All posts tagged: acceptance

The Garden Produce Project

Our garden is done for the year, except for a few pumpkins that refused to turn orange (our plan is to spray paint them in glitter and go all Martha Stewart on their asses). The productive harvest is in the house. Tonight we ate soup made with the beans we grew (the shelling kind, not green beans) which was unfortunately not very good, though the beans themselves were delicious. Two ham hocks=too salty for one soup. (Good biscuits tho!)

And we made a chocolate zucchini cake and invented/adapted a recipe for Apple Zucchini Oatmeal Muffins which turned out quite tasty. And now I will make another zucchini cake, and another dozen muffins, for the freezer.

And there will still be a couple of giant zukes and a basket of apples to go. I cannot imagine what life with a real garden would involve. Canning. Jams. Sauces. I did make pesto, but I just put it in the fridge.

I can’t believe summer’s gone. I can’t believe it will be all snow and mittens soon. In past years, i’ve been pretty proud of our rugged ski it, skate on it and make it your own philosophy, but I’m having some trouble putting my heart into it this time around. Still, it’s coming. Might as well try to be zen.

KJThe Garden Produce Project
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Patience, and Wagon Rides

I am slowly but surely becoming a better person, and will no doubt achieve that flawless maternal perfection epitomized by, say, Dooce in time to work it on my great-great-grandchildren. I recently managed to go from being late all the time to at least much better (and wrote about it for Parenting–look, that glam mom in the accompanying picture is me! Really!).
This month (season? year? decade?) the project is: Patience.

The expert coach for the moment is Rory. Because she needs patience. Brusk snapping hurts her feelings, and her feelings have a right to be tender. Worse, because she can’t handle getting brushed off, or yelled at because she’s asked for me to, say, pick her up when I’m carrying four grocery bags, three lunch boxes, a backpack and a vase of flowers, she has a tendency to collapse into the tantrummy shrieks that are her version of just being crushed and overloaded at very inconvenient moments.

So, I want to be better for Rory. And I don’t want her to implode on me in the parking lot of the nursery school. Plenty of incentive for improvement, both selfish and un. I have been forced to get more patient–and I have found that everybody wins! All kids are happier–and so am I.

I thought venting was good for me. I think I kind of thought I liked it. And I’m still prone to say things like, of course you can have another cup, sweetheart, because even though I’ve already poured your milk into the red cup I want you to be happy, and because I LOVE doing more dishes! Love it! Bring ’em on! In a very good-natured, happy way that occasionally involves slamming cups on the counter so hard that they break. (Lily still says, Mommy, when I’m grown up, please don’t come to my house and dirty all the clothes and rub crumbs into the carpet.)

Oops–venting. Back to the patience. Which I genuinely have more of–turns out you don’t really use it up, because the more you practice it, the easier it is. I have been trying, so hard, to take the proverbial deep breath (I like blinking three times) to see if maybe I can find it in myself to answer nicely, to ask the child to put it’s shoes on for the fifth time in a calmer way. To make even those moments when I am truly saying, listen, honey, if you don’t put your shoes on I really am going to put you in the car without them, and then you will have to ride in the cart at the grocery store the whole time, and that has happened before and you don’t like it, calmer moments. For all of us.

And I know it’s better, because this morning when I had to dig hats, mittens and warner coats out of the basement for everyone right in the middle of the tight morning schedule (because look, it’s fall and it’s COLD! Surprise! man, if this happened every year it would be easier to plan for), and Lily didn’t want gloves she wanted MITTENS, and I HAD two matching gloves for Wyatt and lost one one the stairs and then he wanted mittens TOO and well…

I only yelled a little. And I got them gloves. And we were on time. Except that I forgot the lunch boxes, and had to go back for them after drop-off (I forgot them, not them, remember, these are the little kids, Sam would have just had to suffer). And I still didn’t yell. Much. At them.

As for those wagon rides? At school, in twenty minutes. Parent attendance “optional.” Which I tried to take them up on, but judging from the reaction I got we have different definitions of the word “optional.” But I am going to go and be happy, because, well, I’d rather be happy. I’m choosing to accept my lot and ride in the bumpy, chilly, hay-filled trailer behind the pooping horses with a pleasant smile. No, really. Promise.

KJPatience, and Wagon Rides
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One Angry Cowboy-hatted Dude

No consideration, he shouts, nodding to his friends. A little quiet, please, kids. Quiet! Thye don’t even apologize. His gaze fixes on me. Aren’t you even going to apologize? You’re not going to say you’re sorry?
I’d really only just tuned in to him. He was sitting at a table at the Boloco we’d just eaten at, with three other moms and 5 other kids, outside, looking at the little town square our kids had been tearing round. I recognized him–Lily and Wyatt had cut him off, earlier, racing across on some mission, and I had apologized, although probably a little perfunctorily. Frankly, I’m tired, and I’m not really at my public best just now. That was about forty-five minutes before this encounter, and the kids had been racing around the square, not quietly, the whole time.
Truly, I don’t know if their behavior was atrocious. I’m usually pretty sensitive. And I had stopped them, several times, and finally persuaded them to stop running right in front of people and to either walk or stick to the grass. Beyond that–other than the shrill group shout that had greeted the news that we were adjourning to someone’s house and prompted the complaint about the noise–I hadn’t really thought about it. We were outside, in the middle of the day…I don’t know. It hadn’t been that long or bad a morning, but it had been a whole morning, and I finally had a couple of adults to talk to.
I just looked at him. Wyatt was asking me something, and Lily pestering my other side, and there he was, angry, glaring. Aren’t you going to apologize? And I just couldn’t deal.
Nope. I shook my head and said it. Nope.
And then I asked Wyatt to throw his cup away, and he did, and we left.
And that was that, except that it’s still bothering me. I’m tough about public behavior–maybe I lapsed. We were with a group of friends, in a very familiar place, and there was a game going on that I didn’t like, but one of the other mothers had started it, and it was funny, that was making them run across the square. One the one hand, I didn’t get angry, or defend them, or shout or curse at the guy–all things I might easily have done. On the other, I do wish I’d just…apologized. No skin off my nose, after all. I’m sorry my kids disturbed your lunch, I could have said. And that would have been that. That would have been the answer that turneth away wrath, the accepting, absorbing thing to do, and probably the thing that would have enabled me to just let it go. I don’t want them to disturb anyone. I suspect their behavior was on the borderline, and I don’t really want that, either.

