and laughs together rain or shine.

I also see selfie photos that will never go public and a familiar pose of a couple married twenty years at the beach with the sun setting (we love how that glow makes us look ten years younger). I see photos of our lessons and the kids’ homework and projects – homeschooling habits die hard.

My favourite photo of 2020 is either the photo of the seven of us on my birthday in July or the before and after shot of our new bathrooms.

In between those photos are the 52 vignettes. These are the memories that fade fast, no proof of existence except in the minds and the hearts of those that were there. There are conversations and almost imperceptible details that even the people who were there didn’t see. I want to frame them all with words and permit myself the blurred (or singed) edges and frolic to my heart’s delight in liberal paraphrases.

With my words, I will format and filter. I will brighten. I will smooth the contrasts. I will highlight and over/under expose. I will cast shadows with black and white and also use a grayscale. I will saturate with colour, vibrance, and warmth. I will sharpen only what I want you to see.

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Vignette 6/52. 52 Beignets?

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

***

“Why are you writing about beignets Mom?”

“No .Vignettes.” (Although I love beignets.)

“Well I like the sounds of both words.”

Frankie has a love for words. It was no surprise that she rediscovered Jane Austen again this past spring. She convinced her sisters to read the books too.

Much to the chagrin of Chris and Q who wanted to watch adventure or sports movies on movie night, we spent three movie nights in a row watching Jane Austen movies at the height of their obsession.

British accents spouting the phrases “most excellent,” “do not trifle with me,” and “I think not” could be heard throughout our house. In fact, I still have a daughter that calls me “mother” although I think it’s because she is reading the Harry Potter series again for the fifth time.

We were all enchanted by hearing ourselves speak the phrases and gradually moved on to poetry.

We spent time memorizing poetry in Old English, Spanish, and even in French. Frankie was the one who demanded the longest poem to memorize – A Brave and Startling Truth by Maya Angelou.

As she recited with emotion and precise articulation, I recalled our nap and bedtime routines. One more story Mama! I would read aloud the same books or tell the same stories and she would quickly recite them back to me word for word.

In July, the world was too much for me. I lay down on the couch in complete despair-y rage. She came and sat next to me and said, “Did you know that children read poetry to their parents in Jane Austen’s time?” I shook my head. It was my turn to lie down on her shoulder and listen to her voice. She took out her poetry book and began to read her favourites including that Maya Angelou poem:

…. When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

That ending always gives me hope. And you know what else gives me hope? My children’s recognition of the power of language – words that bring joy and words that inspire; how they use their voice to soothe and to reflect the beauty of humanity; and of course…Jane Austen and beignets.

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Vignette 5/52. Walking and listening.

“Many people nowadays live in a series of interiors…disconnected from each other. On foot everything stays connected, for while walking one occupies the spaces between those interiors in the same way one occupies those interiors. One lives in the whole world rather than in interiors built up against it.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

I bought Solnit’s book on walking last year in California. I wanted to understand my husband’s obsession with walking. He looked at the book and laughed as he left for his daily walk with the dogs. I sat on the sofa and immersed myself in reading about walking. I am so grateful he loves me and all of my ridiculousness.

Although we live outside year round, I often “live in a series of interiors.” I read, reflect, and write. I sip my coffee and enjoy the stillness of my body.

Chris started his daily walks sometime in 2000. This is also the year we were married. I try not to read too much into this.

My daily walks began this past March after my intense research on the subject.

The morning walk with the dogs was a chance to speak privately away from the children. In March, all the children were home all the time. But this space for intimate conversation in the middle of the jungle (or the car, or the bedroom, etc.) can easily become a pot of slow-simmer micro-aggressions.

This was a shitty way to begin the day.

I remembered reading about Tony Robbin’s “Hour of Power” questions that he asked himself every morning.

  1. What am I happy about in my life now?
  2. What am I excited about in my life now?
  3. What am I proud about in my life now?
  4. What am I grateful about in my life now?
  5. What am I enjoying in my life right now?
  6. What am I committed to in my life right now?
  7. Who do I love? Who loves me?

We decided to try doing this Q&A session on our walks. The one rule is that the other person listens to the answers without comment or any type of feedback. This is easy because of the walking. Some days it takes our entire 45 minute walk to answer the questions together. Other days, or particular weeks of the month, I have the same answer for each question: “Coffee.” Again God bless my husband for tolerating my ridiculousness and listening without judgment.

There have been special times when our eldest joined us on our walk or all seven of us went on the walk for my birthday. But the same rules apply, answering the seven questions and listening generously.

As the weather has gotten colder, I have resisted walking during our visit to Toronto.

“…the subject of walking is, in some sense, about how we invest universal acts with particular meanings. Like eating or breathing, it can be invested with wildly different cultural meanings, from the erotic to the spiritual, from the revolutionary to the artistic.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

I needed to invest this cold walking with meaning. We do our seven questions but I needed something more tangible to get myself out there.

Hmmm…cultural meaning…walking…suburbs…cold weather…ah yes…

Festive flavoured lattes.
(It would have been Timbits but it’s too far a walk.)

I excitedly put on mittens and wool socks. I explain to Chris how I am able to see this universal act – walking – with the cultural meaning of an indulgent and overpriced hot beverage.

He laughs once again at my ridiculousness, waits for me outside the door, reaches out to take my hand, and asks, “What are you happy about?”

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