So I feel bad that my kids weren’t good citizens today, and that I barely noticed, and that I didn’t just deflect the anger directed at all of us. I didn’t do too badly, I guess. I didn’t absorb it and turn it back, which would have been so easy to do. So, a day of semi-spiritual growth. Sort of.

KJOne Angry Cowboy-hatted Dude
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When it is hot, be hot.

To decide to have a child is to decide to allow your heart to go walking around outside your body.

Wyatt’s TMO teachers presented us with that sentiment on Mother’s day, as their idea of a festive mother’s day apparently involves making one cry (they also offer handprints, and that poem about how the handprint won’t be this small for long—oh, and checkbook covers, which I quite appreciate.)

Let me just say that the decision to adopt a child—now that, that is popping a chunk of your heart out and sending it tossing around in the Pacific in a Pepsi bottle.

I posted a few days ago about control, and not having it, and oh, that’s ok, I’m all right with that, I said, merrily. It’s fine.

Right. Just dandy. I am perfectly ok with not being in control, which is probably why I dream, alternatively, about the two most obvious things that are out of my control, at the moment—a job I’ve applied for, and going to China. Or about leaving kids somewhere, or failing to meet a deadline…everything short of naked arrival in math class the day of the final, really. Apparently I am anxious.

There are many, many things in life I cannot control. Other drivers. Airplane pilots. Acts of nature. Whether or not, say, Julia Glass has also applied for the writing gig I want. (My favorite friend said today, in response to that, that I am much funnier than Julia Glass, to which I say, why, thank you, my ego swelleth, but the job still goes to the Pulitzer winner) China. Interest rates, the price of eggs, virus mutations.

Buddhist principles suggest that the problem with those things is neither the things, nor my inability to control the things—it’s my attachment to the things, or their outcomes. If I can release that attachment to outcomes, I will also release my anxiety. Christian philosophy places the “things one cannot change” in the hands of God, politely capitalized. Jews, I believe, put things one cannot change in the category of things one does not yet understand, with the idea that one should have faith that in time, all things will become clear. It strikes me now, as it has before, that these are mostly matters of semantics, of applying different words and possibly different mental techniques to what is essentially the same question: How can I not feel so bad when I am afraid?

There is a reason, I think, that we say that we “practice” religion. We also “practice” meditation, and yoga. I propose that one thing these things have in common is that we will never get them right. If you aspire to behave like a historical figure who’s acquired the status of myth for his legendary kindness—oh, plus miracles—it’s not like one day you’ll be able to say oh, well, ok then, now I can move on to mastering chess. We never achieve enlightenment, and all things never become clear. We just….practice.

I would like to say that today I could use less practice. Which is just another way of saying that we may or may not be able to go get Rory in June, or July, or August…

And so I turn to my garden, which I note is another common suggestion in many religious practices. Cultivate your garden. The idea being, I suppose, that here you can impose some measure of control, just to lighten up after all that practice. The Parent Association at Sam’s school (apparently NOT the Parent-Teacher Association, now that I come to think of it) has a deal with the farm where we get our plants anyway—the ones you can’t grow from seed here, like tomatoes and peppers—and one must fill out the form, to request one’s plants, which one then goes and chooses—just as I would have chosen them last year, only with, I suppose, the addition of the form. A level of bureaucracy has been imposed on the process to permit the transference of some of the funds to Sam’s school. An advantage, for me, is the introduction of a requirement that I actually consider how many plants I want, as opposed to last year’s plan, which featured a wagon and three children who really, really like tomatoes. I think that, provided I also subtract the children from this part of the process, this will be a good thing and result in fewer tomatoes at the end of the season, which will mean I will not feel obligated to dry them, and then not use them, because I cannot figure out 1)whether I dried them safely or 2) how to use them. They are still in my cabinet, though, do I get points for that?

Tomorrow I plan to lay the mulch, add the compost and get ready. Sam and Lily—and maybe even Wyatt—can put in at least some seeds this weekend. It’s a little early, but I’m feeling good about frost.

That’s a piece of Buddhist advice, btw. A koan, even, because in its entirety, it’s a mysterious response to a question about dealing with discomfort, but one of those things I think we understand better the less we think about it. Hmmm…The less we think about it. I think I’m onto something, there.

Anyway–I’m ready to take that particular advice. When it is hot, I will be hot.

KJWhen it is hot, be hot.
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